Even as the best Android phones offer improved performance and features, Apple's iPhone still sets the standard for the smartphone market. The latest iPhones frequently rank among the best phones available. But which iPhone should you get?
We think the iPhone XS Max is the best iPhone, thanks to its industry-leading performance and expansive display. Those looking to save on their smartphone purchase should consider the iPhone XR, which delivers many of the same features you'll find in Apple's pricier iPhones for hundreds of dollars less. For more detail about how Apple's 2018 phones differ, check out our iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR face-off.
But there are lots of other iPhones available, including older models that are cheaper. While Apple will introduce new iPhone models later this year along with a new version of its iOS mobile operating system — a public beta for iOS 13 is coming in July — here's a closer look at all of the best iPhones you can right buy now.
The best iPhone you can buy
The iPhone XS Max is Apple's largest phone with a 6.5-inch OLED screen packed into a 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3-inch frame. And this is a case where bigger definitely translates to better. The extra screen real estate makes for more immersive experiences with apps, and the dull rear cameras on the back of the phone capture sharp, detailed images (even if they can't quite measure up to what the Pixel 3 can do in low-light settings).
Like all Apple phones that came out in 2018, the XS Max runs on the A12 Bionic process, the fastest mobile chip we've seen in action. So this is a powerhouse phone that can help you get more done. Productivity mavens will particularly appreciate using split-view to run some Apple apps on the XS Max's massive screen at the same time. Battery life is good, at 10 hours, 38 minutes on our test, though the iPhone XR lasts longer. Overall, this is the best iPhone you can get — and the best smartphone currently available.
See our full iPhone XS Max review.
The best iPhone for the money
The iPhone XR is proof you don't have to pay top dollar to get Apple's flagship phone. Apple's 6.1-inch model costs $250 less than the iPhone XS, without requiring too many tradeoffs for the lower price tag. The XR has an LCD panel, not the OLED screen found in the more expensive iPhones, and you'll have to make due with just a single rear camera. But for many users, those won't be significant sacrifices, especially in light of what you get in return.
The iPhone XR runs on the same best-in-class A12 Bionic processor that powers the iPhone XS and XS Max. The iPhone XR also gets the best battery life of any iPhone we've ever tested, lasting 11 hours, 26 minutes on our battery test. 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 the right balance of price and performance among Apple's current flagships.
See our full iPhone XR review.
Great performance in a more compact design
The iPhone XS has many of the same great attributes of the other iPhones Apple released last fall. You'll get a powerful A12 Bionic processor, a capable pair of dual rear cameras and an OLED panel that may not be as immersive as the screen on the iPhone XS Max but is still pretty impressive looking.
We still think it falls just behind the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, though, largely because it has the shortest battery life of the trio, lasted 9 hours and 41 minutes on our battery test. Still, the iPhone XS is a superlative smartphone and an improvement over the iPhone X that it replaces, delivering most of the great features of Apple's current iPhone lineup in a device that's comparatively compact and easy to slide into a pocket.
See our full iPhone XS review.
Good price for dual cameras
The iPhone 8 Plus may have debuted in fall 2017, but 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 iPhones, with the phone available for $699, which is cheaper than the iPhone XR.
See our full iPhone 8 Plus review.
A good value--and the best iPhone for kids.
It may be more than two years old at this point, but there's still value to be had with the iPhone 7. Starting at $449, the iPhone 7 is a great entry option into the iOS universe, since it can run iOS 12 without breaking a sweat. (And iOS 13 will work on the device, too, when that update comes out later this year.) 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 older A10 Fusion found inside of the iPhone 7 is still capable of handling most apps you throw at it, including the latest games. If there's a knock against the iPhone 7, it's that the 4.7-inch LCD screen looks out of place in an age where displays now stretch from edge to edge. Still, some will appreciate the more compact size, now that the iPhone SE has disappeared from Apple's phone lineup.
See our full iPhone 7 review.
A good option for compact phone fans
The iPhone 8 may be a newer phone than the iPhone 7, but it's a tougher sell. It costs $150 more than its older sibling, and if you're willing to pay $100 more than the $599 Apple charges for the iPhone 8, you can get a second rear camera lens with the iPhone 8 Plus. Bargain hunters can find better deals elsewhere.
That said, there's still plenty to like about the iPhone 8. It's got an A11 Bionic processor that's still pretty powerful, even if it doesn't deliver the oomph of the newer A12 Bionic. 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.
See our full iPhone 8 Plus review.
Affordable optical zoom
The main argument for buying an iPhone 7 Plus at this point is if you absolutely must have a phone with dual rear cameras but balk at paying more than $569 for the device. The iPhone 7 Plus is the least expensive Apple phone with two cameras, coming in at $130 less than the iPhone 8 Plus.
The tradeoff for the lower price is an aging processor. Like the iPhone 7, the 7 Plus runs on the A10 Fusion, which is a capable enough processor that can easily handle iOS 12 and will work with the upcoming iOS 13 update, though it lags behind more recent smartphones. And though the iPhone 7 Plus’s dual cameras deliver 2x optical zoom and can take portrait shots, the phone doesn't support the lighting effects Apple introduced with the iPhone 8 Plus.
See our full iPhone 7 Plus review.
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.
What iPhones Cost
Apple's most recent iPhones start at $749 for the iPhone XR, with prices spiking upward for the iPhone XS ($999) and iPhone XS Max ($1,099). Those base prices get you a phone with 64GB of storage. If you want more capacity, be prepared to for that price tag to go up. A 256GB iPhone XS 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 8 and 8 Plus cost $150 and $50 less than the iPhone XR, while the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are even cheaper.
With iPhone sales slowing down, Apple is offering even more incentives for you to upgrade your phone. Trade in a phone when you buy an iPhone XR, XS or XS Max and you can save up to $300 on your new purchase. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are eligible for a $250 discount with trade-in, while iPhone 7 and 7 Plus shoppers can save $200.
Credit: Tom's Guide