Which iPhone Should I Buy?

See the differences between all iPhones and find the best one for you

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

For a company that prides itself on simplicity, Apple sure has a lot of iPhones. Most folks have been around these things long enough to tell the difference between them. But for some people, the task is a bit daunting. How does one go about deciding which iPhone is right for them? It’s not as simple as it may seem so we’ve put together a list of every smartphone currently sold by Apple. We’ve honed in on the ideal uses and applications of each device, and hopefully painted a picture of the iPhone landscape.

Our Top Picks

iPhone Xs

iPhone XS
 Courtesy of Best Buy
4.7

The iPhone Xs looks pretty similar to the older iPhone X (which is about what we'd expect during an “S” upgrade year). But despite the similar design, it's definitely Apple's premium phone offering. The Xs is basically all screen, with only a small notch in the top, and the 5.8-inch display has Super Retina HD resolution of 2436 x 1125 that delivers a density of 458 pixels per inch. Apple has also included the TrueTone tech that was introduced on the most recent MacBook Pro line, which adjusts the color of the display based on the ambient light of your surroundings. Another convenient new spec is the IP68 water and dust resistance (stepped up from IP67), giving you two-meter waterproof status for up to 30 minutes.

Another central upgrade here is the new A12 bionic chip which, in addition to offering more raw speed, actually incorporates a new neural engine that bolsters the AI in iOS. The updated cameras are pretty great too, with dual 12MP lenses on the back (wide angle and telephoto) and a front-facing TrueDepth camera with 7MP of resolution, stabilization, and even portrait mode. That portrait mode software is arguably the best camera upgrade, giving you better composite HDR capabilities, beautiful low-light performance, and even the option to adjust background bokeh blur after a picture is taken. Roll all that in with the most-loved features from the X (FaceID, OLED brightness, intuitive gestures, etc.) and you have a fitting flagship.

The Xs comes in Space Gray, Silver, and a new premium-looking Gold, all with a stainless steel edge and glass front and back.

iPhone Xs Max

iPhone Xs Max
 Courtesy of Best Buy
4.7

The iPhone Xs Max is, for all intents and purposes, a true step up in iPhone design. It offers many of the same insides as the Xs — like the A12 Bionic chip with its high-powered neural network for faster Face ID and AI — but with a bigger screen. In fact, the giant 6.5-inch display sits in the same footprint as the iPhone 8 Plus, but because it offers virtually edge-to-edge coverage, that actual amount of screen real estate feels significantly larger. (It’s important to note that with the new top-corner gestures, this giant device might be a little difficult to navigate with one hand.) But the screen is the major difference, giving you a Super Retina resolution of 2688 x 1242, a density of 458 ppi. The upgraded IP68 water/dust resistance means that you can submerge the phone up to two meters for as long as 30 minutes without issue.

The cameras are one of the true focal points for this phone, though it is important to note that you get the same functionality on the Xs as the Xs Max (something that wasn’t the case for the Plus options in previous gens). There are two 12MP sensors on the back, each dedicated to a wide-angle and a telephoto lens. On the front is still a comparatively bare 7MP sensor, but Apple has chosen to really boost the software support this time around. There’s a layering HDR mode, amazing low light performance, and even the ability to adjust the background blur after you’ve taken a picture. The software step-up is important here because Google’s Pixel line had stolen the camera show over the last generation. The construction is substantial on this phone too, with a premium stainless steel border and glass front/back. You can pick up the device in Space Gray, Silver and Gold and in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB configurations.

iPhone XR

iPhone XR

 Apple.com

The release of the iPhone XR marks Apple’s first foray into color in more than a few years: Available in white, blue, yellow, black, coral or red, the XR is begging to be used without a case. It's 6.1-inch “Liquid Retina” display stands out with popping colors. And the display is much larger than previous generations — even though the phone itself is smaller — because Apple has finally said goodbye to the home button. Powering that display is Apple’s A12 Bionic processor, which makes it lightning fast to switch between apps.

