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Best iPhone 2020: which Apple phone is the best?

The Apple iPhone has gone from strength to strength in its 13 year existence. In 2019 we got the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Max, all of which Apple sells next to the older iPhone XR and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Until the iPhone 12 in September, which is the best iPhone you can buy?

With other retailers selling models older than what Apple stocks, buying an iPhone can be a confusing experience despite their extreme popularity. Additionally, for the first time in a while, the best iPhone in our opinion is not the most expensive. 

We love iPhones for their excellent design and build, quality cameras and unrivalled four to five years of software support from Apple. The latest iPhone 11 range has also significantly improved battery life, one of the things holding older iPhones back from greatness. 

There are persistent rumours of an iPhone SE 2 that could potentially replace the original but ageing iPhone SE in this chart soon. It might well be called the iPhone 9 as Apple is rumoured to be putting the internals of the latest iPhone 11 series and putting them in a body similar to the iPhone 8. So if you are tempted by the iPhone SE or iPhone 8 but think they’re a bit long in the tooth, it might be worth waiting to see if the March announcement of Apple’s new small iPhone happens.  

We reckon there are 12 iPhone models you could buy right now, so we’ve ranked them best to worst according to the needs of most people – but your choice will depend on your needs and budgets. 

We've taken the time to use each iPhone extensively in order to compare all the features and functions that new and older iPhones provide. We've snapped with their cameras, played many games, and weighed the value you get for the price.

Here's our list of the best iPhones on the market right now.

Best iPhone: which one should you buy today?

The iPhone 11 isn't the highest-spec Apple phone, but it supersedes the iPhone XR 'budget flagship' in better ways to become the standout phone of its generation in terms of sheer value. 

True, it misses out on a telephoto lens, but like we found with the Samsung Galaxy S10e, a coupling of main and ultrawide lenses serve most photo needs. While it doesn't get an OLED display, its LCD screen at least allows the phone to keep its best-in-generation battery life crown. And it even gets a bit more RAM – up to 4GB from its predecessor's 3GB.

Add in iOS 13 and all the new tweaks coming in the iPhone 11 series and this phone is a lean, mean, photo-taking machine – and all for $699, the cheapest an iPhone has debuted since the iPhone 8.

Read our in-depth iPhone 11 review.

The iPhone 11 Pro is a more advanced smartphone than the base iPhone 11, but it isn't the best iPhone just because its price is a big step up too.

Sure, the smaller screen is one-hand-friendly, the screen quality is a bonus, and it's Apple's most affordable handset with three rear cameras, so it's a decent phone all in all – that's why it's at our second spot on the list of our best iPhones!

But money is a concern for most people when they're looking for a new smartphone, and the big price step up may be questionable for most people when you put the stats side-by-side with the iPhone 11.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is not only a confusing shift in naming convention – it's the biggest, fastest, baddest iPhone out there. It's also the most expensive at $1,099 starting price, which only goes up if you expand storage.

Not much has changed from the iPhone XS Max, aside from the upgraded camera suite – but then again, adding an ultrawide lens is a big upgrade. The photo software has been upgraded, too, and switching between zoom levels is far smoother here than in other phones.

The battery level has been improved a staggering 4 hours over the iPhone XS Max, according to Apple. And if you can get beyond the truly weird-looking triple-lens rear camera block, this is truly the most powerful iPhone out there.

Read our in-depth iPhone 11 Pro Max review.

This is actually the best-selling iPhone from Apple, and for several good reasons. First, we get it, you refuse to budge from the 4.7-inch iPhone screen size and, frankly, we don't blame you. Every time we go back to this iPhone with 'normal' dimensions, we feel like we just went on a smartphone vacation. Second, its price is way more reasonable for a lot a folks than the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus.

Just because the size is the same as iPhones of old, doesn't mean the technology behind it is, though. The iPhone 8 features the same A11 Bionic chipset as the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X, and it too debuted wireless charging and fast charging on an Apple smartphone.

The camera is still fantastic, even if it doesn't have the dual-lens capabilities that are exclusive to the X and Plus, and you'll dig iOS 11 at this size more so than the even smaller iPhone SE.

Read our in-depth iPhone 8 review

The iPhone 8 Plus is the best iPhone if you're not willing to take the plunge into Apple's proposed smartphone future and need that Touch ID fingerprint sensor. It remains popular due to its screen size, cheaper price and physical home button.

It does have several key features you'll like, however. It's among the first iPhones to have both wireless charging and fast charging, and the camera has improved. Its dual-lens camera doesn't have OIS in the telephoto lens (a feature saved for the X), but it's still a great way to snap a photo at long distances.

It won't turn nearly as many heads with its bezel-heavy design, but the iPhone 8 Plus is the iPhone built for big hands and slightly smaller wallets than the new iPhone X.

Read our in-depth iPhone 8 Plus review

The iPhone XR is a great upgrade for the average consumer who doesn't want to pay for the most expensive iPhone money (a lot of money) can buy. This is Apple's 'cheap' iPhone, at least when it comes to recently launched handsets. It's also the best iPhone of the new trio for battery life.

It stands out with a variety of iPhone XR colors: Blue, White, Black, Yellow, Coral, Red. This contrasts heavily with the rather muted colors of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Yet it shares the same internal specs: Apple's fast A12 Bionic chipset and a 12MP dual-lens camera with a single lens on back. 

