How to Pick the Best iPhone

woman holding phone on city street
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A few years ago, when you wanted to buy a new iPhone, the choice came down to one thing: how much storage would you get and, as a result, how much would you pay? Then the iPhone came to Verizon and other phone companies and you had to decide not only how much storage you would buy, but also what carrier you wanted.

Now that each generation of iPhone comes in two models—beginning with the iPhone 5S and 5C and carried over to the iPhone 6S, 7, and 8 series—picking the best iPhone for you and your needs has gotten more complicated.

Do you want to print? Have Face ID? Animojis?

Instead of just having to choose between two storage capacities and two phone companies, there are now eight models—iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, 6S and 6S Plus, and SE—and four phone companies: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Unlocked versions of these iPhones are available on Amazon.com, too.

If you're planning to buy a new iPhone soon, you need to figure out what matters to you in a phone, what doesn't, and which model to choose. Here are some tips that may make that decision a little easier.

iPhone X

Pros

  • The bleeding edge - If having the coolest, most-cutting-edge technology in your iPhone matters to you, the iPhone X is your only choice. It's the only current iPhone that offers things like facial recognition and an edge-to-edge OLED screen.
  • It's the biggest and the best - The iPhone X is the top of the line model. It's got the largest screen—5.8 inches—which makes for terrific gaming and multimedia. 
  • It's got the best screen - Only the iPhone X has an edge-to-edge screen that covers the full face of the phone, uses superior OLED technology, and delivers highly detailed, vibrantly colorful HDR images.
  • Improved camera - The camera on the X is virtually the same as what you'll find on the iPhone 8 Plus and 8, though the 8 Plus and X are the only ones that offer improved Portrait Lighting features. 
  • Face ID - The iPhone ditches the Touch ID fingerprint recognition system used to unlock the iPhone and confirm Apple Pay transactions. In its place is the Face ID facial recognition system, which no other iPhone offers.
  • Wireless Charging - Along with both iPhone 8 models, the X sports wireless charging using the Qi standard. Forget having to plug your iPhone in; just rest it on a charging mat to repower the battery.
  • 3D Touch screen - The screen on the X can detect how hard you're pushing on it. As a result, it can respond in different ways to different kinds of touch. Not only does this enable eye-catching features like Live Photos, it also opens a whole host of new user-interface options.
  • NFC & Apple Pay - The X includes support for NFC (Near-Field Communication), the wireless standard that is used for transactions with the Apple Pay mobile payment platform.
  • Newer processors - The latest, fastest, and most capable chips show up in the iPhone X, with the new A11 Bionic chip offering up to 70% better performance for computing and a new graphics chip with up to 30% faster performance.
  • Apple Watch and AirPods compatible - Every phone on this list works with all generations of the Apple Watch and Apple's wireless AirPods earbuds.
  • Size - Despite having a 5.8-inch screen, the iPhone X is actually smaller than the 8 Plus and not that much bigger than the 8.

Cons

  • Premium price - All the amazing features noted above don't come cheap. The iPhone X is the most expensive iPhone ever, with prices of US$999 and $1149, for the 64GB and 256GB models respectively.
  • No headphone jack - Like the iPhone 7 series before it, and the iPhone 8 series, the X doesn't include a standard headphone jack, instead requiring either wireless earbuds like Apple's AirPods or an adapter for connecting traditional headphones. (AirPods, thankfully, are very easy to set up and use.) This isn't a very big deal, but it may irk some people.

    iPhone 8 Plus

    Pros

    • Pretty close to the iPhone X - The iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X are similar in many of the most important ways. Almost everything in the list above applies to both the X and the 8 Plus. See the cons section below for the few things that don't.
    • Touch ID fingerprint scanner - Apple's 2nd generation fingerprint scanning technology is built into the 8 series, so entering passwords and making purchases is as simple as pressing your phone's Home button.
    • Less expensive -  Buying an iPhone 8 Plus will be easier on your wallet. The introductory 64GB model costs $799, $200 less than the equivalent iPhone X. 

