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The best iPhones for 2024: Which model should you buy?

Of the eight current Apple iPhone models, these are the best to buy this year.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

It’s a question as old as time, or at least the early 2010s: Which iPhone should you buy? For most, the answer is simple: Buy the highest-end Apple phone you can afford. And if you’re happy with your current handset, don’t buy a new one at all. But if you’re sure it’s time to upgrade and need a hand, let us help. We at Engadget have tested and reviewed iPhones since their inception, including all eight models Apple sells today. Below, we’ve broken down the current iPhone lineup and named a few top picks.

Before we dig in, let’s be clear: There isn’t really a “bad” iPhone. Each model provides a similar set of core perks: tight integration with other Apple devices, premium hardware, lengthy software support, and services like iMessage, Apple Pay and FaceTime. With the latest iPhone 15 series, Apple has finally swapped its charging ports from Lightning to the more universal USB-C. Still, some models are better buys than others right now. Just note that we’ve based this guide on the prices for new unlocked iPhones at Apple’s online store. If you can find a good deal on a refurbished model or a heavy discount from a carrier or a third-party retailer, that could change the equation depending on your budget.

Quick overview
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Photo by Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Original release date: September 22, 2023 | Storage capacity: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Screen size: 6.1 inches | Features: A17 Pro chip, Always-on 120Hz ProMotion display, USB-C port (USB 3.0), Titanium frame, 3x telephoto lens | Color options: Natural Titanium, Blue, White, Black | Dimensions: 5.77 x 2.78 x 0.32 inches | Weight: 6.60 ounces

The iPhone 15 Pro is the model we’d currently recommend for most people. Yes, its starting price of $999 might be steep, but a smartphone is a long-term investment. If the question is “which iPhone is most likely to keep you happy for the next three to five years,” we think the iPhone 15 Pro’s advantages over the standard iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are meaningful enough to be worth the extra $200.

For one, the iPhone 15 Pro’s textured titanium frame feels higher-quality than the aluminum one on the base iPhone 15. It’s also a bit heftier than the standard 15 at 6.60 ounces, but it’s light overall and its slightly curved edges are pleasing to hold. It runs on the faster A17 Pro chip, which won’t make a huge difference with everyday tasks but is more futureproof. Already, some graphically demanding games like Death Stranding and Resident Evil Village only work on the Pro series. There’s also a new Action button, which replaces the old mute switch and can be customized to quickly perform tasks like launching the camera or turning on the flashlight. And while each iPhone 15 has a USB-C charging port, the Pro models support faster data transfer speeds (with the right cable).

Both the iPhone 15 Pro and the standard 15 have 6.1-inch OLED displays that are equally sharp and bright. The Pro’s screen, however, has an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz. This can make scrolling web pages, playing games and streaming video look noticeably smoother. Not everything will play at 120Hz, but the effect is hard to give up once you’ve seen it. The display is also always-on, which lets you view notifications at a glance, without having to physically touch the device.

The other big upgrade is the camera system. The iPhone 15 Pro has a trio of rear cameras: a 48-megapixel main camera, plus 12MP ultra-wide and telephoto shooters. That last one is the biggie, as the regular iPhone 15 lacks a dedicated telephoto lens entirely. The Pro's main camera has a larger sensor as well, it’s a bit better in low-light environments and it supports portrait mode at night. You also get a macro mode for close-ups and other enthusiast features like the ability to shoot ProRAW. If none of this terminology means anything to you, the regular iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are still great point-and-shoot cameras. But the 15 Pro is better, especially if you take your photos with a little more intent.

  • Powerful performance
  • USB-C port
  • Excellent 120Hz display
  • Customizable Action button
  • Premium titanium design
  • Great camera performance
  • Costs $200 more than iPhone 15
  • Less battery life than iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Shorter optical zoom than iPhone 15 Pro Max
$999 at Apple
Photo by Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Original release date: September 22, 2023 | Storage capacity: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Screen size: 6.7 inches | Features: A17 Pro chip, Always-on 120Hz ProMotion display, USB-C port (USB 3.0), Titanium frame, 5x telephoto lens | Color options: Natural Titanium, Blue, White, Black | Dimensions: 6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches | Weight: 7.81 ounces

Do you want a larger device than the iPhone 15 Pro? Are you willing to trade pocketability for longer battery life? Are you cool with spending at least $1,199 on a smartphone? If your answer to those questions is “yes,” skip the 15 Pro and get the iPhone 15 Pro Max instead.

It has all the same benefits of our top pick, but with a more spacious 6.7-inch display and its battery can last closer to two days per charge, whereas the smaller Pro is more likely to tap out around one day. It starts with 256GB of storage, which doubles that of the smaller Pro and helps justify the increased cost at bit. It also includes an upgraded telephoto camera with a 5x optical zoom. (The smaller Pro has a 3x optical reach.) While the phone is somewhat of a tank, its lighter titanium frame and rounded edges make it less unwieldy than previous Pro Max models.

