- Apr 12, 2001
In 2007, Apple launched the original iPhone, kickstarting the modern smartphone era which is now dominated by the Apple iPhone and Google Android platforms. We've had 13 years of iPhones so far, with the latest models, the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max having been introduced in October 2020. Apple typically follows an annual update cycle, introducing new high-end flagship models while often discounting prior-year models and selling them at more affordable price points.
iPhone vs Android
Over the years, the Android and iPhone platforms have evolved to the point where feature-wise, they're similar in function. Android smartphones are made by multiple manufacturers, but the operating system is provided by Google, which leads to a wider variety of phones and price points to choose from, but poorer integration between software and hardware.
Apple's control of both the iPhone and the operating system (iOS) results in a more consistent experience plus ongoing support. With iOS 14, Apple supports all iPhones that were introduced in the last four years, so the majority of active iPhone owners can and do upgrade to the newest version of iOS that Apple rolls out each year.
Android updates, though, are more inconsistent and often don't make it to all Android-based smartphones because each manufacturer has to implement support on an individual basis. So while Google also does yearly Android updates, the reality is that a lot of older Android smartphones don't get the new software.
With Apple's control and curation of the iPhone experience, the iPhone is largely considered to be the more secure platform, and Apple has made it a point to focus heavily on privacy. Apple's iOS is, however, less customizable than Android, so for individuals who prefer flexibility and customization options, the Android operating system may be worth looking at.
How do iPhone Updates Work?
Here are the basics you should know about how Apple updates the iPhone and the iOS operating system.
Each fall, usually in September (but in October and November in 2020), Apple releases a new series of flagship smartphones. These often come at high prices and feature the latest technologies, with Apple offering super high-end models and still high-end but more affordable models. Prior year iPhones often stick around with lower price points as cheaper alternatives to the latest and greatest technology, and occasionally, Apple launches an iPhone like the low-cost iPhone SE outside of the normal fall timeline.
At the current time, Apple's iPhone lineup includes the iPhone SE (2020), iPhone XR (2018), iPhone 11 (2019), iPhone 12 mini (2020), iPhone 12 (2020), iPhone 12 Pro (2020), and iPhone 12 Pro Max (2020).
Apple also debuts an updated version of iOS at the same time that new iPhones launch, but new versions of iOS are pre-introduced every year at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference to give developers time to incorporate new features and technologies into their apps ahead of when the software becomes available to the public. The current iPhones run iOS 14, but Apple is expected to introduce iOS 15 in June 2021.
In this guide, we go over all of the iPhones that are in the current Apple lineup, offer up some buying suggestions, and provide tips and resources for both new and existing iPhone owners.
iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max ($999+)
The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are Apple's current flagship devices with all of the top of the line features and the most bells and whistles. As Apple says, the Pro models are for those who want to get the most out of their iPhones.
Pricing on the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999, while pricing on the iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,099. In past years, the Pro and Pro Max versions of iPhones have been identical except for size and battery life differences, but this year, the iPhone 12 Pro Max also has superior camera capabilities.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a larger 6.7-inch display and it is the biggest iPhone that Apple has released to date, while the iPhone 12 Pro has a 6.1-inch display. All of the iPhones this year were redesigned with a new flat-edged design that's similar to the iPad Pro or older iPhones like the iPhone 5, making them stand out from last year's models.
Both iPhones have edge-to-edge OLED displays with slim bezels and a "Ceramic Shield" material that offers better drop protection, a notch with TrueDepth front-facing camera systems for Face ID biometric authentication, glass bodies with stainless steel frames in new colors, the latest super fast A14 chips, 6GB RAM, IP68 water resistance (the highest offered in an iPhone), a triple-lens camera system, and LiDAR Scanners for improved AR functionality and better low-light performance.
Triple-lens cameras are unique to the Pro iPhones, as the iPhone 12 lineup is limited to a dual-lens camera setup. Both iPhones have a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens, and a super wide-angle lens that gives you a lot of versatility when taking shots.
