The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect iPhone: Our Top Picks for 2023

iPhone 15 charging
Image Credit: Bloomberg

Considering an iPhone but unsure which model to select? Here are our suggestions for discovering the ideal Apple iPhone to match your requirements and financial plan.

In the past, Apple’s iPhone lineup was quite straightforward, but as the years have passed, it has become increasingly complex. There is now an expanding array of models to choose from, and the second-hand market remains active. Therefore, determining the optimal iPhone from Apple is not as straightforward as it once was. Currently, Apple has introduced the iPhone 15 to the market, bringing with it a handful of new features, including the adoption of USB-C and titanium for the Pro models.

As of now, if you’re in the market for a brand-new iPhone, your options extend back to the iPhone 13. Previous models are only accessible as refurbished units. Refurbished iPhones can be an excellent solution if you desire an iPhone but have budget constraints.

The best iPhone to choose in 2023

Opting for the Ideal iPhone: Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro Max
Image Credit : DxOMark

Each year, Apple introduces new iterations of its lineup, with the Pro and Pro Max models at the forefront, touted as the most innovative choices in their range. The iPhone 15 Pro Max currently stands as the pinnacle of Apple’s iPhone offerings in terms of specifications.

In the realm of design, there are no major overhauls, except for the introduction of a titanium frame that lightens the phone’s grip. This change enhances the device’s day-to-day handling, as confirmed by various tests. It chiefly accentuates the 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display, which boasts a 120Hz refresh rate compatible with Dolby Vision. These promising specs translate into a remarkable user experience. Notably, the display reached a peak brightness of 2219 nits, with an average Delta E of 3.8.

When it comes to performance, the new A17 Pro chip sets a fresh benchmark. Everyday use is exceptionally smooth, and tasks are completed without any hiccups. Additionally, it’s possible to transform this iPhone into a gaming console by connecting a controller via Bluetooth, though some reports indicate issues with excessive heat for a device of this caliber. The iOS 17 operating system offers a straightforward and user-friendly experience for day-to-day use.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is great for photography, thanks to its flexibility in using different focal lengths based on the scenario. During tests, the photos taken exhibited exceptional sharpness and noteworthy improvements in color accuracy compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It stands out as a leader in video recording capabilities.

The device’s battery life is commendable, offering a day and a half of use. However, the shift to USB-C does not translate to significantly faster smartphone charging, which is a bit disappointing. With an initial price tag of $1,199, the iPhone 15 Pro Max undoubtedly takes the crown as the best long-term iPhone choice.

Certainly, you can consider the iPhone 15 Pro as an alternative. It is slightly smaller, featuring a 6.1-inch screen, and offers a shorter battery life. Unlike the Pro Max, it comes with a 3x telephoto lens instead of the 5x lens. However, this model has the advantage of being approximately $200 cheaper than its larger counterpart, which may influence your decision.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the iPhone 15 has transitioned to USB-C, which might necessitate acquiring compatible accessories such as cables, power supplies, or cases.

The Apple iPhone 15: A Glimpse at the Latest iPhone

iPhone 15

Delving into the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus range can be a bit complex, given that previous models are still available in the catalog. The distinctions between the new iteration and its predecessors are somewhat limited. Let’s be frank; the primary incentive to consider the iPhone 15 is the introduction of USB-C connectivity and its price positioning.

In terms of construction, the device addresses some of the minor drawbacks observed in the iPhone 14, featuring an aluminum frame that offers a secure grip. The phone’s compact size, coupled with its 6.1-inch screen, contributes to an enjoyable daily user experience, accentuated by an improved interface. The measurements revealed an impressive peak brightness of 2047 cd/m² and excellent color accuracy. However, it’s worth noting that the device’s display refresh rate remains at 60Hz, which may fall short in comparison to some Android competitors.

Apple’s ecosystem continues to maintain its consistency in overall functionality. Powered by the A16 Bionic chip, the iPhone 15 performs admirably, although benchmark results indicate it may lag behind the most high-end Android smartphones. An additional concern is the device’s propensity to heat up during extended gaming sessions.

While the photography capabilities are reasonably solid, there is room for improvement in the ultra-wide-angle module. Furthermore, regarding battery life, the iPhone 15 exhibits improved endurance compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 14. It is regrettable, however, that the transition to USB-C does not bring faster charging, as it remains capped at 20W. It’s essential to note that the main competitor for this model is the iPhone 14 Pro, available as a refurbished option, which may offer a bit more assurance in terms of overall use.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro: An Impressive High-End Smartphone

iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone 14 Pro Back

As is often the case with Apple, the introduction of new models marks the farewell of the old ones. In this year’s lineup, the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro Max bid adieu to Apple’s catalog. They can still be found in refurbished condition or, in some cases, as new units with available stock from certain retailers.

