Every iPhone has been a great iPhone – and nearly all of them have been excellent. Love 'em or hate 'em, Apple knows how to make fantastic devices.
So, 10 years after the first model launched, how to rank them? If we merely lined up the 15 distinct models in order of excellence the list would end up just being a chronological affair from oldest to newest, with the possible exception of the odd iPhone 5C or SE.
No, what's needed here is context. Many of these phones have been game-changers in their time, ushering in hardware advancements, new ways of interacting with gadgets, and software additions that became indispensable. And with that in mind we've considered their impact and influence, the quality of competition and any major flaws, in addition to obvious factors such as form and function.
Now, on with the show...
15) iPhone 5c
The iPhone 5 was a brilliant phone when it was released in 2012, and it was still pretty great when Apple dressed it up in plastic and knocked a few thousand off the price in 2013. And those colours! Whether or not you liked them, you have to admit they were daring (or utterly mad) picks by Apple.
But as the only iPhone ever released specifically to be a "lesser than" model, it was hard to drum up too much enthusiasm for its release. It was a year-old iPhone housed in cheaper materials to save a chunk of change, yet it was still a pricey Apple device. If it was your first iPhone, the 5c was probably still one heck of an introduction. But for the rest of us, it just couldn't stack up.
14) iPhone 3GS
When the iPhone 3GS launched in 2009, it was certainly a notable enhancement over the prior iPhone 3G. The "S" stood for speed, and it was surely felt: the 3GS ran upwards of twice as fast as its sluggish predecessor, plus it added a better camera – with video capabilities! – along with voice control.
But in the historical context of core iPhone upgrades, it's arguably the least consequential of the bunch. It doesn't help that it's sandwiched by the upgrade to 3G data on one end and the iPhone 4's beautiful design and Retina Display on the other. If you got the 3GS, you surely appreciated the upgrade. If you didn't, well, you didn't miss that much.
13) iPhone 4s
Here's another "S" upgrade that was very nice at the time, but ultimately not as critical in the grand scheme of things. The iPhone 4s built upon the revolutionary design and Retina Display of the original iPhone 4, with enhancements to the camera and graphics capabilities. And the revised antenna design avoided the issues some encountered on the iPhone 4.
But the biggest feature addition was that of voice assistant Siri, which… let's face it, didn't end up being as useful as it initially seemed. (That might change with iOS 9; fingers crossed.) Still, we have to give the 4s props for one thing: longevity. It's got the iOS 9 upgrade as well, four years after release, making it the first iPhone to stay active that long.
12) iPhone 5s
Whereas the iPhone 5c took the iPhone 5 and made it feel cheaper, the iPhone 5s started from that same device and made it markedly better. The Touch ID sensor was the most obvious perk, offering innovative security functionality that worked startlingly well (even if not perfect), but the upgrade to a 64-bit processor also allowed for glossier game and app experiences.
That said, the iPhone 5s launched at a time when Android makers were pushing into phones with much larger, sharper screens, and Apple's phone couldn't help but seem a little dinky by comparison. It was still a great device; it still is today, to be sure. But after the brilliant iPhone 5, the 5s couldn't help but seem a little too familiar.
11) iPhone 6s Plus
Like the iPhone 6s elsewhere in this list, the 6s Plus doesn’t bring massive changes over its predecessor. Still, it offers the complete iPhone experience, including a 3D Touch screen and super-fast fingerprint scanner.
It also has the bonus of optical image stabilisation, which results in better low light shots and more stable video recording – something which the iPhone 6s lacks. Its battery life is also impressive, and has us reaching for the charger less than any other iPhone before it. It’s still bloomin’ massive though.