You can use the telephoto lens to take close up shots and portraits, and then zoom out to the ultra wide-angle lens for amazing landscape and architecture shots. The new LiDAR Scanner improves autofocus in low light and makes Night mode portraits possible, plus there have been sensor improvements that make this year's iPhone cameras better than ever and Dolby Vision HDR video recording is supported for the first time.
The Pro Max has the most advanced camera technology, getting a new larger sensor that lets in even more light, a 65mm telephoto lens with 2.5x optical zoom (the Pro has a 52mm telephoto lens with 2 optical zoom), and Sensor-Shift Optical Image Stabilization that stabilizes the sensor and keeps it steadier than ever before to cut down on camera shake.
All iPhones this year have OLED displays, so that's no longer a feature limited to the Pro lineup, and all models also include 5G connectivity. This year's iPhones are also designed with a magnetic ring in the back that allows them to work with MagSafe accessories.
- Highest End, Highest Price
- Triple Lens Camera: Ultra Wide, Wide, Telephoto
- LiDAR Scanner and pro camera features
- 5G Connectivity
- Higher quality build materials
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini ($699+)
Sold alongside the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are Apple's new affordable flagship devices. The iPhone 12 and 12 mini feature many of the same capabilities as Apple's more expensive models, but with some downgrades that keep the price tag lower.
Priced at $699 (or $729 for the SIM-free model), the iPhone 12 mini is the smallest and most affordable option in the iPhone 12 device lineup. With its 5.4-inch display, this is the smallest iPhone that Apple has introduced since the 2016 iPhone SE and it's the phone to get if you're looking for a one-handed option.
The iPhone 12, priced at $799 (or $829 for the SIM-free model), is the same size as the iPhone 12 Pro at 6.1 inches, and it's similar in size to the iPhone 11 that it replaces. It has the same flat-edged redesign as the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Max.
Apple's more affordable iPhones used to have LCD displays instead of OLED, but that's no longer the case this year, and all iPhone 12 models have an OLED display. Like the iPhone 12 Pro models, the iPhone 12 continues to offer Face ID with the TrueDepth camera system.
As far as the camera goes, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini have the Wide and Ultra Wide lenses that are in the iPhone 12 Pro models, but it does not have the third telephoto lens. Camera improvements are also much more modest, with the iPhone 12 and 12 mini offering just slight gains in quality over the iPhone 11.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini feature a glass body but rather than the stainless steel frame of the 12 Pro, they use a less expensive aluminum frame and have a glossy glass rear casing. The new iPhones come in a range of bright colors (black, white, red, green, and blue), while the 11 Pro is limited to more muted silver, space gray, gold, and pacific blue tones.
The iPhone 12 has the same A14 chip that's in the iPhone 12 Pro, plus 4GB RAM, 2GB RAM less than the Pro models. The iPhone 12 models have support for mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G, the same as the Pro models. This year's iPhones are also designed with a magnetic ring in the back that allows them to work with MagSafe accessories.
Between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini, the features are identical with the exception of the screen size and the battery, as the smaller size of the iPhone 12 mini means it can't accommodate a larger battery. It has the lowest battery life of all the iPhone 12 models.
- Dual Lens Camera: Ultra Wide, Wide
- OLED Screen
- 5G Support
- A14 Chip
iPhone 11 ($599)
Apple kept the iPhone 11 around in iOS as a more affordable low-cost option that is priced starting at $599. The iPhone 11 continues to be an excellent value even with the release of the iPhone 12, and it will hold up for many years to come.
The iPhone 11 features an LCD display instead of an OLED display and it has a dual-lens camera setup with Wide and Ultra Wide lenses. Size wise, the iPhone 11 measures in 6.1 inches, but it is slightly bigger than the iPhone 12.
