How to Pick the Best iPhone for You

woman holding phone on city street
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Figuring out which iPhone is best for you isn't a simple task. A few years ago, buying a new iPhone was a simple matter of figuring out how much storage you needed.

Now that each generation of iPhone comes in two models, picking the best iPhone for your needs involves answering a lot more questions. Do you want to use Face ID? Maybe all you care about is Animojis? Or is the most important thing to you getting the biggest screen possible?

Instead of just choosing between two storage capacities and two phone companies, there are now seven models — iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, 7 and 7 Plus — and multiple storage capacities, and four phone companies. Unlocked versions of these iPhones are available as well.

If you're planning to buy a new iPhone, you need to figure out what matters to you in a phone and what doesn't. Here are some tips that may make that decision a little easier.

TIP: Not sure which phone company is best for you? Check our article on Which Phone Company Is Best for iPhone.

iPhone XS and XS Max

Pros

  • The bleeding edge: If having the coolest, most cutting-edge technology in your iPhone matters to you, the iPhone XS series is your only choice. It's the only current iPhone that offers an edge-to-edge OLED screen, an HDR screen, IP68 waterproofing, and a top-of-the-line camera.
  • It's the biggest and the best: The iPhone XS is the top of the line model. It's got the largest screen — 5.8 inches on the XS, 6.5 inches on the XS Max — which makes for terrific gaming and multimedia. 
  • It's got the best screen: Only the iPhone XS has an edge-to-edge screen that covers the full face of the phone, uses superior OLED technology, and delivers highly detailed, vibrantly colorful HDR images. The screen on the XR is edge-to-edge, but doesn't offer the other features.
  • Terrific camera: The user-facing camera on the XS series is the same as that one on the iPhone XR, but the back camera is pretty different. While both models offer 12-megapixel resolution, only the XS and XS Max sport both a wide-angle and telephoto lens, optical zoom and optical image stabilization, and up to 10x digital zoom. They also have two additional Portrait Lighting options not present on the XR.
  • Face ID: The iPhone XS and XR ditch the Touch ID fingerprint scanner used to unlock the iPhone and confirm Apple Pay transactions. In its place is the Face ID facial recognition system.
  • Wireless Charging: Along with both iPhone 8 models and the XR, the XS series sports wireless charging using the Qi standard. Forget having to plug your iPhone in; just rest it on a charging mat to power the battery.
  • Most storage: Only the iPhone XS and XS Max offer up to 512 GB of storage. The most any other model offers is 256 GB.
  • 3D Touch screen: The screen on the XS series can detect how hard you're pushing on it. As a result, it can respond in different ways to different kinds of touch. Not only does this enable eye-catching features like Live Photos, it also opens a whole host of new user-interface options. The XR lacks 3D Touch.
  • NFC & Apple Pay: The XS series includes support for NFC (Near-Field Communication), the wireless standard that is used for transactions with the Apple Pay mobile payment platform.
  • Newer processors: The latest, fastest, and most capable chips show up in the iPhone XS, with the new A12 Bionic chip offering notably faster performance than the chip in the previous-generation iPhone X.
  • Apple Watch and AirPods compatible: Every phone on this list works with all generations of the Apple Watch and Apple's wireless AirPods earbuds.
  • Size: Despite having a 5.8-inch screen that's more than an inch bigger than the 4.7-inch screen on the iPhone 8, the iPhone XS is only 0.2 inches taller and 0.14 inches wider than the iPhone 8.

Cons

  • Premium price: All the amazing features noted above don't come cheap. The iPhone XS series are the most expensive iPhones ever, starting at US$999 for the 64 GB iPhone XS and topping out at $1,449 for the 512 GB iPhone XS Max.

