Update, 09/20/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have updated many of our recommendations to the newly released iPhone 14 line.
What to Look For in an iPhone in 2022
The iPhone is Apple’s take on the smartphone that now incorporates a range of models. The original iPhone was introduced in 2007, and since then, the device has been through many different hardware transitions to get to where we are today.
Apple takes a closed approach to its ecosystem, which some users may find restrictive. The boundaries to what you can do on your device are set by Apple, including only installing software from the first-party App Store.
The upside to this is that the iPhone enjoys a reputation for being easy to use since Apple designs the software and hardware with the user experience in mind. Apple has been diligent about enforcing a permissions system that puts the user in control of what apps can do. In 2021, Apple forced app developers to be even more transparent with App Store customers.
The iPhone is also well-regarded from a security standpoint, though no device is “hack-proof.” The iPhone pioneered security advancements like Apple’s secure enclave, which eventually made its way into the Mac. Though iPhone malware does exist, it’s thankfully rare due to how iOS and the App Store are maintained.
There’s an iPhone model for everyone, including budget users with the iPhone SE. In recent years, Apple has reserved its bleeding-edge features for the higher-end iPhone Pro line. That means the traditional numbered iPhone releases are now the standard, all-rounder models.
Every iPhone model on sale today uses the standard Lightning cable connector. You can charge many iPhones wirelessly using a Qi wireless charger or get a more powerful charger and enjoy fast charging from the wall instead.
If you are thinking of buying an iPhone, also consider an AppleCare+ warranty package. Not only does this extend your coverage to two years (though some countries already have a two-year limited warranty as standard), but it also provides two instances of accidental damage cover.
- ✓ Always-on display
- ✓ Nifty Dynamic Island
- ✓ Excellent performance
- ✓ 48-megapixel primary camera takes great photos
- ✗ Premium price
- ✗ No physical SIM slot in US models
Although Apple has been selling the iPhone Pro models for a few years, the gap between the Pro and standard iPhone models has never been this big. So if you want the best iPhone, the iPhone 14 Pro is the way to go. It has all the cool new upgrades that the company has introduced this year, including the much-talked-about Dynamic Island.
While the iPhone 14 Pro looks the same as its predecessor from the back, the introduction of Dynamic Island refreshes the front design. This pill-shaped cutout now houses the front camera and the Face ID sensors. But the real trick is its ability to expand and retract on the fly to show certain app information.
In other highlights, the 6.1-inch OLED screen now has the option to remain always on and display your regular lock-screen, but with dimmed brightness. Fortunately, this doesn’t impact the battery life much, and you should get a full day on a single charge with moderate use.
The triple rear camera system is headlined by a new 48-megapixel sensor, which uses pixel binning and the company’s Photonic Engine image processing technology to capture better photos in low-light situations. While there isn’t a massive upgrade in image quality over the iPhone 13 Pro, you get more detailed photos in dim lighting.
Performance is top-notch like every other generation, and you won’t have to worry about the phone becoming slow for years. You also get the new crash detection and emergency SOS via satellite features as other 14 series iPhone models.
The biggest downside to the phone is its lack of a physical SIM try in the US models. While this omission may not be troublesome at home, you may face issues if you often travel internationally and switch to local SIM cards for better rates. However, this is it a problem in all iPhone 14 models.
All-in-all, most people will be happy with the iPhone 14 Pro. But if you want an even larger screen and better battery life, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is worth a look. It’s the same phone as the 14 Pro but with a bigger screen and larger battery, but you pay an extra $100 for these benefits.
The Classic iPhone: iPhone 14
- ✓ A15 Bionic delivers solid performance
- ✓ Most affordable iPhone 14-series model
- ✓ Upgraded camera sensors enable better low-light photos
- ✗ Display limited to 60Hz
- ✗ Not a big upgrade over iPhone 13
- ✗ Lacks physical SIM slot
Apple’s new iPhone 14 is an incremental update over the iPhone 13, but that isn’t necessarily bad. The standard iPhone is still a highly capable smartphone even without the new perks included in the Pro models, such as the Dynamic Island, A16 Bionic chip, or always-on display.
Its older A15 Bionic chip can stand toe-to-toe with many of the best Android phones in performance, and the extra GPU core will help the phone provide an improved experience in gaming and creative apps.
Plus, you’ll be happy to know that new, bigger image sensors power the primary and selfie shooters on the phone. Combined with the Photonic Engine, these sensors capture better photos in low-light situations. Of course, photos taken in good lighting are still among the best for any smartphone. Apple has also included support for 4K HDR video recording in Cinematic mode and a new Action mode for super-stabilized videos.
In other new features, the iPhone 14 has crash detection and Emergency SOS via satellite, the same as the Pro models.
Battery life has also improved, with the iPhone 14 rated for 20 hours of video playback on a single charge. And in real-life usage, it’s good enough to last through a full day for most people.
Overall, the iPhone 14 is a solid pick for most people, and you are saving $200 compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. If you are coming from the iPhone 13, however, the new model doesn’t give a lot of incentives for an upgrade.