The iPhone 11's LCD display doesn't offer the deeper blacks and HDR features available with the OLED displays in the iPhone 12 lineup, but it's still quite good and one of the better smartphone LCD displays on the market. The display is edge-to-edge, with the exception of the notch that houses the TrueDepth camera system for Face ID.
The iPhone 11 has an A13 chip that's a generation behind the A14 chip in the iPhone 12, and it includes 4GB RAM. The iPhone 11 features a glass body with an aluminum frame and a range of bright color options.
- Dual Lens Camera: Ultra Wide, Wide
- Affordable price tag
- Prior-generation A13 chip
- LCD Screen
iPhone XR ($499+)
Apple's iPhone XR was released in 2018, but Apple is continuing to sell it as a lower-cost alternative to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
Priced starting at $499, the iPhone XR has the same design as the iPhone 11, but with a single-lens camera instead of a dual-lens camera and a different range of color options.
Aside from these changes and some updates to the iPhone 11 display, the iPhone XR is identical to the iPhone 11 with TrueDepth camera system and Face ID, LCD display, glass body and aluminum frame (with lesser water resistance), and wireless charging support.
It's using two-year-old chip technology, though, so it has an A12 chip instead of an A14 chip and cameras that don't measure up to more modern camera technology. It's not going to last quite as long as the iPhone 11, so it's not the best low-cost device in the lineup.
- Two-year-old CPU
- Single Lens Camera
- LCD Screen
iPhone SE 2020 ($399+)
Introduced in April 2020, the iPhone SE is Apple's most affordable iPhone, and it replaces the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which have since been discontinued.
Priced at $399, the iPhone SE is identical in design to an iPhone 8 with a 4.7-inch LCD display and thick bezels at the top and bottom of the device, housing the Home button at the bottom and the front-facing camera, speaker, and microphone at the top.
The iPhone SE is now the sole iPhone that Apple sells with Touch ID, which makes it ideal for those who prefer a fingerprint sensor to Face ID. It used to be the smallest iPhone available, but that's no longer the case now that Apple has the iPhone 12 mini, which is just a bit smaller.
The iPhone SE has a glass front and back with an aluminum frame, and it supports wireless charging. Inside, it is equipped with the same A13 Bionic processor that's in the iPhone 11.
While the iPhone SE has a fast prior-generation chip, Apple is using lower cost components for the rest of the device, and it is missing the bells and whistles of Apple's more expensive smartphones such as multi-lens camera setups, OLED all-screen displays, and Face ID.
- Touch ID
- Same A13 chip as iPhone 11
- Low price
Frequently Asked Questions
There's no one single iPhone that's best for everyone, as picking the right smartphone for you needs to take into account factors like budget, desired battery life, preferred feature set, and more.
If, for example, you're not a fan of Face ID and want to use Touch ID, you're going to want to choose the iPhone SE. If you want the absolute best photographic capabilities, you're going to want the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and if you want something that has a solid feature set at a great price, the iPhone 12 is what you'll want to look at. For those who want one-handed usage, the iPhone 12 mini is the phone to pick.
Below, we've outlined some of the best iPhone choices based on different scenarios or features that you might be looking for.
Which iPhone Has the Best Battery Life?
With their more efficient A14 processors, the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max have the longest battery life of Apple's iPhones.
Of the three, the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max has the longest battery life because it has the space for a larger battery. It offers up to 20 hours of video playback, 12 hours of streaming video playback, and 80 hours of audio playback.
Comparatively, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro offers up to 17 hours for video playback, up to 11 hours for streaming video playback, and up to 65 hours for audio playback. The iPhone 12 mini, which is the smallest iPhone, asts for up to 15 hours with standard video playback, up to 10 hours with streaming video playback, and up to 50 hours with audio playback.
Which iPhone Has the Best Camera?
With their updated triple-lens camera systems and LiDAR Scanners the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have the best iPhone cameras that you can get, with the edge going to the iPhone 12 Pro Max because it has a larger sensor and the absolute best feature set.
