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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)

Knowing what the best iPhone is can be tough. It's not just a matter of picking the newest or most expensive one as different models are perfect for different types of people. Fortunately, while Apple might not make as many phones as some companies, all of its handsets are great. 

Even better, thanks to Apple's policy of 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 iPhone models to choose from. 

Keen to buy the latest and greatest? That's the iPhone 12 range but even then there are four fairly different phones to choose from, including the standard iPhone 12, the premium iPhone 12 Pro, the massive iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the compact iPhone 12 mini

Look past the iPhone 12 and there's the more affordable iPhone SE (2020) and a selection of 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. 

To help you figure out what the best iPhone is for you, 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 too, including an overview of it, the main good and bad points, and a full specs list.

Now is a good time to buy a new iPhone too, as the iPhone 13 range won’t land before September, and there may not be an iPhone SE 3 this year. With iOS 14.6 out now, the iPhone range also has constantly updated software - and even older models are up to date on that front. Plus many are set to get iOS 15, 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
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 three phones you'll find above in this list.

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 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 11 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPhone 11 Pro

Once the best, but a bit too pricey

Specifications
Weight: 188g
Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 5.8-inch
Resolution: 1125 x 2436
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: 3,046mAh
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Camera a real step forward+Sizeable battery upgrade
Reasons to avoid
-Similar to iPhone XS visually-Few non-camera upgrades

The iPhone 11 Pro is a more advanced smartphone than the base iPhone 11, but it arguably isn't a better iPhone if you factor in the higher price.

Sure, the smaller screen is one-hand-friendly, the screen quality is a bonus, and it's Apple's most affordable handset with three rear cameras, so it's a decent phone all in all – that's why it once sat in the second spot on this list of our best iPhones.

But money is a concern for most people when they're looking for a new smartphone, and the big price step up may be questionable for most people when you put the stats side-by-side with the iPhone 11.

You can now find it cheaper since the debut of the iPhone 12 Pro though, so you may want to consider this over the latest handset.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review

iPhone 11 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

8. iPhone 11 Pro Max

Big phone, top price

Specifications
Weight: 226g
Dimensions: 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 1242 x 2688
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Three rear cameras+Fastest, best iPhone out there
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Mostly unchanged

The iPhone 11 Pro Max was not only a confusing shift in naming convention - it was once the biggest, fastest, baddest iPhone out there. It was also the most expensive at a $1,099 starting price, which only went up if you expanded the storage. Of course, that price has gone down with the launch of the iPhone 12 range.

Not much changed from the iPhone XS Max, aside from the upgraded camera suite - but then again, adding an ultrawide lens is a big upgrade. The photo software has been upgraded, too, and switching between zoom levels is far smoother here than in other phones.

The battery level has been improved a staggering 4 hours over the iPhone XS Max, which holds true in our testing. And if you can get beyond the weird-looking triple-lens rear camera block, this is a slightly cheaper version of the iPhone 12 Pro Max above.

Read our in-depth iPhone 11 Pro Max review

iPhone XS

(Image credit: Future)

9. iPhone XS

Another option for those looking for something compact

Specifications
Weight: 174g
Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 5.8-inch
Resolution: 1125 x 2436
CPU: A12 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: 2,659mAh
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Smart HDR helps the camera+Faster operation in one hand vs Max
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life not world-beating-Still very expensive

Believe it or not, the iPhone XS was once Apple's best 'small' phone. It has a 5.8-inch screen, so it's more one-hand-friendly than a lot of the larger phones on this list, but it still packs a punch in terms of spec.

The iPhone XS may be a little older now, but it has a Smart HDR-capable 12MP camera, enhanced TrueDepth front-facing camera, and a fast A12 Bionic chipset, exactly like the larger iPhone XS Max.

In fact, this all-screen phone is pretty much the iPhone XS Max in a smaller form factor. It does have a smaller battery than the Max and obviously a smaller screen, but you will still capture the same great photos and videos on this device and play the same games. 

Plus, it's cheaper than it used to be when it was the latest and greatest iPhone.

Read our in-depth iPhone XS review

iPhone XS Max

(Image credit: Apple)

10. iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS Max is still a big, speedy phone

Specifications
Weight: 208g
Dimensions: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 1242 x 2688
CPU: A12 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: 3,179mAh
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 7MP