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Best iPhones in 2020

best iphones
(Image credit: Future)

Even as the best Android phones offer improved performance and features, Apple's iPhone still sets the standard for the smartphone market. That’s continued with the trio of phones that Apple released during 2019, but it also presents a new challenge this year if you're in the market for one of Apple's smartphones: Which is the best iPhone you can get, especially with the iPhone 12's release in danger of being pushed back?

These days, prospective iPhone buyers have a number of options. There's the triple-camera iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max at the top of the chain, starting at $999 and $1,099 respectively, which offer identical specs, save for the bigger model's larger 6.5-inch display and battery. Then there's the much more affordable 6.1-inch iPhone 11, which takes some of the Pro models' more noteworthy features — like their Face ID authentication, full-screen displays and A13 Bionic processors — but brings them down to a $699 price point.

And to make your decision even more complicated, the iPhone XR, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus remain on the market, offering cheap paths to Apple's ecosystem with still-respectable hardware. However, even those handsets may soon be replaced by the long-rumored iPhone 9 — also potentially named the iPhone SE 2 — that will reportedly incorporate Apple's latest hardware into a design that borrows many cues from the iPhone 8 and earlier devices, like their Touch ID fingerprint sensors.

Here are our recommendations and rankings for the best iPhones you can buy right now.

Best iPhones

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPhone 11 Pro Max
2. iPhone 11
3. iPhone XR
4. iPhone 11 Pro
5. iPhone 8
6. iPhone 8 Plus

What are the best iPhones?

Based on our testing, the iPhone 11 Pro Max remains the best iPhone overall, thanks to its bright, expansive OLED screen and long battery life. But it’s also the priciest iPhone available with a starting price of $1,099 — and that's just for the 64GB configuration.

For users on a tighter budget, the more attractively priced $699 iPhone 11 will be the device to get. It’s got the same processor found in the iPhone 11 Pro models and its cameras support the same photo features, even with just two lenses to the Pro’s three. You will miss out on the telephoto shooter and its 2x optical zoom, and the iPhone 11's Liquid Retina LCD display isn't quite as nice, but for most users, the $300 in savings will be worth it. (Plus, the iPhone 11 is available in an assortment of attractive colors.)

Apple’s $999 iPhone 11 Pro is a good choice for people who like compact phones, while bargain hunters will appreciate that the iPhone XR, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 are still kicking around at significantly reduced prices. These devices might be older — especially the iPhone 8 series, which released in 2017 — but they still receive software and security updates on the regular from Apple, and they're still faster than the majority of the best cheap phones on the market.

Read on for a closer look at each of the best iPhones on our list — though you can expect it to change in the coming months, as Apple releases new models.

best iphone iphone 11 pro max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. iPhone 11 Pro Max

The best iPhone you can buy

Screen Size: 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR (2688 x 1242) | Processor: A13 Bionic | Cameras: Triple 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8), ultra wide (ƒ/2.4) and telephoto (f/2.0)/ 12MP front (ƒ/2.2) | RAM/Storage: 4GB/64GB, 256GB, 512GB

Triple rear cameras with ultra wide lens
Best battery life on an iPhone
Faster A13 processor
Skimpy storage on base model
The most expensive iPhone

Apple says its iPhone Pro models are aimed at professionals who rely on their smartphone to get work done, though it’s not going to stop you from buying the iPhone 11 Pro Max if you want one of the best phones available. We’re particularly impressed by the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s Super Retina XDR display, which outshines other big-screen phones. Even with that expansive 6.5-inch screen and the powerful A13 Bionic processor inside the 11 Pro Max, this model has the longest-lasting battery Apple’s ever put in an iPhone. The iPhone 11 Pro Max lasted more than 11.5 hours on our battery test, placing it among the longest-lasting phones we’ve tested.

New cameras also highlight the iPhone 11 Max Pro, with a 12-megapixel telephoto lens joining the 12-MP wide and ultra wide angle cameras Apple includes on the iPhone 11. The extra cameras are appreciated, particularly when the iPhone shows a preview of what the ultra-wide angle lens is capturing when you’re shooting the main lens. But the real improvement comes from software enhancements like a new Night Mode that helps the iPhone 11 Max produce low-light shots that match what you get from the best camera phones, though the quad-lens Galaxy S20 Ultra ratchets up the pressure on Apple.

