iPhone gift guide: Pick the best model and accessories


iPhone buying guide: Choose the best models and accessories
Gifting an iPhone for the holidays? Here's all you need to know.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Which iPhone is the best to buy as a gift? We’ll walk you through some of the best choices below, along with great accessories for new iPhone owners, including tough cases and handy MagSafe chargers.

This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.

iPhone gift guide

Apple rolled out the first iPhone in 2007. Since then, it has become a huge part of Apple’s overall business, typically bringing in about half of the company’s sales revenue each quarter. Simply put, iPhones are very, very important to people.

And while an iPhone may be pretty small, as far as devices go, it’s not a small investment. So you should take care in picking the best one for you or the person on your gift list. Should it be a new iPhone 15 Pro Max that costs $1,200 and boasts all the latest features? Or will an iPhone SE do, say a 2022 model for about $430?

And there are a lot of choices in between, of course — not just in the latest iPhone 15 lineup, with its long-awaited USB-C connectors and magnificent cameras, but in older models Apple still sells, like iPhone 14 or 13 (or older ones you can find elsewhere). Check out our picks and some of the best accessories to go with them below.

iPhone gift guide: Table of contents

Best overall: iPhone SE (3rd generation)

iPhone SE is the best low-budget iPhone you can buy.
iPhone SE gets you iOS for less.
Photo: Apple

There are two kinds of people who get an iPhone as a gift: first timers and upgraders. Some people are getting an iPhone for the first time, like granny or the kids, but granny may hate it and kids lose their phones, so the cheapest new iPhone is the best. The other group of people getting iPhones as gifts are people getting an upgrade from an older, crummier phone to brand new one, and the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max are the best choices there.

For granny or the kids, the best iPhone is the cheapest: iPhone SE (3rd generation). It’s like an iPhone 8, but better! It’s good for grandparents or for kids. It’s compact and offers easy wireless charging. If you get the newest SE model, you get the same chip in iPhone 13 — the A15 Bionic. The newest SE also supports 5G for fast download speeds.

The SE can’t compete with higher-spec models in areas like photography, yet the camera’s good for most uses. It still takes great pictures. Plus the SE has that good ol’ Home button with Touch ID, for those old-fashioned types. That makes it dead easy to use for iPhone first-timers.

iPhone SE (3rd generation) starts at $429 for the 64GB version.

Buy iPhone SE: Amazon (renewed premium) or Apple

Best splurge gift: iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone you can buy overall.
iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max have it all.
Photo: Apple

If you have the money to splurge, Apple’s best iPhones also make the best gifts. Who wouldn’t want the latest and greatest?

The major difference is size, of course. The Pro Max has a bigger 6.7-inch screen, longer battery life, and a better camera. Plus, surprisingly, because of the new lightweight titanium frame, it’s not as bulky as previous models. It comes with a hefty 256GB of storage to start while the Pro starts with 128GB. And the Pro Max is the only model with 5K zoom included in the stellar camera array. So if any of those are a must-have for you or the person you’re shopping for, your decision is made. Get the Pro Max.

If not, you might be perfectly happy buying a 6.1-inch iPhone 15 Pro. It has most of the same top-shelf stuff as the Pro Max — A17 Pro chip, 48MP main camera (plus ultra-wide shooting), customizable Action button, Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion, titanium chassis and more. And they both come with a USB-C connector replacing the Lightning connector. With the Pro models, the connector supports USB 3.0 data transfer speeds, much faster than the USB 2.0 version on the non-Pro models.

Of course, the price you pay will depend on which model and its storage capacity, as well as any included cellular plan. A Pro Max with 256GB is $1,199. An iPhone 15 Pro is $999.

Buy iPhone 15 Pro Max: Amazon or Apple

Buy iPhone 15 Pro: Amazon or Apple

Best midrange pick: iPhone 15 or 15 Plus

iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are the best midrange iPhone models.
Almost as spectacular as iPhone 15 Pro, but more affordable.
Photo: Apple

If you want to buy a new iPhone that will last at least a few years before upgrading, but you don’t need all the bells and whistles of the Pro models, one of the two iPhone 15 models might be your best choice. The regular iPhone 15 is 6.1 inches. The iPhone 15 Plus is 6.7 inches.

Either way, you get the new USB-C connector instead of a Lightning connector. Both handsets feature A16 chips, OLED displays and 48MP main cameras. As with the Pro models, the bigger iPhone 15 Plus will give you longer battery life.

iPhone 15 starts at $799 and iPhone 15 Plus starts at $899.

Buy iPhone 15: Amazon or Apple

Buy iPhone 15 Plus: Amazon or Apple

Best more-affordable choice: iPhone 14 or 14 Plus

iPhone 14 or 14 Plus is the best affordable iPhone you can buy.
iPhone 14 is a little older, but still an excellent choice.
Photo: Apple

If you want to spend a little less than iPhone 15 prices but still get a great smartphone that Apple will support for several years to come, the iPhone 14 is a good choice. Apple still sells the non-Pro models, iPhone 14 and the larger iPhone 14 Plus. They feature stainless steel chassis, not titanium, yet some early drop tests showed iPhone 14 doing better than iPhone 15.

With iPhone 14 on big retail sites, you’re most likely looking at buying renewed/refurbished models. And if you can find Phone 14 Pro and/or iPhone 14 Pro Max, all the better.

iPhone 14 starts at $699. iPhone 14 Plus starts at $799.

Buy iPhone 14: Amazon (renewed) or Apple

Buy iPhone 14 Plus: Amazon (renewed premium) or Apple

Best for kids (and college students): iPhone 13

iPhone 13 is the best iPhone for kids and students.
iPhone 13 balances features and affordability brilliantly.
Photo: Apple

The oldest full-featured iPhone Apple still sells is the iPhone 13, which debuted in 2021. It’s hard to recommend anything much older because users might run into performance issues with handsets not handling updated software (not to mention the older you go on an iPhone, the sooner Apple will stop supporting it at all; iPhone 8 can no longer get software updates, for example). That said, if you came across a mint iPhone 12 Pro, you might let that tempt you. But you might not want to go any further back in time than that with your credit card.

If you buy an iPhone 13, you’re getting a solid smartphone but giving up on some newer features. The phone sports a Lighting connector (not USB-C), A15 Bionic chip, 5G, MagSafe, decent battery life and good-but-not-great cameras. Someone with a much older iPhone or an Android device could be delighted with an iPhone 13 in good condition. If you can find an iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max, go for it. And happy hunting to those who still want an iPhone 13 mini — it’s a great little lightweight phone.

iPhone 13 prices start at $599 for a new 128GB model, but you can find them cheaper renewed.

Buy iPhone 13: Amazon (renewed) or Apple

Best iPhone accessories

The most important accessories for iPhone include protective and attractive cases, different types of power adapters and MagSafe chargers, and interesting gadgets like camera grips, lens attachments and game controllers.

Find top iPhone accessories in recent Cult of Mac coverage:

Shop the Cult of Mac Store for great iPhone accessories for all models:


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.