These are the best iPhones to buy in 2022: Apple has an iPhone for every budget!

These are the best iPhones to buy in 2022: Apple has an iPhone for every budget!

The iPhone is the most mainstream and ubiquitous smartphone — perhaps consumer product — on earth, and if you’re on the market for a new model, it could be overwhelming with all the options. It may be easy to default to buying the newest one, but for some people, it may make more sense to buy an older or different model. With Apple’s best-in-industry software updates, you can buy an older phone and still get the latest Apple experience.

We at XDA have tested every iPhone, so here’s our trusty guide to hopefully help you make a more informed decision. If you’re looking for more options, we have recommendations on the best Android phones, and a combined recommendation list for the best phones.

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Best iPhone for most people: iPhone 13

iPhone 13 back

You may be wondering why we kept the iPhone 13 on this list when the iPhone 14 exists. Well, it’s because this category isn’t necessarily about the absolute most powerful or newest phone that money can buy, but rather the best option for the average consumer after taking into account all the features and price. It’s about recommending the most practical and value-oriented option, without being majorly outdated or having any deal-breaking flaws. Also, if we’re being honest, the iPhone 14 really doesn’t bring many useful upgrades over the iPhone 13, particularly since they run on the same chip.

The iPhone 13, which is still on sale officially at the Apple Store, can be had now at a discount on retailers such as Best Buy or Amazon, and it’s usually about $100 cheaper than the iPhone 14. The iPhone 13’s Apple A15 Bionic is still extremely powerful today — and more powerful than any chip in Android phones — and the 12MP main and ultra-wide camera remain very capable. With the help of Apple’s computational photography, the iPhone 13 cameras excel in day and night, and can shoot some of the best videos on smartphones. You also get the impressive Cinematic Mode that creates a semi-convincing artificial bokeh in video.

Crafted out of an aluminum body with “Ceramic Shield,” the iPhone 13 is relatively comfortable to hold compared to the heavier Pro iPhones or the huge Pro Max iPhones. We here at XDA have a fondness for the white model in particular.

The iPhone 14 is slightly better — it has a larger main image sensor, and a slightly superior GPU — but honestly, the improvements do not justify a whole new generation, nor the price difference. Apple seems to have saved the real upgrades for the Pro iPhones this year. If you’re an average consumer who just wants an iPhone that is powerful, snap good enough photos, and gets all social media and work tasks done, the iPhone 13 is still the best overall option factoring in price and value proposition.

    The iPhone 13 may be a year old but it's still mighty capable and the best iPhone for most people whose smartphone usage do not need all the bells and whistles of a Pro phone.

Best flagship iPhone: iPhone 14 Pro Max

DO NOT USE YET EMBARGOED UNTIL SEPT 15 8PM ET

If you want the absolute latest and biggest from Apple, then the iPhone 14 Pro Max is your de-facto choice. But unlike the iPhone 13 Pro Max which only brought marginal improvements over the 12 Pro Max, this year’s 14 Pro Max brings some major upgrades. The first thing you’ll notice is that the notch is gone, replaced by a cutout named the Dynamic Island. It’s named so because this isn’t just a static hardware component. Apple built UI elements into and around the cutout so that depending on the action, the Dynamic Island will morph into different shapes and sizes.

Play music from Spotify, for example, and the island will display the album cover art and a little music bar that thumps along with the beat. Start a timer, and you can see the clock tick away the seconds inside the now long island. As app support grows, there will be more ways to interact and play with it.

Elsewhere, the iPhone 14 Pro Max also sees an improved 48-megapixel main camera, which uses pixel binning technology to produce brighter, more detailed images. The ultra-wide camera sees an increase in image sensor size too for superior low light capabilities. There’s also a new machine learning algorithm called “Photonic Engine” that helps improve low-light photos.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max also brings back the excellent 3x telephoto zoom that can do a maximum zoom up to 15x. While long zooms (10x and up), the iPhone 14 Pro Max still falls short of what the top Android phones can do, we think the iPhone 14 Pro Max may have the best 3x zoom lens on the market right now. We also think 3x is a more ideal short zoom length than 2x or 4x (the latter used in the Pixel 6 Pro).

