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The best iPhone models you can buy right now (including the iPhone 15)

We've gone hands-on with every iPhone model (including the new iPhone 15 line) to help you find the best iPhone for you.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
iPhone 15 Pro Max | Best iPhone overall
iphone-15-pro-max-white-1
iPhone 15 Pro Max
Best iPhone overall
View now View at Best Buy
Apple iPhone 15 | The best iPhone for most people
iPhone 15 Blue in hand
Apple iPhone 15
The best iPhone for most people
View now View at Best Buy
Apple iPhone 13 Mini | Best Mini iPhone
iphone-13-mini-zdnet
Apple iPhone 13 Mini
Best Mini iPhone
View now View at Apple
Apple iPhone SE (2022) | Best cheap iPhone
iPhone SE
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Best cheap iPhone
View now View at Apple
Apple iPhone 14 | Best old-generation iPhone
iPhone 14 laying on a blue wooden floor
Apple iPhone 14
Best old-generation iPhone
View now View at Apple

Apple has just unveiled the iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, and 15 Pro Max, all featuring USB-C charging, improved cameras, and new designs -- which means it's a great time to consider buying a new iPhone. (You can preorder the new iPhone 15 models now.) Whether you're looking for the newest top-of-the-line flagship smartphone or a more budget-friendly option (perhaps for a child or an elderly parent), there's an iPhone that will fit your needs.

In fact, Apple's iterated enough each year to make every new iPhone model one that is worth the transition to if you own another that is two or more years old. That's a recipe for long-term success and one that's clearly working.

Throughout the last decade, ZDNET's mobile experts have been daily driving, carefully testing, and putting every model of the iPhone through its paces to provide you with not only the best advice on which model to buy but also the key features to look out for when you do. I've also tapped the industry's best analysts and subject-matter experts to curate this definitive list of the best iPhones you can buy in 2024. My pick for the best iPhone of 2024 is the new iPhone 15 Pro Max, thanks to its lightweight titanium body, new 5x zoom camera, and new Action button for easier app access. Read on to find the right iPhone for you.

Also: The best Apple Watches

The best iPhones of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Lightweight titanium shell
  • USB-C charging
  • New 5x zoom camera
  • A17 Bionic processor
Cons
  • Pricer than most flagship smartphones
  • No battery life improvement over prior model
More Details

iPhone 15 Pro Max specs: Processor: Apple A17 Pro Bionic | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Rear cameras: 48MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, and 12MP 4X telephoto | Front camera: 12MP f/1.9 | Colors: Natural Titanium, Blue, White, Black | Size: 6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches | Weight: 221 g | Starting price: $1,099 

This year's best iPhone overall goes to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, unveiled in September. The 6.7-inch model is the largest of the iPhone 15 line and comes stacked with the latest features that Apple has to offer. It looks and feels different from the prior Pro Max models, as it's made of titanium instead of stainless steel. This makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max noticeably lighter, weighing 8% less than last year's model, ZDNET Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner noted in his hands-on review.

Review:iPhone 15 Pro Max hands-on: The 5 biggest reasons to upgrade

Another major new feature for iPhone 15 Pro Max is the USB-C connector, which supports faster charging and data transfers, the ability to charge AirPods Pro 2 (with new USB-C case) and Apple Watch from your iPhone, and the ability to connect an external 4K monitor to your iPhone. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also features a new 5x zoom camera lens -- the equivalent of a 120mm focal length on a mirrorless or DSLR camera. A new Action button lets you better customize shortcuts and easily open the apps you need. And the A17 Pro chip offers computer-like performance. ZDNET will continue to test the iPhone 15 models over time, and will update this list accordingly.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • USB-C charging
  • Dynamic Island multitasking support
  • Matte back
  • Sleek design with curved edges
Cons
  • Pricer than most flagship smartphones
  • No battery life improvement over prior model
More Details

iPhone 15 specs: Processor: Apple A16 Bionic | Display size: 6.1 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear cameras: 48MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide | Front camera: 12MP f/1.9 | Colors: Pink, Yellow, Blue, Green, Black | Size: 5.81 x 2.82 x 0.31 inches | Weight: 171 g | Starting price: $799 

The new iPhone 15 looks great, feels great, and performs how premium phones should. With this model, Apple gives the base-level iPhone access to USB-C charging, the Dynamic Island multitasking tool, and a matte back that's less prone to fingerprint marks -- making it closer to the Pro version than ever. 

