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Home / Features / Which iPhone or iPad do I have? A guide to spotting Apple gadgets

Which iPhone or iPad do I have? A guide to spotting Apple gadgets

Whether it’s a 14 or an 11 Pro, an Air or a Mini, these are the things to look out for when identifying iPhones and iPads

iphone vs iPad

The problem with iPhones and iPads is that they all look the same. Apple may give them a model number (or not, in the case of iPads), but chooses not to emblazon it anywhere on the casing. This causes a problem if you need to know exactly which Apple smartphone or tablet model you’re holding.

Without a detailed knowledge of camera bulges, dynamic islands or colour schemes, one of Apple’s fine portable products can look very much alike. They’re kind of rectangular, with a couple of buttons and a Lightning port.

So how can you tell? The easiest way is to look at the box and the receipt if you’ve got access to them. But Apple’s obscure approach to product differentiation does leave room for some other ways.

Look at the back

iphone vs iPad

This isn’t that helpful without some prior knowledge or Google, but while Apple may not have stamped ‘first-gen iPhone SE’ on the back of its first-gen iPhone SE, there is a model number, and it’s down at the bottom on the back. There’s a catch, though – Apple stopped putting it there in 2017, so this only works with older models.

Once you’ve got the model number, which will begin with an A, followed by three numbers, the fun doesn’t stop. The number alone doesn’t help, and you’ll have to compare it to Apple’s big list of its devices, which you’ll find here for iPhones and here for iPads.

Look in the Settings app

You’ll also find the model number in the Settings app on both iOS and iPadOS, so assuming the device you’re trying to identify works and can be unlocked, that’s the next place to look. Open up the app, then tap Settings > About – you’ll find the model number there, though it might need to be tapped on before it’s revealed.

Look in the SIM tray

iphone vs iPad

This one’s only going to work for iPhones and iPads with mobile data capabilities, but if you know where to look there’s another place the model number can be found: in the SIM tray.

Pop it out, using one of those special spindly tools or any other suitable thing such as an earring or bit of stiff wire, being careful not to scratch the lovely shiny surface as you do so. You’ll find the model number in the slot, but it might be a bit small and hard to read.

Identifying features

If all else fails, it’s possible to narrow down the model of iPhone or iPad just by looking at the device. They may all share a common design vernacular, but there are differences between the individual models.

Lightning ports came in with the iPhone 5 (2012) and fourth-generation iPad, so if the gadget you’re holding has an old-style dock connector it’s an elderly device indeed. 

The iPhone 11 Pro (2019) was the first device to feature three cameras on its back, while the iPhone 7 Plus (2017) saw the advent of two snappers – and the iPhone 7 was the first model to do away with the headphone jack too (apart from the 2016 iPhone SE). The dynamic island, at the top of the front screen, arrived with the iPhone 14 in 2022, while the not-too-dissimilar notch made its debut on the iPhone X from 2017.

Today, iPhones with one camera tend to be SE models, and these still have home buttons too. This useful button became a fingerprint reader with the iPhone 5S (2013) and vanished entirely from the main iPhone line after the 8 (2017) in favour of facial identification, though it can be brought back using Assistive Touch, which places it on the touchscreen.

The Mini devices, which came along in the 12 and 13 generations, are easy to identify by being a bit smaller, though it’s good to have a different model to compare them to, and even a standard iPhone can feel small if you’re used to larger Android devices.

iPads too

iphone vs iPad

The iPads are a bit different, mainly as there are so many of them at the same time. There’s the basic iPad, the iPad Air, the iPad Mini, and two flavours of iPad Pro, each updated periodically with new processors.

The iPad mini is easy to identify (the 2021 model is the one with a USB-C port), as is the larger 12.9in Pro (which has had USB-C since 2018), but the others can be more tricky to tell apart. 

Both the 2022 iPad and iPad Air sport the same sized screen, have identical cameras, and both are equipped with a USB-C port instead of Lightning (though the Air’s is faster). You can, however, tell the difference with the two side by side, as the Air is thinner, lighter, and has a slimmer bezel around the screen.

The 2019 iPad was the last one with a home button, and headphone jacks are on the way out too, having been omitted from 10th-gen iPads (2022). Bluetooth headphones, or the use of a USB/Lightning to 3.5mm adapter, are now de rigueur for Apple devices.

Profile image of Ian Evenden Ian Evenden


Ian is a freelance writer and editor specialising in gaming, computing, science and technology publications. In the past he was a local newspaper journalist, sub-editor, page designer, photographer and magazine editor. He still disapproves of Oxford commas.

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