The iPhones are ready. The brackets are set. I asked all of you what you considered to be the best iPhone of all-time. And wow mercy to did you answer.
The quarter-finals starts us off with all 21 iPhones-to-date all warmed up and ready to hit the Octagon. Or Polygon. Or wherever it is iPhones fight it out.
In the first bracket, we have the original iPhone, all bead-blasted aluminum with plastic RF skirt, big-for-the-time 3.5-inch LCD display, 2-megapixel camera and 2G Edge-networking. It was the first, though, the originator, and it has all the nostalgia on its side.
It's up against the iPhone 3G, which switched out the aluminum for a full plastic back, and added both GPS and 3G networking. It was the same, only better. And it launched alongside the App Store.
Rounding out the bracket is the iPhone 3GS. Almost identical to the 3G in appearance, it bolstered the internals with twice the processor speed, twice the networking speed, and added a magnometer — a digital compass. And yeah, video recording. Finally
Yet, it was enough to win. Blowing even the original out of the water with 53% of your votes. iPhone OG got 35% and 3G got only 12%. But, the 3GS moves on.
The second bracket kicks off with the iPhone 4, perhaps the most iconic of them all. A glass and stainless steel sandwich, it was all industrial, Leica, Braun. It had the first Retina display, no longer scratching our eyes with pixels, the first Apple processor with the A4, and a front-facing camera, filling them instead with FaceTime.
Verizon iPhone 4
The iPhone had been exclusive to AT&T in the U.S… up until the iPhone 4. Six months later, the Verizon version launched with support for CDMA and EVDO networks, and with an all-new, all-fixed antenna system that no longer attenuated or detuned.
It was the iPhone 4s that fixed the antenna for every network, though. It got the Apple A5 processor, a 12 megapixel, 1080p rear camera, AirPlay, and… Siri, Apple's digital personal assistant.
And, for as much heat as tech-media loves to pile on top of boring old iterative S-years, the 4s got most of your votes. Way most. 62% of them, compared to 34% for the 4 and just 4% for the Verizon 4. Which, yeah, Verizon. But the 4s takes it.
Bracket the third. The original iPhone had the biggest display Apple could put in it but, over the years, other phones got much bigger. Compromising on-screen quality and battery life, sure, but bigger. So, the iPhone 5 went from 3.5- to 4-inches, and 3 by 2 to 16 by 9. It also got LTE and Lightning, and an aluminum unibody that arguably made the boxy design even better.
Instead of keeping the iPhone 5 around and just dropping its price, Apple replaced it with the iPhone 5c. Same guts, but unabashedly plastic glory in all the pop colors. It was Apple's first attempt at a new, less-expensive iPhone, sold almost like an iPod.
Take the iPhone 5, add Apple's first custom process that, oh yeah, is also the first 64-bit processor in mobile, introduce the Touch ID biometric fingerprint sensor, and wrap it all up in a new champagne gold finish and you get the iPhone 5s.
As much as some people called the iPhone 5s boring, even more people missed it when it went away. So, when Apple brought it back with updated internals, those same people jumped on it. Sure, it was less expensive, but it was also still small. And still gorgeous, especially in rose gold.
Though not quite by enough to win this bracket. Not against the iPhone 5s, which pulled in 48% of your votes. Yup, the S year again! The SE did come second with 25%, though, just nudging out the 5. 5C? Yikes, just 3%. RIP. iPhone 5s moves on.
Bracket 4 gets big with the iPhone 6. People had been waiting a long time for the iPhone to grow an extra half an inch or more, and Apple delivered, with a 4.7-inch display. Along with a new, curved design, and an NFC radio for Apple Pay.
But it was really the iPhone 6 Plus that brought the bigger. 5.5-inches of bigger. Also, optical image stabilization, and iPad-style apps in landscape mode. It might have been too big for some pockets but finally big enough for many tastes.
The iPhone 6s added pressure-sensitive 3D Touch and a re-enforced aluminum shell to handle it… and concerns over bending. Also, DCI-P3 color and a 12 megapixel, 4K camera on the back, Live Photos, and voice-activated Hey Siri. All with a rose gold color option cherry on top.
iPhone 6s Plus
Take the iPhone 6s and stretch it out to Plus sizes, add OIS and the landscape split-view software, and you know what you get — the iPhone 6s Plus.
But not quite enough to win. The regular iPhone 6s takes it — yes, yet again an S year, and a giant neon pointer to the disconnect between coverage and consumers — and with 39% of your votes.
The regular 6s did come in second, though, with 30%, then the regular 6 with 18% and the regular 6 Plus with 13%. But the 6s advances.
Bracket 5 is interesting. It starts with the iPhone 7, which looked a lot like the iPhone 6 and 6s, but without the antenna lines and with new matte and jet black finishes. Also, better haptics and the first efficiency.performance fusion chipset with the A10.
iPhone 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 Plus is where things got even more interesting, though, with the first fusion camera system as one. One wide angle, one telephoto, and the ability to optically zoom in between and capture depth data for real-time effects like Portrait Mode.
iPhone 8 was mostly there to give classic home button and bezel iPhone lovers an updated iPhone to love, with an A11 processor, better cameras, wireless charging, and a color palette reduced back to silver, space gray, and copper-gold.
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 8 Plus was much the same, only bigger. Dual camera system, but with Portrait Lighting now as well. But, ultimately, it exists to give people who weren't yet ready to move on something to cling too.
And the iPhone 7 Plus just got more of that cling. 30% over your votes compared to 26% for the 8 Plus, 25% for the 7, and 19% for the 8. But the 7 Plus moves on.
