Which iPhone Should I Buy?

See the differences between all iPhones and find the best one for you

For a company that prides itself on simplicity, Apple sure has a lot of iPhones. Most folks have been around these things long enough to tell the difference between them. But for some people, the task is a bit daunting. How does one go about deciding which iPhone is right for them? It’s not as simple as it may seem so we’ve put together a list of every smartphone currently sold by Apple. We’ve honed in on the ideal uses and applications of each device, and hopefully painted a picture of the iPhone landscape.

From afar, the 4.7” iPhone 7 doesn’t look all that different from the iPhone 6S, but longer battery life, better camera, faster internal components and water resistance are pretty big game-changers. The 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and TrueTone flash are bigger than before and gone are the antenna lines that have graced the previous two iPhone models. The camera improvements allow for better low light photography (there's 50 percent more light coming into the phone over the iPhone 6S). A faster f/1.8 lens and optical image stabilization round out the camera upgrades.

The loss of the headphone jack has led to many unhappy iPhone owners, but Apple offers an affordable lightning-to-headset adapter for 3.5mm headphones. The inclusion of IP67 standards means the iPhone 7 is Apple’s first water resistant device that can be in up to 3 feet deep for a maximum of 30 minutes. The new home button features a larger Taptic engine, which means it’s more flush against the bottom of the phone, but still has the familiar Touch ID ring circling it.

The 750 x 1334 iPhone 7 retina display is gorgeous. It’s 25 percent brighter than previous iPhones, which allows for a slightly easier user experience in direct sunlight. And the new A10 quad-core Fusion processor paired with 2GB of RAM is super fast. The A10 allows for a responsive phone with apps that open almost instantly. Thanks to the new processor and additional power tweaks, Apple claims the iPhone 7 will get two hours additional battery time over the iPhone 6S. Overall, if you're looking to have the fastest smartphone today, you'll want to get your hands on the iPhone 7.

With the iPhone 7 Plus, you’ll find a lot of the same improvements, such as better battery life, water-resistance and the new Taptic home button. On the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple took the camera to another level with the addition of the same f/1.8 2mm wide-angle lens on the iPhone 7, as well as an additional f/2.8 56mm telephoto lens. The true 10x zoom on the iPhone 7 Plus camera is great for close up shots, and the inclusion of the same A10 processor (plus 3GB of RAM) helps the camera function without delay.

The loss of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 Plus however unfortunate, does have a side benefit. It allows for additional space for a more efficient processor that brings an extra 60 minutes of battery life. And while the loss of the “physical” click home button on the iPhone sounds like a disappointment, but Taptic button is very responsive.

The same A10 processor on the iPhone 7 is present here and paired up with 3GB of RAM. And in a nutshell, it’s ridiculously fast. The 5.5” 1920 x 1080 retina display remains unchanged from the iPhone 6s Plus, but it's still super crisp. So if you're looking to buy the best phablet on the market today, you don't need to look further than the iPhone 7 Plus.

The 6S and 6S Plus were unveiled in late 2015 and they quickly revealed themselves to be significant upgrades to their predecessors (there's even a new rose gold color option). It also features Apple’s newest A9 chip processor, an upgraded fingerprint sensor, LTE Advanced technology, a much improved 12MP camera and the option for a whopping 128GB of storage space. The display resolution (1334 × 750) and pixel density (326 ppi) is identical to the iPhone 6.

But let’s talk about that camera. Twelve megapixels is quite an improvement upon the 8MP camera found in the 6/6 Plus—as is the 5-megapixel front-facing camera (compared with the previous generation’s 1.2MP). It also includes a new retina flash feature, which allows you to use the display's brightness as a sort of makeshift flash for front-facing images (selfies). It includes improved noise reduction tech, a “Live Photos” feature that captures short video for each image, and — this is huge — 4K video. On all these specs, Apple is really just catching up with the competition, but it’s nice to see the makers of the original smartphone acknowledging the industry trends.

Camera aside, perhaps the most interesting new feature of the 6S is 3D touch. Through a series of sensors embedded in the phone’s backlight, the phone can measure the force or “firmness” of the user’s touch. The sensitivity is greater than that of the Force Touch technology found in the Apple Watch and MacBook. 3D Touch is still in its infancy, but the potential is there. Bonus: The 6S is also compatible with iOS 11.