    Cons

    • No Face ID - The iPhone 8 series uses Touch ID, rather than the Face ID system. You can't get facial recognition and everything that goes along with it (including Animojis) on the 8 Plus. 
    • Lesser screen - While the Retina Display screen on the 8 Plus is amazing, it's not as good as the screen on the X, since it doesn't use OLED, isn't edge to edge, and doesn't support HDR. The 8 Plus also has a 5.5-inch screen, compared to the 5.8-inch screen on the X.
    • Larger and heavier - The 8 Plus is about a half inch taller and an ounce heavier than the X. That may not sound like much, but it can change how the phone feels in your hand or pocket.

    iPhone 8

    Pros

    • Nearly identical features to the 8 Plus - Almost every feature of the 8 Plus is also present on the 8 (for a list of the ones that aren't, check out the cons below). The two phones are identical when it comes to storage options, processors, wireless charging, 3D Touch, Touch ID, support for NFC and Apple Pay, and Apple Watch compatibility. 
    • Big screen - The iPhone 8 offers a 4.7-inch screen. While that's not as huge as the 8 Plus', it's a good deal bigger than the 4-inch screen on the iPhone SE. The 7 and 6S series both have the same options for screen sizes as the 8.
    • Best Value - Each model of the iPhone 8 costs less than the equivalent iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X.

    Cons

    • No cutting-edge features - You won't find Face ID or the OLED/HDR/edge-to-edge screen on the 8. The 8 also lacks some of the advanced photo features of the 8 Plus and X, such as Portrait Lighting. 
    • Smaller screen - The iPhone 8's screen is about three-quarters of an inch smaller than that on the 8 Plus, and more than an inch smaller than the X, so if you need the biggest screen possible, check out the other models.
    • Lesser camera - The camera on the 8 doesn't include the wide angle, telephoto, and high-end depth-of-field effects, so photos in some circumstances may not be as nice as those taken with the 8 Plus or X (for the everyday photographer, though, the difference probably won't be noticeable).
    • More expensive than 7 - Because it's one of the latest models, it's more expensive than the earlier generations. 
    • No headphone jack - Like the 8 Plus, the 8 doesn't have a traditional headphone jack.

    iPhone 7 Plus

    Pros

    • Great phone - This was Apple's top-of-the line iPhone for part of 2016 and most of 2017. Nothing that made it a great phone then—its screen and camera, its speed and compatibility with the full line of Apple accessories—has changed.
    • Cheaper than the 8 Plus - Since the 7 Plus has been replaced in the foodchain by the X and the 8 series, it's got a more attractive price. The 7 Plus starts at $130 less than the 8 Plus.

    Cons

    • No wireless charging - Unlike the phones in the list above it, the 7 Plus doesn't have wireless charging support.
    • Slower processor - The processor in this model is plenty fast, but Apple claims the chip in the 8 series and the X is up to 70% faster than the 7 Plus for some uses.
    • Lesser camera - The camera in the 7 Plus is great, but the 8 and X offer better ones. You probably won't see much of a difference, but people who are very serious about photography should consider the newer models.
    • Lower storage capacity - The 7 Plus maxes out at 128GB of storage, compared to the 256GB limit for the X and 8.
    • Large - All of the Plus models, from every iPhone generation, are really big. They look large in most people's hands and don't easily fit pockets or purses. 

    iPhone 7

    Pros

    • Great phone, great price - The 7 offers almost all of the 7 Plus' strengths but does so at a lower price. The introductory level model of the iPhone 7 starts at just $549.
    • Manageable size - If you want the strengths of the 7 Plus in a smaller-size device, the 7's 4.7-inch screen means it's an easy fit in your hand or pocket.

