The best iPhone to buy in 2024: our ultimate guide

We may earn a commission if you make a purchase from the links on this page.
The best iPhone to buy in 2024: our ultimate guide
Now that we are into the first half of 2024, the iPhone 15 series have settled down, you maybe wondering — what's the best iPhone to spend money on? Not only do we have four new models added, older devices are still out there. Either sold and supported by Apple (in the case of old gen non-Pro models) or retailers clearing stock of the Pro devices that have been discontinued.

An Apple event for the spring seems less and less likely — the time for WWDC, which usually happens in early June, is almost here. So, it seems unlikely we will see an iPhone SE refresh within the next couple of months.

Here at PhoneArena, we have experience with iPhones since their appearance in 2007 and still hold on to all the latest models that currently run iOS 17 right now. So, let us try and help you get a bargain; or the best iPhone money can buy.

It's always a personal choice, balancing budget against things like performance, camera, battery life, and overall usefulness. Some people may be ready to jump on the biggest and most expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max, but others may be just fine with a standard iPhone 12. Or, there are those that may prefer a small phone — that's where the SE and mini series come to play.

Below, you will find the iPhone models we believe are most worthy a purchase in the first half of 2024, with our reasoning behind those choices. Do be aware, the iPhone 16 series will be coming in the latter half of the year, so the landscape may change a bit at that time.

Straight out of the gate, if you are out looking for the cheapest iPhone that can give you the best possible value — we've made a special article, where we hunt down offers on models that can still be found in new-old stock condition. Do have a look at the Best cheap iPhone article here.

The best iPhones in 2024, at a glance:


  • iPhone 15 Pro Max - biggest iPhone, best camera, extra-long battery life
  • iPhone 15 Pro - easier to handle, one-size-fits-all option. Same power as the Pro Max
  • iPhone 14 Plus - the first oversized iPhone without a Pro price
  • iPhone 13 - the balancing act between size, features, and price
  • iPhone SE (2022) - compact, classic design, most affordable iPhone

iPhone 15 Pro Max


Biggest iPhone, best camera, extra-long battery life
PhoneArena Rating:9.0/10

Pros

  • Exceptional, industry-leading performance
  • Dynamic Island is a fun and useful twist on the punch hole
  • Very good battery life
  • Superb video-recording quality
  • Very bright and beautiful display with Always-On functionality
  • New premium titanium finish, thinner bezels
  • USB Type C with Thunderbolt speeds

Cons

  • Relatively slow charging speed
  • Small evolutionary improvements
  • Lack of physical SIM for the US

Recommended Stories
Aside from being a large-screened iPhone for the phablet lovers out there, the new iPhone 15 Pro Max is the only one to come with the 5x (120 mm) zoom tetraprism lens. 

For its main camera, it inherits the 48 MP main sensor from the iPhone 14 Pro line, but does more with it — with an upgraded image pipeline in the new Apple A17 Pro SoC, we can now take 24 MP photos by default instead of the 12 MP of the past. And we can choose between three different default "mini zoom" levels for the main camera — 1x, 1.2x, and 1.5x, simulating different focal lengths favored among photographers.

We started with the camera, because Apple puts a lot of weight behind it, the Pro models now being marketed towards shutterbugs and videographers. The new USB Type-C port also allows for data transfer at USB 3 speeds, meaning you can even hook up an external drive and record 4K ProRes video directly to it. Makes it easier to transfer and edit footage externally.

It’s a hefty investment, for sure, but certainly offers the top-tier Apple experience, and also one of the best phones right now in general. It starts at $1,200 for the base model, which has 256 GB storage, and that’s a bit harsh, especially if you plan on enjoying the improved cameras, cinematic mode, and its ProRes video capabilities. In fact, iOS itself will not let you record in 4K ProRes unless you have a higher storage capacity — 256 GB and up.

