Apple picks: choosing the right iPhone in 2023

So in the competition between Apple and Android, you’ve finally decided to go for an iPhone for your next upgrade. Or maybe it wasn’t even a question for you. But unless you have a blank check, selecting an iPhone can be a confusing task.

The latest models are the glossiest and have the biggest digits, but are they really worth it compared to last year’s model? And then there are the size, storage, and color options to choose from.

There are four models in the iPhone 14 range, the iPhone 14, Plus, Pro and Pro Max. Of these, the first two have five colorways and three storage options, while the Pro models have four colorways and storage options for a total of 62 different combinations. And that’s just the new lot.

Apple has continued to produce and sell its iPhone 13 range. Depending on where you look, you can still find models from the 11 and 12 lineups on sale too. If you’re on a tight budget, there’s also the iPhone SE.

So, which one is right for you? We’ve taken a look at a few notable models from different years to point out the things worth noting, for better or for worse.

For the price conscious: iPhone SE (2022) – from R11 600

Apple iPhone SE (2022)We’re starting on the low end with the new(ish) iPhone SE 3rd gen. This little guy was released last year and serves as an update to Apple’s only wallet-friendly option. The downside is that to still make a living Apple has had to pare down many of the SE’s specs.

Many, but not all.

It still ships with Apple’s now one-year-old A15 Bionic chip, the same as the iPhone 13 and 14. This is quite a bit of power for a budget Apple device.

Elsewhere, though, the SE still seems stuck in 2017. Its dated 4.7-inch LCD screen, chonkey forehead and chin bezels, and physical Home button don’t fare well in the design department. You’re also still limited to a 12MP camera sensor, but the upgraded A15 chip lends its smarts to image processing.

With the third generation SE, Apple solved one of the biggest complaints many found in the last model. Battery life will now exceed 15 hours and 5G support has been thrown in for good measure. If money is tight and you must have a brand new iPhone, this is pretty much your only option.

For the value oriented: iPhone 12 (2020) – from R15 500

Apple iPhone 12The iPhone 12 is the oldest model still supported by Apple and when it debuted it immediately made it onto our Top Ten smartphone list. And that was it. The display, chipset (it has the A14 Bionic), 5G support and camera chops are the same as the 12 Pro, but for less money. That made the iPhone 12 an easy recommendation in 2020.

Now, two years later and for significantly less money, the iPhone 12 still offers buyers a valuable proposition. Sure, the iPhone 13 is better than the 12 in almost every way. But we don’t think the performance boost is worth the price increase for most. Unless the vertically oriented camera lenses are a deal breaker for you, this is a solid buy.

For little hands: iPhone 13 Mini (2021) – from R16 000

Apple iPhone 13 MiniThe iPhone 12 Mini was Apple’s first shrunken variant. Apple was clearly happy with the design, because the appearance of the iPhone 13 Mini didn’t change much. Well, the camera bump might be a bit bigger, but that’s about it.

Internally, the 13 Mini offers better battery life, improved camera capabilities (with optical image stabilization carried over from the iPhone 12 Pro Max) and Apple’s still very capable A15 Bionic processor. All in a much smaller and lighter package.

The downsides here are that you need good eyesight and dexterous fingers to make the 13 Mini feel comfortable in your hand. This is the way to go if you’re looking for a portable Apple powerhouse.

For the sane: iPhone 13 Pro (2021) – from R21 900

Apple iPhone 13 Pro MaxUnless you’re actually looking, the iPhone 13 Pro and slightly beefier Pro Max are hard to tell apart from their predecessors, save for a thinner notch and a slightly bigger camera bump. That’s because most of the notable changes are internal.

The 13 Series saw the introduction of the A15 Bionic. That chip proved to be more than powerful enough, as Apple also included it in the 2022 iPhone 14. The iPhone 13 Pro’s display received a much-anticipated refresh rate upgrade to a buttery smooth 120Hz and a 25% boost to sustained brightness. Battery life has been improved and the camera array has also received a few minor upgrades.

It may not seem like much on paper, but the improvements over the iPhone 12 Pro make the 13 Pro Apple’s most full-featured device in its stable. The problem is getting your hands on one. Apple no longer sells it hoping you’d go for the 14 Pro instead. Nevertheless, we believe that if you can stretch the budget, this is the iPhone to get.

For the financially well off: iPhone 14 Pro Max (2022) – from R29 500

Apple iPhone 14 Pro MaxFor those few of you looking for the very best Apple has to offer and don’t mind paying a small fortune, it doesn’t get bigger and better than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This is much more smartphone than anyone needs.

The already great display gets an always-on update and another brightness boost; the notch is now a dynamic island that some of your apps will minimize into; the camera array gets a major upgrade with a new 48MP sensor and improved video chops; and the new A16 Bionic chip brings even more performance to the table.

But all those upgrades and nice-to-haves come at a price. A very competitive price in this case. Starting just for R30k and rising to R43k for the 1TB option, the 14 Pro Max is only for those with the deepest pockets.