    Cons

    • All of the 7 Plus's weaknesses - Since the 7 and 7 Plus share most of the same hardware and features, all of the 7 Plus' weaknesses when compared to the 8 and the X apply here, too.
    • Even lesser camera - The 7 has a lesser camera than the 7 Plus, in that it doesn't support the special Portrait modes and other features. Most people probably won't notice, but it will matter to photographers.

    iPhone 7 Series Review

    iPhone 6S Plus

    Pros

    • A very solid phone - While it's a few years away from being top-of-the-line, the iPhone 6S Plus is still a very solid phone with strong features and performance. If you just need a solid, day-to-day performer, either model of the 6S series is a good bet.
    • Support for key Apple technologies - You'll get support for most key Apple technologies with the 6S Plus, including Apple Pay, Touch ID, the Apple Watch, 3D Touch, Retina Display, and more.
    • Appealing price - Since it's now two years removed from its introduction, the lowest-priced version of the 6S Plus costs $549.
    • Headphone jack - The 6S series is the last iPhone with a traditional headphone jack. If that's important to you, check out this, the 6S, or the SE.

    Cons

    • Two years behind - It's now two years since the 6S series was brand new. Even if you don't want the latest and greatest, the 6S is starting to look a little long in the tooth.
    • Lower storage capacity - The 6S Plus maxes out at 128 GB.
    • Slower processors - The 6S series is built around the A9 processor and M9 motion coprocessor, two generations behind the chips used in the X and 8 series.
    • Lesser camera features - While the 6S Plus has a good camera, it lacks the wide angle, telephoto, and depth-of-field features of the 7 Plus, to say nothing of the X or 8.

    iPhone 6S

    Pros

    • Lower price - Price is really the major reason to consider the 6S at this point. As a good daily phone, it's also got an attractive price: $449.
    • Nearly identical features to the 6S Plus - All of the hardware features of the 6S Plus that make it such a good phone, with the exception of the camera, are present on the 6S. 

    Cons

    • Same hardware drawbacks as the 6S Plus - All of the hardware drawbacks found on the 6S Plus are present in the 6S as well.
    • Lesser camera - Like the 7 when compared to the 7 Plus, the camera on the 6S lacks some features present on the 6S Plus.

    iPhone 6S Review

    iPhone SE

    Pros

    • Lowest price - This is the cheapest way to get a new iPhone. The 32GB SE costs just $349.
    • Smallest form factor - If you're really attached to the idea of a small phone, the SE is it. With its 4-inch screen, it's much smaller than any other phone on this list. 
    • Support for Apple Pay, Apple Watch, and Touch ID - Key Apple technologies like Apple Pay, Touch ID, and the Apple Watch work just fine with the SE.

    Cons

    • It's old - While some of its internals have been updated, the SE is still essentially the oldest iPhone on the market. Its primary appeal is price, so if anything other than price is the most important to you, it makes sense to look elsewhere.

    iPhone SE Review

    The Bottom Line on Which iPhone to Choose

    The general rule when making a technology purchase is to buy the most device that you can afford. That's true when it comes to deciding which iPhone to buy.

    If you can afford the iPhone X or 8 Plus, get it. It will last the longest, offer the best performance and features, and will hold its value longest if you want to resell it. If you're more price conscious, the iPhone 7 series will serve you well, too. Only look to the SE if cost or size of the phone is a major consideration (really, it's nice to hold something this size again).

    For a quick comparison of how all current models stack up in terms of features and price, check out this chart.

