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Looking to buy the best phone in 2021 means searching for a device that should last you a couple of years at the very least. The update interval for new smartphones is ever-growing and for a valid reason: even in the low-end market segment it has become increasingly difficult to buy a piece of junk. In other words, you don’t have to splurge in order to get a good phone. The truly daunting task, however, is to decide which, among all those in existence, is the perfect phone for you.
Buying a smartphone is a complicated decision since it usually costs a lot. Luckily there are so many options out there and that’s why we’ve created our list of best phones rather than a single recommendation. Not all of us, in fact, look for the same functionalities in a smartphone. Some require iMessage and FaceTime, so they have to choose among Apple’s iPhones, while others want endless customization and Google Assistant, which are only available on Android devices.
Then there is the question of price; if, for example, you want the very best phone and money is no object, models that cost over a thousand dollars will offer you everything you desire. If, on the contrary, you want the best “cheap” phone, you can find really good devices for less than $500.
Thankfully opting for a more convenient mobile phone doesn’t mean compromising on usability, since even cheap smartphones now offer a large, vivid display and multiple cameras. We are also starting to see entry-level phones with 5G connectivity.
But what makes a smartphone really good in 2021? A good phone must last you for several years, must boast a large and bright display, must sport a fantastic camera that can replace your traditional point-and-shoot camera, a solid autonomy to last for a full day, and have the necessary raw power for multitasking and gaming. Whether you believe it or not, all these things are easier than ever to find in a modern phone, so choosing the best device is often a matter of personal preferences.
To help you choose we have gathered our favorite phones for 2021. Every device on this list has been thoroughly tested and we have also used each of these smartphones in all kinds of environments to see how they behave in the real world. Let’s find out together which is the best phone for you.
Which is the best phone?
As more and more people get used to having instant access to email, messaging, web browsing and streaming video and music at any time of the day, no matter where they are, smartphones have become almost indispensable.
Today’s phones offer an incredible “mobile computing” experience to help you get work done away from the office. Despite the fact that people have different needs, each phone on this list is more than able to provide all these essential functions.
Some phones excel in photography, others function as a small tablet, and some are even capable of replacing your desktop PC. The term “best” is therefore specific to your needs; that said, there are some devices that are much better than others.
How to choose the best phone for you
Buying the right phone is not easy: there are so many of them on the market and most of them are rather similar. Therefore, there are some fundamental questions you should ask yourself before choosing your next phone.
First, you should decide on a budget and what you intend to use your smartphone for. If you are a gamer, for example, then you will need to make sure that your phone has enough raw power and solid gaming functions, while if you are a creative then you could benefit from a phablet with support for a digital stylus. Similarly, if you love taking pictures, then you need a phone with a great camera, while if you are always on the move, then you will want a smartphone with a really long autonomy.
Once you’ve done that, you can keep restricting the field by answering more granular questions. Next, we suggest that you identify which operating system is right for you. The two main ones are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. iOS tends to be better for people who don’t have much technical knowledge and require a heavily guided user experience while Android is more open and more complex.
In addition, the iPhone boasts the best App Store and the best multimedia features. But it’s an ecosystem tightly controlled by Apple that may feel stuffy for some, and iOS isn’t easy to customize or edit. There’s a lot more variety among Android phones, and their open-source nature makes them ideal for tweakers. This fact however also leads to fragmented compatibility of third-party apps, the occasional bug, and sporadic OS updates.
All in all, Android phones offer more choice in terms of price, size, and innovative designs. On the other hand, iPhones offer faster software updates, better games and apps, and increased security and privacy.
Once you’ve decided on an OS you should decide which extra features you need or not. For example, reverse wireless charging is a real treat, but most users either do not need it or are unable to really take advantage of it.
Do you need a 5G phone?
5G connectivity was launched back in 2019, and most new phones now support some form of 5G. 5G connectivity is the future, but if you live in an area where there is no 5G coverage then you don’t need a 5G model.