Bracket 6. Enter the age of iPhone X, with its all-new, all bezel-deleted stainless steel and glass design that fit a 5.3-inch display in roughly the same space as the old regular-sized iPhone. Also, Face ID biometric facial geometry sensor — and a notch to house it — instead of Touch ID, and gesture navigation system instead of the Home button. Also, OIS on both cameras.
Rather than keep the iPhone X on the market, Apple pulled an iPhone 5c-like switcheroo, but in an entirely different way. The iPhone XR got all the colors, but also got the latest processor, and a slightly larger 6.1-inch display. What it gave up was the OLED screen technology and dual-camera system. But also a couple hundred and a half bucks off the price.
Take the iPhone X and add a full-on, multi-core neural engine, Smart HDR and dynamic depth control, stereo video recording, tougher glass, and, of course, the return of the gold color option.
iPhone Xs Max
Take the iPhone Xs and stretch it out, but keep everything including the camera system exactly the same, and you get the iPhone XS Max. A 6.5-inch display maxed out in a body roughly the size of the old Plus.
And here's where the new and novel finally beat out the polish of an S year: iPhone X took it with 36% of your vote, beating out the XS Max which got 28%. The XS came in with 22% and the XR, legit surprising to me given its fan-favorite status, trailed at 14%.
The semi-finals kick off with the iPhone 3GS vs. the iPhone 4s vs. the iPhone 5s. A battle of the S-years, from plastic to glass to aluminum, 3.5-inches to 4-inches, 30 pin Dock connector to Lightning. 3G to LTE. Standard to Retina. Black and white to gold.
And the iPhone 5s takes it with 58% of your votes. The arguably even more iconic iPhone 4s is second at 33%, and the 3GS comes in last with 9%. The iPhone 5s moves on to the finals!
In the other match, we have iPhone 6s vs. iPhone 7 Plus vs. iPhone X. We've got the ends of one era against the beginnings of the next. LCD to OLED. From Single camera to. double. Standard to fusion to neural engine processors. Aluminum to steel and glass chassis. Rose gold to get black to gold again.
And, to the surprise of I think no one, the iPhone X takes it with 75% of your votes. The 7 Plus edges in second with 14% and the 6s comes in last with 12%.
To be completely honest here, I expected the iPhone X to make it all the way to the finals. But, I kinda expected it to be against the original iPhone or iPhone 4s. It was all of you, though, who made it all about the iPhone X vs. the iPhone 5s. 2017 vs. 2013. Bezels vs. notches. Home buttons vs. gestures. Gold vs. silver and black. Headphone jack vs. the lack. S
And the winner, with an astounding 69% of your votes, to just 31% for second place… was the iPhone X.
It makes perfect sense. When I reviewed it, I called it the best product Apple had ever made. Period. And while the Xs made it just that much better, it wasn't enough to overcome the sheer impact of the X. An impact that blasted notches onto the tops of phones across the industry. And gestures. All of them.
The 5s, arguably the SE, will continue to be regarded by many as the pinnacle of the iPhone design that was. Hell, the current iPad Pro is teasing a come back even now.
But it's the iPhone X that refined what the iPhone will be. And this time, the future wins out.
Every iPhone ranked — by you
So, to recap, and acknowledging that this is horribly skewed towards the type of people who follow my work, and subject to the way the brackets were set up to begin with, this is how all of you ended up ranking all the iPhones to date:
- iPhone X
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 4s
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7 (tie)
- iPhone SE (tie)
- iPhone 5
- iPhone XS
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 6
- iPhone XR
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone 4 Verizon
- iPhone 5c
Personally, I would have gone with iPhone Xs, iPhone 4s, and iPhone 7, and iPhone SE as my top 4.
Now, hit up the comments and tell me what you think are the all-time best iPhones, and if the right ones one.
Thanks for watching and see you next video!
Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.
This bracket approach to voting was just plain stupid. I’ve owned iPhone models starting with the 3G and every other release since then. And it’s so interesting that the first seven chosen I never even owned! FWIW (nothing, it appears) my favorite phone is my latest - the XR. And it only stands to reason, as the best technology value for the money. So there. 😺
Whatevs, yo. I thought the bracket approach made a more interesting story than a rote statistical analysis would. He included a flat list of results at the end anyway, just for you. ;-) My first iPhone was a 5. It was imperfect (the finish chipped, it got dust got behind the camera lens and the home button turned to mush), but I still remember holding it in my hand for the first time. It was like holding a jewel, a magic slab of obsidian. You could not convince me it was actually a machine assembled from 100 discrete parts. It blew my mind, and I still adore that design. I couldn't go back to a 4" screen now and the newer tech is way better but as a designed, functional object I still think it stands tallest by far. I have a jet black 7 now, and I love it almost as much. Even though it's going on 3 years I am loath to replace it. I have to this year, only because it needs a new battery which will mandate a new screen (cracked), and at this point it isn't worth the expense. As much as I'd like Face ID and wireless charging, I'm still reluctant to give it up. My fiancee has a XS and loves it. I hated the 6. HATED.
As iconic as the first three iPhones were, none of them really deserved to make it to the top. The 4 was awesome... when it first came out. 4S was better. 5 was okay. I expected the 5S or SE to win. 6/6 Plus was garbage. 6S was what the 6 should have been. 7 was pretty epic. 8 had no chance in this competition. X... I was actually sort of surprised to see this one win, but I don't know why. XS had a good chance, I think. XR is one of my personal favorites, and also the one I have now. (I was a sucker for the 5C, too)
XS Max with Smart Battery Case.
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