The Pro models are still the only ones to have a 120 Hz screen and always-on display. Also, since they are the only ones to have the Apple A17 Pro SoC, they will be the ones that will be able to run Assassin's Creed: Mirage and Resident Evil: Village when they launch. It seems that Apple is making a push to make iPhones into makeshift handheld gaming devices — kind of, sort of like a Steam Deck? That'd be a long road, and it seems we are at the start of it.

Read more: iPhone 15 Pro Max review

iPhone 15 Pro: save $50-$630 with a trade-in at Apple.com

Apple offers its impressive iPhone 15 Pro at deeply discounted prices with the right trade-in. Right now, you can get this top-class smartphone at up to $630 off with a trade-in.
$369
$999
Buy at Apple

iPhone 15 Pro Max: up to $630 off with a trade-in at Apple

With its groundbreaking chipset and high-class titanium frame, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a real mobile gem. It's now available on Apple at an impressive trade-in discount of up to $630.
$569
$1199
Buy at Apple

iPhone 15 Pro


Easier to handle, one-size-fits-all option. Same power as the Pro Max
PhoneArena Rating:8.2/10

Pros

  • Same high performance as Pro Max
  • Fun and useful new "Dynamic Island"
  • Industry-leading video recording quality
  • 48MP ProRAW photos will get photogs excited, but limited appeal for others
  • Screen gets impressively bright, easy to use outdoors
  • USB Type-C with USB 3 speeds
  • New titanium build and thinner bezels

Cons

  • Lacks the new lens of the 15 Pro Max
  • Charging speeds are still slower than competition
  • Lack of SIM card on US models might be a nuisance for travelers

The iPhone 15 Pro is just as great as the Pro Max counterpart, minus that new 5x tetraprism lens. However, that may be a bonus for those that prefer 3x Portrait Mode shots better than having a 5x zoom camera with more limited application. Plus, since it's not as huge as the Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Pro is easier to operate with one hand.

Then, there's the bonus that the base variant of the iPhone 15 Pro Max hasn't gone more expensive. It starts at $999, though that's for a 128 GB model. 128 GB isn't a small amount of space, but you can easily get it filled out if you love that camera. Or, if you choose to install those promised console-grade games that are coming from Ubisoft and Capcom. 

By all means, it seems the iPhone 15 Pro is the more mainstream choice, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max now feels like an "enthusiast device". By going for the Pro, you don't forgo on the fast processor and bright display with ProMotion animations, nor do you lose out on the Dynamic Island and excellent 48 MP camera. You only lose out on the 5x tetraprism lens and the larger battery, present in the Pro Max' larger body.

Read more: iPhone 15 Pro review

iPhone 14 Plus

The first oversized iPhone without a Pro price
PhoneArena Rating:7.2/10

Pros

  • Huge display
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Great performance
  • Powerful sound

Cons

  • Same old design with a notch, no Dynamic Island here
  • 60Hz display refresh rate
  • No always-on display

It's kind of hard to recommend the new iPhone 15 Plus, when the old one is very similar. If you don't insist on having a Dynamic Island or a 48 MP camera, the 14 Plus will serve you just fine.

Now yes, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus' cameras do feel long in the tooth, but it's worth noting that the 48 MP sensor inside the iPhone 15 Plus is not the same as in the Pro devices, nor is the imaging pipeline. So, you are not getting the Pro imagery either way.

Since the iPhone 15 line continues to stubbornly not give 120 Hz screens to the non-Pro models, that's still more the reason to just save some cash and shop for previous gen models.

Read more: iPhone 14 Plus review

iPhone 13


The balancing act between size, features, and price
PhoneArena Rating:6.6/10

Pros

  • Much improved battery life
  • Easy to view outdoors display with perfect calibration
  • Snazzy Cinematic video mode

Cons

  • Slow display refresh rate for the price point
  • Wired and wireless charging take comparatively long

Hopping back a couple generations, Apple still sells the iPhone 13 as a midrange solution. And it can still hold its own, with a processor that still has the muscle and a screen that is still bright and pretty to look at. Its camera is no worse than the one on the iPhone 14 Plus, even if it can't compete with more contemporary devices out there. 

