Best iPhones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best iPhones you can buy in 2022.
Apple's iPhone was a revelation when it launched back in 2007. Back then, the word 'smartphone' meant a stuffy interface, fiddly stylus and tiny screen.
Fast forward 15 years and although a lot has changed in terms of consumer technology, in many circles, the iPhone is still the best handset on the planet. Especially now that the iPhone 14 family has landed.
How to choose the best iPhone for you
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The Apple iPhone range covers lots of different screen sizes and prices, but which is the best iPhone for you? Do you want an entry-level handset to handle the basic tasks of making calls, web browsing and taking the occasional picture? Or do you want something more powerful in a premium package with flagship tech and a massive screen? Either way, Apple has an iPhone for you and they all run its iOS operating system, which is a doddle to use.
Screen size is also important. A smaller size is more pocketable, but a bigger screen will be better suited for films, games and TV shows. So think about how you'll use it before you buy. Apple's iPhones use LCD or OLED displays, depending on the model – the iPhone 12 and later ranges comprise all OLED models, while the older ranges' cheaper models use LCD.
Then there's the camera. The more expensive iPhones have incredible cameras, but it's worth investigating the cheaper models too. If all you need it for is pointing and shooting, without delving into all the various shooting modes available, chances are they'll more than suffice.
In our experience, iPhones tend to be some of the best-sounding smartphones, while the quality of their screens is always up there with the very best at the money. The only extra bit of kit you might want to factor in is a pair of headphones – either Lightning or wireless, depending on your personal preference. The Apple AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro are good headphones, but their sound quality can be bettered. And while the AirPods Max are superb, they certainly cost a pretty penny.
But we digress. Read on for our list of the best iPhones on the market.
- OS agnostic? These are the best smartphones for music and movies
Let’s face it, for some reason camera quality in phones is sexier than picture and sound quality. Why else would a brand such as Apple focus each year on bigger sensors with more megapixels while giving nary a mention to screens, speakers or DACs?
The good news is that while Apple rarely shouts about AV upgrades, its new phones regularly contain them, and each new generation of iPhone generally includes better picture and/or sound quality.
That’s what makes the 2022 What Hi-Fi Awards-winning iPhone 14 Pro Max so exciting: it’s the first new iPhone in ages with an AV upgrade that Apple has deemed worth shouting about. That upgrade is a big increase in brightness.
Interestingly then, it turns out that while the picture quality is certainly improved, it’s by less of a margin than the audio, which hits new highs for smartphone sound.
And these aren't the only improvements. There's also the new Dynamic Island and a beefier processor. All of which makes it the best iPhone you can buy.
Read our full Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review
Like clockwork, Apple has launched a plethora of new iPhones and, you guessed it, they’re the best iPhones yet. The iPhone 14 comes in practically every shape and size, with the Pro undoubtedly being the more exciting of the bunch with its “Dynamic Island” notch and upgraded internals.
But we’re here to talk about the standard, and cheapest iPhone 14, and while it may be a solid phone, it's also practically identical to its predecessor. Same chassis, same screen, same processor – so is this just an iPhone 13S, or an unenthusiastic placeholder for Apple while it gives the 14 Pro time to live in the limelight?
The iPhone 14's AV performance is essentially identical to that of the iPhone 13, but that's no bad thing. Indeed, we awarded the iPhone 14 five stars in our review. But with the iPhone 13 dropping price, the 14 could be a hard sell if media consumption is your main priority.
That said, if you want the awesome picture and sound quality of last year with an even better camera, the iPhone 14 still makes perfect sense.
Read the full Apple iPhone 14 review
The iPhone 13 might be closer to an iPhone 12S than a full reinvention of the iPhone, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it was enough to earn it a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award
For starters, it's actually slightly cheaper (in the UK at least) than the iPhone 12 was at launch – and since the iPhone 14 has launched, it's now cheaper still. It has the same winning design as the 12, and feels suitably premium. And it comes in five standard colours, plus a fetching Alpine Green finish.
So what else is new? The A15 Bionic chip enables more iOS features and boots the phone up much quicker. The screen is 28 per cent brighter than the 12, though it sticks at a 60Hz refresh rate (120Hz is reserved for the Pro variants). And the camera is all change – there's a new diagonal arrangement, new sensor that lets in 47 per cent more light, and same optical image stabilisation tech from the iPhone 12 Pro Max. All of which make for better quality snaps.
The battery also lasts 2.5 hours longer.
So, not a radical departure from the iPhone 12, but an improvement all the same. What's not to like?
Read the full iPhone 13 review
There will always be some people who’ll buy the most expensive iPhone that Apple produces each year, either because they’ve got deep enough pockets or because they simply have to have the best. If you're shopping for value, then look elsewhere. If it's performance you crave, then welcome home.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is no great departure from its predecessor, as the near-identical design will attest, but it has received some meaningful upgrades. The cameras have wider apertures for faster, improved low-light shooting, there's better macro photography available and more zoom too. Graphics processing is also up thanks to the 5-core GPU within the A15 Bionic chip.
The 6.7-inch screen has been upgraded with a brighter OLED panel (from 800 nits to 1000 nits with outdoor use) and there’s definitely a little extra pop to the 13 Pro Max's HDR performance. The image is little more solid and three-dimensional too.
On the audio front, this model sounds better than its predecessor, certainly through the phone speakers (with headphones, there's very little difference). If your budget doesn't stretch to the 14 Pro Max but you want a big iPhone with plenty of power, this is the next best thing.
Read the full Apple iPhone Pro Max 13 review
This is top dog in the iPhone 12 family – it has the biggest and best screen, the best camera and the longest-lasting battery.
Like the others in the range, it's a dream to look at and hold, and its OLED screen is notably brighter than the standard iPhone 12's. The Pro and Pro Max have telephoto lenses (which the standard iPhone 12 doesn't), and the Max's has a larger aperture than the standard Pro's, allowing it to capture more light. It takes superb photos, but you’ll have to be a camera enthusiast to get the most out of it.
Films look strikingly cinematic on the Pro Max's big screen, with deep blacks, super-crisp edges and oodles of detail. And for listening out loud, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is simply one of the best phones there has ever been. A cheap but good Bluetooth speaker will still beat it, of course, but the openness of the soundfield is particularly impressive when watching a film, and effects extend surprisingly far to the left and right of the screen.
Listen through headphones, and the results are exceptionally musical.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is well worth a look if you’re a keen photographer or videographer but can't stretch to Apple's newer Pro Max models. Apple no longer sells it, but you'll find it elsewhere.
Read the full iPhone 12 Pro Max review
There's plenty new about the iPhone 12 over the 11: a new design, new screen, new processor, and, for the first time, 5G. But it's also lost a couple of things from its box – namely a charger and pair of EarPods – and is pricier, to boot.
Despite this, it's another win for Apple. It looks and feels reassuringly premium, the OLED screen is a big step up on the iPhone 11's LCD panel, and it's more durable. The A14 Bionic chip keeps things moving admirably, and it takes better snaps in low light.
Apple has got into the habit of producing some of the best-sounding smartphones on the market and the iPhone 12 picks up where the iPhone 11 left off. It’s a case of more of the same with the smartphone delivering enthusiasm and musicality in spades. The iPhone works well across multiple genres and keeps you entertained right to the last second of every track.
Despite its higher price, the iPhone 12 is the best value handset in a very strong iPhone line-up. A highly tempting and typically Apple package.
Read the full iPhone 12 review
If you have big hands, big pockets and a ‘bigger is better’ outlook on life, then the iPhone 12 Mini probably isn’t for you. This is a smartphone for those who prefer a more subtle and discreet design, where pocket space is at a premium and you’d rather not pull a thumb muscle every time you attempt to write and send a text one-handed. And it's a very good one indeed for Apple fans.
It gets the same flat-edged design as its bigger siblings, meaning it feels premium in the hand; its 12MP dual-lens set-up on the back is perfect for those who want to point and shoot high quality pictures with minimal fuss in both decent and sub-optimal lighting conditions; and it offers perfectly listenable sound quality by smartphone standards.
Essentially, it offers all the top features of the iPhone 12, but in a smaller, more pocket-friendly package. It is smooth and speedy to use, camera quality is great and picture and sound performance are both excellent for the money. The battery life takes a small hit – there's a drop in both video playback (15 hours versus 17 hours) and audio playback (50 hours versus 65 hours) compared with the iPhone 12 – but that doesn’t really detract from this hugely talented tiny iPhone.
Read the full iPhone 12 Mini review
Although the iPhone 11 lacks some of the headline features of its two Pro siblings you're not really comparing like with like: the iPhone 11 costs a lot less and offers stunning all-round performance.
The camera is a highlight: it's powerful enough to give great results and simple enough to point and shoot. Its screen might not be OLED but it still produces a great picture, and the audio quality is nothing short of superb. Oh, and it runs on the same processor as the 11 Pro and Pro Max, so you shouldn't notice any difference in performance.
If you need a big screen and/or a more advanced camera, consider a newer, pricier model. But for many of us, the iPhone 11 is the best value iPhone from Apple's 2019 range.
Read the full Apple iPhone 11 review
Apple's second iPhone SE follows in the footsteps of 2016's original, with improvements across the board. While the original was basically an iPhone 6S in an iPhone 5S's casing, the 2020 SE takes an iPhone 8 shell and crams in slightly improved innards. Namely: the newer A13 Bionic processor, more advanced camera shooting (with portrait mode and better HDR) and the option of 256GB of storage.
It's a doozy. While admittedly not quite as impressive as later iPhones, it still gives you that classic iPhone experience, and for a lot less money.
