Best iPhone in 2023: Which Apple Phone Should You Buy?

Apple sells eight iPhone models that include phones released between 2020 and 2023. While there’s no such thing as a true “best” iPhone, depending on your needs, budget and preferences, some models will be better for you than others. With the iPhone 14 series and the iPhone 11, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max being discontinued, deciding on the right Apple phone can be confusing.

Prices start at $429 for the 2022 iPhone SE and tops out at $1,599 for the iPhone 14 Pro Max with a whopping 1TB of storage. If you’re looking for the best iPhone deals, we have you covered there, too. 

Navigating Apple’s iPhone spectrum can be overwhelming, whether you’re considering colors (the iPhone 13 comes in six), or features like the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island, which animates system alerts and background activities like playing music.

Then there are the cameras. The iPhone typically has some of the best cameras found on any phone. The iPhone SE has just one on the back. The 12, 13, 13 Mini, 14 and 14 Plus each have dual rear cameras. And then there’s the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max that not only have a trio of cameras but come with features like the ability to take ProRaw photos or record ProRes videos.

To further complicate things, carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon as well as third parties like Best Buy and Amazon continue to sell discontinued models such as the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. And then there are the prices. Apple’s starting price for each model isn’t necessarily what you’ll pay. Nearly all of the phones on this list can be bought for significantly less with a mixture of trade-ins and/or service commitments with most US wireless carriers.

I know, it’s a lot. But I’ve tested all eight versions of the iPhone and can help you navigate through all the noise.

What is the best iPhone right now?

The absolute best iPhone is the $999 iPhone 14 Pro. It has all of Apple’s newest features, including an A16 Bionic chip, upgraded main camera, the Dynamic Island, as well as tools like Car Crash Detection and SOS via Satellite. Not everyone looking to buy a phone from Apple needs the 14 Pro, but if you want the best get the iPhone 14 Pro. Want something bigger? Get the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which is the regular 14 Pro in a bigger body.

Best iPhones of 2023

iPhone 14 stands on a blue surface with a red background

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When I reviewed the iPhone 14, I said it was essentially the iPhone 13 Pro’s processor and main camera inside the body of an iPhone 13. No doubt, some will be disappointed that the iPhone 14 isn’t radically different from previous models. But that’s part of its charm. Familiarity has been one of the keys to Apple’s success with the iPhone. And as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

back of the iPhone 14 Pro on a yellow background

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From the back, the $999 iPhone 14 Pro looks identical to last year’s 13 Pro. But don’t let that sameness fool you. It’s the 14 Pro’s screen where there’s something different and wonderful going on. The display notch, that defined previous Face ID iPhone models, has morphed into a pill-shaped screen cutout that can show system alerts and background activities like when you receive a call or play music. Apple calls this functionality the Dynamic Island. I know, it’s not the best name, but it’s truly one of the best features.


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The $729 iPhone 13 is still an excellent phone. In fact, if you’re tempted by the iPhone 14 and want to save some money, grab a 13. They have essentially the same body, same screen and same A15 Bionic processor. Although technically, the iPhone 14’s processor does have an extra GPU core.

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The $929 iPhone 14 Plus is either a big iPhone 14 or a scaled-back iPhone 14 Pro Max, depending on your perspective. Ever since the iPhone XS Max launched in 2018, there has been only one option for those who love big screens: Pay top dollar and get a Max model with extra features you might not necessarily need (like a telephoto camera or a high refresh rate display). I know many CNET readers, friends and co-workers who have shelled out $1,100 or more for an iPhone 12 Pro Max or 13 Pro Max because it was the only way to get a phone in the size they wanted. But that changes now.

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iPhone 13 Mini

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Who said small phones don’t exist in 2022? The $629 iPhone 13 Mini is brilliant because it has everything the iPhone 13 has — it’s just smaller. It has the same square-edged looks, support for 5G and the same cameras. The 13 Mini’s defining feature is its 5.4-inch OLED screen that supports Dolby HDR. If that sounds too small, consider that Plus models, like the iPhone 8 Plus, had a 5.5-inch screen inside a much larger body. The 13 Mini’s secret is that it lacks those giant forehead and chin bezels that defined the iPhone for its first decade.

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iPhone 14 Pro

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The $1,099 iPhone 14 Pro Max is just a big version of the iPhone 14 Pro. It has the same A16 Bionic processor, the same cameras and the same features. But it does differ in two big ways from the 14 Pro: It has a bigger 6.7-inch high-refresh rate screen and a bigger battery. In fact, in our tests, the iPhone 14 Pro Max had the longest battery life of any phone on this list.


