The iPhone 12 (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is what most people should buy, especially because it has a feature that has been limited to the Pro models until now: an OLED display. Its 6.1-inch screen allows for much deeper blacks and a wider range of colors over the LCD on the iPhone 11, and it packs as many pixels as the iPhone 12 Pro, which means sharper-looking movies and shows. It's also a speedy phone thanks to the A14 chip. The camera is a step up over the iPhone SE, with the main lens utilizing Night mode to brighten up dark scenes and an ultrawide lens to capture sweeping scenes.
Apple has packed this phone with new perks like MagSafe, which lets you attach magnetic accessories to the back of the phone, like a wireless charger or a wallet. The screen is protected by Ceramic Shield tech Apple developed with Corning, with ceramic crystals embedded in the glass to make it more durable. It's still glass though, so a case is a good idea. And then there's 5G, the new network that remains sparse in the US. You should absolutely not buy this iPhone just to access 5G as you're not going to see dramatically faster speeds in your day-to-day use—maybe in a few years. Battery life is, unfortunately, no improvement over its predecessor. It'll get you through an average day (hopefully). And it now comes in purple!
For Small Phone Lovers
Apple iPhone 12 Mini
If you hate giant phones, this is Apple's tiniest. The iPhone 12 Mini (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is smaller than the iPhone SE, but it has a bigger 5.4-inch screen and all the same features you'll find in the iPhone 12, including Face ID, OLED, 5G, dual cameras, wireless charging, and the fast A14 processor. Its small size does mean some things can feel cramped, like watching a movie or typing. But if you have many screens in your life, this one might actually encourage you to put the phone down more often.
The downsides? The speakers sound tinny, and battery life isn't great. It barely lasts a full day, though that's common for many iPhones.
The Ultimate iPhone
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
You don't need to spend more than $1,000 on an iPhone, but if you want the best camera experience and you aren't restricted by budget, then the iPhone 12 Pro models are for you. Specifically, the iPhone 12 Pro Max (9/10, WIRED Recommends). For $100 more than the iPhone 12 Pro, you get a larger image sensor and better stabilization tech, so the camera can absorb more light and can produce some of the best low-light photos and videos of any smartphone. Both phones have telephoto cameras, but the Pro Max can zoom a tiny bit more than the regular Pro. They also have a lidar scanner, which shoots out lasers to measure depth (and for faster autofocus), letting you take Portrait Night mode photos.
The largest iPhone to date with a 6.7-inch screen, the Pro Max also has the advantage of lasting more than a full day on a single charge. Still, if you don't want a Big Phone but want the camera perks, stick with the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro (8/10, WIRED Recommends). You'll get excellent OLED screens either way you go (they get brighter than the iPhone 12), and a durable stainless steel body. They can also capture photos in Apple's ProRAW format, which offers greater editing capabilities. That's on top of the other features from the iPhone 12, like 5G, water resistance, and HDR video capture.
Still a Great iPhone
Apple iPhone 11
Apple continues to sell the iPhone 11 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) at a lower price, and you should absolutely consider it if you just want a modern iPhone without breaking the bank. The A13 Bionic processor is still powerful, and the dual-camera system, which includes the main camera and ultrawide, performs admirably. The main camera supports Night mode, which takes several photos over the span of a few seconds at different exposures to illuminate people in the dark much better than previous iPhones.
If It's $700 or Less …
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Apple completely canceled the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max from 2019, but they're still fine to buy. They have speedy processors and three rear cameras, so you can zoom out with the ultrawide or zoom in up to 2x. Everything else is par for the course, with stainless steel bodies, excellent OLED displays, long-lasting battery life, water resistance, and wireless charging.