The iPhone 13 had a lot of tiny, but meaningful upgrades — a minor performance bump, a better battery life than its predecessor. It was hailed as a proper upgrade in its time, and it still holds up today. So, for anyone on a budget, it's a great iPhone to start off with.

At $600, it starts off at 128 GB of storage, which is not bad by 2024 standards. And it's $100 less than an iPhone 14 — you will miss out on some of the more niche features, like Crash Detection or satellite SOS. But, considering we've been functioning without them thus far, and hoping you never ever need them — maybe it's a premium worth forgoing.

It is also worth noting that the iPhone 13 is the last series with a physical SIM tray (in the US), if that's something that might sway your decision.

Read more: iPhone 13 review

Verizon iPhone 13: free with new line

You need a new line to get the above deal. Plus, $200 if you switch. Also, you can save on the purchase of an iPad if you buy an iPhone at the same time from Verizon.
$0 /mo
$19 44
Buy at Verizon

T-Mobile iPhone 13: for free with a new account (online only), or free with new line or trade-in

T-Mobile has several great deals on the iPhone 13.You can get it for free with a new account (no trade-in required). Alternatively, you can also get it for free with a new line and eligible trade-in.

iPhone SE (2022)

Compact, classic design, most affordable iPhone
PhoneArena Rating: 8.0/10

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Light, thin and compact
  • iPhone with a button classic vibe
  • 5G connectivity with C-band support
  • Camera is great for day shots, video

Cons

  • Feels dated
  • LCD screen instead of AMOLED
  • Screen feels too small for a modern phone
  • Battery life is improved, but still below average
  • Camera lacks night mode, has no ultra-wide lens
  • Only 64GB base storage

The iPhone SE is here for these that want the cheapest, simplest iPhone out there. It is the only iPhone that still has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and home button, and it has a tiny screen for today's standards. By all accounts, it's a phone for those that just want connectivity and don't care about media consumption or gaming on the device all that much.

But Apple still keeps it relevant — the iPhone SE 3 (or iPhone SE 2022) is powered by the same chip that's inside the iPhone 13 series. It has the same dependable-but-not-outstanding camera, it supports 5G connectivity and the convenience of wireless charging.

Now, if you are looking at the SE simply because you want a cheap iPhone, then an iPhone 13 mini or an iPhone 12 might be a much better choice. The SE's shortcomings are too much of a sacrifice for those that want to spend a lot of time with the device in-hand.

But if you are looking for the simple, reliable Apple iPhone experience, just as a means for communication, with the familiarity of Touch ID, the classic iPhone design that will keep accepting all of the cases you've got for the iPhone 8 or the iPhone SE (2020), and continued software support, well — here it is.

Read more: iPhone SE (2022) review

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The iPhone SE (2022) is available at Amazon locked to Cricket wireless. It can also be purchases with a monthly plan. The phone is available in 65, 128, and 256GB of storage.

iPhone SE (2022) at Best Buy - unlocked

The iPhone SE (2022) unlocked is now available at Best Buy with a discount. The offer is valid with same-day activation to your carrier of choice. The phone can be activated for one of the carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon.
$404 99
$429 99
Buy at BestBuy

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

You can get the third-generation of iPhone SE from Apple. The company offers trade-in discounts, and the amount of the discount depends on the device (model, condition) that you decide to trade in. Check the conditions on Apple's website.

Which iPhone is the best value for your money?


Looking at the present Apple iPhone lineup, we would say that the iPhone 13 is probably the best value right now. Its base tier comes with 128 GB of storage, which will be plenty enough for most users out there. On the inside and out, it is not worse than the iPhone 14, which was supposed to dethrone it. It does lack a 120 Hz screen and a telephoto camera, which is a shame, but such is the plight of non-Pro iPhones.

