Which iPhone Should You Buy? We Help Decode the 13 from the 13 Pro and the SE

·12 min read
Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple


"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below."

In the market for a new iPhone? You're in the right place. We're here to help you decide which Apple iPhone is worth the upgrade based on your budget and preferences — from the brand-new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro quartet all the way to the affordable iPhone SE.

The iPhone's hardware specs and overall performance are second to none — giving Apple loyalists good reason for their dedication to the tech giant. The latest iPhones are nothing short of impressive, each packing the following incredible features:

The recently launched iPhone 13 product family brings subtle design tweaks we love to see, like a smaller display notch and a rear camera setup with diagonally placed sensors. But the improvements made to its camera quality and overall performance are what really make the newcomers both well worth making the switch and impossible to overlook.

An OLED display panel, which delivers vibrant colors and even more captivating HDR-enhanced content, now comes standard on most iPhones — and it makes a major difference. Plus, the iPhone's operating system is seamless, setting it apart from Android rivals.

MagSafe arrived alongside last year's iPhone 12 lineup, and is also available in the succeeding generation. It's a convenient magnetic tech for accessories, and is available in everything from convenient chargers to cool protective cases to handy snap-on wallets.

If investing in a futureproof device is a priority to you, you're in luck. Every iPhone comes with many years’ worth of iOS firmware and security updates, allowing even generations-old Apple smartphones the ability to stay up to date. For comparison, most Android smartphones come with firmware and security updates for only 2 to 3 years.

Today's iPhone Lineup

Before you buy, keep in mind that Apple is packaging the latest iPhones in more compact boxes without a charging adapter, to reduce their environmental impact. If you don't have a solid charger lined up for your new device, we have you covered with plenty of affordable options. And if you want to avoid accumulating more cables in your life, every new iPhone is also compatible with wireless charging.

It's important to note that the pricing we included for each iPhone is for a contract-free device. You can also opt to order the product and pay monthly installments. The trade-in program that Apple and its carrier partners offer is also excellent — depending on what your outgoing phone is and what iPhone model you pick, it might cost you nothing to upgrade (e.g., T-Mobile will give you up to $700 for a 4-year old iPhone X).

Whether you're looking to snag your very first smartphone or you set your iCal for Apple's new launches every year, read on to check out our decoded guide to the best new iPhones available today. Because, after all, there's an iPhone out there for everyone.

Best iPhone for Most People

Key Specs

• 6.1-inch Liquid Retina XDR OLED display with 460 pixels per inch
• A15 Bionic chip with all-new Neural Engine
• Up to 512GB of storage
• Dual 12MP camera with sensor-shift optical image stabilization, Dolby Vision-enhanced 4K video recording
• 12MP front-facing camera with Face ID
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Fast wired and wireless charging, MagSafe compatibility
• IP68 water-resistant
• 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Dual-SIM

The iPhone 13 is a fantastic option for an upgrade for most consumers since it's packed with cutting-edge hardware specs at an agreeable price. The highlights include Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chipset with a next-generation Neural Engine, a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display, excellent stereo speakers, a powerful dual camera, and solid battery life.

Starting at $799, the iPhone 13 is competitively priced by today’s top-shelf smartphone standards. It's the best pick in its price range by an overwhelming margin because it’s vastly more capable and futureproof than its Android rivals.

Compared to the stellar iPhone 12 that it replaces, the iPhone 13 has a more powerful chipset, a more sophisticated dual camera with a bigger wide sensor and cutting-edge image stabilization, an upgraded 5G setup with more bands, and a brighter Super Retina display. The device is fully compatible with MagSafe accessories, just like its predecessor.

Previously available only on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, sensor-shift image stabilization takes the iPhone 13’s camera capabilities on another level. Before Apple decided to add it to a pocket-friendly iPhone, this caliber of image stabilization was typically only found on high-end DSLR cameras.

The camera hardware of the iPhone 13 is accompanied by an easy-to-use interface with amazing new tools like cinematic mode and photographic styles. Overall, the device’s ability to capture best-in-class images and video is the main reason why you consider it, even if you currently own an iPhone 12.

Apple offers the iPhone 13 in several eye-catching colors: pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED. The starter iPhone 13 comes with ample 128GB of storage, which is a significant upgrade compared to previous models. You can spec the product with up to 512GB of memory — double its predecessor’s maximum option.

The Range-Topping iPhone

Key Specs

• 6.1-inch Liquid Retina XDR OLED display with 460 pixels per inch, ProMotion
• A15 Bionic chip with all-new Neural Engine
• Up to 1TB of storage
• Triple 12MP camera with sensor-shift image stabilization, LiDAR Scanner, Dolby Vision-enhanced 4K video recording
• 12MP front-facing camera with Face ID
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Fast wired and wireless charging, MagSafe compatibility
• IP68 water-resistant
• 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Dual-SIM

The iPhone 13 Pro has the same design as its predecessor but a more powerful chipset, a brighter Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion tech, and a better triple camera with an expanded zoom range. Once again, the range-topping iPhone has a more luxurious build than the iPhone 13, headlined by a stainless steel frame and a glass back with a matte finish. You can order the product in graphite, gold, silver, and Sierra blue, with the last option being lighter than the Pacific blue color of the iPhone 12 Pro.

ProMotion is what sets the Super Retina XDR OLED display of the iPhone 13 Pro apart from all other iPhones. The feature brings an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz, resulting in smoother and faster onscreen interactions. It was previously available only on iPad Pro models.

Compared to the iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro has a beefier A15 Bionic chip with more GPU cores, making it a substantially faster and more powerful device. Its camera not only has a zoom snapper but also bigger image sensors and brighter optics. A LiDAR scanner that delivers speedier autofocus in low light, night-mode portrait photography, and an edge in augmented reality apps and games is another feature that sets it apart from the rest.