 

iPhone XR

Pros

  • Big, bright screen: While the iPhone XR doesn't have the True Tone, OLED screen of the XS, its screen is still great. The 6.1-inch, edge-to-edge LCD offered by the XR is plenty big and looks great.
  • Battery life: The battery on the XR outperforms the battery on the XS by a few hours and some users even get better performance out of it than from the XS Max. If you want an iPhone that can run for a long time without a charge, the XR is it.
  • Attractive price: The XR offers the vast majority of the features from the XS series for a much cheaper price. You can get an XR that's nearly as good as the XS for most users starting at just $749. 
  • Great cameras: The only major differences between the cameras on the XR and XS are the telephoto and wide angle lenses and image stabilization and zoom. These features are really only necessary for serious photographers (whether hobbyists or professionals). For the average person, the XR's camera will be the best camera of any kind they've ever owned.
  • Most key iPhone XS features: In many ways, the XR is very similar to the XS. It sports the same processor, the same Face ID system, the same wireless charging options, and other features. Unless you absolutely need the very top of the line features, the XR delivers most of what makes the XS great, but at a lower price.

Cons

  • LCD screen: The LCD screen used on the XR isn't quite as good as the OLED on the XS series. The technology used in this screen has a lower color range and accuracy, and isn't quite as bright or appealing as on the XS. The average user probably won't really notice the difference, though. 
  • Lower maximum storage: The XR maxes out at 256 GB of storage, while the XS goes up to 512 GB. So, if you need a tremendous amount of storage on your phone, you may encounter some limits with the XR.
  • Heavier: Because the body of the XR is made from different materials than the XS, it's a bit heavier. The XR weighs 6.84 ounces, while the XS tilts the scales at 6.24 ounces. The larger XS Max is heavier, though, at 7.34 ounces.
  • Lesser waterproofing: The waterproofing features of the XR are slightly less effective than on the XS. While the XS can survive 30 minutes in water up to 2 meters deep, the XR can only last 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. 

 

iPhone 8 Plus

Pros

  • Pretty close to the iPhone XR: The iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone XR are similar in many of the most important ways. Many things in the list above applies to both the XR and the 8 Plus. See the cons section below for the few things that don't.
  • Touch ID fingerprint scanner: Apple's 2nd generation fingerprint scanning technology is built into the 8 series, so entering passwords and making purchases is as simple as pressing your phone's Home button.
  • Less expensive: Buying an iPhone 8 Plus will be easier on your wallet. The introductory 64 GB model costs $699, $50 less than the equivalent iPhone XR. That's not a big savings, but the $300 difference when compared to the XS is substantial.  

Cons

  • No Face ID: The iPhone 8 series uses Touch ID, rather than the Face ID system. You can't get facial recognition and everything that goes along with it (including Animojis) on the 8 Plus. 
  • Lesser screen: While the Retina Display screen on the 8 Plus is amazing, it's not as good as the screen on the XS, since it doesn't use OLED, isn't edge to edge, and doesn't support HDR. The 8 Plus also has a 5.5-inch screen, compared to the 5.8-inch screen on the XS, the 6.1-inch screen on the XR, and 6.5-inch screen on the XS Max.
  • Larger and heavier: The 8 Plus is about a half inch taller and an ounce heavier than the XS. That may not sound like much, but it can change how the phone feels in your hand or pocket.

 

iPhone 8

Pros

  • Nearly identical features to the 8 Plus: Almost every feature of the 8 Plus is also present on the 8 (for a list of the ones that aren't, check out the cons below). The two phones are identical when it comes to storage options, processors, wireless charging, 3D Touch, Touch ID, support for NFC and Apple Pay, and Apple Watch compatibility. 
  • Good screen: The iPhone 8 offers a 4.7-inch screen. While that's not as huge as the 8 Plus', and much smaller than the XS or XR, it's a good-sized screen for many users.
  • Best Value: Each model of the iPhone 8 costs less than the equivalent iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone XS/XR.

