We often get readers asking: "What kind of iPhone do I have?" While it may seem obvious to more experienced Apple experts, it can be tricky for regular folk to identify a model of iPhone at first glance.
To the uninitiated, most iPhones are pretty similar-looking, and even experts find it hard to discern visually between models such as the iPhone 3G and 3GS, or iPhone 4 and 4S.
You might be tempted to head into the Settings on an iPhone and see if the model number is listed under the About section. But you'll have no luck; Apple doesn't list the type of iPhone in iOS.
The easiest way to identify a general type of iPhone is to look at its shape and match it with one of the models below.
Use the iPhone Model Identification Number (serial number)
In most cases the easiest way to identify different models of iPhone is by using the Model Identification Number. This is a small number - like a serial number - printed on the reverse of the iPhone that starts with the letter "A". It'll be something like "A1203" or "A1634". (This is different from the much longer IMEI identifying number, which is unique to your individual handset.)
When we say "small number" we mean "small print", and you may find it very hard to read the number with the naked eye. Don't be embarrassed to use a magnifying glass!
Once you have the Model Identification Number, you're good to go.
- A1203: Original iPhone
- A1241: iPhone 3G
- A1303: iPhone 3GS
- A1332, A1349: iPhone 4
- A1387: iPhone 4S
- A1428, A1429: iPhone 5
- A1456, A1507, A1526, A1529, or A1532: iPhone 5c
- A1453, A1457, A1528, A1530, or A1533: iPhone 5s
- A1549, A1586, or A1589: iPhone 6
- A1522, A1524, or A1593: iPhone 6 Plus
- A1633 or A1688: iPhone 6s
- A1634 or A1687: iPhone 6s Plus
- A1723, A1662 or A1724: iPhone SE
- A1660, A1778 or A1779: iPhone 7
- A1661, A1784 or A1785: iPhone 7 Plus
Identifying an iPhone by sight
If for whatever reason you can't find or read the iPhone's Model Identification Number, you can usually get a decent idea of which kind of iPhone you have by comparing it against this guide.
The first model of iPhone is easy to identify. It has a grey/silver rear with a large black band across the bottom.
iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS
If your iPhone has a curved plastic rear and looks like the one in this photo, then you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS. The iPhone 3G and 3GS come in black, but only the 3GS was available in white. Be careful not to mix it up with the newer iPhone 5c (see below).
iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s
The iPhone 4 has a glass front and glass rear and comes in black or white. It's hard to tell the difference between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s visually, so you'll probably need to use the Model Identification Number (above) to narrow things down further.
The iPhone 5 looks similar to the iPhone 4/4s but comes with a taller 4-inch display. This means it can fit five rows of app icons (plus the dock row at the bottom), whereas the iPhone 4s and earlier could only fit four rows (plus the dock).
The iPhone 5s may look identical to the iPhone 5, but if you look at the Home button, you'll notice that it no longer has the white square on it. This is because it has the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The colour schemes are also different, with Gold, Silver and Space Grey replacing Black and White.
This is easy to spot. The iPhone 5c comes in a range of bright plastic colours and has a curved plastic base. It's also taller and squarer than other plastic models (such as the iPhone 3G and 3GS), so it's easy to identify.
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s are hard to separate visually. Both come with a metallic background in a range of colours (although only the iPhone 6s is available in Rose Gold). The screens are larger than earlier models with 4.7-inch displays, although not as large as the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus.
iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus
The iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus models look like the iPhone 6 but are much larger with 5.5-inch displays. They've got room for six rows of icons on the Home screen, plus the dock row. Again, only the 6s Plus comes in Rose Gold.
The iPhone SE uses the same colour scheme as the iPhone 6 product line, but has the same design elements of the iPhone 5s. Your best bet to identify between a 5s and SE is to turn the iPhone on or look for the SE stamp at the back.
It should also be noted that the SE comes in Rose Gold, whereas the 5s only came in Silver, Space Grey and Gold.
The iPhone 7 boasts a 4.7-inch screen, with a glass front and aluminium back. It's similar to the 6 and 6s, but slimmer, and the back of the body has lost the horizontal lines at the top and bottom. Oh, and the camera protrudes slightly from the case, rather than being flush to the body.
iPhone 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 Plus is unsurprisingly similar to the iPhone 7 - the main difference is the larger 5.5-inch display. As with the 7, it boasts a glass front and metal back, which the camera protrudes from slightly. It's also available in six different colours, including red.
iPhone buying advice
For more details about the differences between the various model of iPhone, you could do worse than read our iPhone buying guide, or take a look at the video below:
Macworld poll: How often do you update your iPhone?
Last of all, we're interested to know how often you buy a new model of iPhone. Join in with our poll and check out the results from other readers: