Apple currently sells a whopping eight different iPhones, including the high-end iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, the flagship iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus, the budget-minded iPhone SE and some older holdouts like the iPhone 12 and 13. Confused? That’s where we come in.
We’ve tested every iPhone model extensively, and have picked out the models that are actually worth buying — and who they’re for — out of Apple’s vast lineup. Ready? Let’s dive in.
The iPhone 14 is the best new iPhone for most people, particularly if you're coming from an iPhone 12 or older. Those willing to invest in a more significant upgrade should go with the iPhone 14 Pro.
If having the best cameras, a super-smooth display and the versatile Dynamic Island are important to you, the iPhone 14 Pro is well worth the investment.
Best iPhone overall: iPhone 14
The iPhone 14 looks and feels a whole lot like the previous iPhone 13 model and that’s not entirely a bad thing. The lighter 6-ounce iPhone 14 is the kind of device that feels great to pick up and hold. And while its aluminum design isn’t quite as strong and sturdy as the stainless steel iPhone 14 Pro, it certainly doesn’t feel cheap.
The iPhone 14 has an upgraded dual-lens camera system that’s enhanced by some fancy new software magic called the Photonic Engine. To make it simple: The new iPhone is designed to capture wider, more detailed photos (particularly for moving subjects), offers improved flash, promises far better low-light photography and can even auto-stabilize your shaky videos. In real-world use, this all translated to a camera that was a joy to use during daily adventures.
The iPhone 14 is more of the same on the display and performance front, which is to say that it still has a beautiful screen and is still ridiculously fast as with other Apple models. Movies and shows looked great on the phone’s 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, particularly while taking in the crackling neon blues, reds and yellows that filled the screen during the epic final battle of “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The iPhone 14’s display remains a fantastic canvas for bingeing TV and catching up on your TikTok feed.
The iPhone 14 is more evolution than revolution; an entry-level phone takes fantastic pictures, can last all day on a charge and packs a great display, all within a beautiful and lightweight design that feels good to use for hours at a time, and it’s still faster than the vast majority of phones you can buy.
Best iPhone for photography: iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 14 Pro doesn’t look too different from the previous 13 Pro when it’s turned off, but once the screen lights up, you immediately notice the notch has moved down, slightly, and now lives within the screen. Well, technically, it’s not called a notch. Instead of letting users and the media name the new cutout that houses the FaceID TrueDepth sensors and front-facing camera, Apple dubbed it the Dynamic Island.
But instead of simply delivering a less distracting camera cutout, Apple has built a software experience around this new module — and it’s where Dynamic Island truly earns its name.
The Dynamic Island is used as an interactive area, where you can view any Now Playing information from media apps like Spotify or Apple Music. You’ll also see information such as the volume status of your connected AirPods, a new FaceID unlock animation, or a timer icon when you have an active countdown going. The Dynamic Island can even display two icons at once, so you can, say, view your current song and the status of your timer at the same time.
Perhaps the most notable difference in the iPhone 14 lineup is the camera, which is one of the biggest upgrades we’ve seen in an iPhone. The main camera sensor goes from 12 megapixels to 48 megapixels, while the ultra-wide and telephoto cameras stay at 12 megapixels. Photos look slightly sharper, with more accurate colors and detail. And Apple has added a new Action video mode to the camera app. When enabled, the camera acts more like a dedicated action camera — GoPro or otherwise — to capture stabilized footage recording during activities with a lot of movement.
The camera upgrades on the iPhone 14 are more iterative than substantial, but the upgrades on the iPhone 14 Pro are setting the tone for iPhone cameras for years to come.
Best budget iPhone: iPhone SE 2022
If you want modern iPhone performance but don’t want to spend $1,000 on a new phone — or just prefer something smaller — the iPhone SE 2022 is for you. Apple’s $429 iPhone makes very few compromises in the power department, packing the same speedy A15 Bionic processor you’ll find on the latest iPhone 13 range. You’ll have no issues multitasking between apps or playing the newest iOS games here.
The SE is also the smallest iPhone in the lineup, packing all of that power into a 4.7-inch design that’s especially ideal for those with small hands (or small pockets). The design is reminiscent of the iPhones of old, which means some pretty thick display bezels at the top and bottom, but also a Touch ID fingerprint sensor you won’t find on more premium models. Its Retina HD display looks great for watching movies and playing games, and while it doesn’t have the same two- to three-camera arrays of the iPhone 13 series, its single 12-megapixel lens captures solid photos — and has the ability to shoot in Portrait mode for professional-looking headshots.
