iPhone
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APPLE CURRENTLY SELLS eight iPhone models, from the $429 iPhone SE to the $1,099 iPhone 14 Pro Max. Which is best for you? We’re here to help you separate the marketing slogans from reality—we’ve tested all the latest models and outline their strengths and weaknesses here. Our iPhone buying guide can help you make a decision.

Check out our other guides, including the Best MagSafe Accessories, Best iPhone 14 Cases, Best iPhone 13 Cases, Best iPhone 12 Cases, Best iPhone SE Cases, and Best Apple 3-in-1 Chargers. Wondering what’s new in iOS 16? We have details on that too.

Updated October 2022: We’ve added our thoughts on the iPhone 14 Plus.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.

But First, Sell That Old iPhone!

If you’re upgrading from an iPhone, you can trade it to Apple to get a small discount. Before you do that, check whether you can sell it elsewhere for more money. iPhones hold their value incredibly well, particularly if they’re in mint or good condition. We have a guide that runs through a few websites you can use.

Don’t forget to back up your old iPhone before you switch to a newer model, which will help you transfer everything without losing any data. And remember to factory-reset your old iPhone before selling it. You might find our guides on setting up a new iPhone and how to fix it helpful. And if you don’t want to sell it, we have some ideas on how to repurpose your old device.

Best iPhone Deal

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Apple refreshed its most affordable iPhone for a third generation (7/10, WIRED Recommends) earlier this year, though you’ll be hard-pressed to spot the differences. Externally, there are none—even the cases for the 2020 model will fit the iPhone SE 2022. (We’ve rounded up our favorite cases and accessories here.) That means you still get a cramped yet compact 4.7-inch LCD screen with a physical home button, thick bezels around the screen, and Touch ID. There’s no MagSafe accessory system here, and the headphone jack is nonexistent, but at least you still get plain ol’ wireless charging. This is also the only iPhone in the lineup without ultra-wideband support, which improves AirDrop and lets you precisely find nearby AirTags.

Internally, it’s a whole lot more powerful than the previous generation. It has the same A15 Bionic processor as the iPhone 13 models, making this budget phone a powerhouse among its peers and capable of running the most demanding games. That chip also brings better battery life, but the SE will last you roughly a day of use—less if you’re a heavy user. It gets sub-6 5G connectivity, meaning it won’t be able to hit the super-fast internet speeds available on pricier iPhones, but this isn’t a big deal as you rarely run into that type of 5G. The single-lens rear camera takes pretty great daytime shots, but there’s no night mode, and low-light images are lackluster compared to phones like the Google Pixel 6A.

Note: Apple hasn’t been including a charging adapter (nor earbuds) in the box since the iPhone 12, just a USB-C-to-Lightning cable, so you might need to buy a 20-watt adapter like this one.

Level Up With This Pick

Apple iPhone 14

The iPhone 14 (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is an awful lot like the iPhone 13 that came before, which isn’t a bad thing. It has a similar processor—the A15 Bionic with one additional graphics core, so gaming performance is (almost imperceptibly) better. It has the same old notch design, with all the basics you’d want, from MagSafe and wireless charging to IP68 water resistance. I’ve found the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 is perfectly manageable in one hand, and it roughly lasts a full day with medium to heavy use.

Many of the improvements are in the cameras, which have larger sensors and are powered by a new image-processing pipeline called the Photonic Engine that Apple says produces brighter and sharper photos, but we haven’t noticed much of a difference from the iPhone 13. There are some nice new perks, like how Cinematic mode (Portrait mode but for video) now films in 4K instead of just 1080p. A new Action video mode lets you capture super-stabilized videos. Two new passive features you’ll appreciate are Emergency SOS via Satellite and Crash Detection. Both will help you reach emergency services if you’re in an area with no service or if you’re unresponsive after a car crash.

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Best Battery on an iPhone

Apple iPhone 14 Plus

One major change in the 2022 iPhone 14 lineup? There’s no new iPhone Mini. Instead, Apple replaced it with the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s identical to the iPhone 14 in every way except for size and battery life. The latter is where it really shines. I routinely had to charge the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro at the end of a busy day, but the iPhone 14 Plus often had enough juice to last until the afternoon of the second day off the charger. It even bested the iPhone 14 Pro Max in my testing. If you’re frequently turning on Low Power Mode, this is the iPhone to buy.

The 6.7-inch screen is wonderfully vast, but it’s a shame Apple didn’t add a 120-Hz refresh rate for smoother interactions. That’s really my only major complaint, besides the fact that its price is a little too close to the iPhone 14 Pro. Considering the bigger size, I expected the Plus to be unwieldy like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but it’s surprisingly manageable. A big reason why is weight—it’s 3 grams lighter than the smaller 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro.

