iPhone Buying Guide: Which Apple Phone Is Right for You?

Apple's iPhone lineup for the next year has been set, and it's clear that notched displays are in. The company's annual iPhone update introduced three different variations on the now iconic iPhone X design, all with varying screen sizes and price tags.

While the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR may garner all the attention, they're not the only iPhones you can still buy from Apple. The company keeps a few of its older models around, cutting the prices and betting that your desire to pay less will outweigh your need to have the latest and greatest specs. Alas, one of those lower-cost, aging iPhones isn't the iPhone SE, which has been phased out of Apple's lineup. But you can still find a few iPhone models that don't approach the stratospheric heights of the iPhone XS's price.

Want to know just what your iPhone options are? Here's an overview of each and every iPhone model currently available from Apple.

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iPhone 7
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 8
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone XR
iPhone XS
iPhone XS Max
Screen Size (Resolution)
4.7-inch LCD (1334 x 750)5.5-inch LCD (1920 x 1080)4.7-inch LCD (1334 x 750)5.5-inch LCD (1920 x 1080)6.1-inch LCD (1792 x 828)5.8-inch OLED (2436 x 1125)6.5-inch OLED (2688 x 1242)
A10 Fusion
A10 FusionA11 Bionic
A11 Bionic
A12 Bionic
A12 BionicA12 Bionic
32GB, 128GB
32GB, 128GB
64GB, 256GB
64GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB
64GB, 256GB, 512GB
64GB, 256GB, 512GB
Rear Camera
12-MP (f/1.8)Dual 12-MP (f/1.8, f/2.8)12-MP (f/1.8)Dual 12-MP (f/1.8, f/2.8)12-MP (f/1.8)
Dual 12-MP (f/1.8 and f/2.4)

Dual 12-MP (f/1.8 and f/2.4)
Front Camera
7-MP (f/2.2)
7-MP (f/2.2)7-MP (f/2.2)7-MP (f/2.2)7-MP (f/2.2)7-MP (f/2.2)7-MP (f/2.2)
Battery Life (Hrs: Mins)
5.4 x 2.6 x 0.28 inches6.2 x 3.1 x 0.29 inches5.5 x 2.7 x 0.29 inches6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches5.9 x 3 x 0.33 inches5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches
4.9 ounces
6.6 ounces
5.2 ounces
7.1 ounces
6.8 ounces
6.2 ounces
7.3 ounces
Rose Gold, Gold, Silver, BlackRose Gold, Gold, Silver, BlackGold, Silver, Space GrayGold, Silver, Space GrayBlue, White, Black, Red, Coral, YellowSilver, Space Gray, Gold
Silver, Space Gray, Gold

iPhone XR

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The iPhone XR offers a lower price than the XS and XS Max. And users will have to make a few trade-offs to spend $250 less on their new iPhone — notably, an LCD screen, just one rear camera instead of dual lenses and no Gigabit LTE support. But the other features that highlight Apple's new iPhone lineup — the A12 Bionic processor and the camera improvements — still found their way into Apple's cheaper model. You also can choose from a wider array of colors.

Pros: Longest battery life of any iPhone; Same A12 Bionic chip in more expensive iPhones; Colorful, bright LCD screen; Excellent camera performance

Cons: No 2x optical zoom; Portrait mode only works with people; Fast-charging accessory must be bought separately

Who Should Buy It: The iPhone XR really is the best choice for most iPhone shoppers, save for those who prefer a phone with a 2x optical zoom or a large OLED screen. Otherwise, this colorful phone has the same processor as more expensive iPhones, and its battery lasts longer, too.

iPhone XR (opens in new tab)
iPhone XR

MORE: Pixel 3 vs. iPhone XR: Battle of the Affordable Flagships

iPhone XS

The successor to last year's iPhone X retains the same 5.8-inch OLED screen, but offers a faster processor, improved camera and brighter display. Thanks to those improvements, the iPhone XS has established itself as an excellent premium phone, with a $999 price tag to match. But with two other models offering bigger screens and (in the case of the iPhone XR) a lower price, getting an iPhone XS is not necessarily a slam-dunk decision in the way that the iPhone X was a year ago.

Pros: Fast A12 Bionic processor; Strong overall camera performance; Bright, vibrant display; Gigabit LTE

Cons: So-so battery life; Expensive, especially if you upgrade storage; Fast-charging feature requires you to buy extra accessories

Who Should Buy It: If you were intrigued by the iPhone X's new look but didn't want to assume the risks that come with being an early adopter, there's no longer any need to hesitate. The iPhone XS takes everything good about the original iPhone X and improves upon it, particularly with greater camera capabilities.

iPhone XS (opens in new tab)
iPhone XS

iPhone XS Max

Everything we've said about the iPhone XS goes double for the iPhone XS Max, which boasts most of the same specs and features as its smaller sibling. (The A12 Bionic processor, improved camera and Gigabit LTE are all here, just like they are on the XS.) The difference between Apple's two premium phones lies in the screen, with the XS Max boasting an expansive 6.5-inch display that made us feel like we had a mini movie theater in our pocket. Just be prepared to set aside a big chunk of cash for this phone, which starts at $1,099.