With three different storage sizes available, Apple has allowed plenty of room for apps, photos, and video. That’s good news given just how great the camera is. On the rear of the phone is a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera. It’s safe to leave your DSLR at home as this camera shines with optical image stabilization, 4K video, and best-in-class low-light photography. A 7-megapixel front-facing camera is perfect for selfies and FaceTime calls.

iPhone X

You can purchase the iPhone X with either 64GB or 256GB of space, just like the 8, and it comes in only two colors: space gray or silver. But the color almost doesn’t matter because this is Apple’s first foray into an edge-to-edge screen design. The phone is pretty small at 5.65 x 2.79 x 0.3 inches, but the screen is a truly massive endeavor at 5.8 inches. They achieve this because the screen covers almost the entire front end, with only cutouts for the call speaker. The display is also Apple’s first OLED design (a tech that Samsung has been using for a bit that gives you really deep colors on one end of the spectrum and shimmering brights on the other), and it offers a mind-boggling 2436 x 1125 pixel resolution (458 pixels per inch). And there’s also 3D touch built-in, of course.

But you’ll also notice that there’s no more home button, and by extension, no more fingerprint sensor. That’s because Apple has been hard at work on a new face recognition tech that automatically unlocks the phone when you lift it in front of your face. It’s one of the most futuristic features we’ve seen on a phone in a while. But that face recognition gets a little more playful with Apple’s Animoji technology. The emojis you know and love are now available in animated versions that use that face recognition to superimpose moving expressions on to the character’s face based on the expressions your actually face is making. It’s all pretty impressive. This is made possible, in part, by the front-facing 7MP camera (which employs a variety of infrared lights and lens tech for the face recognition), but there’s also a 12MP rear camera with dual lenses to match the portrait-friendly features of the 8.

You can also film 4K video at 60fps with heavily researched image stabilization. It’s all powered by that A11 Bionic chip, and it’s got to be the most exciting thing the company has done in arguably three generations of the iPhone.

iPhone 8

There’s a standard model that offers a 4.7-inch screen with a 1334 x 750 pixel Retina Display, dimensions of 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches and a weight of 5.22 ounces, as well as a Plus model with a 5.5-inch screen, a 1920 x 1080 resolution Retina Display, dimensions of 6.24 x 3.07 x 0.30 inches and a weight of 7.13 ounces. So, if you’re looking at the 8 on size and footprint alone, just pick your poison and you’ll be pleased.

The guts for each are pretty similar: they both employ Apple’s new True Tone wide color tech and 3D touch functionality, a dual-domain pixel layout for super wide viewing angles and a brightness that has to be seen to be believed. The A11 Bionic 64-bit processor brought to both phones is a lightning-fast little chip and the storage capacity options are 64GB or 256 GB. The construction offers dust- and waterproof protection, which is important because the stabilized 4K video recording will most likely take you to some pretty wild settings.

But the cameras themselves are different between models. Both offer 12MP sensors on the back and 7MP sensors on the front, but the Plus gives you a dual lens (wide angle and telephoto) system on the back for Apple’s cutting-edge portrait tech. And of course, both phones come with a host of software-backed photo features that will have you shooting like an award-winning photog right out of the box.

iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 7 Plus
Courtesy of Amazon.com

With the iPhone 7 Plus, you’ll find a lot of the same improvements, such as better battery life, water-resistance, and the new Taptic home button. On the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple took the camera to another level with the addition of the same f/1.8 2mm wide-angle lens on the iPhone 7, as well as an additional f/2.8 56mm telephoto lens. The true 10x zoom on the iPhone 7 Plus camera is great for close up shots, and the inclusion of the same A10 processor (plus 3GB of RAM) helps the camera function without delay.

The loss of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 Plus however unfortunate, does have a side benefit. It allows for additional space for a more efficient processor that brings an extra 60 minutes of battery life. And while the loss of the “physical” click home button on the iPhone sounds like a disappointment, but the Taptic button is very responsive.

The same A10 processor on the iPhone 7 is present here and paired up with 3GB of RAM. And in a nutshell, it’s ridiculously fast. The 5.5” 1920 x 1080 retina display remains unchanged from the iPhone 6s Plus, but it's still super crisp. So if you're looking to buy the best phablet on the market today, you don't need to look further than the iPhone 7 Plus.

iPhone 7

From afar, the 4.7” iPhone 7 doesn’t look all that different from the iPhone 6S, but longer battery life, better camera, faster internal components, and water resistance are pretty big game-changers. The 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and TrueTone flash are bigger than before and gone are the antenna lines that have graced the previous two iPhone models. The camera improvements allow for better low light photography (there's 50 percent more light coming into the phone over the iPhone 6S). A faster f/1.8 lens and optical image stabilization round out the camera upgrades.