Where the real difference becomes apparent is in day-to-day usage. The addition of the Dynamic Island feature, via the notch at the top of the screen, offers a refreshing change, particularly in light of the somewhat repetitive notch design of the past. The integration of iOS 16 into daily life allows for a more liberating and customizable user experience.

On the 6.1-inch display, Apple has made subtle adjustments. The OLED panel retains its 120Hz refresh rate. Right out of the box, it’s well calibrated and ready for use. The colors are remarkably true to life, and the recorded brightness surpasses 1500 cd/m², making it one of the finest displays available in the market.

Under the hood, the iPhone 14 Pro harnesses the power of the new A16 Bionic chip. This smartphone seamlessly handles intensive software, making it one of the most powerful devices in 2023. The Pro model’s battery ensures more than a day’s worth of use, while the Pro Max can deliver up to two days of battery life.

Notable enhancements are observed in the realm of photography. The addition of a telephoto lens and a 48-megapixel resolution for the main sensor sets this model apart. The main sensor allows for a 2x digital zoom and captures impeccably detailed photos. Video recording is also remarkably stable at all times.

Apple iPhone 13: Outstanding Value for Money

iPhone 13
iPhone 13

The standard iPhone 13 series exhibits a few distinctions when compared to the Pro version. One of the most notable differences is the display, which offers a 60Hz refresh rate. Given its minimal deviation from the iPhone 14 and its continued presence in the Apple lineup, this is our top recommendation if you’re seeking a quality iPhone in 2023.

On the processor front, you’ll find a slightly dialed-down version of the A15 Bionic chip, with one fewer graphics core. In practice, the chip remains robust and more than adequate for any usage. The most noticeable improvement is the battery life, which has increased by nearly 25% when compared to the previous year.

Regarding the camera sensors, Apple reuses those from the iPhone 12 Pro, resulting in consistently strong performance across various scenarios. While this iPhone may not outperform the absolute top-tier camera smartphones, it certainly delivers high-quality results.

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The compact member of the iPhone 13 series shares most features with the standard iPhone 13 but boasts a smaller 5.4-inch screen. This configuration yields a modern smartphone that achieves a more compact form factor than the iPhone SE while offering a larger screen. Notably, it takes full advantage of the extended battery life. Unlike its predecessor, you can finally make it through the day without needing to recharge. Couple that with a $100 lower price tag, and you have a highly appealing package.

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For the vast majority of consumers, the iPhone 13 is the sensible choice. While the absence of a 120Hz refresh rate is a minor drawback, it offers excellent value for the price.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro: The Ideal Choice for Refurbished iPhones

iPhone 13 Pro Max

For those in search of the previous generation of iPhone Pros, the path leads to refurbished options. Indeed, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have bid farewell to Apple’s official catalog and can now exclusively be found through specialized dealers.

One of the notable advancements in this smartphone was the implementation of an adaptive 120Hz display. While this feature arrived later than in some high-end Android devices, Apple has executed it with excellence. The screen stands out with impeccable color accuracy and a brightness exceeding 1000 cd/m², establishing it as one of the finest displays available in the market.

The A15 Bionic chip inside the iPhone 13 Pro features an additional graphics core compared to the iPhone 13, delivering exceptional performance when combined with the iOS ecosystem. However, what truly impresses is the extended battery life. Apple has made a significant effort in this regard, equipping its phones with larger batteries, resulting in the ability to comfortably achieve two days of usage.

In terms of photography, both the iPhone 13 Pro and its larger counterpart retained the same camera module. Notably, the telephoto lens has been extended to 3x, and the sensors exhibit improved performance in low-light conditions. This places the iPhone 13 Pro among the top performers in the field of smartphone photography. For videography, Apple has introduced compelling features like ProRES mode and a cinematic mode, which, while fun, may not find everyday utility for the average user.

In a somewhat unusual move, Apple heeded the feedback from its audience and made improvements to the iPhone 13 on all fronts. However, with the release of the new iPhone models, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have been removed from Apple’s official lineup. If you wish to invest in these devices, refurbished options are the route to take.