The Pro iPhones are the only ones that can take ProRAW format photos for advanced editing. Upcoming ProRes video recording will also be another exclusive iPhone 13 Pro camera feature, and the professional video editing format is expected to arrive in a future software update.

Overall, this is the iPhone to get, as long as its price tag falls within your budget. The entry-level iPhone 13 Pro comes with 128GB of storage, and power users can level up to a whopping 1TB of memory instead. Available on an iPhone for the first time, the massive storage option costs a pretty penny ($500 over the starter variant).

The Most Affordable iPhone

Key Specs

• 4.7-inch Retina display with True Tone
• A13 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• Up to 256GB of storage
• 12MP camera with optical image stabilization
• 7MP FaceTime HD Camera
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Touch ID fingerprint sensor
• IP67 water-resistant

With a starting price tag below $400, the latest iPhone SE is an excellent buy for users who don't need or want the most tricked-out smartphone. It has the compact and familiar design of the iPhone 8 that it replaces, coupled with futureproof hardware specs. There are three colors to pick from: black, white, and (PRODUCT) RED.

Equipped with the same A13 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine as the iPhone 11, the iPhone SE is the most powerful smartphone in its lower-tier price range. And like all new iPhones, it has a water-resistant body, built-in stereo speakers, and support for fast wired and wireless charging.

The new iPhone SE can capture portrait images with its main camera, as well as its selfie snapper. This affordable iPhone can also record 4K video at 60 frames per second with high-quality stabilization and crisp stereo sound.

It’s important to note that the iPhone SE is the only smartphone that has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The feature is fast and reliable but compared to the Face ID of the pricier iPhones, it's a bit old-school.

It is important to note that the all-screen, Face ID-equipped iPhone models have bigger displays with a different aspect ratio than the iPhone SE. They offer more immersive iOS, app, and gaming experiences.

The Most Compact iPhone

Key Specs

• 5.4-inch Liquid Retina XDR OLED display with 476 pixels per inch
• A15 Bionic chip with all-new Neural Engine
• Up to 512GB of storage
• Dual 12MP camera with sensor-shift image stabilization, Dolby Vision-enhanced 4K video recording
• 12MP front-facing camera with Face ID
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Fast wired and wireless charging, MagSafe compatibility
• IP68 water-resistant
• 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Dual-SIM

The iPhone 13 mini, as its name suggests, is the smartphone to buy if you're looking for a smaller-sized model that doesn’t skimp on features. It has the same design, craftsmanship, specs, and performance as the iPhone 13 but a smaller 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display.

With a starting price tag of $699, the mini is also the most affordable member of the new iPhone 13 product family. It is available in pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED.

As the name might suggest, the product’s size is its most impressive selling point. Because it has such a compact display, it's perfect for one-hand interactions — allowing your thumb to easily stretch from the top of the screen to the bottom. Even if it seems like a small detail, while testing the product, I enjoyed being able to crank out texts and emails with one hand without fear of dropping the device.

Compared to last year's iPhone 12 mini, the new generation brings not only a more powerful chip and better camera but also longer battery life. The iPhone 12 mini is still available for $100 less, but given the newcomer's next-level chip and camera, I wouldn't recommend it unless you find an incredible deal.

The Ultimate iPhone

Key Specs

• 6.7-inch Liquid Retina XDR OLED display with 458 pixels per inch, ProMotion
• A15 Bionic chip with all-new Neural Engine
• Up to 1TB of storage
• Triple 12MP camera with sensor-shift image stabilization, LiDAR Scanner, Dolby Vision-enhanced 4K video recording
• 12MP front-facing camera with Face ID
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Fast wired and wireless charging, MagSafe compatibility
• IP68 water-resistant
• 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Dual-SIM

Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max is today’s biggest and most capable iPhone. It is a luxurious productivity and entertainment powerhouse that’s worth the extra $100 over the iPhone 13 Pro, thanks to a much bigger screen and longer battery life. This is the Pro iPhone to get, as long as you don’t mind its size and heft (it weighs more than 8 ounces).

Having the biggest Super Retina XDR OLED display with ProMotion tech ensures that the range-topping iPhone is the best for gaming, watching video, and staying productive on the go. The captivating screen is also great for editing photos and videos captured by the best-in-class triple camera.

The 13 Pro Max has the biggest battery of any iPhone. Depending on how you manage your screen-on time, it can last for 2 full days between charges, making it a great option for those who are constantly on the go (or just hate charging up). The product’s battery performance alone is a worthy tradeoff for its considerable size and weight.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is available in the same color and storage options as the smaller iPhone 13 Pro — graphite, gold, silver, and Sierra blue. It starts at $1,099 for a model with 128 GB of storage.

Budget-Friendly Big-Screen iPhone

Key Specs

• 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display with 460 pixels per inch
• A13 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• Up to 128GB of storage
• Dual 12MP camera with optical image stabilization
• 12MP front-facing camera with Face ID
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Fast wired and wireless charging
• IP68 water-resistant
• Wi-Fi 6, Dual-SIM

For $300 less than the iPhone 13, the iPhone 11 offers robust hardware specs and a user experience to match. It has a large Retina display, a top-tier camera setup, and a powerful chip. Until the arrival of the iPhone 12, the iPhone 11 was our favorite iPhone model.

This is the model that we recommend for budget-conscious buyers who are looking for a big-screen iPhone with dependable features and specs, as long as 5G is not a priority. More than 2 years after its launch, it’s among the finest products in its price range.

The iPhone 11 is available in more colors than any iPhone 13 model: black, white, purple, yellow, green, and (PRODUCT) RED. You can spec it with up to 128GB of storage.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting