7) iPhone XS (2018)
Last year's iPhone X brought the mind-blowing reinvention that we'd waited years for, delivering a dazzling edge-to-edge screen that made Apple seem like a true smartphone innovator again. And the iPhone XS… well, it's more of that.
Admittedly, the iPhone X was a hard act to follow. More importantly, aside from the eye-popping price, it was a phone without significant issues. The iPhone XS lacks any truly revolutionary additions, but it brings major enhancements all the same.
The dual-camera module sees a sizable upgrade thanks to the larger sensor and Smart HDR functionality, which captures multiple shots and merges them together to deliver more dynamic range, and the differences are clear.
Add in a wider colour gamut on the 5.8in OLED display and the immensely powerful A12 Bionic chip, and Apple truly improved upon greatness. It's just not particularly innovative, that's all.
6) iPhone XS Max (2018)
Unlike the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, along with the three numbered editions before that, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max mostly lack significant differentiators beyond size and price. Both have the same hardware within, the same camera setups, and the same pixels-per-inch count despite the different resolution specs to accommodate for size.
But if you can handle losing some of the one-handed ease of use, that stunning screen 6.5in OLED screen is well worth the extra size and cash. It's fabulous, and the edge-to-edge design only makes the effect even greater.
Add in a smidge more battery life than the iPhone XS and this is the current model we'd recommend most – again, if you can handle the immense size and don't mind the added cost.
5) iPhone 3G (2008)
True, the nine-year-old iPhone 3G won't seem like much now: the best it can run is iOS 4, and it's dated in features, functionality, and connectivity. But at the time, it was remarkable: a major evolution of the original iPhone's design while adding the crucial feature of 3G data support. For a phone that was so focused on web usage, that was a dramatic upgrade.
The iPhone 3G also ushered in the release of the App Store – surely the most important feature addition in iPhone history. True, the 3G was nowhere near as important or influential as the original iPhone. But as Apple enthusiasts know, the second-gen model is where refinement really takes hold, and that was definitely true here.
4) iPhone 4 (2010)
Damn, the iPhone 4 was beautiful – not only in comparison to the iPhones that came before it, but also to every other phone on the market. Swapping to an ultra-thin design with a flat glass back and a metal antenna all along the edges was an aesthetic masterstroke. But that's not all: the iPhone 4 also introduced the gorgeous Retina display to the line.
Granted, that innovative body design also came with a big caveat: the antenna had a tendency to misbehave if the phone was held in a certain way, prompting "Antennagate" controversy and Apple's need to give everyone free Bumper cases to avoid the issue. That's a sad footnote against a phone that could otherwise easily lead this list.
3) iPhone X (2017)
It's since been replaced by the iPhone XS, but we're still absolutely wowed by the iPhone X, Apple's big and long-overdue reinvention.
Ditching the iconic home button (and Touch ID sensor) not only allowed for the gorgeous, full-frame OLED screen – aside from that notch, of course – but it also brought about navigational tweaks that quickly felt like second nature. Swiping up to return home or swiping sideways on the bottom bar to quickly swap between apps was fluid and comfortable, while iPhone X-clusive features like Face ID worked surprisingly well and the Animoji were goofy fun.
And on the outside, it was pure class: glass on both sides, stainless steel for the frame, and the most polish and precision that Apple had ever delivered with a handset. Granted, the £999 price was way too much for the average buyer, which tempered our feelings just a tad. But there was little else to complain about with the iPhone's ultimate form to date.
2) iPhone (2007)
The original iPhone changed everything, ushering in an era of touch devices that has resulted in billions of modern smartphones and tablets sold around the world. It's difficult for us to overstate the importance of the first iPhone. Without it, where would phones be today? Surely, someone else would have sorted a capacitive touchscreen phone before long, but would it have been with anywhere near the quality that Apple showed right out of the gate?
Ranking this phone was our most difficult task, given its status. We knew it had to be near the top of the list, but considering all of the aspects in play here, we had to give the honours to another device...
1) iPhone 5 (2012)
And that device is the iPhone 5. Why? Well, for our money, it's the last iPhone that truly wowed us with its debut, and it showed Apple at the top of its smartphone game. The iPhone 5 is gorgeously designed, thinning the sharp iPhone 4 build to a stunning degree while thankfully extending the display to proper widescreen dimensions and a 4in size.
Crucially, it's also where Apple embraced long-overdue LTE support, finally giving users the network speed to appreciate that great Retina display and the wonderful App Store selection. It was the iPhone that sorted our biggest lingering complaints in nearly every significant way and felt like a nearly complete package.
Sure, iOS 6 felt a little dated by that point, and Apple's Maps was a mess at launch; those bits can't be ignored. But otherwise? Considering the overall quality of the device, the upgrades from the prior models, and the competition at the time, we think the iPhone 5 holds up best all around.