The 5 top Apple phones tried and tested


Introduction

Looking to pick up a new Apple iPhone but struggling to decide which is best for your specific needs and budget?

It’s an understandable dilemma as Apple currently offers a variety of different types of iPhone covering multiple different price points and types of user.

What’s more, with the refurbished market offering what appear to be compelling deals on many older iPhones, you may also be considering buying from a third party store rather than Apple or a carrier directly – which can be a gamble as, unless it’s a big name like eBay with strict guarantees, you are taking a risk whenever you buy refurbished units.

Here to help you make an informed decision on which iPhone is right for you we’ve created this guide detailing the best iPhones currently on the market we’ve reviewed. Every handset on this list is put through a series of lab and real world tests to make sure they deliver on key areas including, camera performance, battery life and build quality, so you can trust our advice.

But before you go rushing down to read our guide, please keep in mind the iPhone 13-line’s time as Apple’s flagship series is coming to a close in the near future. Apple usually unveils its new line of phones in September each year, which means we could see new iPhone 14 handsets appear in the not too distant future.

As a result, unless you really need to upgrade this very second, we’d recommend holding fire until we find out what Apple has in store for us next month.

For some people, an Apple phone is the obvious choice. For others, our guide to the best Android phones will be more helpful. We’ve also published a definitive list of the best mobile phones available right now, so make sure to check that out if you’re open to both operating systems.

How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every iPhone we review, whether it’s the cheapest model or the most expensive, gets put through more than 15 tests. These include synthetic benchmark tests that give a good idea of general performance and in-depth camera comparisons between competing devices.

Like every phone we review, the expert tasked with putting the specific iPhone through its paces will use it as their main phone for the review period, transferring across apps, chats and accounts. We feel this gives us a proper view of the device and helps ensure we’re not just repeating headline features from marketing releases.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

The best for battery life

Pros

  • Huge screen is gorgeous
  • Three very good cameras
  • Really impressive battery life
  • ProMotion finally on an iPhone

Cons

  • Selfie camera needs an upgrade
  • Notch feels tired
  • Other phones have better zoom

Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but we reckon that Apple’s biggest iPhone also happens to be the best, and this is for one notable reason – the battery life. This is the iPhone to opt for if going the longest time between charges is key to your purchasing decision; we easily got through a heavy day of use and into a second with plenty of juice left.

Battery life aside, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a great choice in many other areas. While all the iPhones in this list (including the cheapest iPhone SE 2022) are powered by the same A15 Bionic chipset, giving them all pretty much the same performance skills, the larger 6.7-inch display makes this a strong choice if you want a vast canvas for games, editing photos, or watching videos. Our reviewer found themselves regularly using the handset to watch Netflix on their morning commute, with the screen offering wonderfully immersive blacks and great dynamism, which helped make HDR content in particular pop.

The screen packs a 120Hz refresh rate that Apple calls ProMotion. While older iPhones had a 60Hz refresh, a 120Hz panel is much faster and offers a smoother experience when scrolling. It can aid gaming too, if a title supports it.

In our tests, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s (and as a result, all the models on this list) perform the best out of any other phones on the market, even top Android flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. They continually churn out higher benchmarks scores both for general performance and graphics, and are faster in everyday use too. Apple phones also typically get supported for longer, with more software updates and better security patches which makes them far more future proof than most Android handsets.

On top of that, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a truly excellent camera array. We tested it against the Galaxy S22 Ultra and far preferred the video captured on Apple’s device, with it being smoother and generally better stabilised. Stills also looked great with colours generally coming out a little bit more pleasing and realistic looking than those shot on the Ultra.

Other features you’ll find across the whole iPhone 13 range include wireless charging, an IP rating for protection against dust and water, 5G support, Face ID for secure unlocking and a notch dipping into the display. While we would eventually like to see this notch be phased out, it’s far from a dealbreaker and something that’s easy to get used to.

Reviewer: Max Parker 

Full review: iPhone 13 Pro Max review

iPhone 13

The best iPhone for most people

Pros

  • Much improved battery life
  • Bright, vivid OLED display
  • Excellent main camera

Cons

  • No ProMotion
  • No optical zoom

The iPhone 13 Pro Max might be the best iPhone, but we’d say the iPhone 13 offers arguably better value for a lot of people. It’s a device that’s just as capable in most areas as its “Pro” siblings, but it does make a few sacrifices to hit its lower price. 

There’s no telephoto camera for improved zooming, for example, and the display is simply a 60Hz panel – so it lacks the smoother scrolling you get with the 120Hz panel. If you’re willing to accept these missing features, then we think this phone will suit you down to the ground.

We were happy with the battery life when we reviewed the phone, though like all smaller phones you’ll likely be charging this one every night. As we said in the previous entry, the Pro Max model is the one to pick if you’re a seriously heavy user.

The iPhone 13 is simply a great phone to use; the design is slick and a lot more modern than the iPhone SE 2022, while the size makes it easy to hold and slip in a pocket or a bag. The duo of rear cameras reliably take excellent photos whatever the conditions and, as it runs iOS, it’ll be supported for years to come with software updates.

Apple also still sells the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12, both of which remain good buys if you want to save a little extra money. But these have slower performance levels and the camera quality is not quite as competitive as the newer model based on our testing.