Cons

  • No cutting-edge features:You won't find Face ID or the OLED/HDR/edge-to-edge screen on the 8. The 8 also lacks some of the advanced photo features of the 8 Plus and XS/XR, such as Portrait Mode. 
  • Smaller screen: The iPhone 8's screen is about three-quarters of an inch smaller than that on the 8 Plus, more than an inch smaller than the XS, and nearly two inches smaller than the XS Max, so if you need the biggest screen possible, check out the other models.
  • Lesser camera: The camera on the 8 doesn't include the wide angle, telephoto, and high-end depth-of-field effects, so photos in some circumstances may not be as nice as those taken with the XS or XR.
  • More expensive than 7: With its better features, the iPhone 8 more expensive than the earlier models. 

 

iPhone 7 Plus

Pros

  • A good, but older, phone: This was Apple's top-of-the-line iPhone for part of 2016 and most of 2017. Nothing that made it a great phone then — its screen and camera, its speed and compatibility with the full line of Apple accessories — has changed. 
  • Cheaper than the 8 Plus: Since the 7 Plus has been replaced in the food chain by the XS/XR and the 8 series, it's got a more attractive price. The 7 Plus starts at $130 less than the 8 Plus.

Cons

  • No wireless charging: Unlike the phones in the list above it, the 7 Plus doesn't have wireless charging support.
  • Slower processor: The processor in this model is plenty fast, but the chips in the 8 and XS/XR series are much faster.
  • Lesser camera: The camera in the 7 Plus is good, but the 8 and XS/XR series offer better ones. If taking the best possible photos is important to you, consider the newer models.
  • Lower storage capacity: The 7 Plus maxes out at 128 GB of storage, compared to the 256 GB limit for the XR and 8, and the 512 GB limit for the XS. Even at the low end, the 7 Plus only offers 32 GB of storage, compared to 64 GB for the other models. 

 

iPhone 7

Pros

  • A very solid phone: While it's a few years away from being top-of-the-line, the iPhone 7 is still a very solid phone with strong features and performance. If you want a combination of solid phone and lower price, the 7 is a good place to look.
  • Support for key Apple technologies: You'll get support for most key Apple technologies with the 7 Plus, including Apple Pay, Touch ID, the Apple Watch, 3D Touch, Retina Display, among others.
  • Great phone, great price: The iPhone 7 offers almost all of the 7 Plus' strengths but does so at a lower price. The introductory level model of the iPhone 7 starts at just $449.
  • Manageable size: If you want the strengths of the 7 Plus in a smaller-size device, the 7's 4.7-inch screen means it's an easy fit in your hand or pocket.

Cons

  • All of the 7 Plus's weaknesses: Since the 7 and 7 Plus share most of the same hardware and features, all of the 7 Plus' weaknesses when compared to the 8 and the XS apply here, too.
  • Even lesser camera: The 7 has a lesser camera than the 7 Plus, in that it doesn't support the special Portrait Modes and other features. 
  • Three years behind: It's now three years since the 7 series was brand new. Even if you don't want the latest and greatest, the 7 is starting to look a little long in the tooth.
  • Lower storage capacity: The 7 maxes out at 128 GB.
  • Slower processors: The 7 series is built around the A10 processor and M10 motion coprocessor, two generations behind the chips used in the XS/XR and 8 series.
  • Lesser camera features: While the 7 has a good camera, it lacks the wide angle, telephoto, and depth-of-field features of the 7 Plus, to say nothing of the XS/XR or 8.

 

Deciding on Your Phone

The general rule when making a technology purchase is to buy the best device that you can afford. That's true when it comes to deciding which iPhone to buy.

If you can afford the iPhone XS or XR, get it. It will last the longest, offer the best performance and features, and will hold its value longest if you want to resell it. If you're more price conscious, the iPhone 7 series will serve you well, too. Only look to the SE if cost or size of the phone is a major consideration (it is nice to hold something this size again, in spite of its screen size).

For a quick comparison of how all current models stack up in terms of features and price, check out this chart.

