'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
When you stack together all the iPhones that Apple currently sells, it's easy to understand why many call it an apples-to-apples comparison. Throughout the years, the brand's most significant changes have stemmed from the inside, building out an iOS software experience that arguably puts the iPhone ahead of its Android counterparts. Hardware changes? Not so much.
That's not a problem by any means. Apple's iterated enough to make every new iPhone model one that is well worth the transition to if you own another that is two, three, or more years older. That's a recipe for long-term success and one that's clearly working.
Throughout the last decade, ZDNET's team of mobile experts has been daily driving, carefully testing, and putting every model of the iPhone through its paces so that we can provide you, the consumer, with not only the best advice on which model to buy but also the key aspects to look out for when you do. From the latest to older models that Apple still has for sale, here are the best iPhones you can buy in 2023.
Tech specs: Processor: Apple A16 | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Rear cameras: 48MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, and 12MP telephoto | Front camera: 12MP f/1.9 | Colors: Silver, Space Black, Gold, Deep Purple | Size: 160.7 x 77.7 x 7.85 mm | Weight: 240g | Starting price: $1,099
This year's best overall iPhone currently goes to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It's a mouthful, but for good reason. The 6.7-inch model is the largest of the iPhone 14 line and comes stacked with the latest features that Apple has to offer. That includes "Dynamic Island," which replaces the iconic (but controversial) notch with a pill that doubles as a live status indicator, eSIM, A16 Bionic chip, and a new 48MP main sensor that shoots some of the most detailed imagery that our reviewers have ever seen on an iPhone.
Battery life and general performance get a bump, too, with the iPhone 14 Pro Max proving its endurance during ZDNET's testing period. The rest is nearly identical to last year's "best overall iPhone", the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It's still a big device to carry around, Ceramic Shield and an IP68 rating are the foundation of the iPhone's durability, and you can expect years and years of iOS updates to keep the software fresh.
Review: Apple iPhone 14 Pro Series
Tech specs: Processor: Apple A15 | Display size: 6.1 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear cameras: Dual 12MP (Wide, ultra-wide) | Front camera: 12MP f/1.9 | Colors: Blue, Purple, Midnight, Starlight, PRODUCT Red | Size: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.8 mm | Weight: 172g | Starting price: $799
While Apple continues to segment its iPhone line with "Pro" and "Plus" models, the regular offering continues to see the most success out of all. Part of the reason is how similar its design is to the Pro variant, especially when it comes to form factor, button placement, and even the charging tech. But the more obvious reason is the price. The iPhone 14 starts at $799, or $200 less than the base iPhone 14 Pro. For folks who are not as invested in the latest camera features and hardware, which is most people, the price difference is enough to justify buying the regular iPhone.
Review: Apple iPhone 14
That doesn't mean you're settling for an inferior iPhone experience, though. With its A15 Bionic chip, the iPhone 14 should power you through general tasks like social media browsing, emailing, video calls, gaming, and then some. Its dual camera system at the rear has been carried over from last year's iPhone 13 Pro which, if you read our full review, should give you confidence more than anything else.
Review: iPhone 14 Plus: the cheapest iPhone with all-day battery life
Tech specs: Processor: Apple A15 | Display size: 5.4 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear cameras: Two 12MP (wide and ultra-wide) | Front camera: 12MP f/2.2 | Colors: Starlight, Midnight, PRODUCT Red, Pink, Blue | Size: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.65 mm | Weight: 141g | Starting Price: $599
While there was no iPhone 14 Mini last year, and Apple likely won't bring back the model in the near future, the iPhone 13 Mini is still alive and well. In fact, you can head over to any Apple store (or online) and snag the company's smallest kept secret today.
For the new price of $599, the iPhone 13 Mini comes with the same A15 Bionic processor as last year's 13 Pro and this year's iPhone 14, as well as Face ID, 5G, wireless charging, and the 2021 ensemble of cameras. If you do find yourself taking advantage of the dual 12MP rear cameras, the base storage of 128GB (upgradeable up to 512GB) should suffice for your creative needs.
