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Best iPhone 2021: which Apple phone is for you?

A selection of the best iPhones including iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone SE
iPhone 13 Pro Max (left), iPhone SE and iPhone 13 (Image credit: Apple)

Our guide to the best iPhones is packed full of options, including the new iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max, though note that the iPhone 13 mini isn't present yet, as we haven't finished reviewing it.

These four handsets include more powerful chipsets, longer battery life and new camera features, with the Pro models additionally having 120Hz displays for the first time on an iPhone. So while they're not the biggest upgrades ever, they're sure to rank high on our list.

That's not to say you shouldn't consider an older model though. Apple keeps its phones updated for years, so they remain viable for a long time, and if you're looking to save money then an older iPhone might be a great choice for you.

With Apple's phones typically being expensive, cost is one of the main things to consider when buying. Look not just as what you can afford but at what you'll get by moving to a more powerful model - you might get more cameras or a bigger screen for example, but is that something you need? The answer will be different for everyone.

To make things easier though, we've included a full specs list and overview for all the best iPhones below, so you can see at a glance which ones are the best fit for you.

Of course, if you’re not set on an Apple phone specifically then there are loads of other options. We've got guides to the best smartphones, the best Android phones, the best cheap phones and many more.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up at the end of November. We've gathered together the best iPhone Black Friday deals as well as the best iPhone 13 Black Friday deals if you're considering going for the latest iPhone.

Best iPhone: which one should you buy today?

An iPhone 13 Pro Max in gold, against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

The best Apple iPhone

Specifications
Weight: 240g
Dimensions: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 15
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1284 x 2778
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: Up to 28 hours
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Useful camera upgrades+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-120Hz screen is minimal upgrade-Cinematic mode is quite basic

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best and most exciting of Apple’s iPhone 13 range, with the battery life being an unexpected highlight. This thing can last and last, and while it’s not quite up there with the very longest-lasting phones, it’s easily got the best battery life of any iPhone.

There’s also a whole lot of power here, with Apple’s A15 Bionic chipset providing significantly better performance not just than previous iPhones, but also than any Android phone. That said, we mostly know this thanks to benchmark scores – in the real world most users will struggle to truly tap into its potential.

The camera has also seen an upgrade, with low light shots particularly impressing, and the new macro mode opening the iPhone range up to a whole new type of photography.

In practice the hyped Cinematic mode and 120Hz screen didn’t impress us as much, and the sooner Apple gets rid of the notch the better, but overall this is a fantastic upgrade for Apple’s Max model.

Read our in-depth iPhone 13 Pro Max review

An iPhone 13 against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

The best Apple iPhone bang for your buck

Specifications
Weight: 174g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 15
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: Up to 19 hours
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Strong battery life+Powerful internals
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal design changes-No 120Hz screen

The iPhone 13 isn’t the biggest yearly iPhone upgrade we’ve seen, but almost every aspect of it is a little better than the iPhone 12, which makes it a brilliant iPhone overall.

In our review we found that the battery life in particular was improved, with the iPhone 13 making it through every day that we used it without needing a top up before bed.

We were also impressed by the design, which now includes a smaller notch, and by the sheer amount of power this phone has thanks to its A15 Bionic chipset. Apple claims this has a 50% faster CPU than the competition, and while that’s hard to confirm, this is certainly a speedy phone.

The lack of a 120Hz screen which we’ve seen debut on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max is a shame, and we’re hoping for some bigger upgrades in the iPhone 14, but for now this is one of the very best iPhones you can buy.

Read our in-depth iPhone 13 review

An iPhone 13 Pro in blue, against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

The best small-screen Pro model

Specifications
Weight: 204g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 15
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: Up to 22 hours
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Strong battery life+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Limited design changes-4K ProRes limited in 128GB

The iPhone 13 Pro has most of the same strengths and weaknesses as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, with its battery life being a highlight in our tests, if not quite as good as the Max model, and its A15 Bionic chipset providing stunning amounts of power.

The camera has also benefitted from some subtle but significant upgrades, including an all-new macro mode, for taking clear photos of tiny subjects. Elsewhere, you also get a 120Hz screen for the first time on an iPhone (though this feature is also found on the iPhone 13 Pro Max), and a slightly refined design – including a smaller notch.