Pros: Immersive OLED screen; Fast A12 Bionic processor; Strong overall camera performance; Gigabit LTE

Cons: Even more expensive than the iPhone XS; Skimpy storage in the base model; Fast-charging feature requires you to buy extra accessories

Who Should Buy It: If you want the biggest screen possible, get the iPhone XS Max, with a display that's larger than anything Samsung or Google have to offer. Just be prepared to bay a big premium over the iPhone XR for the Max's OLED screen and optical zoom.

iPhone XS Max (opens in new tab)
iPhone XS Max

iPhone 8

The arrival of new iPhones in September meant a price cut for last year's top model. The iPhone 8 nows costs $599 — $150 less than the iPhone XR. The biggest trade-off you'll have to make if you go for this cheaper model is settling for last year's processor. However, the A11 Bionic powering the iPhone 8 still outperforms Android devices with newer chipsets. The bezels around the iPhone 8's LCD screen are also pretty chunky — an acceptable design decision at the time but somewhat dated now that we're in the era of smartphones with expansive screens.

Pros: A11 Bionic processor still a top performer; Lower price tag than when it debuted; Supports wireless charging; Above-average battery life

Cons: Aging design with too much bezel; Screen is small and low-res compared with newer iPhones; Fast charging requires a separate accessory; No optical zoom

Who Should Buy It: If you think that $749 is still too much to pay for a new iPhone, the iPhone 8 is an intriguing alternative powered by a still-capable processor. You will have to live with a smaller screen housed in a dated design.

iPhone 8 (opens in new tab)
iPhone 8

iPhone 8 Plus

The price discount from the iPhone XR isn't as steep if you look at the iPhone 8 Plus. The 5.5-inch Plus costs $699, only $50 less than the XR. The only advantage this older iPhone may enjoy over the XR is a dual-rear-lens setup capable of providing a 2x optical zoom. That said, the iPhone 8 Plus cameras lack the other improvements made possible by the newer processor inside the iPhone XR. On the bright side, after the XR, the 8 Plus is the longest-lasting iPhone based on Tom's Guide battery test results.

Pros: Dual lens camera with optical zoom support; A11 Bionic processor still performs well; Supports wireless charging; great battery life

Cons: Not much of a price discount from the iPhone XR; Dated design; Fast charging requires a separate accessory

Who Should Buy It: Honestly, the only reason to get the iPhone 8 Plus at this point is if you simply must have a 2x optical zoom, but you don't want to pay top dollar for the iPhone XS or XS Max. Otherwise, the minimal price discount from the iPhone XR really doesn't justify the trade-offs you'll have to make with design, screen size and performance.

iPhone 8 Plus (opens in new tab)
iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 7

The absolute cheapest iPhone you can buy is the iPhone 7, first released in 2016. That means some pretty dated specs to match its aging, bezel-heavy look. The iPhone 7 runs on Apple's A10 Fusion chip and features 32GB in its base configuration. Even low-cost iPhones have their price.

Pros: IP67 water resistance; Sub-$500 price tag; Runs iOS 12

Cons: Two-year-old processor; Even older design; No wireless charging; Single rear camera

Who Should Buy It: Anyone who wants an iPhone for the absolute lowest amount you can pay for a new model could appreciate the iPhone 7, especially since it can run the latest version of Apple's operating system. But the iPhone 7's A10 processor is two generations behind Apple's latest chip, and if you need more capacity than 32GB, be prepared to tack on another $100 for the 128GB model.

iPhone 7 (opens in new tab)
iPhone 7

iPhone 7 Plus

Like the iPhone 7, the Plus-size version should appeal to your inner-cheapskate with its $569 price. That lower price comes with same tradeoffs you have to make for the iPhone 7 — an older design and the older A10 Fusion processor, plus no wireless charging. You'll get a few extra benefits by opting for the iPhone 7 Plus, including two rear cameras that support portrait effects and a 2x optical zoom plus a larger 5.5-inch screen.

Pros: Dual rear cameras; Reduced price tag; Bigger screen than the 4.7-inch iPhone 7

Cons: Old processor and design; No wireless charging

Who Should Buy It: People who don't want to spend too much on a phone while still reaping the benefits of two rear cameras might be tempted by the iPhone 7 Plus. But if you need features like a more powerful processor, wireless charging or a more immersive display, you should look to Apple's more expensive models.

iPhone 7 Plus (opens in new tab)
iPhone 7 Plus
Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.