Which iPhone Should You Buy?
From the diminutive iPhone SE to the new iPhone 14 Pro Max, there are lots of great options. Here's how to choose the one best for you.
If you’re in the market for a new iPhone, choices abound. Apple recently introduced its iPhone 14 series, but you can still find the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, and iPhone 12 in stores, as well as the iPhone SE that debuted in the spring.
How do you decide which is the best for you?
We’re still awaiting test results on the iPhone 14 lineup. CR buys all of the products evaluated in our labs at retail to be sure they’re the same as the ones you’d get, and the iPhone 14, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max just recently arrived in stores. The all-new 14 Plus hits the shelves on Oct. 7.
In the meantime, here are a few essential factors to consider before you pull out your credit card.
4.7-inch iPhone SE ($429)
If you want the smallest and least expensive iPhone available, the iPhone SE is for you. It shares the same Apple A15 chip as the flagship iPhone 13 models introduced in the fall of 2021.
The diminutive smartphone has just one 12-megapixel rear camera compared with the multi-lens setups on the other phones. But CR testers give it a Very Good score for still image and video quality, and the front selfie camera performs just as well.
The battery lasted 30 hours on one charge in CR’s labs, which is shorter than you find on larger phones these days. It also lacks the MagSafe feature that lets you quickly connect to wireless chargers and other accessories, and uses Touch ID via a retro-y home button rather than supporting Face ID.
5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini ($599)
Apple didn’t introduce a 14 Mini this year, opting to debut the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus instead. But if you prefer smaller phones—as Chris Evans, aka Captain America does—you can still pick up the aptly named iPhone 13 Mini, which starts at $599.
As with the iPhone SE, most folks will have no trouble swiping and tapping away with one hand on the 5.4-inch display. The bright, crisp screen earns the Mini an Excellent display score.
If you’re debating between the 13 Mini or the SE, keep in mind that the phones include largely the same hardware, with the notable exception of the ultrawide camera added to the setup on the back of the Mini.
The Mini’s battery life is 32.5 hours.
6.1-inch iPhone 12 ($599), iPhone 13 ($699), or iPhone 14 ($799)
If you want a large but not huge iPhone at a modest cost, the standard iPhone line is where to look. These models cost $200 less than their Pro counterparts.
All have 6.1-inch OLED displays and a dual rear-camera system.
The main difference between the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, and iPhone 14? Apple’s chipset. The iPhone 12 comes with an A14 chip, while the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 are powered by Apple’s A15 chip, which allows them to do fancier camera tricks.
The iPhone 13 edges the 12 out when it comes to battery life: 40 hours vs. 32.5.
The iPhone 14 has cameras that perform better in low-light situations, according to the company. We’ll report back when we’ve run the iPhone 14 through our rigorous tests.
6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro ($999)
Willing to spend a little more for Apple’s latest hardware but don’t need a jumbo-sized display? The 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro has the same price as the 13 Pro but comes with Apple’s new A16 processor, a higher 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and animations, and a bumped-up 48-megapixel main rear camera (vs. last year’s 12-megapixel camera) in addition to the ultrawide and telephoto cameras.
Apple has also added handy new features to the Pro and Pro Max lines. That includes an always-on display that can show notifications and other information on the lock screen without waking the phone. New built-in safety features such as car crash detection and emergency calls over satellite may offer peace of mind. And the replacement for the notch at the top of the front display may be more useful. It’s a pill-shaped cutout that’s interactive and can do things like pause music and show alerts. It’s dubbed the “Dynamic Island.”
6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus ($899) or 14 Pro Max ($1,099)
If you want the biggest iPhone available, you’ll be looking at either the 14 Plus or 14 Pro Max.
Both have a whopping 6.7-inch display. For many people, big screens aren’t just about bingeing their favorite Netflix shows in bed. They’re also about having more space for typing and reading email and online articles, as well as playing video games. Those are all good reasons to opt for the bigger display.
The less expensive and all-new “Plus” is the larger version of the standard iPhone 14. Both have the same A15 chip and the same dual-camera system. Apple says the iPhone 14 Plus has the longest battery life of any of its smartphones, with video playback of up to 26 hours. We’ll soon put that claim to the test in our labs.
The top-of-the-line iPhone 14 Pro Max is almost identical to the iPhone 14 Pro except for its larger size and larger battery. It comes with the new A16 chip, the upgraded 48-pixel main rear camera (plus an optical telephoto lens), and the nifty always-on display and “Dynamic Island” features.
We’ll report back with test results soon, noting the performance of the new 14 Plus and whether the 14 Pro Max surpasses the 13 Pro Max in our trials.
iPhone Models by the Numbers
The table below spotlights the major differences between the phones. (If you’re reading this story on a smartphone, we recommend that you rotate it to landscape mode for a better view.)