We wish the iPhone 11 Pro Max came with enough storage to live up to that Pro moniker — the base model’s 64GB is too skimpy. But other features like an included fast charger and durable design make the iPhone 11 Pro Max the choice if money is no object.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro Max review.

best iphone iphone 11

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. iPhone 11

An affordable flagship with few trade-offs

Screen Size: 6.1-inch LCD (1792 x 828) | Processor: A13 Bionic | Cameras: Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and ultra wide (ƒ/2.4)/ 12MP front (ƒ/2.2) | RAM/Storage: 4GB/64GB, 256GB, 512GB

Affordable price
Great battery life
Faster A13 processor
64GB of storage in base model
No fast charger included

The iPhone 11 replaces the iPhone XR as the iPhone for everyone, and it lowers the starting price as part of the bargain. While the iPhone XR debuted at $749 in 2018, the iPhone 11’s starting price has dropped to $699 — a full $300 lower than what Apple’s Pro series iPhones currently cost.

Even better, the trade-offs you make for that lower price are minimal. The iPhone 11 has the same A13 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 11 Pro, and its performance is on par with Apple’s pricier phones (and still well ahead of the top Android handsets). You are giving up a telephoto lens, as the iPhone 11 features a 12-MP wide angle and ultra wide angle shooters, but it’s capable of the same camera effects as the iPhone 11 Pro, including portrait shots, ultra wide angle selfies and Night Mode for better low-light photos. You can also expect more than 11 hours of battery life from the iPhone 11, though you’ll have to spring for a separately-sold fast-charging adapter to juice back up at the quickest speeds.

See our full iPhone 11 review.

iphone xr best iphone

(Image credit: Future)

3. iPhone XR

The iPhone for bargain hunters

Screen Size: 6.1-inch LCD (1792 x 828) | Processor: A12 Bionic | Cameras: 12MP (f/1.8)/ 7MP front (2.2) | RAM/Storage: 3GB/64GB, 128GB, 256GB

Very long battery
Sub-$600 price
LCD screen is big and bright
No 2x optical zoom
Bigger bezels than more recent iPhones

The iPhone XR is proof you don't have to pay top dollar to get one of the best iPhones, and now that the price has dropped to $599, it’s an even better buy. The XR has an LCD panel, not the OLED screen found in the more expensive iPhones, and you'll have to get by with just a single rear camera while the similarly sized iPhone 11 features two lenses. But for many users, those won't be significant sacrifices, especially in light of what you get in return.

Though the newer iPhone 11 models have a faster processor, the A12 Bionic powering the  iPhone XR still outperforms many top Android smartphones. The iPhone XR also gets great battery life — on par with our iPhone 11 test results and only 15 minutes behind the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 11 hour, 40 minute result. And if you value design, you'll appreciate the rainbow of colors the iPhone XR comes in. The iPhone XR isn't very compact, but it delivers a great balance of price and performance, even with the iPhone 11 delivering more features.

See our full iPhone XR review.

iphone 11 pro best iphone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. iPhone 11 Pro

Great triple cameras in a compact design

Screen Size: 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR (2436 x 1125) | Processor: A13 Bionic | Cameras: Triple 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8), ultra wide (ƒ/2.4) and telephoto (f/2.0)/ 12MP front (ƒ/2.2) | RAM/Storage: 4GB/64GB, 256GB, 512GB

Fantastic triple rear cameras
Faster A13 processor
Brighter OLED display
Skimpy storage in base model
Shorter battery life than iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro Max

Between the iPhone 11’s low price and the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s giant screen and equally large battery life, it might be tempting to overlook the iPhone 11 Pro. But if you value phones that fit comfortably in the hand, this 5.8-inch device is the perfect iPhone for you. That screen is the same Super Retina XDR panel found on the 11 Pro Max, so you’ll get a seriously bright display with wide color support. You’ll enjoy the same three camera setup featured on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, too.

In fact, apart from battery life — which could be a lot better on the iPhone 11 Pro — you’re getting a lot of the same features found on the 11 Pro Max, such as an included fast charger, faster modem, and the ability to survive a plunge in up to 4 meters of water. All that comes in a more compact phone, which for fans of smaller devices, will be the best feature of all.