The loss of the headphone jack has led to many unhappy iPhone owners, but Apple offers an affordable lightning-to-headset adapter for 3.5mm headphones. The inclusion of IP67 standards means the iPhone 7 is Apple’s first water-resistant device that can be in up to 3 feet deep for a maximum of 30 minutes. The new home button features a larger Taptic engine, which means it’s more flush against the bottom of the phone, but still has the familiar Touch ID ring circling it.

The 750 x 1334 iPhone 7 retina display is gorgeous. It’s 25 percent brighter than previous iPhones, which allows for a slightly easier user experience in direct sunlight. And the new A10 quad-core Fusion processor paired with 2GB of RAM is super fast. The A10 allows for a responsive phone with apps that open almost instantly. Thanks to the new processor and additional power tweaks, Apple claims the iPhone 7 will get two hours additional battery time over the iPhone 6S. Overall, if you're looking to have the fastest smartphone today, you'll want to get your hands on the iPhone 7.

iPhone 6s Plus

iPhone 6S Plus
Courtesy of Amazon.com

As is the case with the 6 and 6 Plus, the 6S Plus is really just a step up in the whole display/resolution department. At 5.5 inches, it is the exact same display as the 6 Plus, including the 1920 × 1080 resolution and 401 ppi pixel density. The only significant difference is the addition of 3D Touch, the sensors of which are embedded in the screen's backlight layer. It works alongside the new Taptic Engine to improve the haptic feedback effect. Both phones also feature improved motion coprocessors, which theoretically make for improved sensor (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass) integration.

OK, so what else is different — other than the price, of course? Due to the 3D Touch technology, both the 6S and 6S Plus are a bit heavier than their counterparts. The 6S Plus weighs 6.77 ounces, compared with the 6 Plus’s 6.07 ounces. For most people, however, that means nothing.

iPhone 6s

iPhone 6S
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The 6S and 6S Plus were unveiled in late 2015 and they quickly revealed themselves to be significant upgrades to their predecessors (there's even a new rose gold color option). It also features Apple’s newest A9 chip processor, an upgraded fingerprint sensor, LTE Advanced technology, a much improved 12MP camera and the option for a whopping 128GB of storage space. The display resolution (1334 × 750) and pixel density (326 ppi) is identical to the iPhone 6.

But let’s talk about that camera. Twelve megapixels is quite an improvement upon the 8MP camera found in the 6/6 Plus—as is the 5-megapixel front-facing camera (compared with the previous generation’s 1.2MP). It also includes a new retina flash feature, which allows you to use the display's brightness as a sort of makeshift flash for front-facing images (selfies). It includes improved noise reduction tech, a “Live Photos” feature that captures short video for each image, and — this is huge — 4K video. On all these specs, Apple is really just catching up with the competition, but it’s nice to see the makers of the original smartphone acknowledging the industry trends.

Camera aside, perhaps the most interesting new feature of the 6S is 3D touch. Through a series of sensors embedded in the phone’s backlight, the phone can measure the force or “firmness” of the user’s touch. The sensitivity is greater than that of the Force Touch technology found in the Apple Watch and MacBook. 3D Touch is still in its infancy, but the potential is there. Bonus: The 6S is also compatible with iOS 11.

iPhone 6 Plus

6plus
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Beginning with the launch of the iPhone 6 in 2014, Apple began offering two options for its flagship devices; the Plus merely indicates a slightly larger, beefier version of its smaller companion. The iPhone 6 Plus (and, for that matter, the iPhone 6S Plus) is mostly intended for people who have always preferred the iOS ecosystem but were turned off by Apple’s traditionally compact designs. At 5.5 inches, the 6 Plus is ample indeed — a nod to competing phablets like the Galaxy Note, Nexus, and Moto X. Because it offers pretty much the same hardware as the 6, the appeal of the 6 Plus really just comes down to personal preference.

So what are the differences? Other than size and weight, the 6 Plus features a display with slightly higher resolution (1920 x 1080) and pixel density (401 ppi), optical image stabilization on the rear camera and a more powerful 2750 mAh battery. While the camera itself is a mere 8MP (compared with the 13MP standard found in many smartphones that are half the price of an iPhone), it’s important to remember that megapixels are not a perfect metric for image quality. The 6 and 6 Plus both have highly capable cameras, especially thanks to a new sensor with 1.5 micron pixels. In general, though, it’s safe to say the 6 Plus is the ideal pick for folks who prefer the relative affordability of the 6, but also prefer a larger display.

iPhone 6

iPhone 6
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Apple’s flagship from 2014, the iPhone 6 was designed to reflect a growing interest in larger displays. At 4.7 inches, no one could describe the 6 as “very big,” but next to its predecessor, the 4-inch iPhone 5S, it is a sizable upgrade. Available with either 16 or 64GB of storage, the 6 features Apple’s proprietary Retina Display in a 1334 x 750 package at 326 ppi. It includes Apple’s A8, 64-bit processor, which was introduced specifically for the 6 and 6 Plus. Compared with previous generations, the 6 also includes an upgraded camera, improved LTE/Wi-Fi connectivity, and support for NFC (near field communications) for mobile payments. It also has a (somewhat middling) 1,810 mAh battery.

