Best iPhone: How to pick the perfect iPhone for you
So you know you want an iPhone—but which one? Our iPhone buying guide has all the answers.
Picking out an iPhone used to be easier—just get the newest one with all the storage you can afford. We still recommend plenty of storage, but the choice of which iPhone to go with that storage isn’t quite so cut-and-dry. Do you want the phone with the best camera, the one with the lowest starting price, or maybe just one with a headphone jack?
We’re here to help, with this always-updated guide of every iPhone currently sold by Apple, and how to decide which is the best for you.
iPhone 7 Plus: Best overall, best camera
The flagship of flagships is the iPhone 7 Plus, released in September 2016. It’s got an absurdly fast A10 Fusion processor that combines two high-performance cores to run desktop-class apps, and two low-power cores that stretch battery life during less-intensive tasks. Apple quotes 13–15 hours of Internet use, 14 hours of video playback, or 60 hours of audio playback per charge. In our testing, we got 7 hours, 55 minutes of video playback between 100 percent and 50 percent charged—this thing just goes and goes.
But the biggest selling point of the iPhone 7 Plus is its two-lens camera system. It combines a wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture to let in more light, with a “telephoto” lens with f/2.8 aperture for getting in close. The Camera app still does all the work for you (sometimes even choosing 2x digital zoom over 2x optical zoom if the result will be a better image), but the real magic happens when it combines data from both lenses. The Portrait mode, currently in beta as part of iOS 10.1, is a great example of that, automatically blurring the background while keeping your subject’s face in focus.
While our reviews of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 7 took issue with the new “clickless” Home button and the lack of a headphone jack, the speed, power, and camera still make iPhone 7 Plus the best iPhone overall. The iPhone 7 Plus starts at $769 for 32GB, and then goes to $869 for 128GB and $969 for 256GB.
iPhone 7: Best 4.7-inch phone
The iPhone 7 is perfect for anyone who wants the speed and battery life of the iPhone 7 Plus, a camera that’s nearly as good, and a smaller size. Oh, and the accident-prone should definitely consider an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus over previous generations, since the new phones come with an IP67 water resistance rating.
The single iSight camera on the back has a wider f/1.8 aperture than before, which really makes a difference in low-light conditions. You don’t get optical zoom or Portrait mode, which are exclusive to the iPhone 7 Plus’s two-lens camera. But the photos the iPhone 7 takes are a big step up from all the models that came before.
Opting for the iPhone 7 over the iPhone 7 Plus usually comes down to a preference for the 4.7-inch size, over the larger 5.5-inch Plus. But keep in mind that the iPhone 7 is also $120 cheaper across the board if you buy it outright. (It’s $649 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, and $849 for 256GB.) So you could pick the iPhone 7 and spend the savings on another tier of storage—it goes up to 256GB this year.
iPhone 6s Plus: Best bargain for big hands
When a new iPhone comes out, Apple keeps the previous generation on sale at a substantial discount. That means, right now you can get a 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus with 32GB of storage for $649, or 128GB of storage for $749. (To compare, a 128GB iPhone 7 Plus is $869, and a 128GB iPhone 7 is $749. So you’re really only saving if you’re convinced you want a bigger phone.)
We loved the iPhone 6s Plus when we reviewed it in 2015. The A9 chip is still plenty fast for iOS 10 applications. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were the first to get 3D Touch, which lets you deep-press on the touchscreen to get more functions, kind of like the mobile version of a right-click. When the feature launched, it was a nice-to-have, but iOS 10 has made it much more essential.
The iPhone 6s Plus also supports Live Photos and 4k video, thanks to its 12-megapixel iSight camera. This is a single-lens camera, and you won’t get quite the same low-light performance as you would with the wider-aperture lenses on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. But if the camera isn’t your main reason for upgrading your iPhone, you’ll still be able to take good photos with the iPhone 6s Plus, which does have optical image stabilization (unlike the smaller iPhone 6s).
iPhone 6s: Best for headphone jack die-hards
One other advantage to last year’s iPhones is that you can plug in any old headphones you want. Want to charge your phone while you’re listening? No problem, because those use two different ports. As we know, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus no longer have a 3.5mm headphone port, but the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and the iPhone SE all do.
And like the iPhone 6s Plus, the iPhone 6s is no slouch. Its 4.7-inch screen size makes it easier to carry in a jeans pocket, or strap it to your arm for a run. It’s got the exact same A9 chip as the iPhone 6s Plus, and the same 12-megapixel camera that shoots 4K video—only without optical image stabilization, which in this generation is exclusive to the iPhone 6s Plus.
Plus, it’s a bargain. The entry-level 32GB iPhone 6s is $549, in gold, rose gold, space gray, and silver. If you need more storage, a 128GB version is $649. That’s the same price as an entry-level iPhone 7, but with four times the storage. If you’ve got a lot of files and an aversion to headphone adapters, this might be the right choice.
iPhone SE: Best value, best for small hands
But the best bargain on the iPhone market is still the iPhone SE. This is essentially the guts of an iPhone 6s shoved into the pocket-friendly body of an iPhone 5s. You get a 4-inch screen, the same size as the iPhone 5/5c/5s, before Apple went big with the iPhone 6. But you won’t sacrifice speed or battery life compared to the iPhone 6s.
The iPhone SE has the same A9 chip as the iPhone 6s, so it handles iOS 10 just fine—but it doesn’t have 3D Touch, which is a minor drawback. You can press-and-hold on notifications to see an expanded view, for example, but you can’t 3D Touch an app icon for Quick Actions. The 1624mAh battery in the iPhone SE is a little bit smaller than the 1715mAh battery in the iPhone 6s, but it still lasts longer because the 4-inch screen needs less power.
Another advantage to the iPhone SE is that it fits into cases made for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5, which you might already have lying around. The 12-megapixel camera supports Live Photos and 4K video, so you aren’t losing out there, but the iPhone SE does have limited storage sizes. The entry-level 16GB version is $399, but we recommend most people quadruple that storage for another $50 with the $449 64GB model.
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