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Best iPhone 2023: Which Apple smartphone is right for you?

best iPhone - lead image

Bobbing for Apple handsets? We'll help you pluck out the best iPhone to suit your needs

With Apple updating its smartphone lineup quite regularly, it can be difficult to decide which is the best iPhone for you. Sure, you can just pick up the latest model, but with the hefty price tags that usually follow iPhones off the assembly line, you could end up paying more than you need to.

Instead, it can be worthwhile to dive into Apple’s back catalogue and choose a handset from the last few years. While they’re not quite top of the line, these iPhones still hold up to their modern counterparts and will be far kinder to your wallet, too.

Don’t worry – if you have your heart set on one of the latest iPhones, we include them here too. After all, if the price isn’t an object, why not get the most up-to-date model? Either way, we’ve gathered a range of options below that should suit any budget.

If you’re not quite sold on Apple just yet, our buying guide also goes through the benefits of choosing an iPhone, as well as things to consider before adding one to your basket. Otherwise, read on to see our top picks of the best iPhones you can buy right now.

READ NEXT: The best Macbooks to buy

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Best iPhone: At a glance

How to choose the best iPhone for you

Is iOS better than Android?

Is Coke better than Pepsi? Is breakfast superior to dinner? Are cats more loveable than dogs? As with all of these great philosophical debates, a lot of this decision is going to come down to personal taste. Each operating system has its benefits, as do the phones that use them, so it’s less about which is better, and more about which suits you best.

Since you’re here, you probably have at least a passing interest in iPhones, so let’s go over some of their most attractive features. The biggest draw for choosing an iPhone is the Apple ecosystem. More than just a fancy term for Apple’s family of devices, this concept is designed to make the integration between your Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch as seamless and user friendly as possible.

Such tools include the Universal Clipboard, which allows you to copy content such as text, images or videos on one device and instantly paste them on another. There’s also the Continuity Camera, which makes it easy to take a photo or scan a document with your iPhone, and immediately bring it up for viewing or editing on your Mac.

If you already own Apple devices, or are looking to replace others that you own, the ecosystem is definitely a good reason to consider purchasing an iPhone. Not only do you get the integration features mentioned above, but the UI conformity across devices means that there’s no fumbling around getting to grips with new layouts, or struggling to find certain settings.

Will these iPhones run the latest version of iOS?

Indeed they will. With the release of iOS 15 (the newest version of iOS) came the news that any device capable of running the previous version, iOS 14, would be able to upgrade to iOS 15 without any problems. There are, of course, older models that won’t be eligible – the furthest back support goes is the iPhone 6S, but we haven’t included anything that old in this list.

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How much do I need to be spending?

The good news is that, with the iPhone lineup refreshing so regularly, you can get a decent iPhone without completely breaking the bank, with some very good options available for under £500. There’s even a fairly big list of refurbished iPhones available for under £200.

However, if you want the best of the bunch, or would like something future-proof to invest in, then you should expect to spend a bit more for the privilege. Depending on what storage capacity you select, prices for the latest line of iPhones can be anywhere from £650 to £1,400, so brace yourself accordingly.

How we test iPhones

Our iPhone testing is carried out using various benchmarks. We start with the Geekbench and GFXBench applications, both available on the Apple App Store, which we use to test CPU and gaming performance. After we run these tests, we have a set of performance figures which can be used to compare speeds against rival devices and previous iPhone generations.

Testing an Apple iPhone with Geekbench 6 CPU benchmarking

In order to test the quality of an iPhone’s screen, we use a display colorimeter and DisplayCal software. This provides us with useful data, such as the overall colour accuracy of the screen, maximum brightness and peak contrast.

Battery life is tested using a looped video, with the screen set to a standardised brightness and flight mode engaged. When the phone’s battery eventually runs dry, we charge it up and record the timestamp.

Testing the wide angle camera on an Apple iPhone 15
iPhone cameras are tested in a variety of situations, including low-light conditions, nighttime scenic shots, portrait images, as well as various video resolutions and frame rates. Depending on the lenses available, we may also need to test an iPhone’s zoomed and ultrawide imagery.

READ NEXT: The best Samsung phones to buy

Buying an iPhone from the list below? This is the PERFECT SIM deal to make the most of it

If you decide to pick up one of the snazzy iPhones below, you can’t do better than combining it with a superb SIM from Smarty, which is our favourite mobile provider in the UK. You can currently pick up 100GB of 5G data for an attention-grabbing £12/mth on a rolling, 30-day plan – but the company is also serving up more or less data for ultra-competitive rates. There’s something for every type of phone user.

1. Apple iPhone 15: The best iPhone overall

Price when reviewed: £799 | Check price at John Lewis

Best iPhone - iPhone 15 on a chair

There are bigger and more fully featured models in the 15-series, but in terms of getting the most bang for your buck, the standard iPhone 15 is unrivalled. Despite costing less than last year’s iPhone 14, the iPhone 15 is almost indistinguishable from the pricier iPhone 14 Pro, with the only standard differences being that the display is only 60Hz and the camera suite is less complete, with the lack of a telephoto lens.

Everything else, however, is very positive indeed. USB-C is finally added, performance gets a decent bump, the main camera produces sharper, more vibrant images and the versatile and effective Dynamic Island notch makes the jump over from the Pro models. Battery life takes a bit of a hit from the previous generation, but if you can overlook this, the iPhone 15 is an excellent choice for those who want the latest Apple has to offer but are put off by rising prices.

