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Article updated on Feb 20, 2024

Best iPhone in 2024: Which Apple Phone Should You Buy?

Apple has a wide range of iPhones to fit every budget and meet all your smartphone needs.

Our Experts

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Written by 
Patrick Holland
Lisa Eadicicco
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple, iPhone, iOS, Android, Samsung, Sony, Google, Motorola, interviews, coffee equipment, cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
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Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Expertise Apple, Samsung, Google, smartphones, smartwatches, wearables, fitness trackers
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What to consider

iOS or Android?

Size

Cameras

Software support

Our Picks

$799 at Apple
The iPhone 15 in someone's hand
Best iPhone for most people
iPhone 15
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$999 at Apple
iPhone 15 Pro Max
Best premium iPhone
iPhone 15 Pro
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$1,200 at Apple
iPhone 15 Pro Max
Best iPhone camera
iPhone 15 Pro Max
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$899 at Apple
The back of the iPhone 15 (left) and iPhone 15 Plus (right)
Best larger affordable iPhone
iPhone 15 Plus
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$599 at Apple
iphone-13-and-iphone-13-mini-cnet-2021-29
Best iPhone value
iPhone 13
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$416 at Amazon
iPhone SE 2022
Best small iPhone
iPhone SE
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The iPhone 15 lineup has faster performance, USB-C charging and better cameras compared to previous Apple smartphones. The iPhone 15 also gains the Dynamic Island, which makes it easier to interact with multiple apps from the home screen. The iPhone 15 Pro, meanwhile, now has a more sophisticated camera, a fresh titanium build and a new Action button for easy shortcuts.

If you're upgrading from an iPhone that's several years old, any of the new models will feel like a leap forward. But it's not just about the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro. Apple still sells older models like the iPhone 13 and the much smaller and more affordable iPhone SE. These options could be appealing if you're buying a first phone for their child or shopping on a tighter budget. CNET tested all of the iPhone models Apple currently sells to help you make your decision. If you're considering upgrading, don't forget to see if you qualify for any carrier deals

What's the best iPhone right now?

The best iPhone for most people is the $799 iPhone 15. It has one of Apple's most recent processors, the A16 Bionic chip found in last year's iPhone 14 Pro, meaning it should support new software features for years to come. The iPhone 15 has the best balance of camera performance and features that will feel new to those coming from older iPhones. 

The iPhone 15's 6.1-inch size is also small enough to use with one hand but large enough to comfortably read the news and watch videos. It's the cheapest phone in the iPhone 15 lineup, making it more accessible than the larger iPhone 15 Plus or more powerful iPhone 15 Pro. 

Best iPhones of 2024

$799 at Apple

Best iPhone for most people

iPhone 15

With the Dynamic Island, a USB-C port for more convenient charging and an upgraded camera with a higher resolution and a crisper zoom, the iPhone 15 is a significant upgrade for those with older iPhones. It feels like a scaled back version of the iPhone 14 Pro, making Apple's entry-level iPhone 15 feel like a bigger leap forward than last year's.

The iPhone 15 is available in two size options: the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 and the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus. They run on the same chip as iPhone 14 Pro, the A16 Bionic, which should bring notable performance upgrades to those with an iPhone that's several years old. These phones also have Apple's second-generation ultra wideband chip, enabling a new feature that makes it easier to find friends or family members in a crowd. 

Last year's iPhone 14 Pro may be a better choice if you can still find it through third-party retailers at a discount, particularly because it has a dedicated telephoto lens. But the iPhone 15 is the most exciting upgrade Apple's standard iPhone has seen in years. Read our iPhone 15 and 15 Plus review.

$999 at Apple

Best premium iPhone

iPhone 15 Pro

Apple gave its Pro models a glow-up with a refreshed lighter build, a new shortcut button and the world's smallest processor. And it did all this while managing to keep that tried-and-true iPhone aesthetic front and center. They also made more of a differentiation between the Pro and Pro Max model. The 15 Pro also still has the same familiar 3x telephoto camera found on previous models.

The brain behind the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is the A17 Pro chip, which has the performance chops to handle console tier video games like Resident Evil Village. If the A17 Pro chip is the brains, then iOS 17 is the 15 Pro and Pro Max's soul. The new OS is filled with lots of quality of life improvements throughout like StandBy mode, Check-In, Stickers in Messages and better autocorrect for the keyboard.
The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are some of the best phones released by Apple or any phone maker this year. Read our Apple iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max review.

$1,200 at Apple

Best iPhone camera

iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple's 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Pro Max got the same glow-up treatment as the smaller iPhone 15 Pro, complete with a lighter titanium build and a new shortcuts button. But the Pro Max's 5x telephoto, compared to the regular Pro's 3x zoom, makes it the best iPhone for photographers. That extra zoom length gives you more reach to frame subjects that are farther away and should be great for filming kids playing sports or performing in a school concert. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is also rated for longer battery life than the 15 Pro, which could be useful for those who record a lot of video on their iPhone. 

The brain behind the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is the A17 Pro chip, which has the performance chops to handle console tier video games like Resident Evil Village. If the A17 Pro chip is the brains, then iOS 17 is the 15 Pro and Pro Max's soul. The new OS is filled with lots of quality of life improvements throughout like StandBy mode, Check-In, Stickers in Messages and better autocorrect for the keyboard.

The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are some of the best phones released by Apple or any phone maker this year. Read our Apple iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max review.

$899 at Apple

Best larger affordable iPhone

iPhone 15 Plus

If you want a big screen without splurging on the Pro Max, the iPhone 15 Plus is the way to go. It has all the same perks as the iPhone 15 -- such as USB-C charging, the Dynamic Island and a 48-megapixel camera -- but inside a larger body with a 6.7-inch screen. The iPhone 15 Plus should also get longer battery life than the iPhone 15, according to Apple's claims.

Apple still sells the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus, but the iPhone 15 Plus' benefits are worth the extra $100. The changes mentioned above, along with the iPhone 15 Plus' newer chip and fresh design, will make it feel like a worthwhile upgrade, particularly for those coming from older phones. Read our iPhone 15 and 15 Plus review.

$599 at Apple

Best iPhone value

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13 is still an excellent phone. If you're considering buying an older iPhone to save money, the iPhone 13 is the best choice for most people. It has a lot in common with the iPhone 14, considering both phones run on the same A15 Bionic processor and have a 12-megapixel camera system. The iPhone 14's processor has an extra GPU core, but those who primarily use their phone for casual gaming, social media, checking email and watching video likely won't mind. 

But the iPhone 13's best feature is its larger battery that, in our tests, lasted 4.5 hours more on a single charge than the iPhone 12, and nearly 3 hours longer than the new iPhone 14. The 13 also has Cinematic mode, which is basically a video version of Portrait mode, and iOS 17. The iPhone 13 earned a 2021 CNET Editors' Choice Award. Just remember the iPhone 13 lacks satellite connectivity for contacting emergency services without a cell service and car crash detection, both of which are available on the iPhone 14 and 15 series. Such features may be important to consider if you're purchasing a phone for your child. Read our Apple iPhone 13 review.

$416 at Amazon

Best small iPhone

iPhone SE

At $429, you might think the only appeal of the iPhone SE (2022) is its price. And admittedly that's a big factor. But now that iPhone has stopped selling the iPhone 13 Mini, it's also a solid option for those who prefer smaller phones. On the outside, the iPhone SE has the same body as the iPhone 8, which makes it the only iPhone on this list that still has Touch ID. On the inside, the SE has the same A15 processor as the iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 14 and 14 Plus which takes the 2017 camera hardware and gives it an injection of Apple's computational photography magic.

The SE represents the classic iPhone design but with the added ability to run the latest version of iOS and apps. One of the quieter updates in 2022 was that the SE's back was upgraded to the back glass used on the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini. It's also your most affordable way into all of Apple services like FaceTime, iMessage and iCloud. Read our Apple iPhone SE (2022) review.

Current iPhone models compared

ModelUS starting priceScreen sizeNo. of rear camerasCPURelease date
iPhone SE $4294.7 inches1A15 BionicMarch 2022
iPhone 13 $5996.1 inches2A15 BionicSeptember 2021
iPhone 14 $6996.1 inches2A15 BionicSeptember 2022
iPhone 14 Plus $7996.7 inches2A15 BionicSeptember 2022
iPhone 15 $7996.1 inches2A16 BionicSeptember 2023
iPhone 15 Plus $8996.7 inches2A16 BionicSeptember 2023
iPhone 15 Pro $9996.1 inches3A17 ProSeptember 2023
iPhone 15 Pro Max $1,1996.7 inches3A17 ProSeptember 2023

Other iPhones we tested

While Apple doesn't sell the iPhone 14 Pro, you can still find it at carriers and third-party retailers. The 14 Pro's display notch has morphed into a pill-shaped screen cutout called the Dynamic Island that can show system alerts and background activities like when you receive a call or play music. The 6.1-inch adaptive-refresh rate screen that adjusts between 1-120Hz depending on what's on the screen. It has excellent cameras, a fast processor, an always-on display, iOS 17 and new safety features like Crash Detection and Emergency SOS via Satellite. Driving all these upgrades is Apple's new A16 Bionic chip which in use feels peppy. 

