The best iPhone in 2024: Which model should you buy?

The best iPhone in 2024: Which model should you buy?
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iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models: iPhone 15 screen in hand on left; iPhone 15 Pro back and cameras on right.
With eight current iPhone models to choose from, we break down the best iPhone for your needs and budget after months of long-term testing.

In its infancy, the Apple iPhone came in just one model. Fast-forward to 2024, and there are a whopping eight options, which complicates choosing the best iPhone. On the other hand, having so many iPhones available means you can find the one that’s right for you.

Whether your decision-making is based on performance, features, display size, or price, our buying guide can help you home-in on the best iPhone. Collectively, our tech reviewers have tested and reviewed iPhones since the first device, so our picks can assure you. We also use iPhones daily as personal devices, and we can comment on their long-term use and identify shortcomings.

After extensive usage and testing, we determined that the iPhone 15 is the best iPhone for most people. It has the fewest compromises for the best value. For those on a budget, we recommend the iPhone 13 for its overall similarities to the iPhone 15 for a lower price.

Our top picks for the best iPhone

Best overall: iPhone 15 – See at Best Buy

Best budget: iPhone 13 – See at Best Buy

Best premium: iPhone 15 Pro – See at Best Buy

Best battery life: iPhone 15 Plus – See at Best Buy

Best small size: iPhone SE (2022) – See at Best Buy

Best overall

The iPhone 15 is the best option for most people. Besides being one of the latest models you can buy, it’s a big update over the iPhone 14 in features and performance. It uses the A16 Bionic chipset and Dynamic Island feature, which were introduced in the iPhone 14 Pro.

Performance has gone up, which couldn’t be said for the iPhone 14 since that model repurposed the same chipset used in the iPhone 13. In our benchmark tests, the iPhone 15 showed a notable uptick from its predecessor, while the iPhone 14 and 13 yielded similar results. In day-to-day use, you won’t notice a huge performance difference right now, but that gap will widen as apps and iOS updates become more advanced. With that said, the A16 is technically an older processor.

iPhone 15 screen and back shown side by side
Apple updated the iPhone 15 with features trickled down from the iPhone 14 Pro, like the A16 processor and Dynamic Island. The back glass uses a novel process to create a softer color.

Battery life is roughly on par with the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 15 Pro. Depending on your usage, your mileage will vary, but it’s likely you will need to charge the iPhone 15 each night. Only the iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max lasted longer due to their larger batteries.

One criticism of the iPhone 14 is that because it wasn’t a big leap over the iPhone 13, both phones felt similar. While the iPhone 15 retains the same design, the user experience is now akin to the newer Pro models, thanks to the inclusion of Dynamic Island. Located at the top, where the front camera and Face ID sensor are, Dynamic Island is a novel way to interact with notifications, alerts, and app shortcuts. It’s a clever way to display information without covering the entire screen.

Since Apple is moving away from the Lightning connector, the iPhone 15 uses USB-C for charging and data transfer; there’s also MagSafe and wireless charging. The move standardizes the cables you’d need for electronics, but Lightning-based iPhone owners would need to buy new cables, chargers, and adapters. 

However, unlike the USB-C ports in the iPhone 15 Pro models that support faster USB 3 transfer speeds, the iPhone 15’s connector only handles USB 2, comparable to Lightning. Technologically, in this implementation, the iPhone 15’s move to USB-C offers no advantage over Lightning. And unless you already own USB-C accessories, it will be more of an inconvenience for those who have been living in a Lightning-only world.

The iPhone 15’s main camera also gets upgraded from 12 megapixels to 48 megapixels, similar to the iPhone 15 Pro. Optical zoom reaches farther, at 2x. Users can save photos in 24-megapixel high resolution, which allows for greater quality, particularly in low light. In Portrait mode, you have greater control over subject focus and depth of field, and Apple claims the detailing and coloring are stronger. The iPhone 15 even captures depth information in standard mode, so you can enable Portrait features afterward, like blurring. 

In our opinion, the iPhone camera system has been stellar for several generations, and most users will find it difficult to see the differences when viewing on a small screen. Still, you’re getting the second-best iPhone camera system (after the iPhone 15 Pro) available, which will more than satisfy most casual photographers and videographers for some time.

One new feature that didn’t get trickled down from the Pro series is the always-on display. However, the screen’s resolution and maximum peak brightness did get a boost.

The iPhone 15 marks Apple’s most transformative change to its standard model since the iPhone 12. While it isn’t revolutionary — we don’t think iPhone 14 users need to trade in unless they want a slightly faster processor, Dynamic Island, USB-C, and enhanced camera — there are enough new things to make it a worthwhile upgrade. 