    Current iPhone Models Compared

     iPhone X
    64 GB
    256 GB

     
    iPhone 8
    series

    64 GB
    256 GB

     
    iPhone 7
    series

    32 GB
    128 GB

     
    iPhone 6S
    series

    32 GB
    128 GB
    iPhone
    SE

    32 GB
    128 GB
    Songs Held16,000
    64,000
     
    16,000
    64,000
     
    8,000
    32,000
     
    8,000
    32,000
    8,000
    32,000
     
    Screen Size*5.88 Plus:
    5.5

    8:
    4.7
    7 Plus:
    5.5

    7:
    4.7
    6S Plus:
    5.5

    6S:
    4.7
    4
    Screen Specs2436x1125

    458 ppi
    HDR
     

    8 Plus:
    1920x
    1080

    401 ppi

    8:
    1334x
    750

    326 ppi

    7 Plus:
    1920x
    1080

    401 ppi

    7:
    1334x
    750

    326 ppi

    6S Plus:
    1920x
    1080

    401 ppi

    6S:
    1334x
    750

    326 ppi

    1136x
    640

    326 ppi

    Edge-to-Edge
    screen
    YesNoNoNoNo
    OLED screenYesNoNoNoNo
    3D TouchYesYesYesYesNo
    ProcessorApple A11
    Bionic
    Apple A11
    Bionic
    Apple A10
    Fusion
    Apple A9Apple A9
    Camera*2
    cameras:
    12 & 7
    2
    cameras:
    12 & 7
    2
    cameras:
    12 & 7
    2
    cameras:
    12 & 5
    2
    cameras:
    12 & 1.2
    Optical
    Image
    Stabil-
    ization
    YesYesYesNoNo
    Optical ZoomYesYes7 Plus:
    Yes

    7:
    No
    NoNo
    Wide Angle &
    Telephoto
    YesYesYesNoNo
    Portrait ModesYesYes7 Plus:
    Yes

    7:
    No
    NoNo
    Records
    Video
    4K HD
    at 60 fps
    4K HD
    at 60 fps
    4K HD
    at 30 fps 
    4K HD
    at 30 fps 
    4K HD
    at 30 fps 
    Slo-Mo
    Video
    1080p HD
    at 240 fps
    1080p HD
    at 240 fps
    1080p HD
    at 120 fps
    1080p HD
    at 120 fps
    1080p HD
    at 120 fps
    Live PhotoYesYesYesYesNo
    AnimojiYesNoNoNoNo
    FaceIDYesNoNoNoNo
    Touch ID2nd gen.2nd gen.2nd gen.2nd gen.1st gen.
    NFCYesYesYesYesYes
    Bluetooth 5.0YesYesNoNoNo
    Splash, Water
    & Dust Resistant
    YesYesYesNoNo
    Weight
    (ounces)
    6.148 Plus:
    7.13

    8:
    5.22
    7 Plus:
    6.63

    7:
    4.87
    6S Plus:
    6.77

    6S:
    5.04
    3.99
    Size**5.65
    x 2.79
    x 0.30
    8 Plus:
    6.24
    x 3.07
    x 0.30

    8:
    5.45
    x 2.65
    x 0.29
    7 Plus:
    6.23
    x 3.07
    x 0.29

    7:
    5.44
    x 2.64
    x 0.28
    6S Plus:
    6.23
    x 3.07
    x 0.29

    6S:
    5.44
    x 2.64
    x 0.28
    4.87
    x 2.31
    x 0.30
    Wireless
    Charging
    YesYesNoNoNo
    Battery Life
    (in
    hours)
    Talk: 21
    Video: 13
    Web: 12
    Audio: 60
    8 Plus:
    Talk: 21
    Video: 14
    Web: 13
    Audio: 60

    8:
    Talk: 14
    Video: 13
    Web: 12
    Audio: 40
    7 Plus:
    Talk: 21
    Video: 14
    Web: 13
    Audio: 60

    7:
    Talk: 14
    Video: 13
    Web: 12
    Audio: 40
    6S Plus:
    Talk: 24
    Video: 14
    Web: 12
    Audio: 80

    6S:
    Talk: 14
    Video: 11
    Web: 10
    Audio: 50
    Talk: 14
    Video: 13
    Web: 12
    Audio: 50
    ColorsSilver
    Space Gray
    Silver
    Space Gray
    Gold
    Jet Black
    Black
    Silver
    Gold
    Rose Gold
    Space Gray
    Silver
    Gold
    Rose Gold
    Space Gray
    Silver
    Gold
    Rose Gold
    PriceUS$999
    $1149
    8 Plus:
    $799
    $949

    8:
    $699
    $849
    7 Plus:
    $669
    $769

    7:
    $549
    $649
    6S Plus:
    $549
    $649

    6S: 
    $449
    $549
    $349
    $449

     

     

    * in megapixels
    ** in inches