Read our full iPhone 15 review

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.46GHz Apple A16 Bionic; Screen: 6.1in, 2,556 x 1,179; Camera: 48MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB. 1TB; Operating system: iOS 17

Check price at John Lewis

2. Apple iPhone 13: The best iPhone for most people

Price when reviewed: From £749 l Check price at Amazon

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More pocketable than the 13 Pro Max, and more wallet-friendly than the Pro, 2021’s standard iPhone 13 is still an exceptional phone, striking the perfect balance between features, size and value.

As usual, the headline feature of the iPhone 13 is the camera. This model shoots 12MP images from the two cameras on the back and the selfie camera, and allows you to film 10-bit Dolby Vision footage. An improvement over the previous iPhone 12 is that it has a larger sensor and benefits from sensor-shift stabilisation for sharper, low-light photographs.

The AMOLED screen is exceptionally bright, and produces colours that appear to leap straight off the screen. Though more hand-friendly than the Pro Max, it’s still a decent size too, and support for all of the main HDR formats – HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision – meaning that you can comfortably watch films and shows in crisp high-def.

Read our full iPhone 13 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.23GHz Apple A15 Bionic; Screen: 6.1in, 2,532 x 1,170; Camera: 12MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB; Operating system: iOS 15

3. Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022): The best-value iPhone

Price when reviewed: From £419 | Check price at Amazon

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If you’re more concerned about getting value for your money than having all the bells and whistles, then the 2022 iPhone SE is the one for you. What may be surprising with such a low price, is that the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is just as powerful as the iPhone 13, easily outstripping similarly-priced competitors in our speed tests.

As well as making any app or game run smooth and stutter-free, this processing power comes across great in video recording, too. The same A155 Bionic chip used in the iPhone 13 is employed to keep exposure even with Smart HDR, as well as stabilise images in 4K footage recorded at 60fps. In such a compact, pocketable phone as this, these features are simply astounding.

We held off on awarding the iPhone SE 3 (2022) five stars in our review due to its lacklustre battery life, however. It stands to reason that all this power in such a small package would have concessions somewhere, but the results of our tests were disappointing nonetheless. Still, if you don’t mind having a charger handy during the day, then this is absolutely the best value for money you can get from an iPhone.

Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.23GHz Apple A15 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in, 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP; Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: iOS 15

4. Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: The best high-end iPhone

Price when reviewed: £1,199 | Check price at John Lewis

Best iPhone - iPhone 15 Pro Max upright on a table

After the previous generation felt lacking in improvements, the iPhone 15 Pro Max comes out swinging by comparison. The new A17 Pro chipset is blisteringly fast, outpacing the 14 Pro Max in both CPU and GPU benchmarks, and better still, it does this without compromising on battery life. The build also gets a big upgrade, switching to a USB-C charging port and replacing the stainless steel frame with a titanium chassis that doesn’t only feel great, but also makes the phone a fair bit lighter.

As usual, the camera suite is a big part of the appeal here, and there’s been a few decent improvements here, too. The telephoto camera is a new periscope lens that can capture up to 5x optical zoom shots, pros can take advantage of shooting video in a flat Log colour profile or saving 60fps ProRes footage directly to external storage, and users can now take 24MP photos with the main camera – though only in good lighting. It’s expensive for sure, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the most complete handset Apple has produced to date.

Read our full iPhone 15 Pro Max review

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.78GHz Apple A17 Pro; Screen: 6.7in, 1,290 x 2,796; Camera: 48MP (wide), 12MP, (ultrawide), 12MP (telephoto); Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB; Operating system: iOS 17

Check price at John Lewis

5. Apple iPhone 11: The best iPhone under £500

Price when reviewed: From £439 | Check price at Amazon

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With the iPhone lineup refreshing so regularly, it can be a savvy move to simply wait for the new models to come out and pick up previous versions at a fraction of the price. Such is the case with the iPhone 11. Like with the iPhone SE, the A13 Bionic chip remains one of the fastest flagship chipsets on the market, ensuring swift and fluid functionality for years to come.

This horsepower is put to good use, particularly when it comes to the cameras. Employing the same set-up as the 11 Pro and the 11 Pro Max (albeit, without the 2x telephoto zoom lens), the iPhone 11 shoots 12MP images from both cameras on the back, as well as the front-facing selfie camera. In conjunction with the impressive Night Mode, these cameras delivered sharp, clear images, even in poor lighting conditions.

The cameras are also exceptional for recording video, capturing fully stabilised 4K footage at 60fps. In addition to this, the A13 Bionic chip allows enough power for the extended dynamic range mode to be used at 4K 60fps as well, where before it only supported up to 30fps. It may not be hot off the production line, but the iPhone 11 is still a very accomplished handset, and well worth considering if you don’t want to spend more than £500.

Read our full iPhone 11 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 2.65GHz Apple A13 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in, 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP, 12MP (ultrawide); Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: iOS 13

6. Apple iPhone 8 (renewed): The best budget iPhone

Price when reviewed: From £148 | Check price at Amazon

Though it may seem worlds away from the latest models, the iPhone 8 isn’t out of the game just yet, and is still easily the best contender if you’re looking to pick up a decent iPhone for as little as possible.

So, what’s to like? Well, apart from the price, this phone is compact enough to be easily used one-handed, has a decent battery life, and the A11 Bionic chip, while not up to speed with the latest iterations, is still powerful enough to handle a variety of intensive tasks. Best of all, the iPhone 8 is able to run the latest iteration of Apple’s operating system, iOS 14.

As a second-hand phone that’s been refurbished via the Amazon Renewed storefront, this model is eligible for a replacement or refund within the first year if it doesn’t look like new or operate as expected. Going one step further, you can also purchase accidental damage cover, either monthly at £1.79 per month, or with a one-off payment of £21 for the year.

Read our full iPhone 8 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 2.39GHz Apple A11 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in, 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP; Storage: 64GB, 256GB; Operating system: iOS 14