Best budget

The iPhone 13 stretches the definition of a “budget” option with its $599 starting price, especially when the iPhone SE (2022) is less expensive at $429. However, we recommend the iPhone 13 instead of the iPhone SE because the former offers a better value in the long run. 

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The iPhone 13 could also be considered a cheaper version of the latest model, the iPhone 15, while the iPhone SE is the last of a dying breed of older iPhones and targets a niche of small phones.

Hand holding an unlocked iPhone 13
The iPhone 13 is more expensive than the third-generation iPhone SE, but it offers a better experience and overall value.

In many ways, the iPhone 13 is similar to the iPhone 15. It has a 6.1-inch OLED display and many of Apple’s modern features that aren’t available on the iPhone SE, like Face ID, MagSafe wireless charging, mmWave 5G support (the super-fast 5G network), an ultrawide camera, Night Mode for low-light photography, and a better selfie camera. 

While they’re not the upgraded cameras on the iPhone 15, the iPhone 13 still takes beautiful photos that are hard to complain about. 

The iPhone 13’s performance isn’t far behind the iPhone 15’s, seeing as the former runs on Apple’s A15 processor and the latter runs on the A16 processor. The iPhone 13 should still have plenty of life ahead of it despite being a couple of years older than the iPhone 15.

The iPhone SE (2022) also runs on the same A15 processor. Despite its low price, we hesitate to recommend the iPhone SE due to its small screen, antiquated design, short battery life, and lack of modern Apple features. The SE has limited appeal (our pick for the best small iPhone), but you should consider your needs besides price.

The iPhone 14 is a very good phone on its own, but the value isn’t there for its $699 starting price. It runs on the same processor as the iPhone 13 and essentially offers an identical experience overall. The only reason you’d buy the iPhone 14 over the iPhone 13 is for Apple’s Crash Detection and satellite-based Emergency SOS safety features. 

However, based on Apple’s product refresh cycle, this fall, the iPhone 14 will supersede the iPhone 13 as the budget option, so you could hold off several months to snag the more recent model at a lower price.

Best premium

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are the only current options in the Pro series, so for advanced users, the decision is mostly down to size. Both share the same high-end components, so everyday performance is mostly on par with the exception of battery life. The Pro Max can accommodate a larger battery, which results in an almost 10% advantage over the standard Pro model.

The phones carry over features introduced in the iPhone 14 Pro, like Dynamic Island, always-on display, Crash Detection, and satellite-based Emergency SOS. But the iPhone 15 Pro has several new features that may make iPhone 14 Pro users — particularly those with demanding workflows, like videographers — ponder upgrading.

iPhone 15 Pro camera and screen displayed side-by-side.
The iPhone 15 Pro offers the latest and best performance and features from Apple. It also introduces USB-C that supports fast data transfer and the Action Button for quick access to select functions.

The iPhone 15 Pro launches the new A17 Pro chipset with a six-core GPU that delivers better graphics performance over the Bionic’s four- and five-core GPUs, according to Apple. This means games, animations, and other effects should look even smoother. Most users will have difficulty noticing the difference — benchmark tests reveal a slight improvement over the A16 Bionic’s numbers — but we’re likely to see it down the road when more apps take advantage of the chipset.

Like the regular iPhone 15, Apple standardized the connector from Lightning to USB-C. What’s unique to the Pro models is that the USB-C port supports faster data transfers (USB 3). For advanced users, this is a game changer: it allows for faster file transfers between the iPhone 15 Pro and a Mac or hard drive, as well as connecting to peripherals like 4K displays. 

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t include a cable that supports fast transfers or a charger — just a basic USB-C variant for charging — so upgraders may need to add one. Existing iPhone Pro users will likely already have USB-C accessories they can repurpose, particularly those who own newer iPads, Macs, and PCs.

Another new feature is the Action Button on the phone’s left side, above the volume buttons. It’s used for switching between ring and silent modes, but it can be customized to quickly access commonly used functions like the flashlight, camera, shortcuts, and more. It’s handy, but our gripe is that it can only be used for one function at a time, and you’d need to dive into the settings menu to remap the button.

Apple upgraded the iPhone 15 Pro’s body material from stainless steel to titanium. When bonded with aluminum using a novel manufacturing process, Apple says the titanium frame is super-strong and allows for thinner borders and contoured edges. It also gives it a unique metallic finish. While looks are subjective, the iPhone 15 Pro is beautiful, but we aren’t sold that it looks any more attractive than the iPhone 14 Pro, as both use a matte glass back. 

The titanium body is also lighter than stainless steel. The iPhone 15 Pro is 0.67 ounces lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro, and Apple says it’s more comfortable to hold. For us, it was difficult to spot the contrasts.

The camera system, perhaps the phone’s most sophisticated feature, got upgraded. The main camera is still 48 megapixels, but there’s now a 24-megapixel mode that creates high-resolution photos with improved lighting and details. Like the iPhone 15, the Pro lineup gets improved Portrait mode, but there’s a third, telephoto lens that’s not available in the standard model. On the iPhone 15 Pro Max, that telephoto lens now has a longer 5x zoom versus 3x in the iPhone 15 Pro. There are lots of features designed for advanced photographers and videographers, but they could be overkill for the casual user.

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Both the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max come in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage options, but the iPhone 15 Pro also has a 128GB entry-level model for those who want a sub-$1K Pro model.

The iPhone 15 Pro is not only the fastest iPhone you can buy right now, but it’s loaded with features that appeal to advanced users or those who simply want the best and newest. The Pro Max version increases the screen size and battery life. With that said, the iPhone Pro is not for every user. Most people will find the Pro an overkill and be satisfied with the standard iPhone 15 models, not to mention the cost savings. 

Best battery life

The iPhone 15 Plus is identical to the iPhone 15 (our overall recommendation) in terms of performance and features. The two big exceptions are the size (6.7-inch display) and larger battery, which Apple claims is enough for 26 hours of video playback versus 20 hours in the smaller iPhone 15.

If you want longer battery life, don’t mind (or prefer) a bigger screen, and need to stay on budget (Apple’s other 6.7-inch option is the pricier iPhone 15 Pro Max), the iPhone 15 Plus is a winner.

iPhone 15 Plus screen in hand (left). iPhone 15 Plus beside standard iPhone 15, back cameras showing (right).
The iPhone 15 Plus is the same as the iPhone 15 except it has a larger display and bigger battery.

Our tests yielded approximately 66% of battery life remaining after we put it through playing a 4K YouTube video for two hours, streaming music to a Bluetooth speaker for an hour, and running several benchmark tests that taxed the chipset’s processors. That’s 14% more than the iPhone 15. Your mileage will vary, but in terms of real-world performance, you could get more than a day’s worth of use before recharging.

While the large screen is great for viewing, the overall size of the device may not be for everyone.

Best small size

Now that Apple has gotten rid of its Mini series of iPhones, your best (and only) bet for a small iPhone in Apple’s current lineup is the third-generation iPhone SE, released in 2022.

With its 4.7-inch display, the iPhone SE is the smallest iPhone you can buy. While it lacks the modern features of other iPhones, it appeals to buyers who want a smaller device and older but familiar tech, like Touch ID. Just be aware that the phone has an outdated user experience.

The red 2022 iPhone SE held in the author’s hand showing the home screen with app icons.
The iPhone SE (2022) is the smallest and least expensive iPhone you can buy.

Powering the iPhone SE is Apple’s A15 Bionic processor — the same one that’s used in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 — which is still powerful and fast enough to run any app or game in the App Store. It also supports some of the most popular features on the iPhone, like iMessage and FaceTime, and is compatible with Apple’s ecosystem of devices, like the Apple Watch and AirPods. 

Our main gripes with the iPhone SE are its short battery life compared to larger iPhones, and it’s a little spartan in terms of features and design. It has a single camera lens, no MagSafe (although it supports wireless charging), and a dated design with huge borders below and above the display to accommodate the front camera, earpiece speaker, and home button for Touch ID. And, the entry model only offers 64GB of storage, which goes fast if you shoot a lot of photos and videos.

If you want a more substantial and up-to-date iPhone experience with two cameras and modern features like Face ID and MagSafe, check with your carrier to see if the iPhone 13 Mini is still available, or buy one refurbished through Apple.

Avoid these iPhones

We don’t recommend buying the iPhone 11 or any older model. You might find them refurbished for less than the iPhone 13, but you won’t be getting your money’s worth, whatever the price, as they won’t last very long in terms of performance or iOS updates for new features and security patches. 

If you’re looking to spend under the iPhone 13’s $599 starting price for a modern-looking iPhone, a refurbished iPhone 12 for around $300 or less can still be worthwhile, but expect a shorter lifespan in iOS upgrades and support from Apple.

Which is the best iPhone?