You don't get the dual-lens camera like you do on a higher-tier iPhone, so you miss out on telephoto shots. But Smart HDR is the real perk to taking great photos, and that's here.

It's cheaper, it's more colorful and it has a big 6.1-inch screen. That's enough for most people, especially those who aren't insistent on an impressive OLED screen.

Read our in-depth iPhone XR review

Despite the iPhone SE's small size and relatively modest price tag, it's still an upper mid-range phone. It has the same boxy yet premium design as the metal-clad iPhone 5S and the same powerful Apple A9 chipset and rear camera as the iPhone 6S.

It lacks the 3D Touch features and higher-resolution front-facing camera of the iPhone 6S and beyond. The screen is also less impressive all round, thanks in large part to a lower contrast ratio. But it compares well to many mid-range handsets.

It's also the most powerful 4-inch iPhone you can get, so for fans of compact form factors this is an obvious choice. But the best bit is its price, as it's one of the cheapest iPhones you'll find on the market and it's something of a bargain by Apple standards.

Read the iPhone SE review

The iPhone XS Max is the best iPhone you can buy right now. It's Apple's biggest and best iPhone – if your hands and wallets are large enough. It has an expansive 6.5-inch OLED screen with HDR10 support to make colors pop. It's the perfect phone if you want a giant screen.

Behind that huge screen is an improved dual-lens 12MP camera. Apple outfitted it with Smart HDR and increased the sensor size to capture larger pixels. Don't let that static 12MP number fool you. The iPhone XS Max (like the XS) has new depth-sensing capabilities for adjustable bokeh (background blur) during and after a shot.

The TrueDepth camera returns with faster Face ID recognition, and your 7MP selfies get better depth control and Smart HDR, too. And, of course, Animoji returns with the iOS 12 benefit of having Memoji now. 

The iPhone XS Max is more expensive than the iPhone X and iPhone XS that replaces the X, of course. But if you're paying for it over the course of two years in a contract (or through the Apple Upgrade Program), it's not that much more month-to-month.

Read our in-depth iPhone XS Max review

Believe it or not, the iPhone XS is Apple's best 'small' phone. It has a 5.8-inch screen, so it's more one-hand-friendly than the Max, but still a sizable upgrade for some people. 

It's an upgrade over last year's iPhone X, our previous best iPhone recommendation, though you'll have to look more closely for the changes – the design isn't different at all. It has a Smart HDR-capable 12MP camera, enhanced TrueDepth front-facing camera, and a fast A12 Bionic chipset, exactly like the larger iPhone XS Max.

In fact, this all-screen phone is pretty much the iPhone XS Max in last year's smaller form factor. It does have a smaller battery than the Max and obviously a smaller screen, but you will still capture the same great photos and videos on this device and play the same games. There's no different there. 

Read our in-depth iPhone XS review

The iPhone X is as impressive as it is expensive, but if you really want a great modern iPhone without buying a newer device, this is the one to get today. 

It has a large all-screen display, except for a notch cutout at the top that houses a new TrueDepth Camera. This takes selfies to another level and can also map your face to an iPhone X-exclusive Animoji. If you don't know what that is by now you probably won't care.

The iPhone X is Apple's 10th anniversary smartphone and has just about everything iPhone users have been asking for, from a more forward-leaning design to faster specs and new features. You'll just have to get used to Face ID instead of reaching for that non-existent fingerprint sensor.

Read our in-depth iPhone X review

Don't fancy the large iPhone 7 Plus above? Why not opt for the iPhone 7, which is a smaller and cheaper alternative.

This was one of the first iPhones to lack a headphone jack, but it does come with a water-resistant design that means your phone is likely to survive the odd dip in the sink rather than just being frazzled right away.

There's no dual-lens camera on the iPhone 7, but you can still take some absolutely incredible photography with the 12MP sensor.

If you own an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S, you may not see much difference with the this phone but the newer processor and camera tech may be enough to entice you to buy it if you can't stomach the high price of the iPhone 8.

Read the full iPhone 7 review

Back in 2016 the iPhone 7 Plus was the best phone Apple had ever made, and it remains a winner for its longevity and price. It's larger than the iPhone X though despite its smaller display, so if you're after a smaller phone with a bigger screen, this won't be the best choice for you with its 5.5-inch 1080p display.

The big upgrades over older iPhones are the waterproof design and a new dual-lens camera that allows you to snap with two 12MP lenses at the same time. It allows for better optical zoom as well as a bokeh mode to blur the background of your photos and put the main focus on the foreground.

Battery life on the iPhone 7 Plus is much improved upon the iPhone 6S Plus, and while it's still a costly option it's much cheaper than it was at launch, making it one of the best iPhone choices for people looking for a deal.

Read the full iPhone 7 Plus review

Best iPhones at a glance:

  1. iPhone 11
  2. iPhone 11 Pro
  3. iPhone 11 Pro Max
  4. iPhone 8
  5. iPhone 8 Plus
  6. iPhone XR
  7. iPhone SE
  8. iPhone XS Max
  9. iPhone XS
  10. iPhone X
  11. iPhone 7
  12. iPhone 7 Plus

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