The iPhone 12 Pro features a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide lens with Lens Correction for cutting down on distortion, a 12-megapixel Wide lens with a new f/1.6 aperture that lets in more light, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with a 52mm focal length and 2x optical zoom.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max features the same Ultra Wide lens, but the Wide lens is using a new, larger sensor, and paired with the improved f/1.6 aperture, it lets in up to 87 percent more light for much more impressive performance in low light conditions. It also has a 65mm telephoto lens with 2.5x zoom, so it can get closer portrait shots and close-ups than the iPhone 12 Pro.
Apple's largest iPhone also includes Sensor-Shift Optical Image Stabilization that cuts down on camera shake and blur from movement better than ever before.
Both the Pro models have a LiDAR Scanner that uses light to map out the room around you, creating a 3D depth map of the scene. It's great for AR, but it also enables some impressive new photographic capabilities such as Night mode portraits and faster autofocusing.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini, meanwhile, have some minor camera improvements but there's not a lot that's better over the iPhone 11. The 12 Pro and Pro Max pulled away quite a bit in the camera department this year, and these are the phones you want to look at for the best pictures.
Which iPhone Has Touch ID?
If you want an iPhone with Touch ID, your only option is the 2020 iPhone SE. Apple stopped using Touch ID for its flagship iPhones in 2017, and the 2018, 2019, and 2020 iPhone lineups have not included an updated Touch ID iPhone.
The iPhone SE features Touch ID rather than Face ID to keep the device ultra affordable, which is great for those who prefer using a fingerprint sensor over facial recognition.
Which iPhone is Best For One-Handed Use?
At 5.4 inches, the iPhone 12 mini is smallest iPhone that Apple has introduced since the 2016 iPhone SE, and it's ideal for one-handed use. It measures in at 5.18 inches tall, 2.53 inches wide, and 0.29 inches thick.
It's not as small as some prior iPhones like the 2016 SE and the iPhone 5s models and earlier, but it's the smallest iPhone on the market today.
Which iPhone is the Best Value?
If you want a modern iPhone with the latest chip, solid camera features, OLED display, and 5G connectivity, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are the best values at $699 and $799, respectively. They offer an incredible feature set at price points that start at $700, with the iPhone 12 mini being the best deal.
If you don't need the latest bells and whistles, the 2019 iPhone 11 that Apple is still selling is also a great deal because it has a super fast A13 chip, long battery life, a camera setup that's not that different from the camera in the iPhone 12, and the same TrueDepth camera system.
If you want the absolute best price and don't mind bezels, Touch ID, and an inferior camera, the iPhone SE with its A13 chip continues to be an amazing deal at $399.
For most people, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are the iPhones to get this year with their lower price point and modern feature set, but the iPhone 11 and SE are considerations for those who don't mind year-old technology and would prefer to save money.
Which iPhone Has the Most Features?
If you want the iPhone with the most bells and whistles, that's the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. These iPhones offer OLED displays, triple-lens cameras, a glass body with a stainless steel frame (compared to aluminum in the iPhone 12), larger maximum storage capacities, and longer battery life for the Pro Max.
Compared to the iPhone 12 models, the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max have better camera capabilities, with the Pro Max being the best iPhone that you can get at this time.
In More Detail
Still not sure? We have deeper dives directly comparing the new iPhone 12 models to older iPhones and to each other.
- iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 11 Buyer's Guide
- iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Pro Buyer's Guide
- iPhone 12 Mini vs. iPhone 12 Buyer's Guide
- iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Buyer's Guide
- iPhone 12, Mini, and Max Size Comparison
For full details on each phone, explore our roundups:
Apple is working on a few new iPhone products, including the 2021 flagship iPhone devices, which could perhaps feature a portless design, 120Hz ProMotion displays, and camera improvements.
Have questions about choosing an iPhone, notice something we left out, or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.
Article Link: iPhone: 2020 Buyer's Guide
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