Current iPhone Models Compared

 

iPhone XR
 

64 GB
128 GB
256 GB

iPhone XS 
& XS 
Max

64 GB
256 GB
512 GB

iPhone 8
& 8 Plus

 

64 GB
256 GB

iPhone 7 
& 7 Plus

 

32 GB
128 GB

Songs Held16,000/
32,000/
64,000
16,000/
64,000/
128,000
16,000/
64,000
8,000/
32,000
Screen Size*6.1

5.8

6.5

4.7

5.5

4.7

5.5

Resolution1792x828

2436x1125

2688x1242

1334x750

1920x1080

1334x750

1920x1080

Edge-to-Edge ScreenYesYesNoNo
OLED ScreenNoYesNoNo
HDR ScreenYesYesNoNo
3D TouchNoYesYesYes
ProcessorA12 BionicA12 BionicA11 BionicA10
NetworksWi-Fi w/ MIMO,
LTE Advanced,
UMTS/
HSPA+/
DC-HSDPA/
3G,
GSM,
CDMA,
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi w/ MIMO,
Gigabit class 
LTE,
UMTS/
HSPA+/
DC-HSDPA/
3G,
GSM,
CDMA,
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi w/ MIMO,
LTE Advanced,
UMTS/
HSPA+/
DC-HSDPA/
3G,
GSM,
CDMA,
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi w/ MIMO,
LTE Advanced,
UMTS/
HSDPA/
HSUPA/
3G,
GSM,
CDMA,
Bluetooth 4.2
CarrierAT&T,
Sprint,
T-Mobile,
Verizon
AT&T,
Sprint,
T-Mobile,
Verizon
AT&T,
Sprint,
T-Mobile,
Verizon
AT&T,
Sprint,
T-Mobile,
Verizon

Support
YesYesNoNo
A-GPSYesYesYesYes
Max. OSiOS 12iOS 12iOS 12iOS 12
Camera**

2
cameras:
12 & 7

2
cameras:
12 (dual lens) 
& 7
2
cameras:
12 & 7
 
2
cameras:
12 & 7
 
Wide-angle &
Telephoto
NoYes

Telephoto

Both

Telephoto

Both

Records
Video
4K HD
at 30 and 60 fps
1080p
at 120 & 240 fps
4K HD
at 30 and 60 fps
1080p
at 120 & 240 fps
4K HD
at 30 & 60 fps
1080p
at 120 & 240 fps
4K HD
at 30 fps
Live PhotoYesYesYesYes
Portrait ModeBoth camerasBoth camerasBoth cameras

No

Back camera

FaceTimeYesYesYesYes
Touch IDNoNo2nd Gen.2nd Gen.
Face IDYesYesNoNo
NFCYesYesYesYes
SiriYesYesYesYes
Water & Dust
Resistant
IP67 ratedIP68 ratedIP67 ratedIP67 rated
Headphone
Jack
NoNoNoNo
Weight
(ounces)
6.84

6.24

7.34

5.22

7.13

4.87

6.63

Size
(inches)
5.94
x 2.98
x 0.33

5.65
x 2.79
x 0.30

6.20
x 3.05
x 0.30

5.45
x 2.64
x 0.29

6.24
x 3.07
x 0.30

5.44 
x 2.64
x 0.28

6.23 
x 3.07
x 0.29

Wireless
Charging
YesYesYesNo
Battery Life
(in
hours)

Talk: 25
Internet: 15
Video: 16
Audio: 65

Talk: 20
Internet: 12
Video: 14
Audio: 60

Talk: 25
Internet: 13
Video: 15
Audio: 65
 

Talk: 14
Video: 13
Web: 12
Audio: 40

Talk: 21
Video: 14
Web: 13
Audio: 60

Talk: 14
Video: 13
Web: 13
Audio: 40

Talk: 21
Video: 14
Web: 15
Audio: 60

ColorsBlue
White
Black
Yellow
Coral
Red
Silver
Space Gray
Gold
Gold
Silver
Space Gray
Black,
Jet Black,
Silver,
Gold,
Rose Gold,
Red
PriceUS$749 - $899

$999 - $1349

$1099 - $1449

$599 - $749

$699 - $849

$449 - $549

$569 - $669

* in megapixels

** in inches