Reviewer: Max Parker 

Full review: iPhone 13 review

iPhone 13 Pro

The best design

Pros

  • Great to finally see a 120Hz display on an iPhone
  • Good battery life
  • Seriously impressive camera system

Cons

  • Other phones have better zoom
  • The notch feels dated

If you want the same features as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but don’t want a huge phone then the iPhone 13 Pro is the model we recommend. This is a gorgeous phone that’s well-designed, packs an excellent triple camera system, and has a screen that’s not only proved bright and accurate in our tests, but is also straightforward to use with one hand.

The smaller size (and as a result, smaller battery) does mean it’s not the multi-day phone that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is, but we still managed to comfortably get through a busy workday without hitting that dreaded 0% mark.

What we like most about the iPhone 13 Pro is the slick but practical design, and how it fits all these high-end features into a body that’s pocketable and manageable.

Reviewer: Max Parker 

Full review: iPhone 13 Pro review

iPhone 13 Mini

The best small iPhone

Pros

  • Great camera
  • Better battery life than the previous Mini
  • The most powerful small phone around

Cons

  • No ProMotion
  • No optical zoom
  • Still can’t compete with the other iPhone 13 models for battery life

The iPhone 13 Mini takes everything you’ll find in the iPhone 13 and then shrinks it down to an even smaller size. It has the same duo of rear cameras, the same screen quality and the same overall design as its larger sibling – and it also runs on the same chipset as all the phones in this list, so it boasts 5G and excellent general performance.

We’d recommend this as easily the best small phone on the market, but that said, its diminutive size does introduce a couple of issues. These aren’t necessarily downsides, depending on your point of view, but they’re still factors that might influence your buying decision.

The 5.4-inch display is a lot smaller than the 6.1-inch screen on the iPhone 13. That means the Mini isn’t as suitable for gaming or media binges as the regular-sized iPhone, and it also means that the battery size has also had to be reduced, so it’s the iPhone 13 with the worst battery life – at least in our tests. If you’re a heavy user, you might be reaching for the charger even before the end of the day based on our experience with the Mini.

Still, there isn’t really anything else like this on the market, ands so if you prize pocketability above all then it is a great choice.

The iPhone 12 Mini is also still on sale too, but we found that this model’s battery life was even worse. If you can afford to spend extra on the updated model, it’s certainly worth it based on our experience with the two phones.

Reviewer: Max Parker 

Full review: iPhone 13 Mini review

iPhone SE 2022

The best affordable new iPhone

Pros

  • The fastest phone at this price (by some distance)
  • Takes great daylight pictures
  • IP rating and wireless charging
  • iOS and all the benefits that come with it

Cons

  • Small screen is cramped and restrictive
  • Tired design
  • No night mode in the camera

Apple’s cheapest iPhone is also the most confusing. While we like a lot of stuff about the iPhone SE 2022 and it scored well in our overall review, the tired design and slightly dated screen make it a harder proposition than the other phones on this list.

However, on the inside, there’s no doubting that the iPhone SE 2022 is a winner. The A15 Bionic chipset is the same as you’ll find in the 13 Pro Max, and in benchmark tests, it outstripped the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for sheer performance. Considering the price, that’s an impressive feat and it should support software updates for years and years to come, making it a good investment.

We were impressed with the camera here too. The single 12MP unit takes snaps with lovely colour reproduction and accurate skin tones that aren’t too far off what you’d get on the iPhone 13, although the lack of night mode does make it a little tricky to get a great low-light picture.

Battery life is on par with the iPhone 13 Mini and, like all the phones here, it has an IP rating for dust and water resistance along with 5G and wireless charging. You rarely get this collection of premium features on other phones at this price point.

This phone really isn’t for those who want a phone with a great screen. The 4.7-inch panel is dinky, not nearly as bright or sharp as the 13 series, and comes with chunky black bars on either side to boot. It feels rather old fashioned, although the home button is nice for navigation and quick unlocking.

Reviewer: Max Parker 

Full review: iPhone SE 2022 review

We also considered…

FAQs

Which iPhones have 5G?

All the iPhones in this list come with some form of 5G. However, the supported bands can vary so it’s best to check with your carrier or network to see which bands and forms of 5G they support.

Do any of these iPhones come with a charger?

No – Apple has removed the charger from the box of all its iPhones. You’ll need to buy it separately or else use an old one.

Which is the smallest iPhone?

While the iPhone SE’s 4.7-inch screen is the smallest, the iPhone 13 Min is the smallest overall device.

All the best iPhone specs

Compare all the most important specs from all the iPhones in our list.

UK RRP

USA RRP

EU RRP

CA RRP

AUD RRP

Manufacturer

Screen Size

Storage Capacity

Rear Camera

Front Camera

Video Recording

IP rating

Wirless charging

Fast Charging

Size (Dimensions)

Weight

Operating System

Release Date

First Reviewed Date

Resolution

HDR

Refresh Rate

Ports

Chipset

RAM

Colours

Trusted Reviews test data

Apple does a great job at keeping performance the same across all phones, so you’re getting strong speeds whether you go for the cheapest iPhone or the priciest.

Geekbench 5 single core

Geekbench 5 multi core

sRGB

Adobe RGB

DCI-P3

Max brightness

1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)

30 minute gaming (intensive)

30 minute gaming (light)

1 hour music streaming (online)

1 hour music streaming (offline)

Time from 0-100% charge

Time from 0-50% charge



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