How to choose the best iPhone for gaming

Every modern iPhone does a great job playing games, but if you're a serious gamer, you want the best.

Credit: Leif Johnson

For years now, the performance of iPhones has run circles around high-end Android phones. Combine that with great battery efficiency and a huge catalog of fantastic games (including some Apple Arcade exclusives), and the iPhone may just be the best mobile gaming platform around.

Honestly, every iPhone made in the last few years will have no trouble running even the most demanding mobile games. But if you’re serious enough about phone gaming to make it a priority in your buying decision, you don’t want “good enough,” you want the best. 

Best iPhone for gaming: iPhone 12 Pro Max

Any iPhone will play casual games well. If you want to play high-end premium games with more advanced 3D graphics and sound, performance matters. All iPhones have the super-fast A14 chip, but the extra RAM makes the iPhone 12 Pro just a little faster. And if you’re into gaming, you want the larger “Max” variant.

Why? First, there’s the issue of battery life. High-end gaming is a big drain on your phone’s battery, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the longest battery life of any iPhone we’ve ever tested. If you play location-based games (like Pokemon Go), you want to play without carrying around a battery pack.

Second, screen size matters. Games with on-screen controls virtual sticks and buttons are easier to control when the screen is bigger. Small text in RPGs and the like are easier to read. Streaming games from your Xbox or Playstation? You’re definitely going to want a bigger display. 

Finally, let’s not forget about 5G. Playing games on the go, away from Wi-Fi, is tenuous on 4G connections, but at least a little better on 5G. But of course, 5G drains your battery more quickly, so yet another reason to go with the big phone.

If you just can’t stand really really big phones, or if gaming is a secondary concern, there’s nothing wrong with the iPhone 12 Pro or even the regular iPhone 12. But serious gaming enthusiasts will probably be happiest spending the extra money for the big Max variant.

Pros: Top performance, huge display, longest battery life ever
Cons: Really big, really expensive

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Jason Cross

Jason Cross
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