Best iPhone: How to pick the perfect iPhone for you

So you know you want an iPhone—but which one? Our iPhone buying guide has all the answers.

mw iphone hub 1 IDG

This guide was most recently updated on December 13, 2017.

Picking out an iPhone used to be easier—just get the newest one with all the storage you can afford. We still recommend plenty of storage, but the choice of which iPhone to get it on isn’t quite so cut-and-dry. Do you want the phone with the best camera, the one with the lowest starting price, or maybe just one with a headphone jack?

There's another major factor that will influence what iPhone you should buy: Apple's latest iPhone release included three (!!!) new models to choose from: The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (which went on sale on September 22, 2017), and the iPhone X (which landed in stores six weeks later).

If you're ready to buy an iPhone, we’re here to help. Presented here is a guide of every iPhone currently sold by Apple, and how to decide which is the best for you.

iPhone X: Best overall, best camera

Yes, it's the most expensive iPhone ever made, starting at a whopping $999 (64GB) and stretching up to $1149 (256GB). That's iPad Pro territory!

But it's also the best. Clearly the best. You want the best display? Apple's new OLED display is sharper, more colorful, more accurate, and brighter than anything we've ever seen. 

You want the best camera? The iPhone X takes the leading camera of the iPhone 8 Plus and improves the telephoto lens with a wider aperture (f/2.4 vs. f/2.8) and optical image stabilization. It really makes a difference when you use that lens in low light. The iPhone X also improves selfies with the addition of Portrait Mode, thanks to the TrueDepth camera.

Speed? Battery life? The A11 Bionic is ridiculously fast, and battery life is great, falling somewhere between the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Of course, there's also the new taller, narrower form factor with a sexy near bezel-less design. And, while there was much hand-wringing about Touch ID being replaced by Face ID, that has mostly turned out to be just fine—and sometimes downright magical.

Besides, you can't get your Animoji on with the iPhone 8.

iPhone 8: Best 4.7-inch phone

The iPhone 8 might look a lot like the iPhone 7, and you might wonder why it's worth spending $150 more ($699) than the older phone ($549). There are substantial improvements in the iPhone 8 that make it worth the extra cost.

First, you get double the storage. Let's face, it, you're going to run out of space with that 32GB iPhone 7, so the real cost of entry is the 128GB model at $649. The 64GB base model of the iPhone 8 is much more usable, so you probably don't have to fork over a bunch of extra cash to jump up to the 256GB model.

The iPhone 8 includes Apple's new A11 Bionic chip, which is way faster than the A10 n the iPhone 7. It's going to make a big difference as Apple continues to push its machine learning, augmented reality, and AI efforts. Plus, it just makes all your apps and games run way faster.

You also get True Tone display, which adjusts the white point of the screen to match the ambient light. Once you see it in action, it's hard to go back.

The camera may appear to have similar specs (12 megapixels, f/1.8 lens) but it's actually much improved. White balance and skin tones are dramatically better, low-light shots are less noisy, and the frame rate on slow-motion and 4K video recording has doubled.

Oh, and you also get wireless charging support, fast charging with USB-C, and longer battery life. 

iPhone 7 Plus: Best bargain for big hands

When a new iPhone comes out, Apple keeps the previous generation on sale at a substantial discount. That means, right now you can get a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus with 32GB of storage for $669, or 128GB of storage for $769. That's a $100 discount off of the original price.

We'll get this out of the way right up front: The 7 Plus has no headphone jack, while the 6s Plus does. For some, that alone makes the less-expensive 6s Plus the better bargain. 

But the 7 Plus has lots of other things going for it. The faster A10 processor and extra GB of RAM (the 7 Plus has 3GB, the 6s Plus has 2GB) seem to make a huge difference in iOS 11, which runs great on the 7 series iPhones and not so great on the 6s phones.

The iPhone 7 Plus has IP67 water resistance, the 6s Plus does not. With the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple also introduced the wide color gamut display.

The camera is much improved, of course, but you also get the dual rear camera that is necessary for Portrait Mode. This mode was a little sketchy when in launch in beta alongside the iPhone 7 Plus, but it works really well now.

iPhone 6s: Best for headphone jack die-hards

The one big advantage to the iPhones of 205 is that you can plug in any old headphones you want. Want to charge your phone while you’re listening? No problem, because those use two different ports. As we know, the iPhone 7, 8, and X no longer have a 3.5mm headphone port, but the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and the iPhone SE all do.

And like the iPhone 6s Plus, the iPhone 6s is no slouch. Its 4.7-inch screen size makes it easier to carry in a jeans pocket, or strap it to your arm for a run. It’s got the exact same A9 chip as the iPhone 6s Plus, and the same 12-megapixel camera that shoots 4K video—only without optical image stabilization, which in this generation is exclusive to the iPhone 6s Plus.

Plus, it’s a bargain. The entry-level 32GB iPhone 6s is $549, in gold, rose gold, space gray, and silver. If you need more storage, a 128GB version is $649. That’s the same price as an entry-level iPhone 7, but with four times the storage. If you’ve got a lot of files and an aversion to headphone adapters, this might be the right choice.

The downside? The 6s doesn't run iOS 11 as smoothly as newer phones, it doesn't have waterproofing, and the battery doesn't last quite as long. Hey, you're going to miss out on some things if you buy a two-year-old phone. 

iPhone SE: Best value, best for small hands

But the best bargain on the iPhone market is still the iPhone SE. This is essentially the guts of an iPhone 6s shoved into the pocket-friendly body of an iPhone 5s. You get a 4-inch screen, the same size as the iPhone 5/5c/5s, before Apple went big with the iPhone 6. But you won’t sacrifice speed or battery life compared to the iPhone 6s.

The iPhone SE has the same A9 chip as the iPhone 6s, so it handles iOS 10 just fine—but it doesn’t have 3D Touch, which is a minor drawback. You can press-and-hold on notifications to see an expanded view, for example, but you can’t 3D Touch an app icon for Quick Actions. The 1624mAh battery in the iPhone SE is a little bit smaller than the 1715mAh battery in the iPhone 6s, but it still lasts longer because the 4-inch screen needs less power.

Another advantage to the iPhone SE is that it fits into cases made for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5, which you might already have lying around. The 12-megapixel camera supports Live Photos and 4K video, so you aren’t losing out there, but the iPhone SE does have limited storage sizes. 

And hey, the price is great! Apple only sells two configurations now: 32GB for $349, and 128GB for $449. It was a deal when the 16GB model was $399, and now you get double the storage for even less.