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The best iPhone to buy in 2021 (updated August)

The best iPhone to buy in 2021 (updated August)
Gone are the days when you only had two iPhone models to pick from. Are you in the market for an iPhone? You have to choose between eight different devices!

Who, what? Which iPhone is best for who? Well, let's weed through the tightly-spaced out price tiers and see which iPhones are actually the ones worth looking at.

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Which is the best iPhone to buy?

iPhone 13 Pro Max - biggest iPhone, best camera, massive battery endurance
iPhone 13- the balancing act between size, features, and price
iPhone 13 mini - super-small, just as powerful, for users that want the compact experience
iPhone 12 - a modern iPhone at a slight discount
iPhone 11- cheapest iPhone with all-screen design and Face ID
iPhone SE (2020) - compact, classic design, most affordable iPhone

iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

The Good

  • Amazing battery life
  • Super bright display with great colors
  • Fastest performance of any phone
  • Improved camera
  • Best video quality of any phone

The Bad

  • Lacks fast charging
  • Size is a bit extreme and it is a heavy phone
  • Cinematic Mode needs some more polish
  • No USB-C makes life more complicated
Aside from being the biggest iPhone for the phablet lovers out there, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also offers the best battery life. It’s truly a power user’s iPhone and has the processor and camera performance to carry that statement. Not to mention the new 120 Hz ProMotion screen, which was finally brought to the iPhone 13 Pro line.

It’s a hefty investment, for sure, but certainly offers the top-tier Apple experience. It starts at $1,100 for the base model, which has 128 GB storage, and that’s a bit harsh.

Read more: iPhone 13 Pro Max review

iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13

The Good

  • Much improved battery life
  • Dynamic and jolly photos in more challenging conditions
  • Easy to view outdoors display with perfect calibration
  • Snazzy Cinematic video mode
  • Double the predecessor storage for the same price

The Bad

  • Slow display refresh rate for the price point
  • Wired and wireless charging take comparatively long
  • Cinematic video mode is finicky without good lighting
  • Taller notch eats into some video formats
  • Worse value for money ratio than the iPhone 13 Pro
Ever since the iPhone 11 line, Apple advertises the one non-Pro model as “The iPhone” for the current year. So, in the 2021 / 2022 season, “The iPhone” is the iPhone 13 — powered by the same Apple A15 that’s in the Pro line, and geared up with the same big sensor and sensor-shift stabilization that we saw on the iPhone 12 Pro Max last year.

The iPhone 13 brings a lot of tiny, but meaningful upgrades — a minor performance bump, a nice battery boost, a few camera improvements. And then the big upgrade — the base model iPhone 13 now starts at 128 GB instead of 64 GB.

With all its parts combined, the iPhone 13 is a very solid phone for a slightly over-the-top price of $799 (or $829 if you buy unlocked). We would’ve liked to see a high refresh rate screen for that money, but that aside it’s a good investment. It’s that bump in storage that makes it feel like a more future-proof buy, as opposed to going for an iPhone 12 right now.

Read more: iPhone 13 review

iPhone 13 mini

Apple iPhone 13 mini

Apple iPhone 13 mini

The Good

  • Compact, light, comfortable to carry
  • Bright and accurate screen
  • Great camera system
  • Fast performance
  • 128 GB base storage

The Bad

  • 60 Hz screen
  • Small screen is not for powerusers - feels cramped
  • Battery life is OK, but still the worst in the lineup
There is still a number of fans of compact smartphones out there and — honestly — they don't have a whole lot of choice. Thankfully, Apple is one of the few phone makers that has them covered — the iPhone 13 mini cuts no corners. It's straight up a smaller version of the iPhone 13 — the screen is OLED, the huge camera sensor is here, the processor is the same A15 Bionic. Well, it does have a smaller battery due to size being a constraint. The iPhone 13 mini is not a dream phone for powerusers, but it's definitely meant for those that want a handset, which barely gets in the way.

Read more: iPhone 12 mini review

iPhone XR

Apple iPhone XR

Apple iPhone XR

The Good

  • Very large display
  • Intelligent design and fresh colors
  • Industry-leading performance
  • Exceptional camera
  • Superb speakers
  • Excellent battery life

The Bad

  • There is no compact option
  • Screen resolution could be higher
  • Bundled charger is SLOW

The iPhone XR is the cheapest iPhone with an all-screen design and Face ID (a.k.a. the iPhone X design) you can get right now. It starts at $499 and it does cut some corners. Its screen is an LCD panel and it has slightly thicker bezels. There's only one camera on the back — no ultra-wide, no telephoto. And it's powered by an Apple A12 Bionic chip, which will be turning 3 years old this year. Still, it's a pretty competent phone with a very capable camera and full access to the Apple ecosystem.

Read more: iPhone XR review

iPhone SE (2020)

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The Good

  • Unmatched performance
  • Impressive image quality, industry-leading 4K video capture
  • Great price
  • Compact form factor, easy to use with one hand
  • iOS and the ecosystem (AirPods, Apple Watch, etc)
  • Support for wireless charging

The Bad

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Dated look on the front with big bezels
  • Only one small size that won’t fit everyone (no Plus model)
  • Slow 5W charger in the box
  • No Night Mode, no telephoto camera, no ultra-wide camera

The iPhone SE (2020) was pretty hot when it first dropped — it's powered by the Apple A13 Bionic, yet it's small, light, and pretty cheap. Well, by iPhone standards.

It does have a few drawbacks — its design echoes the looks of the iPhone 6, so its thick bezels and huge chin and forehead make it look long in the tooth. Its small 4.7-inch screen is an LCD panel, and its battery just can't drive that super-powerful A13 for very long.

But, for an iPhone on a budget, as a backup, or for someone who isn't glued to their smartphone, it's a good buy.

Read more: iPhone SE (2020) review

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Related phones

Apple iPhone 11 Pro specs
  • Display 5.8 inches 2436 x 1125 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Triple camera) 12 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A13 Bionic 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3046 mAh
  • OS iOS 15.x
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max specs
  • Display 6.5 inches 2688 x 1242 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Triple camera) 12 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A13 Bionic 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3969 mAh
  • OS iOS 15.x

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