Best iPhone 2021. How to pick one

Apple sells phones from as low as $399 to as high as $1,399.

🙌 When Steve Jobs launched the original iPhone back in 2007, there was only one model you could buy. Once you worked up the courage to buy a phone from a company that was better known for making computers, the only decision you had was whether to get one with 4GB of storage or 8GB. As color options went, you could get any color you wanted as long as it was black and aluminum. Oh, and as far as carriers, only AT&T supported the iPhone.

🔻 Fourteen years later, Apple sells seven different models of iPhone, five of which launched in the past year. There is a model that works with pretty much every major phone carrier in the world. The iPhone is available in an array of colors and finishes, while storage options now top out at 512GB.

Apple currently sells seven iPhone models which are a mix of new phones and models dating back to 2018.

You might find that carriers and third-party sellers offer other older models, like the iPhone X. To complicate matters, some iPhones have two cameras, others three and others four (including the front-facing selfie camera). Then there’s the fact that nearly all current iPhones have Face ID, but one model — the iPhone SE — soldiers on with Touch ID. Having a lot of options isn’t bad but it sometimes can feel overwhelming.

To help you figure out which is the best iPhone for you, we thoroughly reviewed and tested each one on this list, from their batteries to camera performance.

📱 iPhone SE 2020

At $399 you might think the only appeal of the iPhone SE (2020) is its price. And admittedly it is the most affordable iPhone on this list and that is a big deal. On the outside, the iPhone SE has the same body as an iPhone 8. It’s the only iPhone on this list that has Touch ID.

On the inside, the SE has the same A13 processor as the iPhone 11 which gives the 2017 camera hardware a 2020 injection of Apple’s computational photography magic. The SE supports 4G and is the only phone on this list that has the classic iPhone design. But with the ability to run the latest version of iOS, it’s just as relevant as ever.

📱 iPhone XR

The $499 iPhone XR is kind of like the middle-child of the iPhone lineup. There’s the iPhone SE that’s $100 less and has a newer processor. But the iPhone XR offers something the SE doesn’t. It is part of Apple’s new generation of iPhone design that started with the iPhone X. The XR has Face ID, a large 6.1-inch screen and comes in six colors instead of the three that the SE comes in.

But then there’s the iPhone 11 that’s $100 more and has a newer processor and new cameras including an ultrawide camera that the XR doesn’t have. But the iPhone XR is cheaper. So if you’re looking for an affordable iPhone that embraces Apple’s more contemporary design and features, the iPhone XR is an excellent option.

📱 iPhone 11

If you don’t need support for 5G, the iPhone 11 at $599 represents the best deal for any iPhone. You get so much for that price like an A13 processor, excellent cameras, a solid battery life and the choice of six colors. In contrast to the straight-sided 12 series, the 11 has curved sides which some may prefer.

The biggest drawback is the old style screen which uses an LCD panel instead of an OLED one. But don’t let that turn you away, the screen still looks good in everyday use.

📱 iPhone 12

What do you miss for not going Pro? You don’t get a dedicated telephoto camera, the ability to shoot Apple ProRaw photos or the lovely matte finish back and glossy stainless steel sides. Instead you get a glossy finish back and matte aluminum sides.

With support for 5G being its crown jewel feature, the iPhone 12 ($829 unlocked, $799 on most carriers) marks the beginning of a new generation of iPhone. Out of the four phones in Apple’s 12 series, the regular 12’s spot is a bit overshadowed by its siblings. But if you look closely, you’ll realize it’s basically the iPhone 12 Pro with a $170 price cut. Both have the same design, the same display, the same insanely fast A14 Bionic chip, the same 5G support, the same support for MagSafe charging, the same selfie, wide and ultrawide cameras.

📱 iPhone 12 mini

Who said small phones don’t exist in 2021? The iPhone 12 Mini ($729 unlocked, $699 on a carrier plan) is brilliant because it has everything the iPhone 12 has — it’s just smaller. It has the same flat-sided design, support for 5G and OLED screen with support for HDR. The screen is covered with Apple’s ceramic shield. The body has an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance and supports MagSafe wireless charging and accessories. It has the same A14 Bionic processor, runs the same iOS 14 software and even has the same cameras. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini are the same phone. But one is small and the other isn’t.

That said, I only recommend you get the 12 Mini for its size. It’s $100 cheaper than the iPhone 12 which might be a tempting reason to get the phone if you’re trying to save money. But if you aren’t okay with a small phone you might be frustrated by its size or its “barely-gets-through-a-day” battery life.

📱 iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is essentially the ultimate iPhone. But its size, weight and price tag will be a turnoff for many. That’s where the $999 iPhone 12 Pro comes in: It gives you the same solid build and premium finish. You just get a smaller screen, a smaller battery, and 2x telephoto camera instead of the 2.5x telephoto found on the Pro Max.

📱 iPhone 12Pro Max

If you want the largest screen and longest battery life on any iPhone ever made, the $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max is worth the price. And yes, if you want to get every last drop of image quality out of your photos and videos, then this is the iPhone to get.

Aside from being the biggest and heaviest iPhone, the 12 Pro Max has photo and video features not found on any other model. The new photo lens on the 12 Pro Max has a 2.5x optical zoom compared to the 2x optical zoom on the 12 Pro. And that extra 0.5x goes a long way. The main wide-angle camera on the 12 Pro Max has a larger sensor which according to Apple gets an 87% improvement in low-light capability. Compared to the regular iPhone 12 Pro, it’s hard to notice those improvements because Apple’s image processing on its other phones is so good.

To help things further, the 12 Pro Max has sensor-based optical image stabilization instead of the lens-based OIS found on the 12, 12 Mini and 12 Pro. By stabilizing the sensor, you gain the equivalent of a stop of light, which again, on paper is impressive.

Like the iPhone 12 Pro, it also can shoot Apple ProRaw photos. If you can handle the size of this phone behemoth, it’s worth every penny of its high price.

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