Which is the Best iPhone to Buy?
You’ve made the decision to buy a new iPhone, but that decision isn’t as simple as it once was: while it was once a case of simply deciding on storage capacity and colour, now there are multiple models of iPhone available, each with its pros and cons. So, which is the best iPhone to buy right now? In truth, it’ll depend a lot on what you want to get out of your smartphone.
iPhones come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of camera options and other unique features that set them apart from the Android competition, and here, we’ve ranked the best iPhones currently available to buy.
Note that Apple has now announced the iPhone 12 series, which includes the iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max. It’s also taken the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max off its own online store, but they are of course available from other retailers and networks.
We’ll be updating this article as soon as we’ve reviewed the iPhone 12 Pro Max and 12 Mini, and we’ve left the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max in the list since they remain widely available.
Best iPhone 2020
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1. iPhone 12 – Best overall
The iPhone 12, simply put, is the best iPhone you can buy right now. It offers a significant upgrade from the iPhone 11, not only sporting a new angular look reminiscent of the iPhone 5, but the same Super Retina XDR OLED display tech as the iPhone 12 Pro range.
At the heart of the iPhone 12 you’ll find Apple’s latest and greatest chipset, the A14 Bionic. It offers significant upgrades on the already capable A13 Bionic, and our benchmark results back that up. It’s one of the most powerful smartphones on the market right now, that’s for sure.
You don’t get the triple-lens setup of the Pro models, lacking the 2x telephoto lens, but you do get an upgraded 12Mp wide sensor with better low-light performance, and the ultra-wide remains just as great as it was on the iPhone 11. You even get access to the same Dolby Vision HDR video recording tech as the Pro models, albeit capped at 30fps.
You will get an upgraded stainless steel body, Apple ProRAW support and other benefits from the 12 Pro, but with the iPhone 12 sporting many of the highlights of the range, the upgrade is harder to justify than ever.
Read our full Apple iPhone 12 review
2. iPhone 12 Pro – Great for Dolby Vision Video
The iPhone 12 Pro offers key improvements compared to the iPhone 11 Pro, with the most noticeable aside from the iPhone 5-esque design being an increase in size to 6.1in from 5.8in. No longer will you have to sacrifice screen real estate by buying the smaller Pro model!
There are also improvements in the triple camera setup on the rear, including an improved f/1.6 aperture for better low-light photography on the main wide lens, but this isn’t a feature unique to the Pro range. You can, however, record Dolby Vision HDR video at up to [email protected] on the Pro model.
Really, it’s the 12 Pro Max that’ll shine in the camera department, offering an upgraded setup compared to even the iPhone 12 Pro.
Like the rest of the iPhone 12 range, you’ll find the A14 Bionic, paired this time with an upgraded 6GB of RAM and 128GB of base storage. Performance is top-notch too, as with the iPhone 12.
The problem is that the iPhone 12 Pro is near-identical to the standard iPhone 12, and while the upgraded stainless steel body, third camera and features like 60fps Dolby Vision video may tempt some, it’s certainly harder to justify the £999/$999 starting price.
Read our full iPhone 12 Pro review
3. iPhone 11 – Best value
The iPhone 11 didn’t need to rewrite the smartphone rule book to be a winner – it simply needed to build on the success of the Xr, and it has done exactly that.
The standard iPhone 11 sports a nice design with a glass rear and comes in various finishes. Face ID is faster than ever and the niche telephoto lens of the iPhone XS range has been swapped for a more useful ultra-wide-angle lens. Unlike the iPhone 12, the 6.1in display isn’t OLED, but it still offers a decent experience and, with the same A13 chipset as the 11 Pro range, performance is top-notch here – even when playing demanding games like Oceanhorn 2.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 review
4. iPhone 11 Pro Max – Best battery life
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is identical to the 11 Pro in many respects, offering the same great performance powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic, the same choice of high-end cameras, the same matte finish and super-fast Face ID, but there are a few differences.
Due to its larger dimensions and thus larger battery, the 11 Pro Max offers slightly better battery life – a claimed 20 hours, compared to the 11 Pro’s 18 – along with a larger OLED display, measuring in at a whopping 6.5in.
So, why is it not the top pick? While it’s undoubtedly the best iPhone ever made, the problem is the price. Even with only 64GB of storage, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is also the most expensive iPhone ever made.
And, let’s not forget, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is on the way soon to take its crown.
5. iPhone 11 Pro – It’s no longer Pro, but it’s tempting
Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, the 11 Pro is no longer considered a Pro smartphone in the eyes of many. The iPhone 12 Pro is faster, has a better camera setup capable of recording Dolby Vision HDR video at [email protected] and, importantly, the display is larger at 6.1in.
But up until the launch of the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 11 Pro was considered one of the best smartphones around, and honestly, that is still very much the case. The smaller Super Retina XDR display is just as detailed and vibrant, and the A13 Bionic is still able to power a high-end iOS experience.
But most importantly, the release of the iPhone 12 Pro and removal from the Apple Store means that the price of the 11 Pro should drop dramatically at third-party retailers and carriers, making it a tempting deal for many.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review
6. iPhone Xr – Big screen on a budget
The iPhone Xr is the iPhone 11’s predecessor, and while you might be tempted to go for the updated version with an improved camera setup, the iPhone Xr still offers great value for money – especially when you consider the large 6.1in display on offer.
