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Which iPhone is best for you? Every available Apple phone compared

How to pick your perfect Apple handset

New year, new iPhone. If only it was that simple when it came to choosing which Apple handset to spend your hard-earned sterling on.

See, while the latest models in Apple’s smartphone line-up undoubtedly offer the ultimate outright performance, they don’t necessarily represent the best value for everyone. Dial back the clock a year or two and you might find a phone that’s perfectly capable for your needs, at a price that’s better for your wallet.

With a handful of iPhone models from previous generations still available to buy from Apple, as well as four variants of the new iPhone 13, it can be tricky to decide which one is right for you. Not sure where to start? We’ve set out the good, the bad and the things to note about all eight iPhones you can currently buy from Apple.

iPhone 13 Pro (2021) (from £949)

iPhone 13 Pro (2021) (from £949)

To the untrained eye, both the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are identical to their last-gen equivalents. But while the dimensions remain the same, subtle tweaks have taken place: the notch is slightly slimmer and the cameras are arranged diagonally. Not enough to tempt you? Don’t worry, there’s plenty more to play with.

You get deliciously slick 120Hz refresh rates on the 6.1in ProMotion display, outstanding performance from Apple’s A15 processor, plus new telephoto and macro photography skills from the revamped camera array (which also features larger pixels for better low-light results). Battery life is beefier than before, while the display is 25% brighter than the iPhone 13 Pro.

All of which makes the iPhone 13 Pro the best all-rounder in Apple’s 2021 line-up. If you already own an iPhone 12 Pro, the grounds for upgrading are less clear cut. But for anyone else, this is the best iPhone you can buy right now.

Should you Max out?

If scale is your metric, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is in many ways the ultimate iPhone. It has the biggest and best screen, an industry-leading camera system and more raw power than most people will know what do with. But it’s also big, heavy and expensive. And you can find all of the key upgrades on the more affordable, more manageable iPhone 13 Pro.

iPhone 13 (2021) (from £779)

iPhone 13 (2021) (from £779)

Following the iPhone 12 was always going to be a tough act. And while the the iPhone 13 offers several technical improvements over its predecessor, for most people the previous generation (see below) represents better value. And besides a slightly wider notch, it also looks identical.

Still, if you simply have to have the latest iPhone, the 13 is no bad handset: you get top-notch performance from the A15 Bionic chip, along with longer battery life, a brighter screen and twice as much storage as standard. Larger pixels also mean the iPhone 13 can take better photos.

So the changes are all incremental. That doesn’t mean the iPhone 13 isn’t an excellent phone. Far from it: if you’re buying your first iPhone, you’ll find very little be disappointed about. But there are fewer compelling reasons to make the switch from the iPhone 12 – and if you’re looking to save £100, that’s the way to go.

iPhone 13 Mini (2021) (from £679)

iPhone 13 Mini (2021) (from £679)

Outwardly identical (but for a bigger camera bump), the iPhone 13 Mini is the spitting image of its compact predecessor. That means it’s also a more pocketable option for those who want flagship performance that doesn’t dwarf their paws.

At £100 more than the iPhone 12 Mini, the second-gen variant is cleverly priced. It doesn’t revolutionise the form factor. Instead, the extra ton nets you better battery life and improved cameras, including larger pixels and optical image stabilisation from the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 13 Mini also takes the A15 for boundless power and performance.

Any niggles are simply things that haven’t changed from the previous edition: the notch remains annoying, there’s no Touch ID and it can be a little fiddly to use (which is partly the point). If you’d like your iPhone to be a more portable powerhouse, there’s nothing else like the iPhone 13 Mini.

iPhone 12 (2020) (from £679)

iPhone 12 (2020) (from £679)

When it was new, the iPhone 12 was our pick from among its contemporaries. With the same display, processor and 5G connectivity as the 12 Pro, as well as much of the same camera tech, it was a very easy device to recommend to most people. And that was when it cost £799.

A year later and £120 cheaper, it remains the Apple handset which offers the best blend of value and performance. Its notch may be bigger and its lenses vertically aligned, but the iPhone 12 is otherwise identical to the iPhone 13 (meaning its a slim and beautiful sliver of aluminium). Plus it packs a vibrant OLED display with the same resolution.

Yes, the iPhone 13 takes better photos with its larger pixels. It also lasts a bit longer, shines a bit brighter and runs a bit faster (thanks to Apple’s A15 chip). But while those evolutionary improvements make it technically better, they probably don’t justify the price hike for most people. The iPhone 12 is still a very appealing option in 2021.

No Pro (officially)

The only Pro models you can buy direct from Apple are from the latest generation. Makes sense, because it wants you to stump up for the best (and most expensive). But you can find the iPhone 12 Pro (and Pro Max) available from reputable retailers, with prices starting at £849. For that money, the vanilla iPhone 12 is better value.

Read moreApple iPhone 12 review

iPhone 12 Mini (2020) (from £579)

iPhone 12 Mini (2020) (from £579)

Not everyone wants a smaller iPhone, but for those who do, Apple makes the Mini. This is first version of it, released in 2020 – and it’s still well worth considering if you want a smaller iPhone 12 that’s every bit as capable as its bigger siblings.

A 5.4in screen makes it feel positively pint-sized beside the palm-filling flagships we’re familiar with. Yet its A14 Bionic processor still delivers excellent performance, plus you get the same brilliant cameras, natty flat-panel aluminium design and 5G support as the full-fat iPhone 12. Battery life is a bit less resilient, mind.

If you want a small, top-of-the line iPhone, you’ll be looking at this. But here’s the real question: should you shell out another £100 to bag yourself the updated iPhone 13 Mini? If you want better cameras and battery life, yes. If not, the 12 Mini is a more affordable – and pretty much just as capable – compact iPhone.

iPhone SE (2020) (from £389)

iPhone SE (2020) (from £389)

Essentially an iPhone 8 with fresher tech inside, the second-gen iPhone SE sports the same A13 Bionic processor as the iPhone 11. While it can’t compete with the outright power of Apple’s more recent chips, it’s still plenty good enough to zip through apps, play games and multi-task.

So how’s it so affordable compared to every other iPhone? There are a few compromises: you still get those chunky bezels top and bottom, there’s no Face ID and the 4.7in display is mediocre beside the latest Retina panels. Battery life is also a little weak, while you’ll only find a single lens round the back – although it’s still a stellar snapper.

But if you don’t mind the overfamiliar form factor and fancy a solid iPhone for less than £400, there’s nowhere else to look. Even with its shortcomings, the SE remains the best (and only) entry-level iPhone to buy in 2021.

Read moreApple iPhone SE review

iPhone 11 (2019) (from £489)

iPhone 11 (2019) (from £489)

The iPhone 11 is the oldest model you can still officially buy from Apple. Previous generations are still available from other retailers, as are the Pro and Pro Max models that accompanied the iPhone 11 in its heyday. But how does the 11 itself stack up in 2021?

Essentially an enhanced iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 is thicker, taller and wider than the iPhone 12 – although that hardly makes it porky. It ships with two very stellar rear snappers, plenty of power from the A13 Bionic chip and decent battery life to boot.

But there are also some clear limitations. Unlike the iPhone 12, the 11 doesn’t feature an OLED screen – and its 6.1in LCD panel feels like a big compromise compared to the latest handsets. That said, its marked-down price tag represents better value than ever. Whether it’s worth £100 more than the SE really depends on whether you want an ultra-wide lens and a frame-filling screen. And – whisper it – you can find refurbished versions of more recent handsets for around the same price.

Read moreApple iPhone 11 review