These are the best smartphones you can buy today
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: ultra flagship, ultra price
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Check on Amazon) is the best phone in the world right now: it boasts a solid design, phenomenal power, long-lasting battery life, one of the best displays, one of the best phone cameras – with a super-zoom that really works — and a host of other fantastic features, such as support for Samsung’s excellent S Pen. It’s a great choice and it sets the bar for all other phones being released in 2021!
It’s not just the best phone Samsung has created so far, but it will remain in history as the first S-series smartphone that supports Samsung’s digital stylus. Just like the Galaxy Note series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra can now be used in conjunction with the S Pen (Check on Amazon); unfortunately, it does not include one in the box and unlike the Note series, the stylus cannot be stored inside the phone.
Apart from the new stylus features, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a specs beast, starting with its beautifully curved screen, sporting a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel, with WQHD+ resolution and adaptive refresh rate from 10Hz up to 120Hz for a super smooth experience. It’s also very bright — 1500 nits – for breathtaking HDR content. And the fact that this display runs at 120Hz while maintaining its native resolution of 1440p renders it better than its predecessor (Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra).
Of course, if you game a lot at 120Hz, the battery will run out fast. Even so, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a solid autonomy (5,000mAh battery) and can last a full day (with medium use) on a single charge.
But the standout feature is its fantastic quad-camera module in the back, which doesn’t disappoint this time – unlike its predecessor – as does the high-resolution selfie camera (40MP). It is in fact capable of 100x zoom photos (Space Zoom) which are far better than those shot on the Galaxy S20 Ultra (Check on Amazon). The secret lies in its 10MP dual telephoto lens – one with 3x optical zoom and one 10x -, working in tandem to produce stunning results. The quality of the 108MP main camera has also improved: capturing incredible high-resolution photos, more beautiful portraits with a great depth of field, and brighter shots in Night mode. The ultra-wide 12MP sensor completes the quartet of rear cameras.
Then there’s the huge amount of shooting modes, including a fully manual Pro mode and Samsung’s excellent Single Take 2.0 mode that uses the phone’s AI to capture images and videos of a single event, making sure you never miss the perfect shot.
The S21 Ultra also excels at video capture, with a new Director View mode allowing you to record footage using both the rear and selfie camera simultaneously.
Other highlights include the snappy performance of its Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC (or Exynos 2100 outside the US), up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage.
Add to all this the latest Android 11 operating system, as well as a number of advanced features such as Samsung DeX and reverse wireless charging, and you find yourself with a phone that has almost no flaws…
Sadly, the Galaxy S21 Ultra does not include a charger (Check on Amazon) or a microSD card slot, but overall this is still the best Android phone you can buy.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra (Check on Amazon), while cheaper than its predecessor, is more expensive than any other top of the range phone, but if you want the very best phone of 2021 it’s hard to find a better one than Samsung’s flagship.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: best phone for photos and videos
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is practically perfect and thus one of the best phones you can buy, especially if you like a really big screen. It boasts a fantastic 6.7-inch OLED display, class-leading performance thanks to the Bionic A14 processor and 5G connectivity.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also sports the best camera you can currently get on an iPhone. Similar to the regular iPhone 12 Pro, the 12 Pro Max features three rear cameras (wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto) but the main camera benefits from a physically larger sensor that allows it to capture more light and produce higher quality images when in low light conditions. In addition, the telephoto lens has a 2.5x zoom – compared to the 2x zoom of the regular 12 Pro. The 12 Pro Max also benefits from an improved image stabilization system that helps keep photos sharp even in adverse lighting conditions. Last but not least all three rear cameras combine with Apple’s image processing to produce stunning images, even in harsh conditions.
Moreover, the iPhone 12 Pro Max registers incredibly colorful video in Dolby Vision, complete with sensor stabilization for super stable footage.
