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Best iPhone 2021: which Apple phone is for you?

A selection of the best iPhones including iPhone 12, iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Our guide to the best iPhones is sure to get a major shake-up soon, as Apple has now unveiled the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

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 in our list - however, we won't know exactly where they rank until we've put them through a full review, so you won't find them here yet.

For now though, the current iPhone range is more than respectable enough, with Apple supporting its phones for a long time. Older models remain a viable option for quite a while, so there's a surprisingly large number of great iPhones to choose from.

The latest and greatest at the moment is the iPhone 12 available as the standard iPhone 12, premium iPhone 12 Pro, massive iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the compact iPhone 12 mini.

Alternatively, there's the more affordable and smaller iPhone SE (2020) as well as older iPhones including the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR. Apple still sells these and a number of others that have been discontinued can still be found in third-party stores. 

We've ranked every model that's readily available from Apple or elsewhere. You'll find all the key things you need to know about each phone including an overview of it, the main good and bad points, plus a full specs list too. 

Of course, if you’re not set on an Apple phone specifically then there are loads of other options. Check out some of our other guides below to see some of the best alternatives.

Best iPhone: which one should you buy today?

iPhone 12

(Image credit: Future)

1. iPhone 12

The best Apple iPhone bang for your buck

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 new 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. 

The camera might be a little too similar to last 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 Mini

2. iPhone 12 mini

The same as above, but smaller

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 

Apple has introduced an iPhone mini for the first time in its history of making handsets, and it's almost exactly the same as the iPhone you've just read about above 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 top-end spec such as the powerful rear camera, 5G support and MagSafe support as well.

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)

3. iPhone 12 Pro

Our third favorite iPhone

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: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Varied color choices +Clear and vibrant screen 
Reasons to avoid
-No charging block in box -5G still an expensive luxury 

More advanced than the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro is also more expensive and has better specs than the standard model. The internals are better, and there's a superior camera. 

A fourth sensor alongside the standard iPhone 12 fare in the form of a LiDAR scanner makes it easier for the iPhone to work out what it's looking at, doing a great job of detecting faces in low light situations. 

The iPhone 12 Pro also has a RAM boost - up to 6GB from 4GB - and that's sure to help you get the most from whatever you're doing on your phone. If you're looking to edit videos on your phone, the iPhone 12 Pro is ideal for such a purpose. 

Elsewhere, it's business as usual for the iPhone 12 Pro offering much of what the iPhone 12 already has for less, but if you want that extra oomph, it's an impressive upgrade. For a price. 

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro review

iPhone 12 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

4. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The very best iPhone when it comes to spec

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
-Feel too large-Very, very expensive

After the very best iPhone that money can buy? The iPhone 12 Pro Max is exactly that, and we loved everything it can do. It takes a lot of what makes the three phones you can read about above 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.

The battery life is better in the iPhone 12 Pro Max when compared to 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.

If you want the very best, you'll have to pay for it. If you're happy to, this is the best iPhone for you right now.

Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro Max review

iPhone 11

(Image credit: Apple)

5. iPhone 11

Once the very best iPhone

Specifications
Weight: 194g
Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 828 x 1792
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Fast speeds at a discount+Ultrawide lens is far better than telephoto
Reasons to avoid
-Still an LCD screen-Glass back attracts fingerprints

The iPhone 11 isn't the highest-spec Apple phone, but it supersedes the iPhone XR 'budget flagship' in better ways to become the standout phone of its generation in terms of sheer value. 

Before the introduction of the iPhone 12, this was our favorite iPhone. True, it misses out on a telephoto lens, but like we found with the Samsung Galaxy S10e, a coupling of main and ultrawide lenses serve most photo needs. 

While it doesn't get an OLED display, its LCD screen at least allows the phone to keep its best-in-generation battery life crown. And it even gets a bit more RAM - up to 4GB from its predecessor's 3GB.

Add in iOS 14 and all the new tweaks coming in the iPhone 11 series and this phone is a lean, mean, photo-taking machine.

Read our in-depth iPhone 11 review

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

6. iPhone SE (2020)

The choice for those who want a cheaper 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
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