The iPhone 15 offers a thinner, slightly lighter form factor than last year's model, along with curved edges that gave me a confident grip without digging deeply into my palm. 

Review: Apple iPhone 15 hands-on: New features left me with no Pro model envy at all

Even with all of these upgraded features, the price tag for the iPhone 15 remains at $799, as it was for the iPhone 14 last year. That makes the standard models, more than ever, the iPhones that most people should buy.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Last iPhone Mini model you can buy
  • Identical internals to the iPhone 13
  • Size doesn't compromise on performance and camera quality
Cons
  • No high refresh rate display
  • Subpar battery life
  • Shorter software update schedule
  • Need to buy refurbished
More Details

iPhone 13 Mini specs: Processor: Apple A15 | Display size: 5.4 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear cameras: Two 12MP (wide and ultra-wide) | Front camera: 12MP f/2.2 | Colors: Starlight, Midnight, PRODUCT Red, Pink, Blue | Size: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.65 mm | Weight: 141 g | Starting Price: $480  

While Apple has officially discontinued its iPhone Mini models, Avi Greengart, Lead Analyst at Techsponential, suggests the iPhone 13 Mini for anyone eyeing a small flagship iPhone. He's not wrong; the iPhone 13 Mini is the only compact option in the US that bares specs similar to that of its larger siblings. You'll just have to buy one refurbished.

Review: Apple iPhone 13 Mini

For $480 refurbished, the iPhone 13 Mini comes with the same A15 Bionic processor as the iPhone 13 Pro and last year's iPhone 14, as well as Face ID, 5G, wireless charging, and a reliable set of cameras. If you do find yourself taking advantage of the dual 12MP rear cameras, the base storage of 128GB (upgradeable up to 512GB) should suffice for your creative needs.

The iPhone SE (2022) is the other contender as far as small iPhones go, but its outdated design makes the iPhone 13 Mini the more practical choice in the modern age of digital consumption. Speaking of which, there are some obvious drawbacks to the smaller form factor like battery life, display quality, and multitasking. But if you can shoulder the three, then the iPhone 13 Mini is the best mini iPhone available.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • It's an iPhone... for $429
  • Solid battery life
  • Excellent software support
  • Smallest form factor of any iPhone
  • IP67 dust/water resistant
Cons
  • Outdated design
  • Display may come off as cramped for some
  • Not the most flexible camera system
More Details

iPhone SE specs: Display: 4.7 inches LCD | CPU: Apple A15 | RAM:  | Internal storage: 64/128/256GB | Rear cameras: 12MP wide | Front camera: 7MP | Colors: Midnight, Starlight, PRODUCT Red | Size 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm | Weight: 144 g | Starting price: $429

Apple satisfied those looking for a tiny phone a few years ago with the 2016 iPhone SE. In 2020, it introduced another SE model in a larger form factor that carried on the tradition of the Touch ID front fingerprint sensor. The 2022 iPhone SE (3rd Generation) is available now for a very affordable starting price of $429 in three color options: Midnight, Starlight, and PRODUCT Red.

Review: Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The latest model brings Sub-6 5G support (mmWave is not supported) and an improved A15 processor with the same traditional display size, front Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and single rear camera. The processor brings improved performance, longer battery life, and enhanced photography results with the same hardware.

The iPhone SE is still essentially an iPhone 8 with upgraded internals to match the modern iPhone 13/14 range. For those who want a smaller and less expensive iPhone, this is the one to get. There are also still many fans of Touch ID, especially if you wear a mask regularly.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Goldilocks size for iPhones
  • Pro-level camera system
  • Improved repairability
  • Identical software support as the more-expensive Pro models
Cons
  • Still 60Hz display
  • Doesn't have a telephoto lens
  • U.S. customers are locked to eSIM
More Details

iPhone 14 specs: Processor: Apple A15 | Display size: 6.1 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear cameras: Dual 12MP (Wide, ultra-wide) | Front camera: 12MP f/1.9 | Colors: Blue, Purple, Midnight, Starlight, PRODUCT Red | Size: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.8mm | Weight: 172 g | Starting price: $699 

While Apple continues to segment its iPhone line with "Pro" and "Plus" models, the regular offering continues to see the most success out of all. Part of the reason is how similar its design is to the Pro variant, especially when it comes to form factor, button placement, and even the charging tech. But the more obvious reason is the price. What makes the iPhone 14 the "best old-generation iPhone" this year is the permanent price reduction. Selling for $799 originally, the 2022 iPhone can now be had for $699 at your local Apple store.