And because the iPhone 14 Pro Max is huge, Apple managed to throw in a sizable battery too, and the result is the best battery life in a flagship phone we’ve tested all year. The iPhone 14 Pro Max, even with ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate, can last a full 12-hour day out and come home with like 40-50% battery. This is the first iPhone to not give some of us at XDA battery anxiety in years.

Another benefit of getting the largest iPhone is you also get the most screen. The 6.7-inch display here is stunning to look at, with superb viewing angles and maximum brightness. Pair that with awesome stereo speakers and this is a phone you can binge NetFlix on without issues. Some of us here at XDA, unfortunately, also find this model a bit hard to use with one hand. But if you have large hands or don’t mind two-handing a phone regularly, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the biggest and the baddest.

    The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the biggest and baddest iPhone, giving you a new Dynamic Island, improved cameras, and epic battery life.

Best iPhone for power users who don’t like big screens: iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro colors

Remember two years ago when the iPhone 12 Pro was missing some features in the 12 Pro Max? Apple has now given full parity to the Pro iPhones, as the iPhone 14 Pro is exactly the same as the iPhone 14 Pro Max other than its physical size (including battery). This means that if you want the absolute best that Apple has to offer, you don’t have to get the gigantic phone.

The iPhone 14 Pro runs on Apple’s newest all-powerful A16 Bionic SoC, with a new 48MP main camera and a larger image sensor the ultra-wide camera, plus you also get Dynamic Island, which we just wrote about a paragraph above.

The new 48MP camera shoots pixel-binned 12MP photos and produces excellent dynamic range day or night. A new Photonic Engine helps the phone further excel in low light conditions. Old favorites like “Cinematic mode,” which is like portrait mode for video, returns.

The iPhone 14 Pro’s video performance also got a boost thanks to a new “Action Mode” which produces much superior stabilization. Another strong point for the iPhone 14 Pro is selfies. Apple’s TrueDepth camera can really get an idea of your face and apply realistic portrait lighting and convincing digital bokeh. The iPhone 14 Pro does a good job with keeping skin tones realistic too, unlike some Android brands which can make our skin look plasticky.

Construction is premium, of course, with a stainless steel frame and Ceramic Shield glass on the front and back. While we find the sharp edges of the phone slightly less comfortable to hold, it is a stunner of a device to look at. Another strong point of the iPhone 14 Pro is its battery life. Despite the 120Hz screen, this is a phone that can last you an entire day out on a single charge.

There wasn’t much that differentiated the iPhone 12 Pro from the 12. But now, the iPhone 13 Pro is noticeably better than the iPhone 13. So if you want a powerhouse iPhone without the gigantic size, then this is the one to get.

    The iPhone 14 Pro brings a new screen design, new cameras, and the most powerful chip in mobile in a package that's the right size for most people.

Best affordable iPhone for most people: iPhone 12

iPhone 12 in white.

If saving a bit of money is your goal — but you also don’t want the really outdated iPhone SE — then the iPhone 12 is a good choice. Even at two years old, the iPhone 12 still holds up very well today, with its Apple A14 Bionic still at least on par with most Android flagship silicon.

While the two-year-old iPhone 12 camera system loses out on some fun features introduced in the iPhone 13 and 14 series such as “cinematic mode” or “action mode,” you still have a capable dual-camera system that captures great wide and ultra-wide images provided you have enough lighting. Shoot in low light situations, both of these lenses will have to revert to night mode a bit more than most 2022 flagship phones, but it’s not a dealbreaker at all for most people.

Video performance with the iPhone 12 is still very good today. Expect excellent stabilization and seamless switching between lenses mid-filming. Android brands have caught up to Apple in many regards, but in video performance, the iPhone is still king.