If you want those premium features, you'd have to make quite the leap in price.

However, the good news is that some wireless carriers and 3rd party retailers still have units of the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max in stock. If you are craving that telephoto camera for better portraits, and the smoothness of a ProMotion display — you may do well seeking one of those out.

Thanks to Apple's software support, the 13 series still has a long life ahead of it, so it's a worthwhile investment at this point in time.

How to choose the iPhone that best fits your needs?


There are two things to consider when buying a new phone. Your usage habits and your budget. Do you really need a huge Max model, if you only use iMessage and Instagram twice a day? If you game on your iPhone — do you play vertical games that require a one-hand grip, or do you immerse yourself in horizontal shooters? Naturally, the latter crowd will enjoy a bigger screen for sure.

Plus, it also helps to pay attention to how long the phone will be supported for. Credit given where one is due, Google has recently committed to 7 years of software support for its Pixel phones, but we have yet to witness that happen. Whereas iPhones are proven to get 5 years of software support, so they more or less retain value — you can get them second hand, you can sell them off, an iPhone is an iPhone for half a decade.

It also helps that smartphone tech development has steadied in recent years, finding a comfortable plateau, and new features don't pop up at a relentless pace. Meaning, new phones stay new for longer, as they aren't immediately outshined by the next best thing.

Now, a lot can go wrong in these years, such as batteries going bad, but it's worth noting that Apple has upped its game considerably since the old iPhone 6 fiasco.

So, as far as usage habits go, you need to consider this:

Phone size and design:


  • Large phone: the Max and the Plus - if you watch a lot of videos, play a lot of games, browse tons of social media on your iPhone, or even edit your own clips and pictures, you will probably want to sacrifice the comfort of a small device and gain the benefit of a larger screen. In that case, the Pro Max models or the new iPhone 14 Plus will work out best. They also have the benefit of improved battery life, which lends itself well to your poweruser needs.

  • Medium size: the regular models - you may wish to have a more comfortable grip on the phone, as you use it more to reply to messages and only watch talking head style YouTube videos. The regular iPhone with no Max or Plus monikers seems to strike this balance well. The screen has enough room for comfortable thumb-typing, and is big enough for the occasional enjoyment of multimedia. Yet, it's not too large and you won't be overwhelmed by its size if you decide to stick it in a case.

  • Super compact: the mini - if you are out looking for a tiny smartphone that's easy to pocket, yet packs a performance punch and a dependable camera — the iPhone 13 mini is one of your very limited options. And it might as well be the best one, considering how much life it has left in it, thanks to the processor inside and Apple's software support habits.

  • Classic comfort, unexacting and simple: iPhone SE - if you or whoever you are buying for, prefers the older iPhone look and feel, with a Touch ID button — the only option is the iPhone SE.

Phone Features


  • Camera - if you want a telephoto camera for better zoomed-in photos and more natural portraits, your option is quickly limited to the Pro models. Furthermore, if you want to experiment with the new-ish Cinematic Mode as well as the Photographic Styles — you need to go with an iPhone 13 series at the least. Needless to say, if you want the absolute best and most advanced Apple camera to date — you will find it on an iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.

  • Screen quality - Across the board, Apple uses OLED panels for all recent iPhones, save for the iPhone SE. So, color reproduction and accuracy will be on equal levels across models. The Pro variants, however, have brighter screens, capable of hitting 2,000 nits. Impressive as it is, in the real world, you will rarely need that much brightness, so that's not the real selling point here. No, that would be the 120 Hz ProMotion screen that is still being held hostage by the Pro iPhones — from the iPhone 12 Pro onwards.

Additionally, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are the only ones with LTPO displays, capable of bringing their refresh rate down to 1 Hz. Apple utilizes this technology to get the Always On Display feature working on them — and only them, for the time being.

