Apple’s iPhone is a decidedly premium brand of smartphone. Or to put it another way, iPhones have always been expensive.
While there’s still no such thing as a cheap iPhone, however, the line has expanded over the years to encompass multiple models at a broad range of price points. It might surprise you to learn that Apple currently lists eight distinct models on its website.
All of which begs the question: which iPhone gives you the best value for money?
‘Best value’ doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘cheapest’, of course. Value is all about getting the most for your money, while being cheap is all about the lowest price possible.
With that in mind, let’s focus on the value proposition of Apple’s current smartphone line-up.
The iPhone 13 mini isn’t the cheapest iPhone in Apple’s current line. In fact, it’s firmly middle of the pack. But it is the best value.
It’s the cheapest model in the wider iPhone 13 family. At £679, it’s £100 less than the iPhone 13 itself, £270 cheaper than the iPhone 13 Pro, and a considerable £370 cheaper than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Despite this, it’s functionally identical to the iPhone 13 except for a smaller display and battery.
The iPhone 13 mini runs on almost the exact same A15 Bionic processor as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but with one less GPU core, and likely 4GB of RAM as opposed to 6GB (though RAM amounts haven’t been confirmed at the time of writing). Its two 12MP cameras, meanwhile, are the exact same brilliant pairing as you’ll find on the standard iPhone 13.
You get access to the same MagSafe accessory and charging system with the iPhone 13 mini as you do with its big brothers, and it’s just as ready for 5G connectivity. All this and it will actually fit in your jean’s pockets, and you’ll be able to use its vibrant 5.4-inch OLED display single-handed.
If you came here seeking to establish the cheapest iPhone on the market, then the answer is the iPhone SE 3rd Gen. Launched in March of 2022, the third iPhone SE starts at just £419 if bought outright, making it the most affordable phone Apple currently sells.
Despite this, the iPhone SE is plenty capable, with an excellent single-lens 12MP camera and the same A15 Bionic chipset that powers the iPhone 13 family. With 5G too, this one’s surprisingly future-proof.
We wouldn’t label it the best value iPhone due to its old design - this is essentially an iPhone 8 with updated innards. Its 4.7-inch LCD display, meanwhile, doesn’t match up to the iPhone 13 or 12 family for sharpness or vibrancy.
But if you’re looking to get an iPhone for the lowest expenditure possible, the iPhone SE 3rd Gen is comfortably your best choice.
While the iPhone 13 mini is our pick for the best value iPhone on the market, we suspect that most people will be best off with the iPhone 13.
We’ve established that it’s almost identical to the iPhone 13 mini in form and function, but there are two elements that make the iPhone 13 a better all-round proposition - if you’re willing to spend the £100 premium.
One is the simple matter of screen size. The iPhone 13 mini, by its very nature, is much smaller than you might be accustomed to. The iPhone 13’s 6.1-inch OLED display provides more of the space that most have become accustomed to for movie watching, game playing, and web browsing.
Also, the iPhone 13 has better battery life. The iPhone 13 mini’s battery is obviously smaller, and that leads to slightly inferior stamina - particularly when it comes to media playback.
While the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are without doubt the best phones Apple has ever made, they’re not the best value.
The iPhone 13 Pro is remarkably similar to the iPhone 13, with identical proportions, an almost identical 6.1-inch OLED display (albeit one with a higher 120Hz refresh rate), and basically the same A15 Bionic chipset (though the Pro model has an extra GPU core).
It has an extra (telephoto) camera, and can perform a couple of extra photographic tricks, but the camera offering is otherwise very similar indeed.
We’d actually argue that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is better value, as you get a huge 6.7-inch display and better battery life for just £100 more than the Pro. But it’s still the most expensive phone in the range at £1,049, and its core offering remains remarkably similar to the teeny-tiny iPhone 13 mini’s.
One other notable difference: both Pros go with a more premium stainless steel finish. But while that’s slightly tougher and shinier than the aluminium finish of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, it also makes them heavier.
Of Apple’s older models, the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, and iPhone 11 all continue to be offered as new.
They start at £679, £579 and £489 respectively, making them reasonably affordable by Apple standards, and fairly good value, if not a match for our top picks above.
The iPhone 12 is of course the best of these phones, offering a very similar experience to the iPhone 13, albeit with slightly worse cameras and battery life, a little less power, and a larger notch.
Similarly, the iPhone 12 mini is almost a match for the iPhone 13 mini, aside from in the areas mentioned above.
But for those reasons, coupled with the fact that the iPhone 13 range will be supported for longer, we’d give the new phones the edge, even at their higher prices. Indeed, the newer phones only cost £100 more than their older siblings.
As for the iPhone 11, that’s now the second cheapest iPhone on the market, and with a more modern design than the iPhone SE you could make a good case for it, especially as it also has a larger screen. But the chipset is older, and it doesn’t support 5G, so you’ll actually get worse performance from it.