If it's the compact size of the iPhone 11 Pro that appeals to you, be aware that Apple could soon release a smaller phone, which will likely be called the iPhone 9. It's expected to be about the same size as the iPhone 8, but feature the A13 Bionic processor of the iPhone 11 Pro; it could also have a very low price tag based on reports of Apple's 2020 product launch plans.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review.

best iphone iphone 8

5. iPhone 8

A good value — and the best iPhone for kids

Screen Size: 4.7-inch LCD (1334 x 750) | Processor: A11 Bionic | Cameras: 12MP (f/1.8)/ 7MP front (f/2.2) | RAM/Storage: 2GB/64GB, 256GB

A11 Bionic processor is still pretty fast
Compact phone appeals to people who dislike larger devices
Now the cheapest iPhone
Just one camera
Low-resolution display

The most compelling thing about the iPhone 8 is its low price: at $449, it’s the cheapest iPhone you can get without turning to a refurbished model. But that’s not to sell this older phone short: Its A11 Bionic processor may not be as powerful as more recent Apple-built chips, but it’s still perfectly capable of handling most apps. Fans of smaller phones may appreciate the 4.7-inch LCD screen on the iPhone 8, especially with the size of Apple's phones inching ever upward. 

But we keep coming back to that $449 price, which is a cheap gateway into the iOS ecosystem, and the many available iOS apps, especially since the iPhone 8 can easily run iOS 13, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. This is the handset to get when you're ready to trust your teenager with a smartphone and a cheap Android phone simply won't do. The iPhone 8’s IP67 rating also means that it should withstand any drops into less than 3 feet of water.

Be aware that a new version of the iPhone SE, rumored to be coming out this year, could also adopt this compact size. This updated iPhone SE — which may debut as the iPhone 9 — could also come in at the same price as the iPhone 8, or even cheaper if it matches the original SE's $400 cost.

See our full iPhone 8 review.

best iphones iphone 8 plus

6. iPhone 8 Plus

Great price for a big screen and dual cameras

Screen Size: 5.5-inch LCD (1920 x 1080) | Processor: A11 Bionic | Cameras: Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.8)/ 7MP front (ƒ/2.2) | RAM/Storage: 3GB/64GB, 256GB

Good dual rear cameras with optical zoom and portrait mode features
Less expensive than newer iPhones
Impressive battery life
Dated design
Fast wireless charging costs extra

Like the iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus debuted in fall 2017, and it's your best bet if Apple's current lineup of notched display phones don't set your heart racing. You won't get the latest and greatest processor in the 8 Plus, but the A11 Fusion CPU still packs some performance punch. You'll also lose out on features like Face ID unlocking and Animoji, which are only possible with the TrueDepth front camera on Apple's newer phones.

But the iPhone 8 Plus does offer two rear cameras capable of pulling off superior portrait effects. This model also supports lighting effects, which Apple introduced to its 2017 iPhones. Best of all, opting for the iPhone 8 Plus gives you a way of beating the high cost of the best iPhones, with the phone available for a reduced price of $549.

See our full iPhone 8 Plus review.

How to choose the best iPhone for you

The best way to determine the iPhone you should buy is to take stock of the features and capabilities that matter most to you. If battery life is especially important, seek out one of the Max or Plus variations; these larger phones have bigger batteries to match. What's more, because iOS is known to be generally efficient in terms of energy consumption, even the smaller models tend to last longer than average on a charge.

If you're basing your next iPhone purchase off camera quality, the top-tier Pro variants are easy recommendations, thanks to triple-lens designs that allow you to capture multiple different perspectives, from zoomed-out ultra wide-angle images to shallow depth-of-field portraits. They're also remarkably good in challenging lighting scenarios, like when shooting in a dimly-lit indoor space, or outdoors at night.

All that said, if price is king, and saving the absolute most on your next smartphone purchase is your top priority, you should have no reservations about nabbing an iPhone 8 or iPhone XR. These may be on the cheaper side of Apple's range, but they're still made of flagship-quality materials, with enough power and performance to sustain years of use.

However, be mindful of storage. Apple's most recent iPhones start at $699 for the iPhone 11, with prices spiking upward for the iPhone 11 Pro ($999) and iPhone 11 Pro Max ($1,099). Those base prices get you a phone with 64GB of space, but if you want more capacity, be prepared for that price tag to go up. A 256GB iPhone 11 Pro will cost you $1,149, for example, while the 512GB model brings the price to $1,349.

When Apple releases new iPhones, it cuts the price on the models it keeps around. The iPhone XR now costs less than $600 and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are even cheaper. 

How we test iPhones

As with any smartphone we test at Tom's Guide, we evaluate iPhones for days in real-world use cases. We also benchmark Apple's phones using a gamut of performance-measuring apps. We use a light meter to ascertain display quality data, like brightness and color accuracy, and our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by endlessly streaming webpages over an LTE network. 

We explore Apple's iOS improvements, test gaming performance and conduct live camera comparisons with rival handsets — and each of these factors play a part in our final verdict.