  • Safety and security - The Secure Enclave is a subsystem within Apple chips that is present on all recent iPhones, making sure your sensitive data is encrypted and held safe on-device. As far as cyber safety is concerned, all modern Apple phones have you covered.

As for physical safety, iOS does provide Medical ID and Emergency SOS on all of them, however the new iPhone 14 series has a slight edge. If you find yourself an avid trekker, you may want the new satellite SOS feature, for some peace of mind. That and the new Crash Detection feature are only found on the 2022 iPhones.

Battery life


Apple always aims for an "all day battery life" with all its mobile devices. It typically achieves that, especially since iOS is fantastic at preserving battery charge when in standby mode. Some, however, exceed those expectations — specifically the Plus models and Pro Max models, which have room for larger batteries in them.

There are also some models that fall short — like the iPhone 12 mini, which wasn't very dependable with its battery endurance. Especially if scanning often for an unreliable 5G connection.

Aside from that small mishap, most iPhones in recent years have had a dependable battery life.

Check out how these iPhones have performed in our extensive battery tests:
hoursHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
19h 20 min
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
14h 54 min
Apple iPhone 14 Plus
14h 51 min
Apple iPhone 13
13h 43 min
Apple iPhone SE(2022)
11h 53 min

Performance


in the case of the Apple iPhone, we typically trust that the performance is — and will be — top-tier for years to come. The Apple A silicon is excellent and way ahead of the game, outperforming and outlasting the competition on a regular basis. This is why Apple is comfortable with releasing an iPhone 14 series with the same chips that powered the iPhone 13, for example. Here is a rundown of the contemporary models and their capabilities:

  • Apple A16 Bionic (iPhone 14 Pro, Pro Max): hexa-core, first Apple chip built on 4 nm process. Up to 3.46 GHz clock speed, 5-core GPU
  • Apple A15 Bionic (modified for iPhone 14, 14 Plus): hexa-core, 5 nm. Up to 3.23 GHz clock speed, 5-core GPU
  • Apple A15 Bionic (iPhone 13, 13 mini): hexa-core, 5 nm. Up to 3.23 GHz clock speed, 4-core GPU
  • Apple A14 Bionic (iPhone 12): hexa-core, 5 nm. Up to 3.1 GHz clock speed, 4-core GPU

In other words — if Apple sells it on its website, it still considers it fast enough to wear the brand on its back with pride.

Here's the performance of the iPhones in the lists on benchmark tests:

Geekbench 5 SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 14 Plus1677
Apple iPhone 131728
Apple iPhone SE(2022)1738
Geekbench 5 MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 14 Plus4415
Apple iPhone 134695
Apple iPhone SE(2022)4749
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 14 Plus2817
Apple iPhone 132357
Apple iPhone SE(2022)2382
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max4236
Apple iPhone 15 Pro3628
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 14 Plus2244
Apple iPhone 131712
Apple iPhone SE(2022)1737
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2632
Apple iPhone 15 Pro2801

Why should you trust this buying guide


The Author

Preslav Kateliev has been with PhoneArena since 2014. Over the years, he became fascinated with anything and everything mobile that can be incorporated into his existing hobbies or work. He likes to tinker with “small technology” and make it work for him in fields where portability is a prime benefit. You can often spot him writing articles, recording guitars, or editing videos on an iPad Pro.

The Publisher
PhoneArena has been around since 2001 as a platform where phones can be explored, compared, and pitted against each other. For the 20 and more years since we first started, we've been evolving our experience and growing our knowledge. We now lead an audience of over 5 million monthly US readers to navigate through the mobile tech world.

The Approach

We believe that there is not one true phone that is “the best” as each user has their unique needs and preferences. However, we make sure to test every phone through a wide range of testing procedures and review approaches, so we can find where each phone shines and what it lacks. We also strictly follow our rating guidelines.On top of all that, you'll have our professional opinion about each phone after we spend a serious amount of time with it. All that is done to help you make the best and most informed decision on which iPhone is “the best” for you.

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless