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Best iPhone in 2022: Which of Apple's Phones Is Right for You?

Apple's iPhone lineup ranges from $429 to $1,599. Here are the best iPhones to match your needs and budget.

Apple currently sells eight different iPhone models, which makes choosing the ideal one a complicated task. Finding the best iPhone for your needs means you can really dial in your preferences for design, features, cameras and price. Apple has iPhones with prices ranging from $429 for the iPhone SE (2022) to $1,599 for the iPhone 13 Pro Max with 1TB of storage. 

Apple's iPhone lineup used to be rather simple. When Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone over 15 years ago, there was just one model and it was only available on AT&T. So, if you wanted an iPhone, the only decision you had in 2007 was whether you wanted 4GB or 8GB of storage. 

Much has changed in the past decade and a half. You can find an iPhone to fit most budgets and get access to features like iMessage, FaceTime, Apple Music and iCloud. When Apple released the iPhone 13 series in 2021, I was impressed by the upgrades. The phones had new cameras, more storagebigger batteries and brighter screens.

Read moreBest Wireless Earbuds for 2022: Top Options in Every Price Range

That doesn't mean the iPhone 13 series holds the best option for everyone, though. I broke down all the models on the market so you can decide which iPhone model best suits your needs. Miss the home button? Then check out the iPhone SE. Like the iPhone 13 design, but not its price? Consider last year's iPhone 12 and 12 Mini. Want a small phone with a good battery life? Then the iPhone 13 Mini is a must. And what about the 2-year-old iPhone 11, is it still worth it? In short, yes.

Current iPhones, compared

Model US starting price Screen size No. of rear cameras CPU Release date
iPhone SE $429 4.7 inches 1 A15 Bionic March 2022
iPhone 11 $499 6.1 inches 2 A13 Bionic September 2019
iPhone 12 Mini $599 5.4 inches 2 A14 Bionic November 2020
iPhone 12 $699 6.1 inches 2 A14 Bionic October 2020
iPhone 13 Mini $699 5.4 inches 2 A15 Bionic September 2021
iPhone 13 $799 6.1 inches 2 A15 Bionic September 2021
iPhone 13 Pro $999 6.1 inches 3 A15 Bionic September 2021
iPhone 13 Pro Max $1,099 6.7 inches 3 A15 Bionic September 2021

To complicate your decision, some iPhones have two cameras, others have three and still others have four (including the front-facing selfie camera). You should also take into account that nearly every current iPhone model has Face ID except one: the iPhone SE (2022). Having a lot of options isn't bad, but it can feel overwhelming when buying a new iPhone.

To help you figure out which is the best iPhone for you, I thoroughly reviewed and tested each one on this list, from their batteries to camera performance. I included current iPhone prices, though iPhone deals are known to happen, so don't assume your only option is paying full price. Also, this list is based on current models that Apple sells. If you're shopping around, you might notice that carriers and third-party sellers offer discontinued models, like the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max

Also, if you're looking for an Android phone or another smartphone outside of Apple's offerings, read our guide to help find the best phone for your needs.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The $829 iPhone 13 is a solid upgrade and refinement on last year's iPhone 12. Some will be disappointed because it's not radically different from previous models, but that's part of its charm. Familiarity has been one of the keys to Apple's success with the iPhone. The iPhone 13 has a nearly identical squared-off design to the iPhone 12. It supports 5G and MagSafe charging.

It comes with new cameras on par with the ones from last year's top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro Max. It also gets a larger battery that in our tests lasted 4.5 hours more on a single charge than the iPhone 12.

Add in the A15 Bionic chip, a new Cinematic mode that's basically a video version of Portrait mode and iOS 15, and you have an excellent phone. The iPhone 13 earned a CNET Editors' Choice Award. Also, if you activate it on a carrier, Apple drops the price to $799.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro is the best iPhone Apple has ever made. With the latest iPhone series, Apple further defined the difference between its Pro and non-Pro phones by packing the 13 Pro with a high-refresh rate display, macro photography mode, ProRes video recording and the best cameras any iPhone has had yet.

In terms of design, the 13 Pro has an elegant matte finish back and shiny stainless-steel sides. Compare that to the glossy back and matte aluminum sides on the iPhone 13. The display on the 13 Pro supports what Apple calls ProMotion. Depending on what's being shown on the screen, the refresh rate switches between 10Hz and 120Hz. In use, the screen looks stellar. Animations look smooth, graphics appear crisp and even mundane things like scrolling feeds look better.

It runs iOS 15 and supports 5G and MagSafe charging. Like the regular iPhone 13, the 13 Pro has an A15 Bionic chip but gets an extra GPU core that gives the phone a boost for gaming and video editing. The iPhone 13 Pro is stellar, which is why it earned a CNET Editors' Choice Award. Read our Apple iPhone 13 Pro review.

Patrick Holland/CNET

With support for 5G being its crown jewel feature, the $729 iPhone 12 marked the beginning of a new generation of iPhone. It has flat, matte aluminum sides, a 6.1-inch OLED screen, an A14 Bionic chip and Apple's Ceramic Shield covering on the front to help reduce scratches and damage from drops, and it supports MagSafe charging. 

The iPhone 12 Mini is simply a smaller version of the iPhone 12 with a 5.4-inch display and a price tag that's $100 less. The selfie, wide and ultrawide cameras on the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini are good, but definitely a step down from those on the newer iPhone 13 and 13 Mini. So, if your priority is a phone with the best camera possible, this isn't the best iPhone for you.

If you choose to get an iPhone 12 or 12 Mini and can afford to pay $50 more, I recommend upgrading from 64GB of storage to 128GB. Also, if you activate either phone on a carrier, the price drops an additional $30.

Read our Apple iPhone 12 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Who said small phones don't exist any more? The iPhone 13 Mini ($729 unlocked, $699 on a carrier plan) is brilliant because it has everything the iPhone 13 has -- it's just smaller. And if you're worried about battery life, don't be. The iPhone 13 Mini packs a bigger battery than last year's iPhone 12 Mini. In our tests, the iPhone 13 Mini lasted 3.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Mini on a single charge. It also lasted an hour longer than the full-size iPhone 12 in the same test.

Remarkably the 13 Mini has nearly identical wide and ultrawide cameras to last year's iPhone 12 Pro Max. One way you can tell is the rear cameras are positioned diagonally from each other to make room for the larger stabilized sensor.

The iPhone 13 and 13 Mini are the same phone. But one is small and the other isn't. That said, I only recommend you get the 13 Mini for its size. It's $100 cheaper than the iPhone 13, which might be tempting if you're trying to save money. But if you aren't OK with a small phone you might be frustrated by its size. Read our Apple iPhone 13 Mini review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The first thing you should know about the $1,199 iPhone 13 Pro Max is that it has the longest battery life of any phone we've ever tested. The next thing you should know is that unlike the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are identical in pretty much every way and even have the same cameras. In essence, they are the same phone, just different sizes.

The 13 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch ProMotion display, while iPhone 13 Pro has a 6.1-inch one. The Max is also bigger and weighs more. Part of that extra weight comes from the 13 Pro Max's larger battery. If you can handle the size of this phone behemoth, it's the best iPhone for most situations, and it's worth every penny of its high price.

Read our Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review.

 

Patrick Holland/CNET

At $429 you might think the only appeal of the iPhone SE (2022) is its price. Admittedly that is a big factor. On the outside, the iPhone SE has a nearly identical body to the iPhone 8's, but upgraded with the same glass found on the back of the iPhone 13. It's the only iPhone on this list that has Touch ID, which some people still prefer over Face ID. On the inside, the SE has the same A15 processor as the iPhone 13, which takes the 2017 camera hardware and gives it an injection of Apple's 2022 computational photography magic. The SE represents the classic iPhone design but with the added ability to run the latest version of iOS and apps.

Read our Apple iPhone SE (2022) review.

 

Angela Lang/CNET

If you don't need support for 5G, the iPhone 11 at $499 is a good deal, even in 2022. You get so much for that price, like an A13 processor, good cameras, solid battery life and the choice of six colors. The iPhone 11 has curved sides in contrast to the straight-sided iPhone 12 and 13 series.

The biggest drawback is the old-style screen, which uses an LCD panel instead of a nicer OLED one. But don't let that turn you away, the screen still looks good in use. If you have an extra $50 in your budget, I recommend getting the 128GB version of the iPhone 11.

Read our Apple iPhone 11 review.