Ultimately, we’re assuming that most people would prefer the more hand- and pocket-friendly size of the regular 6.1-inch Pro, even if it means sacrificing a few hours of battery life. If you’re looking for the most powerful iPhone, though, the 15 Pro Max is it.

  • Powerful performance
  • USB-C port
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Great cameras, including 5x telephoto lens
  • Excellent 120Hz display
  • Premium titanium design that's lighter than past Pro Max models
  • Customizable Action button
  • Most expensive iPhone
  • Might be too large for some
$1,199 at Apple
David Imel for Engadget

Original release date: September 24, 2021 | Storage capacity: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB | Screen size: 6.1 inches | Features: A15 Bionic chip, Face ID, MagSafe, Aluminum frame | Color options: Green, Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight, Product Red | Dimensions: 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.30 inches | Weight: 6.14 ounces

It’s tough to recommend an iPhone with a Lightning port these days, and getting an older iPhone means fewer years of software support. Still, we realize that no iPhone 15 model comes cheap. If you want to save some cash, consider the base iPhone 13, which Apple still sells for $599. It’s a decent value for people who want an iPhone that isn’t crazy expensive but still looks and feels modern, lack of USB-C aside.

We recognize that a $599 phone may not qualify as “budget-friendly" to some people, but aside from the $429 iPhone SE, there isn’t a cheaper option in Apple’s current lineup. And, compared to the SE, the extra $170 nets you some significant upgrades. Most notable is a far less dated design, with flat sides, Face ID and an edge-to-edge display. The 6.1-inch OLED panel is much larger than the SE’s 4.7-inch LCD screen, yet the device as a whole is just 0.33 inches taller and only marginally thicker. That display is better in every way — brighter, sharper, more vivid and more durable to boot. The iPhone 13 also supports MagSafe, unlike the SE, plus it starts with twice as much storage at 128GB. Instead of the SE’s single-camera setup, the 13 has a superior dual-camera system with a dedicated ultra-wide lens. Around the front, there’s a sharper selfie camera that supports 4K video. Battery life is longer, too.

If you can step up to the iPhone 15, you still should: It has a better main camera, a brighter display, a USB-C port and longer iOS update support. Yet the broad strokes of the iPhone 13 aren’t that different, so it remains a fine choice for teenagers or anyone on a more limited budget.

  • Good value
  • Modern design
  • Camera performance is still perfectly solid for most
  • Ditto for processor, display and battery life
  • Two generations old
  • Lightning port
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • No telephoto lens
$599 at Apple

Other iPhones we tested

Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

The standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are excellent phones for those who can't spend quite so much for a Pro model. They still let you use one USB-C cable for all of your Apple devices, and the soft-touch glass around their backs feels nice, even if it’s not as upscale as the Pro’s titanium. While it’s past time for Apple to bring adaptive refresh rates down to its non-Pro iPhones, the displays here are excellent in every other way. The front-facing cameras are effectively the same as the ones on the Pro, and the rear cameras will be perfectly suitable for most people. These phones also include the Dynamic Island, which makes it faster to check timers, currently playing songs, Uber ETAs and the like. Both iPhone 15s are lighter than their Pro counterparts as well. The iPhone 15 Plus may be particularly appealing, as it costs $300 less than the 15 Pro Max while offering an equal-sized display and a similar one and a half to two days of battery life.

$799 at Apple
Photo by Cherlynn Low / Engadget

The iPhone SE (3rd gen) isn't just the cheapest iPhone that Apple sells, it’s also the smallest and lightest. It retains the look and feel of the iPhone 8, which was released all the way back in 2017, but some may appreciate the older design and tactile Home button. The SE uses the same A15 Bionic chip as the iPhone 13, too, which makes it one of the faster phones available for less than $450. All of this keeps it a decent buy if you just want the cheapest route into iOS or you’re buying a first iPhone for your kids. For many, though, the SE’s small display, single-rear-camera setup and limited storage may be tough to accept in 2024. It also lacks ultra-wideband (UWB), so it won’t be as adept at finding nearby AirTags.

$429 at Apple
Photo by Cherlynn Low / Engadget

The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus are very similar to the iPhone 13 in terms of design, performance and features, but their camera works a smidge better in darker settings and they offer a couple extra safety features in crash detection and emergency SOS via satellite. They’re good phones in a vacuum, but they’re stuck in no man’s land when it comes to price: The iPhone 13 is mostly identical and costs $100 less, while the iPhone 15 costs $100 more but offers more meaningful upgrades. The 14 Plus might be justifiable if you just want the cheapest large-screen iPhone, but the 15 Plus is worth the extra cash for most.

$699 at Apple