Review: Apple iPhone 14

For folks who are not as invested in the latest camera features and hardware, which is most people, the price difference is enough to justify buying the regular iPhone 14 as opposed to one of the Pro models, or even the new iPhone 15.

That doesn't mean you're settling for an inferior iPhone experience, though. With its A15 Bionic chip, the iPhone 14 should power you through general tasks like social media browsing, emailing, video calls, gaming, and then some. Its dual camera system at the rear has been carried over from last year's iPhone 13 Pro which, if you read our full review, should give you confidence more than anything else. 

What is the best iPhone?

After weighing all the available models and options, the iPhone 15 Pro Max stands tall as the best iPhone overall. It features the latest A17 Bionic processor, a USB-C charger, a lightweight titanium body, and the best iPhone camera system to date. Still, there are more affordable and smaller alternatives that are worth your consideration. The chart below gives you a snapshot comparison of our top picks.

iPhone models compared

Base Price

Base Storage

Display

Processor

Cameras (rear)

iPhone 15 Pro Max

$1,099

128GB

6.7 inches

A17

Three

iPhone 15

$799

128GB

6.1 inches

A16

Two

iPhone 14

$699

128GB

6.1 inches

A15

Two

iPhone 13 Mini

$480

128GB

5.4 inches

A15

Two

iPhone SE (3rd Generation)

$429

64GB

4.7 inches

A15

One

Which iPhone model is right for you?

It used to be fairly easy to choose an iPhone model as you typically selected either the "big" iPhone or the "small" one. With four models available in the iPhone 15 series alone, you have to dig a bit deeper to choose which is best for you. This is especially true of the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro which include nearly the same hardware so check out our question above for more on this decision.

Size is generally the first factor to consider, followed by price. Price limits will also drive the amount of internal storage you select for your iPhone.

One fantastic aspect of the Apple iPhone line is that all iPhones receive software support for years, so it's OK to buy an older model and trust that it will work well for you for years.

Choose this iPhone...

If you want...

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

The top-of-the-line iPhone experience. Buy the Pro Max if you want the largest iPhone available without any of the compromises found on other models.

Apple iPhone 15

A reliable iPhone that now includes several Pro features. For most users, the standard iPhone 14 should be more than enough.

Apple iPhone SE (3rd Generation)

The iPhone SE Is the cheapest model that Apple officially sells. You'll have to settle with a smaller and dated form factor, but the performance makes up for it.

Apple iPhone 13 Mini

The only iPhone Mini that Apple makes. This is arguably the best compact smartphone money can buy, even if it's nearly three years old.

Apple iPhone 14

An older iPhone that can handle modern-day tasks. The iPhone 14 is still a solid smartphone if you want the Apple experience for less.

How did I choose these iPhone models?

The process to make our selections includes testing the phones for weeks, reading reviews from colleagues, researching reviewer guides and manufacturer websites, talking with colleagues, analysts, and other industry experts who have hands-on experience with the phones, and then selecting the best from all of the available choices. 

For this iPhone list, I also only included iPhone models that are available directly from the Apple Store where you will get official support and can purchase Apple Care Plus. There may also be older models of iPhones still available from third-party vendors or wireless carriers.

What storage size should I buy for my iPhone?

It wasn't until 2021 that Apple began selling both its non-Pro and Pro iPhones with a base storage of 128GB. The only exception here is the iPhone SE model. While not as flashy of an upgrade as larger camera sensors and 120Hz displays, this double-up of storage meant that consumers had more space than ever to store apps, photos, videos, and more.