Finally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max scored the best autonomy of any iPhone!
If the photo and video quality are the most important factors when buying a new phone, go ahead and splurge for the 12 Pro Max. For everyone else, though, the “standard” 12 Pro is the better choice. The iPhone 12 Pro Max costs (Check on Amazon) and is huge – its squared design make it feel even bigger than its spec sheet suggests. Therefore most people will be happier with the smaller and cheaper iPhone 12 Pro (Check on Amazon).
Apple iPhone 12 & 12 mini: best iPhones for most people
Apple released four new models for 2020. All four new iPhone 12s feature Apple’s latest and greatest 5nm A14 Bionic SoC, 5G connectivity, new camera enhancements, and a square design.
If you can’t justify the premium price of the Pro models then the iPhone 12 (Check on Amazon) or iPhone 12 mini (Check on Amazon) – it has the same processor and camera as the iPhone 12 but comes in a smaller format – might be the best phones for you – the only differences between the iPhone 12 and Pro are the telephoto lens, LiDAR sensor and amount of RAM. Both are fantastic devices and a remarkable upgrade over the iPhone 11 (Check on Amazon). If you haven’t updated your phone for a few years now, there’s so much stuff here that deserves your money.
The new design looks fresh (kinda) and it’s been a long time since we had an iPhone that looked, well, different. The iPhone 12 bears a strong resemblance to the recent iPad Air (Check on Amazon), with flat edges and a squared look, like that of the iPhone 4 and 5, and is much easier to hold even without a case. We also really like its new color options, such as the deep blue one or mint green. The higher IP rating (68) means it will survive if you drop it in the sink; a welcome feature for those of us that are accident-prone.
5G connectivity means it is also future-proof. The A14 Bionic processor is the most powerful on the market, while the new dual-lens rear camera system can shoot spectacular photos in any kind of condition.
The iPhone 12 also has a new OLED display that far outshines the iPhone 11’s low-resolution LCD panel and HDR support that makes colors pop. What’s more, the new narrower frame design maximizes the 6.1” screen real estate – it has the same size as the display on the iPhone 12 Pro (Check on Amazon) – making it an eye-catching choice if you want a big screen, but without being huge. If you opt for the smaller version, the iPhone 12 mini comes with a 5.4-inch screen, always OLED. Both look brilliant as long as you don’t mind the notch. Unfortunately, it’s still a 60Hz panel, which is a shame as there are so many competing Android phones with a faster refresh rate.
The glass on the front is made of ceramic, which is much more durable, and the iPhone 12 uses a new range of MagSafe accessories that employ magnets to attach cases and chargers thus allowing for faster and more convenient wireless charging than the past iPhones.
You’ll also get one of the best camera modules in existence which consists of the main camera (faster thanks to a wider f/1.6 lens and works better in difficult situations) and an ultra-wide one, both sporting 12MP. It lacks the telephoto lens we find on the Pro models, but you get the same Night mode that automatically illuminates dark photos – a feature missing from the iPhone SE (Check on Amazon). And you’ll also be able to record video in HDR.
These two iPhones have a one-day autonomy (that of the iPhone 12 mini is slightly worse). Unfortunately, you will have to buy a charger sold separately as Apple only includes the cable in the package.
Our only problem with the iPhone 12 and 12 mini is that the base model only has 64GB of internal memory instead of 128GB.
Ultimately the iPhone 12 is the best iPhone for most people — it sports a stunning new design, has a fantastic OLED screen, excellent cameras with new software tricks, 5G connectivity, and the fastest processor yet!
The iPhone 12 mini is also the best compact phone ever; it inserts the same OLED screen found on the other iPhone 12 devices into a frame that easily fits in your hand or pocket. The most eye-catching feature though is its price: at (Check on Amazon) it’s the least expensive iPhone 12 and a great way to get the best Apple has to offer without paying a premium price.