The iPhone 14 Pro is still an excellent phone in 2024. Check out our iPhone 14 Pro review.

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How we test iPhone models

We test every iPhone in real-world scenarios focusing on its features, design, performance, cameras, battery life and overall value. We document our findings in an initial review that is periodically updated when there are new iOS updates or to compare against new phones from competitors like Samsung, Google and OnePlus.

iphone-15-thumb-3
John Kim/CNET

Photography

Photography is a major focus for the iPhone, so we take pictures and videos of various subjects in a variety of settings and lighting scenarios. We try out any new camera modes, such as Action mode that debuted with the iPhone 14 line.

Battery life

Battery testing is conducted in a variety of ways. We assess how long the iPhone lasts during a typical day of use, and note how it performs during more focused sessions of video calls, media streaming and gaming. We also conduct a video playback test, which isn't always included in the initial review and added later in an update.

Performance measuring

We use benchmarking apps to measure the performance, alongside our own anecdotal experiences using the phone for our review. Of particular note are how graphics and animations look. Are they smooth? Or do they lag or stutter? We also look at how quickly the phone switches between horizontal and vertical orientations and how fast the camera app opens and is ready to take a photo.

A man holding an iPhone 14 Pro outdoors on a remote hillside

Emergency SOS might be one of the most important features to come out on any phone this year.

Kevin Heinz/CNET

We perform processor-heavy tasks like editing photos and videos, exporting videos and playing games. We evaluate whether a newer version of the iPhone includes enough features to make it worth upgrading from older models. Some of these tests are added later in updates after the initial review is published. 

Read more: How CNET Tests Phones

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Factors to consider when buying a new iPhone

Hold the iPhone first: You may love or hate the way it looks and feels in person.

Don't discount the last year's model: Apple has a history of keeping recent iPhone models from previous years around at a lower price. You can get a great phone that does almost everything that a new iPhone 15 can do for a fraction of the price. The iPhone 13 packs a great camera and a big battery, but comes at a more reasonable price.

Buy an iPhone case and screen protector: You'll protect your iPhone from costly damage, and will increase the phone's resale or trade-in value for when you're ready to move on.

Know what you care about most: Is it screen size? Camera quality? Battery life? Phones like the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max, for example, pack incredible cameras that almost rival the quality you'd get from a DSLR. If you're a photographer, then spending money here is a good idea.

Seek out holiday discounts: Look for deep discounts and promo deals around major holidays, especially Amazon's Prime Day and Black Friday. And find out what your grace period is in case you need a quick return or exchange.

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Key terms

eSIM

An eSIM takes all of the important information about your phone account -- including its number, wireless carrier and subscription -- and stores it in software instead of on a physical SIM card.

With the iPhone 14, Apple removed the physical SIM card tray and embraced embedded SIM cards. This means you can't just pluck your SIM card out of your current phone and put it into a new one. But this shouldn't affect your experience since all the major US carriers and a number of smaller operators work with eSIM.

Apple has long supported eSIM, dating back to 2018's iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. When setting up a new iPhone 14, the device will guide you through transferring your current provider over to the new phone. A list of supported wireless networks can be found on Apple's website.

iOS 17

Apple's iOS 17 is the latest iPhone software version. It's on the iPhone 15 by default and is also available as an update for the iPhone XR and later, as well as iPhone SE models from 2020 and 2022. iOS 17 includes new features such as Standby mode, which turns your iPhone into a miniature smart display, improved autocorrect and the new Journal app.

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iPhone FAQs

How reliable is an iPhone?

Apple has been selling iPhones since 2007. The current lineup was released in September 2023 and all have a dust and water resistance rating of IP68, which means they can survive being submerged under 6 meters of water (about 20 feet) for 30 minutes. The screens are covered in Apple's Ceramic Shield which is a glass-ceramic material created by Corning, in collaboration with Apple, and consists of nano ceramic crystals embedded in the glass matrix. It's highly transparent, and according to Corning, the tough structure formed by the crystals means it's less likely to break.

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How long does an iPhone last?

One way to measure how long an iPhone will last is to look at the software and security support Apple offers for older models. iOS 17 can run on Apple phones as old as 2018's iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and XR. That's roughly five years of software support. Compare that to Samsung, which offers four generations of Android version upgrades and five years of security updates. But software is only half the equation. The other part is hardware and durability. Every iPhone Apple sells has an IP rating for dust and water resistance. Newer models also have Ceramic Shield, a glass/ceramic hybrid, that covers the display and is very durable.

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