The iPhone SE (2022) is the other contender as far as Mini iPhones go, but its outdated design makes the iPhone 13 Mini the more practical choice in the modern age of digital consumption. Speak of which, there are some obvious drawbacks to the smaller form factor like battery life, display quality, and multitasking. But if you can shoulder the three, then the iPhone 13 Mini is the best mini iPhone to date.
Review: Apple iPhone 13 Mini
Tech specs: Display: 4.7 inches LCD | CPU: Apple A15 | RAM: | Internal storage: 64/128/256GB | Rear cameras: 12MP wide | Front camera: 7MP | Colors: Midnight, Starlight, PRODUCT Red | Size 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm | Weight: 144g | Starting price: $429
Apple satisfied those looking for a tiny phone a few years ago with the 2016 iPhone SE. In 2020, it introduced another SE model in a larger form factor that carried on the tradition of the Touch ID front fingerprint sensor. The 2022 iPhone SE (3rd Generation) is available now for a very affordable starting price of $429 in three color options: Midnight, Starlight, and PRODUCT Red.
The latest model brings Sub-6 5G support (mmWave is not supported) and an improved A15 processor with the same traditional display size, front Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and single rear camera. The processor brings improved performance, longer battery life, and enhanced photography results with the same hardware.
The iPhone SE is still essentially an iPhone 8 with upgraded internals to match the modern iPhone 13/14 range. For those who want a smaller and less expensive iPhone, this is the one to get. There are also still many fans of Touch ID, especially if you wear a mask regularly.
Review: Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Tech specs: Processor: Apple A15 | Display size: 6.1 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear cameras: Two 12MP (wide and ultra-wide) | Front camera: 12MP f/1.9 | Colors: Starlight, Midnight, PRODUCT Red, Pink, Blue | Size: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.65 mm | Weight: 174g | Starting price: $699
The Apple iPhone 13 is an interesting device since it has the exact same 6.1-inch display seen on the iPhone 13 Pro (and the latest iPhone 14) but without the ProMotion technology. This means it's limited to the standard 60Hz iPhone owners have been using for years. Truth be told, this is unlikely to be a dealbreaker for the large portion of the populace that sees things like refresh rate as useless technobabble or just an unwanted source for an upcharge.
What makes the iPhone 13 the "best old-generation iPhone" this year is the permanent price reduction. Selling for $799 originally, the 2021 iPhone can now be had for $699 at your local Apple store.
There may be one less rear camera on the iPhone 13 compared to the Pro variant, but if the extra telephoto lens and AR capabilities are not important to you, then you can save some considerable money by opting for the iPhone 13.
2021 was also the first year that we saw Apple start its iPhones at 128GB rather than charging people for a reasonable level of internal storage. For all of life's greatest (and random) moments, the enhanced storage size should come in handy.
Review: Apple iPhone 13
After weighing all the available models and options, the iPhone 14 Pro Max stands tall as the best iPhone overall. It features the latest A16 Bionic processor, the best iPhone camera system to date, and a dynamic design that laps even last year's lineup. Still, there are more affordable and smaller alternatives that are worth your consideration. The chart below gives you a snapshot comparison of our top picks.
iPhone models compared
iPhone 14 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Mini
iPhone SE (3rd Generation)
It used to be fairly easy to choose an iPhone model as you typically selected either the "big" iPhone or the "small" one. With four models available in the iPhone 14 series alone, you have to dig a bit deeper to choose which is best for you. This is especially true of the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro that are nearly the same hardware so check out our question above for more on this decision.
Size is generally the first factor to consider, followed by price. Price limits will also drive the amount of internal storage you select for your iPhone.
One fantastic aspect of the Apple iPhone line is that all iPhones receive software support for years, so it's okay to buy an older model and trust that it will work well for you for years.
Choose this iPhone...
If you want...
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
The top-of-the-line iPhone experience.