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The $629 iPhone 12 and its flat-sided design marked the beginning of the current generation of Apple phones. Of everything on this list, it’s the oldest but also one of the cheapest, especially if you want to snag an iPhone with a contemporary look and Face ID.

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iPhone SE 2022

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At $429, you might think the only appeal of the iPhone SE (2022) is its price. And admittedly that is a big factor. On the outside, the iPhone SE has the same body as the iPhone 8, which makes it the only iPhone on this list that still has Touch ID. On the inside, the SE has the same A15 processor as the iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 14 and 14 Plus which takes the 2017 camera hardware and gives it an injection of Apple’s computational photography magic.

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Below are the various models, their release date, the number of rear cameras they have, their processor and their current list price, which for some phones includes a $30 activation fee that’s waived if you activate your iPhone on a carrier at the time of purchase.

Current iPhones, compared

Model US starting price Screen size No. of rear cameras CPU Release date
iPhone SE $429 4.7 inches 1 A15 Bionic March 2022
iPhone 12 $599 6.1 inches 2 A14 Bionic October 2020
iPhone 13 Mini $599 5.4 inches 2 A15 Bionic September 2021
iPhone 13 $699 6.1 inches 2 A15 Bionic September 2021
iPhone 14 $799 6.1 inches 2 A15 Bionic September 2022
iPhone 14 Plus $899 6.7 inches 2 A15 Bionic October 2022
iPhone 14 Pro $999 6.1 inches 3 A16 Bionic September 2022
iPhone 14 Pro Max $1,099 6.7 inches 3 A16 Bionic September 2022

How we test iPhone models

I test every iPhone in real-world scenarios focusing on its features, design, performance, cameras, battery life and overall value. I document our findings in an initial review that is periodically updated when there are new iOS updates or to compare against new phones from competitors like Samsung, Google and OnePlus.


Photography is a major focus for the iPhone, so we take pictures and videos of various subjects in a variety of settings and lighting scenarios. We try out any new camera modes, such as Action mode that debuted with the iPhone 14 line.

Battery life

Battery testing is conducted in a variety of ways. We assess how long the iPhone lasts during a typical day of use, and note how it performs during more focused sessions of video calls, media streaming and gaming. I also conduct a video playback test, which isn’t always included in the initial review and added later in an update.

Performance measuring

We use benchmarking apps to measure the performance, alongside our own anecdotal experiences using the phone for our review. Of particular note are how graphics and animations look. Are they smooth? Or do they lag or stutter? We also look at how quickly the phone switches between horizontal and vertical orientations and how fast the camera app opens and is ready to take a photo.

We perform processor-heavy tasks like editing photos and videos, exporting videos and playing games. We evaluate whether a newer version of the iPhone includes enough features to make it worth upgrading from older models.

Read More: How CNET tests phones

Key terms


An eSIM takes all of the important information about your phone account — including its number, wireless carrier and subscription — and stores it in software instead of on a physical SIM card.

With the iPhone 14, Apple removed the physical SIM card tray and embraced embedded SIM cards. This means you can’t just pluck your SIM card out of your current phone and put it into a new one. But this shouldn’t affect your experience since all the major US carriers and a number of smaller operators work with eSIM.

Apple has long supported eSIM, dating back to 2018’s iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. When setting up a new iPhone 14, the device will guide you through transferring your current provider over to the new phone. A list of supported wireless networks can be found on Apple’s website.

iOS 16

Apple’s iOS 16 is the latest version of Apple’s iPhone software. It’s on the iPhone 14 by default and is also available as an update for the iPhone 8 and later. iOS 16 includes new features such as customizable lock screens, an update to the Messages app that allows for unsending and editing iMessage texts and new photo editing tools.

iPhone FAQs

How reliable is an iPhone?

Apple has been making iPhones for 16 years. The current lineup was released in September 2022 and all have a dust and water resistance rating of IP68, which means they can survive being submerged under 6 meters of water (about 20 feet) for 30 minutes. The screens are covered in Apple’s Ceramic Shield which is a glass-ceramic material created by Corning, in collaboration with Apple, and consists of nano ceramic crystals embedded in the glass matrix. It’s highly transparent, and according to Corning, the tough structure formed by the crystals means it’s less likely to break.

How long does an iPhone last?

One way to measure how long an iPhone will last is to look at the software and security support Apple offers for older models. iOS 16 can run on Apple phones as old as 2017’s iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Pro. That’s nearly 6 years of software support. Compare that to Samsung, who offers 5 years of Android software support for upgrades. But software is only half the equation. The other part is hardware and durability. Fortunately, every iPhone Apple sells has an IP rating for dust and water resistance. Newer models like the iPhone 12, 13 and 14 series also have Ceramic Shield, a glass/ceramic hybrid, that covers the display and is very durable.