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Best iPhone 2021: every iPhone Apple currently sells, ranked

T3 logo T3 18/01/2021 David Nield
logo, icon: iPhone 12 © Provided by T3 iPhone 12

You want the best iPhone in 2021, and we're here to help: from the super-large iPhone 12 Pro Max (screen size: 6.7 inches) to the super-small iPhone SE 2020 (screen size: 4.7 inches), there's plenty of choice out there, no matter what your smartphone requirements.

In this guide we're going to focus on the best iPhones currently sold by Apple in 2021, which is a total of seven handsets. You can still pick up older models – such as the iPhone 11 Pro – on the second-hand and refurb markets, so that's something else to bear in mind.

Whether you need the rundown on the latest iPhone specs, iPhone prices or iPhone colours, or you need to compare multiple iPhones against each other, you've come to the right place. These are undoubtedly some of the best phones currently available for sale.

The best iPhones for 2021

Apple released four iPhone 12 models in 2020, and the one that's best for you depends a lot on your budget – but for a lot of people we think the iPhone 12 Pro is going to really appeal. Admittedly it costs significantly more than the standard iPhone 12 (£200/$200 more, to be exact) but for us the extra features you get make the extra cost worth it.

The 6.1-inch screen size is the same between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro, but crucially the Pro model has an extra camera on the back – and a telephoto camera at that, giving you 2x optical zoom. LiDAR is on board as well, for better depth perception on portrait photos, and augmented reality experiences that look much more authentic.

The iPhone 12 Pro model also supports the new Apple ProRAW image standard, and ups the maximum storage capacity to 512GB, all of which makes us think it's the best iPhone right now – albeit an expensive one. Of course the excellent A14 Bionic processor from Apple keeps everything running super-smoothly on board the smartphone as well.

Take everything that's good about the iPhone 12 Pro – see above – then extend the screen size to 6.7 inches and you've got the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It also has slightly better battery life than the iPhone 12 Pro (20 hours vs 17 hours of video playback), and a slightly improved rear camera with 2.5x optical zoom and improved optical image stabilisation.

Those might seem like minor improvements, but the Max edition is only £100/$100 more than the Pro. Provided that you have the hands and the pockets to manage a phone with a display 6.7 inches from corner to corner, this could be the phone for you – it's a whole load of iPhone at once, with the powerful A14 Bionic CPU present on all the iPhone 12 models.

You get the same colours with the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max: Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite and Silver. Just about every other feature aside from the ones we've mentioned is identical too (including 5G support). It really is all about whether or not you want the extra screen size and slightly improved rear camera for a bit more money.

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From the most expensive iPhone in the current range to the least expensive: check the embedded widgets on this page for the most up-to-date pricing, but the iPhone SE 2020 edition officially starts at £399/$399 – that's not far off being a third of the starting price of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so you can see the sort of price discrepancy we're talking about.

As well as being the iPhone for those on a tighter budget, the iPhone SE is also the iPhone for those with smaller hands, pockets and bags – the display measures just 4.7 inches from corner to corner, making it by some distance the smallest screen in the current iPhone range. It's also the only iPhone that's still clinging on to the home button and Touch ID.

The iPhone SE is definitely no slouch though, as it runs the Apple 13 Bionic chip that also powers the iPhone 11 series from 2019: it's going to be fast enough to take everything you can throw at it for years to come. You do only get a single-lens 12MP rear camera though, and there's no 5G, all of which is reflected in the relatively low price of the iPhone SE.

If you want a small-ish iPhone but don't want to skimp on the specs and the features, may we suggest the iPhone 12 mini? It has a screen size of just 5.4 inches, making the handset as a whole very compact, but it also has the standard features that are available on every iPhone 12 model – including that very powerful Apple 14 Bionic processor and 5G support.

In terms of the rear camera, what you get on the iPhone 12 mini is the same as what you get on the iPhone 12: a dual-lens affair that lacks the LiDAR, the optical zoom and the Apple ProRAW support of the Pro models. Still, if you can live without those features then you can save yourself some money, because this is the cheapest of the iPhone 12 variants.

The similarities with the standard iPhone 12 extend to the colours as well, because you can pick up both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini in Blue, Green, Red, White and Black – there's plenty of choice there. The iPhone 12 mini has less battery life than the other iPhone 12 models however: 15 hours of video playback between each charge.

We've just mentioned the iPhone 12 mini, and the standard iPhone 12 is very similar in a lot of ways. It does up the screen size to 6.1 inches, and it does extend the battery life to 17 hours of use between charges, but apart from that the two phones are very similar. They both run the A14 Bionic processor made by Apple, and they can both connect to 5G.

In fact you could make a case that the iPhone 12 is the best iPhone for most people, but we think the price premium of the iPhone 12 Pro is worth paying if you can for the extras that you get (including an improved rear camera). The rear camera here is a dual-lens 12MP+12MP affair with ultrawide support, the same as it is on the iPhone 12 mini model.

Considering that you still get plenty of screen space and super-fast internals for your money, we think the standard iPhone 12 makes a very decent case for being the best value handset out of the four iPhone 12 models, even if it's not the best overall. It's almost as cheap as the iPhone 12 mini, but you get that extra display space to play around with.

Just one iPhone 11 model from 2019 remains standing in terms of the iPhones you can buy direct from Apple, and it's the cheapest of that particular bunch: the standard iPhone 11. It's still an excellent phone, with a very capable Apple A13 Bionic processor, 17 hours of battery life (for video watching), and up to 256GB of internal storage for all your data.

You don't get the extras that the iPhone 12 series brought with it, including 5G connectivity and the extra camera lens on the back of the Pro models. The iPhone 11 makes do with a dual-lens 12MP+12MP rear camera, but it's still capable of taking impressive shots in all kinds of lighting conditions, and it still comes with an ultrawide mode to make use of.

The iPhone 12 is £200/$200 more than the iPhone 11, and you may consider that a worthy upgrade to get 5G and a faster processor. However, considering the software, hardware design and cameras are almost identical – and that the speed bump isn't a massive one in terms of what you'll notice in daily use – the iPhone 11 might be the best option for you.

The oldest iPhone that Apple still sells from its website is the iPhone XR, first launched back in 2018. It was a great phone when it first appeared, and even if it's since been eclipsed by two successive rounds of upgrades, it still has plenty to offer if you're looking for an iPhone that's going to give you decent performance at an affordable price point.

In terms of pricing, you have the slightly more powerful iPhone 11 above the iPhone XR, and the smaller iPhone SE below it. The iPhone SE actually has a faster processor than the iPhone XR, but the iPhone XR has a much more modern look, without the home button – it also has a much bigger 6.1-inch screen than the iPhone SE, which is worth considering.

You only get a single-lens 12MP rear camera on the back of the iPhone XR, albeit one that can still take some very good shots for you, and you have to settle for 4G connectivity rather than 5G. It remains a good phone for the price, and you can pick it up in a variety of funky colours too: Blue, White, Black, Yellow, Coral and Red are the shades available.


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