The Ultimate iPhone

Apple iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max

When you get down to brass tacks, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max (7/10, WIRED Recommends) aren’t markedly different from their predecessors. They do have a shiny new design on the front—the notch is gone in favor of the newly named Dynamic Island. This pill-shaped cutout doesn’t just house the selfie camera and Face ID sensors, but it also fluidly expands to show passive information, like music playback, call controls, and navigation details. It’s almost like a fun second screen. These are the only iPhones that have an always-on display, which leaves the screen on so you never have to reach for it to see your notifications or the time. (It doesn’t drain the battery much, and you can turn it off.) You also get the SOS and Crash Detection upgrades like in the iPhone 14, which are reassuring features.

These devices differ only in size and battery life. The iPhone 14 Pro Max lasted a little more than a day, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro will need to be recharged by bedtime (with heavy use). The Pro models add a 120-Hz screen refresh rate, which makes all interactions look and feel more responsive, the screens can get brighter, and they’re made of stainless steel instead of aluminum, so they’re a smidge more durable. The triple-camera system is now led by a 48-megapixel primary camera, which can also capture 2X zoom photos in pretty great quality, effectively giving you four zoom levels with the ultrawide and telephoto. We haven’t seen a huge difference in our photo tests compared to the iPhone 13 Pro, so don’t expect a major upgrade here.

The Midrange iPhone

Still Great iPhones

If you don’t need the latest iPhone and you don’t want to buy used, then Apple has a few other good choices: the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12. Both are perfectly fine options at those prices, though you can probably find them for even cheaper (and in good condition) at sites like Swappa and eBay. Both feature MagSafe support, physical SIM trays, dual-camera systems with Night mode, and wireless charging. Read our Best iPhone 13 Cases and Best iPhone 12 Cases guides if you’re on the hunt for accessories and protection.

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Best for Small-Phone Lovers

Apple iPhone 13 Mini

Hate giant phones? This is the smallest iPhone, and it’s one of the tiniest smartphones on the market, period. This also might be the last iPhone Mini for the foreseeable future, as Apple didn’t introduce a new model alongside the iPhone 14 range. Apple has employed the modern iPhone design—slim borders around the screen and Face ID instead of Touch ID—so you get a larger 5.4-inch OLED screen than on the iPhone SE 2022, even though the phone itself is physically smaller. It has the exact same features as the iPhone 13, including MagSafe support, but since it’s so small, it does suffer from lackluster battery life. The Mini will keep the lights on until bedtime, but you may need to tote around a portable charger, depending on how heavily you use it.

Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

You Betcha

Yes. Apple has released all of its iPhones for 2022, and we’re not expecting any additions until next September. If you don’t want to spend the money to get a new iPhone, consider a fresh battery. If the biggest issues with your aging iPhone revolve around the battery, then replacing it might make it feel brand-new. Replacements for older iPhones are $49, and $69 or $99 for newer models. If that doesn’t do the trick, read our guide on ways to fix your iPhone’s problems, or our guide on selling your iPhone to get the most money out of it.

If It’s $800 or Less

Apple iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple completely canceled the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max from 2021, but they’re still fine to buy. They have speedy processors and three rear cameras that deliver near-identical photos to the latest iPhone 14 Pro models, so you can zoom out with the ultrawide or zoom in with the telephoto. Everything else is par for the course, with stainless steel bodies, excellent OLED displays, daylong battery life, water resistance, and wireless charging. Since the iPhone 14 starts at $829, try not to spend more than $800 on these phones. Practically speaking, most retailers no longer have them, but you can buy renewed ones from Amazon. You also may be able to snag one in new or mint condition on resale websites like Swappa.

The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are also totally fine to buy right now, as long as you can find them for $600 or less. Anything more and you may as well pony up for the newer devices.

Avoid These iPhones!

Apple iPhone 1-8, iPhone X, iPhone SE (2016)

The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, XS, XR, X, 8, 7, 6S, SE (2016), and every older iPhone that came before them are probably available somewhere, but you shouldn’t take the bait. They don’t have the processing power to keep up with the latest software, and even if they do, they will have a much shorter software shelf life. The iPhone 6S, iPhone SE 2016, and iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are cut off from receiving the iOS 16 update. Without software support, your device will slowly become less secure and could become a slow, buggy mess. The camera tech in these models isn’t as refined, either. Unless they’re almost free, we think you’re better off with the new iPhone SE or another model on this list.

 

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