The best iPhone for most people is the iPhone 15. Starting at $799, it offers the latest smartphone technologies from Apple, plus access to a robust selection of apps and accessories. Those who crave longer battery life or a larger screen (or both) should look at the iPhone 15 Plus. The iPhone 15 Pro models are the very best iPhones you can buy, but their premium features and build quality cost significantly more.

Specs

iPhone 15

iPhone 13

iPhone 15 Pro

iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Plus

iPhone SE (3rd gen)

Starting price

$799

$599

$999

$1,199

$899

$429

Processor

A16 Bionic

A15 Bionic

A17 Pro

A17 Pro

A16 Bionic

A15 Bionic

Release date

September 2023

September 2021

September 2023

September 2023 

September 2023

March 2022

Screen size

6.1 inches

6.1 inches

6.1 inches

6.7 inches

6.7 inches

4.7 inches

Rear cameras

48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 2x zoom (main camera crop)

12MP main, 12MP ultrawide

48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 2x zoom (main camera crop), 12MP 3x zoom

48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 2x zoom (main camera crop), 12MP 5x zoom

48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 2x zoom (main camera crop)

12MP main

Storage

128GB, 256GB, 512GB

128GB, 256GB, 512GB

128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

256GB, 512GB, 1TB

128GB, 256GB, 512GB

64GB, 128GB, 256GB

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How we test iPhones

To test iPhones, we use them as if they were our main daily drivers for at least a week, if not longer. That way, we can get an overall sense of their performance, camera quality, battery life, and new features and compare them to our experience with other models within the same generation and previous iPhone generations. 

We expect the latest iPhones to run quickly, smoothly, and flawlessly. To test performance, we run popular and widely used apps and look for any sign of stuttering or slower-than-expected loading times. We also run the Geekbench 6 benchmark to give us an idea of performance improvements over the previous generation.

To test camera quality, we take photos of the same scenes and subjects with each lens. We then compare them to the same photos taken with different phones. To be more accurate, we’ve started taking photos of our typical scenes at the same time and place with all the latest, generationally current phones available in the US. 

We also take several, often hundreds, personal photos with iPhones, like those of friends and family, which we aren’t comfortable posting in our review for the sake of privacy. However, these photos weigh heavily in our assessments. 

For battery life, we put each iPhone through a stress test that simulates a blend of typical casual and intensive daily usage that includes two hours of video streaming at a set brightness, one hour of music streaming while connected to Bluetooth speakers, five runs of the Geekbench 6 CPU benchmark test, and two runs of the 3D Mark Wild Life Stress Test. We then note the remaining battery percentage.

FAQs

Which iPhone has the best camera?

Currently, the best camera systems can be found in the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, followed by the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus.

In addition to the latest camera hardware and software technologies, the Pro models utilize three lenses: main, ultrawide, and telephoto. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus make do with main and ultrawide lenses, but the main lens doubles for telephoto. While the Pro models have advanced features for shooting photos and videos, the standard iPhone 15 camera system can capture great image quality that should satisfy most users, especially for social media.

That said, even older iPhone models like the iPhone 13 have great cameras. The “worst” camera may be the iPhone SE, which has a single-lens system, but even that model captures great-looking photos under good lighting conditions.

When is the best time to buy a new iPhone?

There is no objective “best time” to buy an iPhone. However, it can be argued that it’s better to buy a new iPhone sooner rather than later after a new iPhone launch, which typically happens in September. 

If September is nearing when you’re considering a new iPhone, you’re better off waiting until September to see what the new model has in store. Also, older iPhone models that Apple keeps selling after a new release tend to get an additional $100 price cut.

If you need a new iPhone because your current one isn’t working or broken, the best time to buy a new iPhone is now.

Where is the best place to buy an iPhone?

Carriers tend to have the highest trade-in values for your old phone. We’ve seen trade-in deals where you can get the latest iPhone model for free by trading in an older iPhone. We’ve also seen carriers trade significantly older iPhones for the same value as a one-year-old iPhone around when a new iPhone is released.

Do iPhones need cases?

We generally recommend that iPhone owners use cases. There’s no doubt a naked iPhone looks and feels the best, but all it takes is one drop from a decent height onto a hard floor to crack the back or front glass. 

Some people accept the risk, and some buy AppleCare Plus for this very reason, which offers unlimited repairs for accidental damage with a $29 fee per incident for back or front glass damage on top of the cost of AppleCare Plus.

However, a case is the best and most cost-effective way to ensure your iPhone’s hardware stays in working order. If you’re leaning toward our top pick, the iPhone 15, see our guide to the best iPhone 15 cases to protect the phone and extend its longevity. 

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