Admittedly, the camera offering is basic, with a single 12Mp snapper on the rear and an 8Mp selfie camera, and the A12 isn’t quite as snappy as the A13 Bionic you’ll get in the iPhone 11, but it does offer the large display and the convenience of Face ID for slightly more than Apple’s budget-friendly iPhone SE, and the battery life is great too.
Read our full Apple iPhone XR review
7. iPhone SE – Best small-screen iPhone
The iPhone SE is a phone devoted to function over form, prioritising raw performance and camera capabilities over design or aesthetics, all in the name of hitting the budget market. With the A13 Bionic and a single 12Mp rear snapper, the iPhone SE looks to offer flagship-level performance for around half the price, and largely succeeds.
However, the focus on performance over design makes it a very un-Apple iPhone, and there are a few disappointing elements including the rather budget 720p LCD display and the dated design. The biggest disappointment, however, is battery life – if you do need the small form factor of the iPhone SE, be prepared to carry a battery pack around all day.
Still, if you want a reliable camera, fast performance, and guaranteed iOS updates for years to come without breaking the bank then this is the iPhone for you.
Read our full Apple iPhone SE (2020) review
It’s worth noting that older models, including the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and even the iPhone X are still available from third-party retailers looking to shift leftover stock, and some carriers still offer older iPhones too.
What should I consider when buying an iPhone?
One of the biggest deciding factors when on the market for an iPhone is the screen size you want, or most feel comfortable using – we don’t all have huge hands to use the iPhone 12 Pro Max one-handed, do we?
If you’re suited to smaller displays, your best bet is the upcoming iPhone 12 mini, with a 5.4in display. It’s not out until mid-November though, so in the meantime there’s the 4.7in second-gen iPhone SE (the same form factor as the iPhone 8), although there’s a trade-off in other areas. Note also that the SE is actually a slightly bigger phone than the 12 mini, despite the smaller screen, because it has much larger bezels.
It then jumps up to the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, both at 6.1in following a jump from the 11 Pro’s 5.8in display. If you want the biggest display possible, you’d be better off with the upcoming 12 Pro Max with 6.7in, also out in mid-November.
Performance is another element to consider when buying an iPhone, as you’ll likely want to get the most out of your device – especially at Apple’s prices. The good news is that the entire iPhone range features Apple’s A12, A13, or A14 Bionic chipset, guaranteeing great performance regardless of the model you opt for.
The only device with an A12 is 2018’s iPhone Xr, and while it’ll still provide great performance, it’s not quite as snappy as what’s on offer from the A13 (found on the iPhone 11 and SE) or A14 Bionic (across the iPhone 12 range) chipsets.
If cameras are important to you, then you’ve got a tough decision to make as it’s one area where the iPhone collection differs greatly. If you want the best possible camera experience, the combination of a main 12Mp sensor, an ultra-wide sensor and telephoto sensor available on the iPhone 12 Pro range may be best for you. If you can live without the telephoto lens, you can opt for the standard iPhone 11 or 12, which features the same main sensor and ultra-wide angle camera as the 11 Pro and 12 Pro phones respectively.
The iPhone Xr has a single 12Mp camera on the rear, meaning it’s quite limited compared to the iPhone 11 and 12 ranges, and it’s the same with the iPhone SE. The single lens will do if you’re not too fussed about photography, but don’t expect the same level of detail on offer from Apple’s high-end options.
Traditionally, battery life has been a bit of a problem when it comes to iPhones, especially when compared to Android counterparts and their huge batteries. But with that said, Apple has come leaps and bounds over the past couple of years when it comes to battery life, with the 11 Pro Max offering all-day battery life with average use – and then some – and it’s a similar story with the iPhone 12 Pro and standard iPhone 12 too.
We expect the 12 Pro and Mini to offer similar battery endurance, though the 12 mini does drop down by a couple of hours in Apple’s own estimates.
Battery capacity is somewhat tied to display size, as that’ll dictate how large the battery can be, but battery life is also improved by power-efficient chipsets. On the flip side, if battery is important to you, then you should stay well away from the iPhone SE – in our review, we noted how it’d struggle to provide 5 hours of screen time without needing a top-up. Yikes.
Apple introduced 5G support with the iPhone 12 range, so if you want the fastest connection speeds you’ll have to buy one of the latest iPhones.
5G availability is still limited in many countries and regions, but remember that it is improving, so upgrading to 5G might be seen as futureproofing – so long as you expect to stick with the same iPhone for at least another two years.
Of course, the biggest factor to consider is your budget: how much do you want to spend on your iPhone? The iPhone 12 Pro is a phenomenal smartphone, but starting at £999/$999, it should be – and that’s not even the most expensive iPhone available. That award goes to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which starts at £1,099/$1,099 and goes all the way up to £1,399/$1,399.
The iPhone 12’s £799/$799 price tag is much more attractive if you want flagship specs, and the 12 mini is even better at £699/$699. Meanwhile the 11 has officially dropped down to £599/$599, making it an even more attractive bet if you’re not fussed on the latest upgrades.
If not, the iPhone Xr’s £629/$599 price tag offers great value, especially with that large display and Face ID support. The cheapest iPhone is the iPhone SE at £419/$399, and although it does offer the same A13 chipset as the iPhone 11 range, there’s a compromise not only in terms of battery life but other areas too.
But hey, if you want to get into the iOS ecosystem at the cheapest price possible, the iPhone SE could be the one to go for.
Before you take the plunge, we recommend taking a look at our selection of the best smartphones right now to get a better understanding of the wider smartphone market and be sure you’re making the right decision.
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