OnePlus 9 Pro: best premium Android phone
OnePlus surprised everyone last year with the launch of the 8 Pro (Check on Amazon), the company’s first true flagship device. The only area where that phone wasn’t up to its rivals was photography.
With the launch of the 9 Pro (Check on Amazon) though, OnePlus managed to rectify that weakness, and the results are excellent. This is a top-of-the-range phone that can go toe to toe with rival models from Apple and Samsung.
This device is powered by Qualcomm’s latest SoC, the Snapdragon 888, paired with 8/12 GB of RAM and 128/256 GB of storage.
However, what really impressed us, once again, is its screen: the OnePlus 9 Pro boasts a 6.7-inch Fluid AMOLED display with Quad HD resolution (3,216×1,440 pixels) that manages to reproduce extraordinary details and really vibrant colors. In addition, its refresh rate is dynamically adjusted (from 1 to 120 Hz) depending on whether whatever appears on the screen can benefit from the higher frequency or not. When set to 120 Hz, the smoothness of movement not only makes gaming a real pleasure but can be appreciated even when you scroll through web pages.
Moreover, the 9 Pro is the best camera phone from OnePlus yet, thanks in big part to them partnering up with the master of photography, Hasselblad. This device features a great 48 MP main camera boasting a Sony IMX789 (f/1.8) sensor and support for optical image stabilization (OIS), a 50 MP “free-form” ultra-wide-angle lens designed to reduce edge distortion, an 8 MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, and a 2 MP monochrome sensor. Thus, the OnePlus 9 Pro manages to capture images on par with what you get from leading rival camera phones. It is not the best, but it is a remarkable step forward in the right direction.
On the other hand, battery life is its Achilles heel. It offers a one-day autonomy but its 4,500mAh unit does not have the duration of other flagship models. Fortunately, OnePlus has equipped the 9 Pro with fast charging (Warp Charge 65T) capable of recharging the device in just 30 minutes and fast wireless charging (Warp Charge 50) which takes just 15 minutes more!
To sum up, OnePlus has definitely focused its attention on the cameras of the 9 Pro, but this is an incredible phone that offers top-notch processing power, a big and beautiful display, and most of the functionalities you would expect from a premium smartphone. Its battery life is not the best ever, and it is quite expensive (Check on Amazon), especially considering OnePlus’s original mission, but it still manages to earn the title of “best premium Android phone” since this is a device that excels across the board.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro: Apple’s best phone
The iPhone 12 Pro (Check on Amazon) is a truly tempting proposition if you’re looking for the best of what iOS has to offer. It takes everything that is great about the iPhone 12 (Check on Amazon) and elevates it. There’s so much to appreciate here that it’s hard to know where to start: there’s the fast A14 Bionic processor, 5G connectivity, a triple camera module further improved with the addition of LiDAR, the new redesigned shape of the phone and welcoming updates compared to the cheaper iPhone 12 that includes a telephoto lens for better zoom, a stainless steel design, at least 128GB of internal memory and more RAM.
And we haven’t said a word about the software yet: iOS keeps getting better with each subsequent iteration and iOS 14 introduces new features like home screen widgets and a new Translate app that intends to replace Google Translate. From a software perspective, it’s an awesome package.
While the same amount of money allows you to buy Samsung’s latest flagship with a bigger screen and more storage, most iOS users simply don’t want an Android device. Instead, they can take pride in everything Apple encapsulates in the iPhone 12’s sleek new design. You get, for example, the new A14 Bionic processor that blows away all Android phones and MagSafe accessories that make wireless charging a breeze, thanks to the magnets built into the iPhone 12. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t include a charger in the package!
But the real reason to opt for the iPhone 12 Pro is its cameras. The main sensor now allows for more light, and Night mode works on both the ultra-wide and front-facing TrueDepth camera. While the three rear cameras are not too different from the ones we find on the iPhone 11 Pro, the real difference is the LiDAR sensor, which improves performance in low light conditions and focus – thanks to the combination of the telephoto lens and LiDAR sensor, you can take portraits at night, for example. However, if you want the best camera on an Apple device you will have to splurge for the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max (Check on Amazon).