With a mere 4-inch display, the iPhone SE is a petite device. But it’s also a bit more affordable than any other iPhone on the market. It really just serves as a replacement to the iPhone 5S, which launched in 2013, and serves as a low-cost introduction to the iPhone product line. While smaller than any other iPhone on the market, it still manages to pack all of Apple’s latest hardware. It includes the newest A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor, a 1136 x 640 resolution at 326 ppi, and a 12MP primary camera capable of shooting 4K video. It even includes that nifty little Live Photos feature found in the 6S/6S Plus. And it only weighs 4 ounces.

If you dig that new 3D Touch tech, you may be disappointed to hear it does not come equipped in the SE. And unlike the 6S and 6S Plus, the SE only comes in 16/64GB packages. Also, the front-facing camera reverts to iPhone 6 tech with its meager 1.2MP sensor. That said, whereas some folks prefer the wieldy bulk of the Plus line, there will inevitably be those users who prefer the slim, pocket-sized appeal of pre-iPhone 6 devices. The SE is for them.

As is the case with the 6 and 6 Plus, the 6S Plus is really just a step up in the whole display/resolution department. At 5.5 inches, it is the exact same display as the 6 Plus, including the 1920 × 1080 resolution and 401 ppi pixel density. The only significant difference is the addition of 3D Touch, the sensors of which are embedded in the screen's backlight layer. It works alongside the new Taptic Engine to improve the haptic feedback effect. Both phones also feature improved motion coprocessors, which theoretically make for improved sensor (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass) integration.

OK, so what else is different — other than the price, of course? Due to the 3D Touch technology, both the 6S and 6S Plus are a bit heavier than their counterparts. The 6S Plus weighs 6.77 ounces, compared with the 6 Plus’s 6.07 ounces. For most people, however, that means nothing.

Apple’s flagship from 2014, the iPhone 6 was designed to reflect a growing interest in larger displays. At 4.7 inches, no one could describe the 6 as “very big,” but next to its predecessor, the 4-inch iPhone 5S, it is a sizable upgrade. Available with either 16 or 64GB of storage, the 6 features Apple’s proprietary Retina Display in a 1334 x 750 package at 326 ppi. It includes Apple’s A8, 64-bit processor, which was introduced specifically for the 6 and 6 Plus. Compared with previous generations, the 6 also includes an upgraded camera, improved LTE/WiFi connectivity, and support for NFC (near field communications) for mobile payments. It also has a (somewhat middling) 1,810 mAh battery.

But what does that mean for your average reader? It means top-of-the-line Apple hardware and software — the best that was available until the release of the iPhone 6S/6S Plus in late 2015. The main reason to spring for a 6 over a 6S is because you don’t want to drop an extra $200/$300.

Beginning with the launch of the iPhone 6 in 2014, Apple began offering two options for its flagship devices; the Plus merely indicates a slightly larger, beefier version of its smaller companion. The iPhone 6 Plus (and, for that matter, the iPhone 6S Plus) is mostly intended for people who have always preferred the iOS ecosystem but were turned off by Apple’s traditionally compact designs. At 5.5 inches, the 6 Plus is ample indeed — a nod to competing phablets like the Galaxy Note, Nexus, and Moto X. Because it offers pretty much the same hardware as the 6, the appeal of the 6 Plus really just comes down to personal preference.

So what are the differences? Other than size and weight, the 6 Plus features a display with slightly higher resolution (1920 x 1080) and pixel density (401 ppi), optical image stabilization on the rear camera and a more powerful 2750 mAh battery. While the camera itself is a mere 8MP (compared with the 13MP standard found in many smartphones that are half the price of an iPhone), it’s important to remember that megapixels are not a perfect metric for image quality. The 6 and 6 Plus both have highly capable cameras, especially thanks to a new sensor with 1.5 micron pixels. In general, though, it’s safe to say the 6 Plus is the ideal pick for folks who prefer the relative affordability of the 6, but also prefer a larger display.

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