All of which makes this a top iPhone choice if you want a relatively compact 6.1-inch display, or don’t want to spend as much as the iPhone 13 Pro Max costs. That said, the iPhone 13 Pro is still expensive, and not hugely better than the iPhone 12 Pro, so if you own that phone it’s probably not worth upgrading.

Read our in-depth iPhone 13 Pro review

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

The best budget iPhone

Specifications
Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 4.7-inch
Resolution: 750 x 1334
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery: 1,821mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Cheapest ever iPhone+Lightweight frame
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better-Old screen technology

Unveiled in April 2020, the new iPhone SE may look like an older iPhone but it comes with a lot of benefits over the rest of the range. The chief reason you may want to buy this is it's the cheapest iPhone you can buy from Apple right now.

It comes with the same design as the iPhone 8, but this has upgraded internals such as an A13 Bionic chipset that is the same we've seen powering the iPhone 11 range.

It also comes with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which is something we haven't seen on recent iPhones. The camera is good on this phone, but won't compete with the very top iPhones, and we found it has an average battery life too.

Overall, if you're looking for a cheaper alternative to the devices you've read about above you'll love the iPhone SE.

Read our in-depth iPhone SE review

iPhone 12

(Image credit: Future)

The best iPhone for 5G on a budget

Specifications
Weight: 164g
Dimensions: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Colorful OLED display +Future-proofed with 5G  
Reasons to avoid
-Cameras are similar to last year -Battery life only okay 

More expensive than the iPhone 11, the iPhone 12 makes up for that price hike with a wealth of features that should prove useful in the coming months and years. 

That includes future-proofing courtesy of 5G support and the addition of MagSafe connectivity which enables you to attach things to your phone such as a charger or a case. 

We found the camera was a little too similar to the previous year's iPhone and the battery life remains merely okay, but there's no denying that the iPhone 12 is a superior beast than the phones that have come before. 

Design wise, it's returned to some of the stylings of the iPhone 4 or 5 and that's actually a good thing, feeling comfier in your hands. There's also the overdue switch to a colorful OLED display which reminds us again that Apple knows how to create a stylish looking as well as future-proof device.

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 review

iPhone 12 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

The best relatively affordable big-screen iPhone

Specifications
Weight: 228g
Dimensions: 160.8mm x 78.1mm x 7.4mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1284 x 2778
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Long battery life+Powerful rear camera
Reasons to avoid
-Feels too large-Camera not hugely better than the 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was once the best iPhone you could buy, and we loved everything it can do. It takes a lot of what makes the rest of the iPhone 12 range so good and just tweaks a few elements to make it even better.

So why is it so low in our list of the best iPhones? This is an expensive handset, and the sheer size of this handset means it won't be for everyone.

If you're happy to spend money on it, and you want a phone with a mammoth 6.7-inch screen then you'll be happy with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in your pocket. A lot of what we've said about the iPhone 12 Pro is true here, but there are a few benefits.

We found the battery life is better in the iPhone 12 Pro Max when compared to most of the other iPhones on this list, and you'll also find it has a slightly more powerful rear camera than even the iPhone 12 Pro.

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro Max review

iPhone 12 Mini

The best cheaper mini iPhone

Specifications
Weight: 135g
Dimensions: 131.5mm x 64.2mm x 7.4mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 5.4-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Smaller design looks great+Fantastic display
Reasons to avoid
-64GB isn't enough storage-Battery life only okay 

With the iPhone 12 mini, Apple introduced an iPhone mini for the first time in its history of making handsets, and it's almost exactly the same as the iPhone 12 but it's smaller.

There are a number of tiny spec differences - for example, wireless charging is notably slower on the iPhone 12 mini - but otherwise you're getting high-end specs such as the powerful rear camera, 5G support and MagSafe support as well.

We found the design makes this phone easy to hold in a single hand, so if you've been crying out for a smaller iPhone that doesn't lose out on the top-end specs that you get from other Apple devices this may well be for you.

As with the iPhone 12, the display is also fantastic on this handset too. You may not enjoy the battery life as that isn't fantastic on the iPhone 12 mini, but if that's your main focus you'll like one of the phones coming up below.

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 mini review

iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

The best of the 12 series

Specifications
Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: <