In addition, the stunning 6.1-inch OLED display is now protected by Ceramic Shield, which is designed to offer 4 times the protection in the event of a fall. Unfortunately, it’s still a 60Hz panel, while many Android phones use panels with a refresh rate of 90Hz and 120Hz – we really would have liked a 120Hz screen -. The infamous notch is still here, though it is easy to ignore.
It also comes equipped with one of the best batteries we’ve ever seen on an iPhone, with additional optimizations within iOS. It’s nothing revolutionary but its autonomy is better than all other Apple phones except for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
All in all the iPhone 12 Pro is an easy inclusion in this list, and we’re happy to recommend it as long as you’re an iOS fan and you can justify its price.
Apple iPhone SE (2020): the cheapest iPhone
The Apple iPhone SE (2020) offers exceptional power for just (Check on Amazon). The A13 Bionic chipset inside the new iPhone SE is the same one we find on the iPhone 11 series. It’s a rare thing to see a premium SoC inside a device that costs so little, and it grants the new iPhone SE the best performance/price ratio of the entire segment.
But not everything revolves exclusively around that powerful processor. The iPhone SE also comes with a good 12-megapixel camera, wireless charging, IP67 certification, and premium build quality. The compromise is the dated design, based on the iPhone 8 (Check on Amazon).
Of course, you will not get all the bells and whistles you get with a true Apple flagship: the camera, battery, and display aren’t as good as those on the iPhone 11, but they all work great and provide a solid user experience.
If you are an Android user and are looking for a new cheap phone, then, sure, there are even cheaper Android phones out there, but if you are an Apple fan and want a new iPhone without spending an arm and a leg, then the iPhone SE (2020) is a best buy.
I’m a person who mainly uses Android phones, but the iPhone SE is also a great option to have as a secondary phone for those times I want/need to use an iOS device.
Google Pixel 4a: best budget photography
The Google Pixel 4A offers almost everything you could ever want in a smartphone. It’s the successor to the Pixel 3a (Check on Amazon) and retains many of the great features that made us fall in love with it: it has a stunning 5.8-inch OLED screen, an amazing 12.2-megapixel camera that takes brilliant photos, and includes smart functions such as Night Sight and Super Res Zoom, the power of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chipset, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, a headphone jack, stock Android with smart features like Call Screen and the Recorder app (which can convert speech to text in real-time) and Google’s three-year promise of updates, which is crazy for a phone that costs (Check on Amazon).
Where the Pixel 4a fails to improve is in duration. Although it sports a bigger battery (3,140mAh) than the Pixel 4, it still fails to last an entire day. Also, there’s no XL version, which is a disappointment to people who like bigger screens. Last but not least, the 5G version will arrive later this year.
But pretty much every other way, Google’s latest Pixel device is an incredibly well-rounded cell phone, boasting the best photography for the money, and everyone who is looking for a cheap phone should consider buying it.
OnePlus 9: best quality/price ratio
The OnePlus 9 (Check on Amazon) is the younger sibling of the OnePlus 9 Pro (Check on Amazon) and is one of the best options in the high-end segment of the market. Similar to the 9 Pro, it offers great performance, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, ultra-fast charging, and something photographers will truly love: a fabulous ultra-wide camera.
But let’s start with the specifications: this is truly a high-end device. It is lightning fast, and it doesn’t seem to slow down no matter the amount of multitasking. The 6.55-inch AMOLED display with Full HD+ resolution (2,400×1,800 pixels) boasts a 120 Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth scrolling and truly satisfying gaming. And speaking of speed, the OnePlus 9 recharges in just 30 minutes!