Apple iPhone 14
A reliable iPhone without the flashy, more expensive Pro features.
Apple iPhone SE (3rd Generation)
The cheapest new iPhone.
Apple iPhone 13 Mini
The last and only iPhone Mini that Apple sells.
Apple iPhone 13
An older iPhone that can handle modern-day tasks.
The process to make our selections includes testing the phones for weeks, reading reviews from other websites and publications, researching reviewer guides and manufacturer websites, talking with colleagues and other users who have hands-on experience with the phones, and then selecting the best from all of the available choices.
For this iPhone list, I also only included iPhone models that are available directly from the Apple Store where you will get official support and can purchase Apple Care Plus. There may be other models of older iPhones still available from third-party vendors or wireless carriers.
ZDNET regularly updates our guide for the best iPhone deals available. Here are the top iPhone deals this month.
Embedded Subscriber Identity Module, or eSIM in short, is the electronic version of the classic SIM card. That means your eSIM carries your phone number, mobile data plan, and telephone carrier info, just like a regular SIM card. The major difference between eSIM and SIM is that the former does not need to be physically installed onto your phone, which is why the new iPhone 14 line no longer has a dedicated slot for it. Instead, you'll have to transfer the information wirelessly via Apple's file transfer service, or with the help of your local carrier representatives.
Note that if you buy an iPhone 14 anywhere outside of the United States, the device will come with a regular SIM card slot.
For more information on eSIM, check out ZDNET's extensive guide here.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max has the best selfie picture-taking capabilities of all iPhones. I included a spec chart below which includes the capabilities and details of the selfie photo and video capabilities.
|Capabilities||iPhone 14 Pro Max|
|Selfie camera||12 MP, f/1.9, 23mm (wide), 1/3.6" SL 3D, (depth/biometrics sensor)|
|Selfie video||4K@24/25/30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120fps, gyro-EIS|
All models within the iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 line, as well as select iPhone 12 models, support 5G wireless technology. Even the new iPhone SE (2022) supports Sub-6, low-band 5G networks.
5G continues to roll out across the U.S., and while it is debatable if there are benefits to the speeds of the network, in my experience, the broad coverage of low-band 5G has solved my connectivity issues in spotty coverage areas with past iPhone models.
Even more importantly, the 5G iPhone models have Qualcomm chipsets inside that are proving to provide better RF reception than we saw in past iPhones that had Intel chipsets.
Learn more about 5G, what it is, and how it is evolving the wireless communications industry here.
All of the iPhone models in this list support Qi wireless charging technology. Wireless charging is becoming an expected feature for modern smartphones from all manufacturers.
Meanwhile, Apple's proprietary MagSafe technology is only supported by the iPhone 14, iPhone 13, and iPhone 12 models.
MagSafe provides a secure magnetic connection system so that you can connect to wireless chargers with perfect positioning and alignment. MagSafe can also be used with other accessories, such as wallets and kickstands. While the extra security when your iPhone is docked to a wireless charger can be a nice bonus, it's not absolutely vital and probably shouldn't be a major determiner in your choice. Apple's first-party wallets and battery packs that use MagSafe have also received somewhat mixed reviews, making them a hard sell for all but the most die-hard Apple enthusiasts.
While this number varies greatly depending on how you handle a smartphone -- perhaps you're a construction worker whose phone will be put through the harshest climates or you have kids who may drop the phone ever so often -- the iPhone will typically run efficiently for three to four years.
Then, you'll likely experience more frequent app crashes, lag, storage problems, and more. Those are common issues that any piece of technology will inhibit, not just the iPhone, after years of constant usage.
If you'd like to prolong that time, I'd recommend visiting your local Apple store to have the phone's battery replaced every three to four years and also consider backing up files to an external hard drive for safekeeping. As a last resort, a factory reset, followed by data restoration, should give your phone a brand-new feel.
Be sure to check out ZDNET's comparison of the best Android phones available. We've listed the top pick from that guide below for your convenience.