The LCD screen is decent, the audio impressive, and it has the best user interface and app selection available on any handset. If you want the best iPhone available, this isn't it. But if you want a taste of the full iPhone experience for a fraction of the price of Apple's newer handsets, this is the phone for you.
Read the full Apple iPhone SE (2020) review
The only real difference between the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max is the size: the Max has a bigger screen, at 6.5in compared to the Pro's 5.8in. That means the Max is a little bulkier: it's 14mm taller and 6mm wider than its sibling, but the depth measurement stays at a slim 8.1mm. So you won't notice the difference too much in your pocket or bag.
The extra screen acreage makes movies, TV shows and games more immersive – it's the best iPhone 11 for consuming content on the move.
Other than that, it has a lot in common with the iPhone 11 Pro – i.e. the same camera, processor, operating system and features. Not that that's a bad thing.
Of course, the Pro Max is more expensive than the Pro. But if you want the extra screen real estate without stepping up to the 12 Pro Max, this is the best iPhone to buy.
Read the full Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max review
The iPhone 11 Pro's screen is actually a little smaller than the screen on the more affordable iPhone 11. Though at 5.8in, it's still big enough for most. It also uses an OLED panel, which produces fine colours and excellent contrast.
The camera is more advanced than the iPhone 11's, thanks to the addition of a telephoto lens. That gives it more zooming power, not only for getting up close and personal with your subjects, but also for zooming out and capturing more of the landscape.
But really, it's this phone's excellent handling of films and music that has us blown away. Detail levels are superb and the phone sounds as musical as any other member of the iPhone family.
For many, the iPhone 11 will be more than enough. But if you can afford it, and the 11 Pro Max is too big, this could be the best iPhone 11 model for you.
Read the full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review
This isn't the cheapest phone Apple makes – that honour goes to the iPhone SE 2020 – nor is it the newest, being a 2018 model. But the XR is still an affordable handset by iPhone standards and still worth considering.
The 6.1in LCD screen is large and produces a nicely rounded and natural picture. And although it uses an older processor, you won't be held back from carrying out basic tasks.
You still get Apple's world-beating iOS operating system with all the apps and features that entails. The audio and visual performance is great for the money and the camera is more than fine for snapping the odd pic or three. Still a bargain by iPhone standards.
Read the full iPhone XR review
How we test iPhones
While we have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door, iPhones are on-the-go products that deserve to be tested as such.
To that end, we live with each iPhone as if we had bought it. We see how they fare in audio-visual terms, of course, loading up a variety of different streaming services to watch and listen to content in all resolutions. But we also use them for the mundane day-to-day stuff: checking emails, setting timers, even making calls.
Being an AV title, the cameras might not be our priority but we recognise they're still a vital part of any smartphone. And so we put them through their paces as well, taking a range of photos and videos in all different settings and conditions. An iPhone is a big investment, and with any luck, it'll be with you for a few years, so you want to know you're getting value for money in all areas of the phone's performance.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
Which iPhone is the best value for money?
It depends on your needs. If you want a big, powerful iPhone, then you won't be satisfied with the standard iPhone 14, even if it is discounted, because it's not what you were looking for in the first place. But if you are happy with the standard iPhone, the latest model might not be your best bet.
That's because the iPhone 13 is very similar indeed, yet quite a bit cheaper (around £720 / $699 / AU$1229. The 13 isn't drastically different from the iPhone 12 either, which is cheaper still. But for the best balance of advanced smarts and price, we would go for the iPhone 13.
Is the iPhone 11 or 12 better?
Being a newer model, the iPhone 12 is more advanced than the iPhone 11. The iPhone 12 was the first Apple phone to come with 5G, for speedier internet access away from a wi-fi hotspot. It has a better screen than the iPhone 11 (the 12's is OLED, which gives truer colours and better contrast than the 11's LCD panel), and it has a more powerful processor, which makes apps open faster and run smoother.
The camera has been tweaked too, with better low-light shots now the order of the day. And the design has been improved, with its flat edges much easier to grip than the iPhone 11's curved body.
Improvements all round, then.
Is the iPhone 11 still worth it in 2022?
In a word, yes. Apple might not sell it anymore, but the iPhone 11 is still a very good phone. And if you can do without having the latest and greatest, it has plenty to offer for a very reasonable price.
The screen might only be LCD, compared to pricier models' OLED panels, but the colours are bright and true. The A13 Bionic chip may have been succeeded by the A14 and A15, but it will prove more than fast enough for most people (to be honest, for basic tasks, you'll struggle to tell the difference in performance between this and a later iPhone). And while the camera has since been outdone by later iPhones and Android rivals alike, it's still a perfectly capable point-and-shoot snapper.
Sensing a pattern here? That's because while the iPhone 11 isn't the best Apple makes, it is still a very good phone, and one that comes at a very tempting price. Now more than ever, we can't say fairer than that.