For the creation of its triple camera module (48MP wide camera, 50MP ultra-wide lens, and 2MP depth sensor), OnePlus teamed up with Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad: the result? This phone captures accurate and well-balanced photos with pleasantly vibrant colors. In addition, the ultra-wide camera takes advantage of a unique lens design that corrects edge distortion without introducing “stretching”, an effect that you can notice in the corners of ultra-wide images captured by other phones.
Yes, the OnePlus 9 Pro takes better photos: its main camera is equipped with optical image stabilization (OIS), useful for its ability to keep subjects sharp in poor lighting conditions. And the telephoto lens is missing – the OnePlus 9’s digital zoom cannot compete with the 9 Pro’s optical one.
Last but not least, the 4,500mAh battery will last comfortably for a full day, and the phone charges very quickly since it supports a 65 W fast charging.
All in all, the OnePlus 9 (Check on Amazon) is an impressive phone. It features a large display, a high-end chipset, the best ultra-wide camera, and fast charging. We would have liked better battery life and better camera performance in low light conditions, but this phone still offers the best price/quality ratio of all other high-end smartphones available right now.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: best phablet
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is expensive (Check on Amazon), but no other smartphone can match this phablet’s capabilities. You get a brilliant design, an even faster chipset (at least in the US), a gorgeous 6.9-inch OLED display with a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate, as well as plenty of new S Pen updates, ranging from new gestures and a smoother response time of 9ms to the ability to record voice notes and sync them with handwritten ones.
Plus, the Note 20 Ultra packs the best camera of any other Android phone out there, ripe with goodies like the 108MP main sensor, the crazy 50x space zoom, and a dedicated laser autofocus sensor to reduce blur.
It also boasts a big 4,500mAh battery, which will easily last more than a day with normal use. Samsung also includes a wired 25W fast charger in the box while the device also supports fast 15W wireless charging.
Furthermore, the Note 20 Ultra is also a mini PC and a gaming console. With enhanced DeX functionality, you can stream photos, apps, and more on a TV nearby, and with Xbox Game Pass you can play more than 100 Xbox titles streaming them directly from the Cloud. The Note 20 Ultra also works well with the PC; using “Link to Windows” you can run Android apps directly on your laptop, receive notifications, make calls, and more.
Not everyone needs a “business” smartphone like this, but if you want the very best, then buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S20+: the best Android phone
Samsung offers three phones in its Galaxy S20 range, but the Galaxy S20+ (Check on Amazon) has the best mix of features for the money. You get a stunning 6.7-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate, future proof 5G connectivity, and a fast Snapdragon 865 (Samsung Exynos 990 in the rest of the world), plus a decent battery life (even in 120Hz mode).
Speaking of performance, only the iPhone 11 Pro (Check on Amazon) and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (Check on Amazon) can beat it in benchmarks. Nevertheless the Galaxy S20+ can handle all apps and games with ease.
The two features you will lose by not opting for the pricier Galaxy S20 Ultra (Check on Amazon) are the 108MP camera and the more powerful Space Zoom – both compromises most people are willing to make.
This is especially true since the Galaxy S20+ boasts some pretty impressive cameras in its own right. The new sensors capture bright, colorful photos, and the 3x lossless zoom is more powerful than the one we find in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The only thing we don’t like is Samsung’s skin. Samsung wants to “overwrite” Google’s stock Android experience with its own and may require some time to get used to it.
For the rest, this is the best Android phone you can get.
Oppo Find X2 Pro: a valid alternative
Its high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor is very fast, while its 6.7-inch, 10-bit, and 120Hz QHD+ OLED panel is a real joy to behold. The autonomy of its battery is also excellent while its ridiculously fast 65W charger makes up for the lack of Qi wireless charging. Last but not least it also boasts 5G connectivity.
Its main camera uses Sony’s new 48MP, 12-bit 1/1.4-inch IMX689 sensor that produces 1.12-micron pixels. In addition, the 13MP periscope camera offers a 10x hybrid zoom and a 60x digital zoom.
