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 16 years and although a lot has changed in terms of consumer technology, to many, the iPhone is still the best handset on the planet. Especially now that the iPhone 14 family has landed.
But which is the best iPhone for you? Let us help you decide. With the Samsung Galaxy S23 now here, and the iPhone 15 tipped to launch in September, the competition is fiercer than ever, which makes getting the right handset all the more crucial.
How to choose the best iPhone for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
The Apple iPhone range covers lots of different screen sizes and prices, but which is the best iPhone for you? Do you want an older, 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. (All of those featured here have OLED displays.)
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 2 are good headphones, but their sound quality can be bettered.
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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 Award-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 the 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.
Apple no longer sells it, but you can find it at other retailers.
Read the full Apple iPhone Pro Max 13 review
This is top dog in 2020's 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 – though Apple no longer sells it, so you'll have to find it elsewhere.
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.
Apple no longer sells it, but you can still find it at other retailers.
Read the full iPhone 12 Mini 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.
What iPhone will be out in 2023?
Nothing is confirmed, but as sure as night follows day, Apple will unveil the iPhone 15 in September 2023. So the rumours say, anyway. We're expecting a new iPhone 15 Ultra (to replace the Pro Max model), all four variants to feature the Dynamic Island, and for the first time, USB-C connectivity in place of the Lightning connector. Read more here.
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.