But what does that mean for your average reader? It means top-of-the-line Apple hardware and software — the best that was available until the release of the iPhone 6S/6S Plus in late 2015. The main reason to spring for a 6 over a 6S is because you don’t want to drop an extra $200/$300.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE
Courtesy of Amazon.com

With a mere 4-inch display, the iPhone SE is a petite device. But it’s also a bit more affordable than any other iPhone on the market. It really just serves as a replacement to the iPhone 5S, which launched in 2013, and serves as a low-cost introduction to the iPhone product line. While smaller than any other iPhone on the market, it still manages to pack all of Apple’s latest hardware. It includes the newest A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor, a 1136 x 640 resolution at 326 ppi, and a 12MP primary camera capable of shooting 4K video. It even includes that nifty little Live Photos feature found in the 6S/6S Plus. And it only weighs 4 ounces.

If you dig that new 3D Touch tech, you may be disappointed to hear it does not come equipped in the SE. And unlike the 6S and 6S Plus, the SE only comes in 16/64GB packages. Also, the front-facing camera reverts to iPhone 6 tech with its meager 1.2MP sensor. That said, whereas some folks prefer the wieldy bulk of the Plus line, there will inevitably be those users who prefer the slim, pocket-sized appeal of pre-iPhone 6 devices. The SE is for them.

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought two top-rated iPhones that our reviewers tested by using daily for weeks on end. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these iPhones, from their camera to their speed. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in an iPhone

Camera - When it comes to purchasing a new smartphone, one of the most obvious bits of technology that has changed over the years is the camera system. While most modern iPhones should deliver great photographic quality, as you step back to look at older models you might lose features such as enhanced low light performance.

Storage - Newer models of iPhones tend to offer up large amounts of storage, such as 128GB or 256GB, but older phones can offer much less—creating a problem for those with large music collections or tons of photos. Be sure the iPhone you select has enough space to keep you satisfied.

Speed - It might not need to be said, but as you purchase older technology you will generally find the experience to be slower than something faster and more modern. Keep this in mind if you start heading back into the older world of the iPhone 6, 6s, and SE.

Test Results: iPhone Xs

iPhone Xs
 Courtesy of Best Buy
4.7

What We Like

  • Amazing display

  • Great speed

  • Fantastic camera

What We Don't Like

  • Pricey

  • Glass back can easily shatter

iPhone Xs
iPhone Xs
iPhone Xs
iPhone Xs

“If you're looking for a flagship device, this is the one to buy,” one of our reviewers raved about the iPhone Xs. One of the standout features of this phone, according to our testers, is its speed: “The Apple A12 Bionic chip is absolutely insane,” one of our reviewers reported. The big drawback for our reviewers? It’s very expensive. One of our testers also warned that dropping it even once could shatter it due to the glass back. Still, our reviewers found you can’t beat the quality. “Gaming, professional apps, photo editing—it all runs extremely smoothly, not to mention the fantastic camera,” said one of our testers.

Test Results: iPhone Xs Max

iPhone Xs Max
Courtesy of Best Buy 
4.7

What We Like

  • Large screen

  • Incredible dual camera

  • Extremely powerful

What We Don't Like

  • Pricey

  • Battery could be better

Hand holding iPhone Xs
Comparing the iPhone Xs to an Android phone
Hand holding the iPhone Xs turned off
Handing holding the iPhone Xs in profile

“The iPhone Xs Max has a gorgeously minimal design that emphasizes its big, beautiful screen,” reported one of our testers. Another major highlight, according to our reviewers, is the “impressive” dual camera. On the flip side, one of our testers cautioned, “The battery life is decent for a phone of this size, but the iPhone XS Max doesn't last as long as some high-end Android rivals.” The takeaway? “It's one of the best around,” said one of our reviewers, “but you can also find impressive phones for much less money if you're not dead-set on a top-end iPhone.”

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