Maurice Klaehne, senior market research analyst at Counterpoint Research, suggests that higher storage options are generally better as they will help with the longevity of the device, and his firm has generally seen an uptick in postpaid customers opting for higher storage sizes when they can afford them. "Currently, the 256GB option is sufficient for most people," Klaehne adds.

Which iPhone should I buy for a parent?

At the time of writing, the iPhone 13 is the best phone you should buy for a parent. While it's not as glass-heavy or flashy as the newer iPhone 14 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro models, the 13 is still a formidable pickup for its durability, long battery life, and SIM card support. The latter of which is particularly important if your parent travels overseas or just prefers the simplicity of swapping a physical SIM card to transfer contacts and data.

The cameras on the iPhone 13 are also reliable enough for clear-looking video calls, the occasional outdoor flick, and capturing images of children and pets.

What is eSIM?

Embedded Subscriber Identity Module, or eSIM in short, is the electronic version of the classic SIM card. That means your eSIM carries your phone number, mobile data plan, and telephone carrier info, just like a regular SIM card. The major difference between eSIM and SIM is that the former does not need to be physically installed onto your phone, which is why the iPhone 14 and 15 lines no longer have a dedicated slot for it. Instead, you'll have to transfer the information wirelessly via Apple's file transfer service, or with the help of your local carrier representatives. 

Also: eSIM vs. SIM: What's the difference?

There is one problem that ZDNET Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner sees with Apple forcing eSIM adoption on U.S. consumers. "There are a variety of good reasons why some people will still need or prefer a phone with a physical SIM card. The top reason is privacy. This is especially true for some journalists and populations at risk of persecution around the world. Removing the physical SIM card option reduces privacy for millions of people, especially some of the most vulnerable," said Hiner. 

Note that if you buy an iPhone 14 or 15 anywhere outside of the US, the device will come with a regular SIM card slot. 

Which iPhone has the best camera for selfies?

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the best selfie picture-taking capabilities of all iPhones thanks to its 12MP front camera.

Which iPhone models support 5G?

All models within the iPhone 15, 14, and 13 line, as well as select iPhone 12 models, support 5G wireless technology. Even the new iPhone SE (2022) supports Sub-6, low-band 5G networks.

5G continues to roll out across the US, and while it is debatable if there are benefits to the speeds of the network, in my experience, the broad coverage of low-band 5G has solved my connectivity issues in spotty coverage areas with past iPhone models.

Even more importantly, the 5G iPhone models have Qualcomm chipsets inside that are proving to provide better RF reception than we saw in past iPhones that had Intel chipsets. 

Which iPhone models support wireless charging or MagSafe?

All of the iPhone models in this list support Qi wireless charging technology. Wireless charging is becoming an expected feature for modern smartphones from all manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Apple's proprietary MagSafe technology is only supported by the iPhone 15, iPhone 14, iPhone 13, and iPhone 12 models. 

Also: Best MagSafe accessories for your iPhone

MagSafe provides a secure magnetic connection system so that you can connect to wireless chargers with perfect positioning and alignment. MagSafe can also be used with other accessories, such as wallets and kickstands. While the extra security when your iPhone is docked to a wireless charger can be a nice bonus, it's not vital and probably shouldn't be a major determiner in your choice. Apple's first-party wallets and battery packs that use MagSafe have also received somewhat mixed reviews, making them a hard sell for all except the most die-hard Apple enthusiasts. 

How many years do iPhones typically last?

While this number varies greatly depending on how you handle a smartphone -- perhaps you're a construction worker whose phone will be put through the harshest climates or you have kids who may drop the phone ever so often -- the iPhone will typically run efficiently for three to four years. 

Then, you'll likely experience more frequent app crashes, lag, storage problems, and more. Those are common issues that any piece of technology will inhibit, not just the iPhone, after years of constant usage. 

If you'd like to prolong that time, I'd recommend visiting your local Apple store to have the phone's battery replaced every three to four years and also consider backing up files to an external hard drive for safekeeping. As a last resort, a factory reset, followed by data restoration, should give your phone a brand-new feel.

Are there alternative phones to consider?

Be sure to check out ZDNET's comparison of the best Android phones available. We've listed the top pick from that guide below for your convenience. 

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