In recent years, Apple has made some iterative updates from one generation to another, so in my opinion, even if you decide to snag an iPhone 12 Pro Max, you wouldn't be missing out on too much.
The only issue I have with this question is that the definition of "best" means something different to everyone. For some, "best" means the iPhone with the longest battery runtime. For budget-conscious consumers, on the other hand, "best" is synonymous with affordable.
As such, I sifted through our in-house testing results for the iPhone 12 series up to the current-gen iPhone 14 to give you my best recommendation of the best iPhone — no matter what your definition of "best" is.
Which iPhone has the best battery life?
If you're reading this section, it's likely because long battery life is a top selling point for you. Nothing is worse than purchasing a phone that drains power too quickly. That "battery low" notification is a pain in the butt, too.
According to our testing, which involves continuously surfing the web on a cellular network at 150 nits of brightness, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has the best battery life. It can last nearly 15 hours! (It's 14 hours and 42 minutes to be specific.)
If the iPhone 14 Pro Max is too pricey for you, the second-best long-lasting iPhone is the iPhone 13 Pro. It lasted 12 hours and 18 minutes on our battery rundown test.
Where to buy: The iPhone 14 Pro Max has a starting price of $1,099 @ Apple.
Which is the best 'cheap' iPhone?
iPhones aren't cheap, but yes, some are more affordable than others. I would advise that you stay far away from the iPhone SE series. Why? The battery life is often terrible — I reviewed the iPhone SE 2022 and it lasted only 7 hours and 38 minutes on a charge. Gross!
I know you want to save money, but the suffering you get from constant battery drainage isn't worth it. As such, let's take a look at the mini series instead. Apple ditched the mini with the iPhone 14, and instead, introduced the iPhone 14 Plus. Why? It simply wasn't selling enough. People prefer large phones.
Still, the iPhone 13 mini is the best "cheap" iPhone you can get. It lasts almost 9 hours on a single charge, which is the best battery life we've seen across Apple's "affordable" phones, including the mini and iPhone SE series.
Plus, it comes with similar camera specs to the current iPhone 14, including a 12MP wide camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 12MP selfie camera. (Though it's worth noting that the iPhone 14 featured some minor upgrades to the main camera that delivers better low-light performance.) Also, unlike the iPhone 14, the iPhone 13 mini won't come with new features like Emergency SOS via satellite and Crash Detection.
Where to buy: The iPhone 13 mini is only $514 @ Amazon, but keep in mind that it's renewed. Apple no longer sells the iPhone 13 mini on its official website.
Which iPhone is the best overall?
Sure, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is packed with a bunch of bells and whistles, but you have to ask yourself, do they really matter? It comes with Dynamic Island, which is a snazzier notch that features dynamic animations that coincide with whatever activity you're running on the OS. It has a zippier A16 Bionic chip, an improved always-on display, a new 48MP main camera, Action Mode, and satellite connectivity.
Save for the new 48MP main camera, I'd argue that most people do not care about the aforementioned new perks.
That being said, I'd argue that the iPhone 13 Pro delivers the most bang for your buck. No, it doesn't have a pill-shaped island notch, but who cares? It still packs a beastly A15 chip, a state-of-the-art mobile camera system and software, and more. "Why not the iPhone 13 Pro Max?" you may be wondering. Because, besides the Pro Max being slightly larger, there isn't much of a difference between the two. On top of that, the iPhone 13 Pro lasts two minutes longer than the iPhone 13 Pro Max with a runtime of 12 hours and 18 minutes.
Where to buy: You can get the iPhone 13 Pro (Unlocked) @ Amazon for only $799 , but keep in mind that it's renewed. Apple no longer sells the iPhone 13 Pro on its official site.
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Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!