So, what are you giving up at this price? The iPhone SE’s display isn’t as big or as seamless as what you’ll find on the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro, and it lacks the latter’s ProMotion technology that allows for extra-smooth scrolling and streaming at 120Hz. You also won’t get MagSafe capabilities for magnetically attaching compatible chargers and cases, nor will you be able to unlock your phone with your face via Face ID. But if you can live without having the most advanced camera system, the sleekest design or the biggest screen, the iPhone SE is a compact, great-performing iPhone that will last you for years — and at a fraction of the price of an iPhone 13.
Oldies but goodies you should still consider
From $699 at Apple
The iPhone 13 checks off the core boxes in a size that lets you get a lot done. The 6.1-inch screen size is plenty big for browsing webpages, scrolling through timelines and, more crucially, using the keyboard. Plus, the iPhone 13 features one of the best dual-camera systems we’ve ever tested, consisting of a 12-megapixel wide lens and a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens. The 13 is only bested by the newer iPhone 14 model as our top pick
iPhone 13 Pro
From $900 at Amazon
Our previous pick for the best iPhone for photography iPhone 13 Pro has a trio of lenses are paired with a buttery smooth and vibrant display, class-leading performance and seriously long battery life.
From $599 at Apple
Technically the iPhone 12 isn’t that old, at less than a year. But with the launch of the iPhone 13, Apple has reduced the cost of the iPhone 12 to a starting price of $699.
And let’s be clear — the A14 Bionic processor that powers the iPhone 12 is nearly as fast as the one in the iPhone 13. It’s really a nominal upgrade that boosts efficiency and results in applications opening slightly faster. The iPhone 12 is plenty fast enough for everyday tasks and for gaming. More processor-intensive tasks, like batch exports or video editing, will see boosts in the newer iPhone 13, though. We’d also hedge that the iPhone 13 will keep ticking a bit longer than the iPhone 12 as the devices age.
One potential downside for opting for the iPhone 12 model is that the base storage amount starts at 64GB, while the iPhone 13 lineup starts at 128GB; 64GB is pretty slim, and if you have a large photo library, lots of songs downloaded or a large amount of apps you’ll likely get a storage alert sooner than later, so the iPhone 13 would be a better choice for those who tend to hoard digital files on their phone.
The iPhone 12 offers a good camera experience. You won’t get the new Cinematic video or Macro mode that the iPhone 13 has, but you’re still getting two rear-facing 12-megapixel cameras — one wide, the other ultrawide. Both offer crisp details and accurate colors, but if you’re keen on photography you’ll notice the 13 does a better job lighting the shot. With shots taken on the iPhone 13, there’s clearer depth between the foreground and background, like for a classic shot of someone in front of a sunset. Still, you’re getting a very capable shooter in the iPhone 12.
Both phones run iOS 15, the latest operating system from the iPhone, and are sure to remain supported for years to come. That’s good news, since it’s still a hefty price and you don’t want to invest in a phone that won’t be supported in a few years.
From $359 at Amazon
If you still want a modern iPhone 11 with a nearly bezel-free screen and Face ID for easy unlocking, the iPhone 11 is an affordable option that mixes solid performance and modern features — all at a more manageable $499 for the 64GB model ($549 for 128GB).
The key difference between the iPhone 11 and newer models is that it opts for a 6.1-inch LCD screen instead of an OLED. It’s not as bright or crisp as newer models, but it still offers a clear viewing experience that ultimately extends the battery life.
There are two rear-facing cameras on the back of the iPhone 11, one for ultrawide shots — a favorite feature of ours — and a standard camera, both of which are 12 megapixels. Images offer a strong amount of details and are still Instagram-worthy but don’t offer the level of details the iPhone 13 can deliver. Low-light shots are lackluster in comparison with ones taken on any of the newer models.
All in all, the iPhone 11 is a worthy pick for those who want a modern design with Face ID and are shopping on a specific budget.
How to sell or trade in a phone
When it comes to upgrading to a newer iPhone, you’ll likely want to get some cash or trade-in value for your current model. It’s an easy way to close the gap, especially as a new iPhone can cost a hefty amount of dough. Luckily, there are several services out there that make trading in a phone relatively easy.
You’ll generally start by selecting your model, noting its condition, answering a few other questions and then see an estimated value for the device. If you choose to send the device in, you’ll lock in that value and the service will provide you with a shipping label to send your device back in. After they receive it, they’ll check it over and update the value if need be. You’ll confirm and they’ll pass the money to you. We’d recommend using a service like Decluttr. (With Decluttr, you can currently score an extra 10% on your trade-in value with code CNN2021. It’s capped at $50, but it’s a nice bonus.) It’s Worth More or Gazelle are two other services that we’ve personally used as well.