- ✓ Half the price of an iPhone 13
- ✓ A14 Bionic system-on-chip is fast and efficient
- ✓ 5G support for faster mobile internet
- ✓ Same great iPhone experience and app selection
- ✗ Old-style design lacks Face ID and edge-to-edge display
- ✗ Single camera, no optical zoom or ultra wide
- ✗ Could be jarring coming from a new-style iPhone
Apple introduced the third-generation iPhone SE (2022) in March 2022 at $429. It uses the top-of-the-line A15 Bionic system-on-chip seen in the much more expensive iPhone 13, with a 4.7-inch display. Despite having a smaller display size than the iPhone 13 mini, the iPhone SE is still a larger device overall since it uses Apple’s older form factor.
Unlike newer iPhones that drop the home button and fingerprint scanner, the iPhone SE still has both. There’s also no Face ID support because there is no edge-to-edge display, which can be jarring if you’re coming from an iPhone with Apple’s more modern design.
Despite the outdated form factor, the iPhone SE is still capable. The chip inside is fast enough to get everything done, there’s 5G support for fast mobile internet, and the IPS display supports True Tone, a wide color gamut, and around 625 nits peak brightness. The single wide 12MP camera on the back and decent 7MP front-facing camera are ideal for still photos, videos, selfies, and video calling.
The third-generation iPhone SE improves on the last generation’s quoted video playback by two hours thanks to the more efficient A14 Bionic, for 15 hours. You get a meter of water resistance for 30 minutes, and you can charge the iPhone SE wirelessly and charge to 50% in 30 minutes if you get a 20W or better charger.
The closest alternative to the iPhone SE is the iPhone 12. The iPhone 12 features Face ID, an improved 6.1-inch display, and better battery life, and it uses the A14 Bionic chip at about $100 more than the SE. It’s a good alternative if you want the other features, and it’s got better battery life too, but at this price range, $100 is quite a leap.
- ✓ 48-megapixel primary shooter takes amazing photos
- ✓ Excellent low-light camera performance
- ✓ Telephoto camera included
- ✗ More expensive than iPhone 14 and 14 Plus
- ✗ Telephoto camera limited to 3x optical zoom
Apple reserves its best camera software and hardware for the Pro models. So if you are in the market for the best iPhone for photos or videos, you can’t go wrong with either of the Pro models. The iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max have the same camera setup and software, offering the same imaging experience. The display size and battery differentiate the two models, and you can decide between them based on these two features.
For the longest time, Apple has used 12-megapixel image sensors for the primary iPhone camera, but that’s changing with the iPhone 14 Pro series. Both Pro models have a new 48-megapixel sensor, which produces 12-megapixel images thanks to pixel binning, a feature that combines four pixels into one to generate one big pixel to capture more light.
As a result, the images taken by iPhone Pro 14 main camera in low light are generally better than similar photos from previous-generation iPhones. The Photonic Engine technology also uses computational photography to enhance pictures taken in less-than-ideal lighting. So, in general, you will get fantastic photos from the main cameras, regardless of the lighting conditions.
The ultrawide and telephoto shooters are still 12-megapixel, but the ultrawide camera has gotten a new, bigger sensor that also benefits from the Photonic Engine.
It’s the same story in terms of video recording. The latest Pro iPhone models are the company’s best at recording video with improved performance in dim lighting.
The iPhone 14 Pro gets you all these perks at $100 less than the Pro Max model. But the latter’s bigger battery and screen are undoubtedly advantageous if you do a lot of creative work on your phone.
- ✓ Better battery life than any other iPhone
- ✓ Beautiful 6.7-inch OLED display
- ✓ Features the new Dynamic Island
- ✓ Class-leading camera performance
- ✗ The most expensive iPhone
- ✗ Some people may find it bulky
The overall size of the iPhone governs how big of a battery Apple can fit. As a result, the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the iPhone 14 Plus have the biggest batteries at 16.68 watt-hours among the 2022 iPhone models. But the newer and more efficient A16 Bionic chip present in the Pro Max means it can last longer than the Plus model. If you want the best iPhone for battery life, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the right choice.
Apple claims the 14 Pro Max can offer 29 hours of video playback on a single charge, up from iPhone 14 Plus’s 26 hours and iPhone 14’s 20 hours. Even in real-life conditions, the Pro Max can easily manage around a day and a half of battery on moderate use, better than any other iPhone.
Plus, thanks to fast charging support, you’ll be able to juice up 50% of the phone’s battery in just 35 minutes with a USB Power Delivery (USB PD)-capable charger of 20W or higher.
Alongside the fantastic battery life, you get a massive 6.7-inch OLED screen that supports always-on display and refresh rates of up to 120Hz. Like the iPhone 14 Pro, the Pro Max houses the Dynamic Island and can reach up to 2000 nits of peak brightness.
In other highlights, the phone has the same exceptional camera system as the iPhone 14 Pro, which takes great photos with plenty of detail and color in ideal and not-so-ideal lighting conditions.
There is plenty to like about the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But if you find it a little too expensive for your budget, you can wait for the iPhone 14 Plus, which starts shipping on October 7 and will offer a better battery backup than any other iPhone, except for the Pro Max. But it has the A15 Bionic chip and doesn’t include the Dynamic Island or always-on display.