A few years ago, Apple produced a single iPhone. At present, they are selling five separate models, including larger “Plus” variants and a cheaper, more compact SE model. If you’ve decided you want to buy an Apple smartphone, you might be wondering which one you should go for.
Once budget has been accounted for, the answer to that question very much depends on the person asking it. So we’ve devised a few different scenarios to help you weigh the pros and cons of each option.
Don’t forget to tell us why you chose your model in the comments below!
As mentioned, there are five separate iPhone models to choose from at present:
- The latest iPhone 7 (from $649) and larger iPhone 7 Plus (from $769).
- Last generation’s iPhone 6s (from $549) and larger iPhone 6s Plus (from $649).
- The smaller and cheaper iPhone SE (from $399).
There are notable differences between each model, including Plus and non-Plus models within the same generation. There are also notable differences in the price, base and maximum storage capacity, color availability, battery life, and more. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios and see which iPhone is best for you.
Buyers on a Budget
Buy: iPhone SE. Also consider the iPhone 6s if you can afford the extra $150.
Even low budgets come with high expectations, and a lot of folks would probably be surprised that even they can afford one of Apple’s notoriously expensive smartphones. The iPhone SE is the cheapest of the bunch, but it’s still a fast and highly capable device.
The worst thing about the SE is that it feels a bit old-hat now, as it uses the exact same chassis seen on the iPhone 5. But the insides are all-new for 2016: the same A9 chip as the iPhone 6s, 2 GB of RAM, a top-quality 12 MP camera, Live Photos, and 4K video at 30 frames per second. The screen is a bit of a let-down, and it’s only 4 inches compared to 4.7 inches on the iPhone 6s.
You’ll miss out on 3D Touch and a larger screen, and the video quality isn’t quite as good as the iPhone 6s, but if those things don’t really matter to you and you want the Apple smartphone experience in a cheaper, smaller package, then the iPhone SE is well worth a look. Keep in mind that you can only choose between 16 GB and 64 GB storage capacity — any larger and you’ll have to look at a different iPhone model.
Best for Battery Life
Buy: iPhone 6s Plus or 7 Plus.
A larger phone means a larger battery; it’s as simple as that. Both the latest Plus-sized models include significantly improved battery life over their smaller counterparts. This comes at the cost of ergonomics, as these models feel very big in the hand, and one-handed operation can be difficult even if you have oversized palms.
You’ll get up to around 10 hours increased talk time and 20 hours increased wireless audio playback according to Apple’s own figures (which are usually pretty accurate). In the real world, this means your phone is far more likely to last all day long, even if you’re making phone calls, browsing, taking pictures, and using Siri a lot. Don’t forget that you can also employ a few tricks to help iOS 10 better manage your energy.
The Plus models really are considerably larger, so it’s probably worth heading to a shop to see if you can stomach the size before a purchase. Also keep in mind that the larger battery will take longer to charge. The iPhone 6s Plus will cost you $120 less and omits the fancy new dual-lens camera, faster A10 chip, and only comes in 32 GB and 128 GB models. If you can afford it, the iPhone 7 Plus is the better choice, and the lack of headphone port shouldn’t bother you either.
For Smartphone Photographers
Buy: iPhone 7 Plus.
The only iPhone with a dual-lens system also happens to be the largest. This provides an impressive 2x optical zoom, allowing you to get closer to your subject without having to move or rely on terrible digital zoom. The regular wide lens is faster, with an aperture of f/1.8 for a shallower depth of field, while the telephoto still provides impressive performance at f/2.8.
There’s a new quad-LED TrueTone flash too, and you can order the highest-ever capacity iPhone by opting for a 256 GB model. As of iOS 10, the iPhone 6s and later can shoot RAW, so you might need that extra space if you’re hoping to make use of this feature.
While the dual-lens system is nice, the iPhone 7 is also a worthy contender. It too includes the same six-element f/1.8 wide lens, improved flash, and 256 GB option, but if you intend on shooting a lot of pictures, you might miss the considerably larger battery and humongous 5.5-inch screen for composing your shots.
The “Toughest” iPhone
Buy: iPhone 7. Also consider AppleCare+ with any iPhone purchase.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are the only water-resistant models on the market, built to the IP67 standard and capable of being submerged up to a meter for 30 minutes. That’s long enough to survive a clumsy dunk in the kitchen sink (or worse) without having to pay an AppleCare+ premium for a fix.
Of course you should still buy a case to protect against bumps and scratches, and probably avoid the Plus sized model if you’re prone to drops. The larger device is much harder to use one-handed, which means you’ll be shifting your grip a lot if you don’t have both hands free. I’ve spent a week or two with the iPhone 7 Plus, and even with large hands, I’ve nearly dropped it on numerous occasions for this very reason (and it’s not even mine).
The Best All-Rounder
Buy: iPhone 7. The iPhone 6s is also great if you can’t quite afford the extra $100.
Is it any surprise that Apple’s best all-rounder is their flagship phone? The non-Plus models are the bread and butter of the iPhone world. Apple sells the most of them, they’re not overly large, and they include all but a few features that Apple reserves for its largest models. This time round, it’s the dual-lens camera that’s missing; prior to this, it was cinematic image stabilization (missing from the iPhone 6s).
Battery life is okay, but nothing remarkable. You’ll get the major new features, like 3D Touch, which allows for pressure-sensitive input so you can quickly access app features or peek inside links by squeezing the screen. There’s also a huge number of cases and accessories available as the design is well-established at this stage.
The iPhone 7 uses Apple’s most powerful A10 processor, a superior f/1.8 lens, louder speakers, and a smart new home button that doesn’t use moving parts. It also omits the headphone jack, though there’s an adapter in the box. Don’t write the iPhone 6s off either, it’s still a great option but will certainly end up showing its age sooner than the iPhone 7 in terms of overall performance.
We’ve nearly covered everything, but just to be sure:
Want the shiny black one? Order an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and choose Jet Black when ordering. You can also opt for the matte Black version too.
Want the smallest iPhone? Get the iPhone SE. It’s the same size as the iPhone 5, with a 4-inch screen and same performance as the iPhone 6s.
Want the latest and greatest? Either the regular or Plus-sized iPhone 7 is what you’re after — unless you’re prepared to wait for the iPhone 8, that is.
Got an Apple Watch? It doesn’t matter, all of the iPhone models currently on sale work great with Apple’s wearable.
Addicted to selfies? The iPhone 6s, 7, and Plus models all have improved 5 MP front-facing cameras, and a flash that uses the device’s screen to light up your face.
You could even go for something older, like an iPhone 6 or 5s by trawling eBay for a bargain! So which iPhone did you go for, and why?