Apple iPhone 12: Striking a Sensible Balance

Released in 2020, the iPhone 12 made a significant impact, particularly due to its refreshed design. It features the potent A14 Bionic processor and an ultra-wide-angle camera sensor, while eliminating some of the non-essential refinements found in the Pro lineup. Although this phone has been removed from Apple’s official catalog, it can still be sourced through specialized retailers.

The iPhone 12 introduces an OLED display, maintaining a 6.1-inch diagonal, akin to the previous generation. In this instance, the Super Retina XDR display brings substantial improvements, particularly in color accuracy. The screen offers a resolution of 2532 × 1170 pixels and provides a visually pleasing level of brightness.

This iPhone 12 serves as a compelling alternative to the smaller variant in the thirteenth generation, featuring robust internal performance and a highly versatile camera. With a price tag of $499, it remains an enticing choice if it fits within your budget.

It’s worth noting, however, that Apple is no longer permitted to sell the iPhone 12 in French territory due to exceeding the specific absorption rate limit (SAR). The ANFR has issued a formal notice to Apple to discontinue the sale of this model and ensure compliance for units already sold.

The Affordable iPhone: Apple iPhone SE 5G (2022)

One of the eagerly anticipated models of early 2022 was the new version of the iPhone SE. Regrettably, and perhaps predictably, it retains the design of the iPhone 8. While the design may feel somewhat outdated, the device boasts impeccable craftsmanship and the benefit of waterproofing thanks to its IP67 certification. Many are hopeful that Apple will opt for a more contemporary chassis, like that of the iPhone 11, for its forthcoming SE models.

The iPhone SE stands as one of the few compact smartphones that offers robust performance, featuring the Apple A15 Bionic processor, the same chip as the iPhone 13, and now comes with 5G compatibility. Battery life has also seen improvements. On the downside, the device features a rather diminutive 4.7-inch LCD screen, complete with substantial bezels and a physical button. In 2022, it’s challenging to overlook this somewhat archaic design choice.

On the photography front, not much has evolved, as it still relies on a single 12-megapixel sensor. However, Apple has promised enhancements through software improvements in image processing. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that the photo quality doesn’t quite match the standard set by the iPhone 13 or 14.

Despite minimal evolution, the price of this iPhone SE has seen a noticeable increase, with the base model starting at $429 for 64 GB. Nonetheless, it remains one of the best value iPhones, even if the price feels somewhat steep considering the dated aspects in certain areas, particularly in photography.

While the iPhone SE may find its niche, it’s certainly worth considering alternatives, especially by exploring refurbished offers for the iPhone 12 and 11. This approach can provide access to more recent models at a similar price point, potentially offering a better overall value.

Everything you need to know about Apple smartphones

How much iPhone storage should I opt for?

Unlike many Android phones, you can’t expand the storage of an iPhone after you buy it. So it’s crucial to make the right choice from the beginning. The base storage for the iPhone 14 is 128GB, but for the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, you can go up to 512GB, and for the Pro and Pro Max, it goes all the way to 1TB. For many users, 128GB should suffice. However, if you tend to store a large amount of videos, photos, music, and apps on your device, it’s advisable to consider higher capacities like 256GB or 512GB.

When is the best time to purchase your iPhone?

With a few exceptions, Apple typically unveils its new iPhones in September, a tradition upheld for the past decade. If you’re thinking about getting a new iPhone after June, it might be more reasonable to wait for the September release of new smartphone models.

The ideal time to purchase is shortly after the official announcement. Keep in mind that iPhones tend to see relatively small discounts over time. If you’re keen on getting the latest model, it’s unlikely to see significant promotions in the first six months after release. After that, price reductions are generally modest. So, consider exploring refurbished options as well.

Can I use my waterproof iPhone underwater?

No, you shouldn’t. Smartphone waterproofing is primarily designed to protect your device in case of accidents and is not intended for underwater photography. We strongly discourage intentionally submerging your phone in water, as doing so may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Are second-hand or refurbished iPhones a worthwhile option?

Purchasing a pre-owned iPhone can be a cost-effective way to own an Apple phone. However, be cautious not to choose a model that is too old. While iPhones typically have a good lifespan, as they age, the battery performance may decrease. Additionally, iPhones tend to hold their value quite well in the second-hand market, which can make the initial investment in a new device more manageable when you consider potential resale value.

Disclaimer: We may be compensated by some of the companies whose products we talk about, but our articles and reviews are always our honest opinions. For more details, you can check out our editorial guidelines and learn about how we use affiliate links.

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