And because Apple gives the iPhones great software support, you can still run the latest version of iOS even if you buy this older iPhone. Elsewhere, you still have the premium iPhone design language with ceramic shield and aluminum railings, plus a gorgeous OLED panel. Although the screen’s notch and 60Hz refresh rate feel a bit behind now in 2022.

Some readers may scoff at the $599 price of the iPhone 12 as “affordable,” but do keep in mind Apple products are generally pricier than alternatives, and $599 for a two-year-old iPhone that is still flagship-quality is a good value price in this space.

    If you want an iPhone that still feels flagship-ish at a good price, look no further than the two year old iPhone 12.

Best small iPhone: iPhone 13 Mini

The iPhone 12 Mini is very small

The iPhone 13 Mini is not just small, but downright petite. Most people should be able to palm the entire device and reach all four corners of the screen with their thumb easily. Don’t be fooled by its dainty build, however. The iPhone 13 Mini still packs the same punch as the iPhone 13, so you’re still getting a 5nm powerful SoC, very good main and ultra-wide cameras, as well as aluminum railings and Ceramic Shield protection for the display glass panel.

The camera system is identical to the iPhone 13, so this means you have a very capable dual-camera setup. Switch seamlessly between wide and ultra-wide cameras mid-filming, or point and shoot anywhere — even against harsh backlight — and get a properly exposed shot.

The battery here is a bit weak — this phone likely won’t last you an entire 13-hour day out of you have a busy Saturday, but on a typical workday in which you’re stationary at a desk, the iPhone 12 Mini’s endurance is fine.

On the software front, you can expect to be able to download and run the latest version of iOS within an hour of setting up the phone, and once set up, the iPhone 12 Mini’s software will behave as well as any new Android or iPhone. This is a phone that doesn’t skip a beat no matter what you throw at it.

If you want your phone this small, you should really consider snapping this up now because Apple has apparently scrapped the Mini line.

    The iPhone 13 Mini is perhaps the last in Apple's mini phone experiment, so you might want to buy this now while you can. Don't be fooled by the tiny size -- this thing still packs a punch in 2022.

Best budget iPhone: iPhone SE 3 (2022)

If you want the absolute cheapest iPhone possible (that’s not used or several years old), the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is the only sub-$430 iPhone around. It may lack the flashier all-screen design of the other iPhones listed here, but it comes in a petite size, and in this age of constant mask-wearing, having Touch ID instead of Face ID may actually be appealing to consumers. In fact, there are people who would actually very strongly prefer the familiar Touch ID and home button setup, and for them, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is the only real option left.

With this model, you’re still getting the Apple A15 Bionic, 5G support, IP67 water and dust resistance (rare for a sub-$500 phone), and a good single camera with OIS. As usual, video recording is a strong point with this device. And this is one of the cheapest iPhones that you can officially buy right now that will receive the longest software support.

The smaller size has its appeal too, as before Apple introduced the iPhone 12 and 13 Mini, this was the phone people who really dislike big phones went for. At 144g, it’s a really easy carry in your hand or pocket.

The 4.7-inch, 750 x 1334 screen isn’t going to compete with other iPhones on this list, but it’s still a good LCD panel for its price, with Apple’s fine-tuning producing excellent colors and acceptable maximum brightness. You also get stereo speakers. The battery life is on the less generous side, so look out for newer options if you want something that lasts confidently through the day. With this phone, it’s best to have humble expectations.

    The iPhone SE (2022) is the absolute cheapest iPhone right now that you can buy brand new.

No matter which iPhone you choose, you’ll be well served

Even though we here at XDA have a soft spot for Android and all the customization the platform brings, we can concede that when it comes to providing software updates in a timely and long-term manner, Apple does a much better job with the iPhone. While we’re partial to the iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 13, any of the devices on this list will serve you well.

About author

Ben Sin
Ben Sin

I'm a senior editor at XDA Developers. I have been a journalist for a decade, the last five years covering the mobile tech scene closely, reviewing just about every phone and attending trade shows and launches. I also run a gadget review channel on YouTube.

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