It’s a bit expensive, considering that both the OnePlus 8 Pro (Check on Amazon) and Samsung Galaxy S20+ have very similar specs while cheaper and that the ColorOS software experience isn’t on the same level as OnePlus’s OxygenOS or Samsung’s One UI.
Samsung Galaxy S20: more compact and less expensive
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ (Check on Amazon) is for many the best smartphone you can buy today, period! It features a water-resistant design (IP68), lots of power (Qualcomm Snapdragon 865/Samsung Exynos 990 with minimum 8GB of RAM), a large display (6.2”) with a refresh rate of 120Hz, three rear cameras, reverse wireless charging and a more than decent autonomy. In addition, there is a 4G version that is sold at a much lower price than the current 5G flagships.
It’s the quality to price ratio that allows Samsung to win over Apple. The Galaxy S20 starts at (Check on Amazon). Yes, it costs more than last year’s S10 but offers a bigger screen, more internal storage (128GB minimum), a microSD card slot, and 5G connectivity (be careful though, the S20 does not support faster high-band 5G (MMWave) networks).
The 6.2-inch AMOLED Infinity-O display is stunning. The notch is in the center as on the Note 10 and much smaller. The result: more screen. What’s new this year is a refresh rate of 120Hz, although you’ll have to lower your screen resolution to FHD+.
The Galaxy S20 is also equipped with three truly spectacular cameras. The main and the ultra-wide one (both 12MP) are very good, but it’s the 64MP telephoto lens that really shines. It offers a 3x optical zoom and a 30x (!) digital zoom. The cherry on top? This camera can shoot 8K video at 24fps!
Battery life is also impressive. The Samsung Galaxy S20 will last you comfortably for a full day unless you make heavy use of the 120Hz refresh rate.
One of the few things we didn’t like was Samsung’s UI, which is quite a departure from standard Android and may take some time to get used to.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 is a fantastic compact and “cheap” Android flagship phone that does not compromise on functions.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 review: just perfect
Samsung Galaxy S21: a valid alternative
The Samsung Galaxy S21 (Check on Amazon) is a fantastic choice if you like the S21 series design and want a small flagship but without the premium price of the Galaxy S21 Ultra (Check on Amazon). This phone boasts, in fact, the same super-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset (or Exynos 2100 outside the US), 5G support and has an in-display fingerprint scanner for easy unlocking, particularly helpful now that the use of masks makes Face Unlock nearly impossible.
Obviously, it doesn’t have the premium specs and features of its predecessors, now reserved for the Ultra version. But its ace in the hole is the price: the S21 is a small flagship that is cheaper than all its competitors.
A lot has been written about Samsung’s downgrade to Full HD resolution (from WQHD+) for the Galaxy S21’s 6.2-inch OLED display, but in our tests, we couldn’t notice any difference – unless we were holding the two phones side by side. With an adaptive refresh rate from 48Hz up to 120Hz and better brightness, the Galaxy S21’s screen is very smooth, without unnecessarily taxing the battery, and will satisfy most users.
Speaking of battery, its a 4,000mAh unit that will easily last a full day on a single charge.
The S21 sports a triple rear camera consisting of a 12MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide sensor, and a 64MP telephoto lens; while on the front we find a 10MP selfie camera. Although the camera module is the same as the one on the S20 (Check on Amazon), minor software improvements make it a touch better. The S21 produces beautifully detailed photos with really bright colors. Portraits, in particular, are way better and the new Zoom Lock feature allows for better shots of up to 30x zoom. This phone is also capable of recording 8K video and supports Single Take 2.0 for capturing photos and videos with all cameras at once. Overall, its camera module is not as phenomenal as the one on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it will be more than enough for most people.
The Galaxy S21 has the same trade-offs as the S21 Ultra: it does not include a charger (Check on Amazon) nor a microSD card slot, while its back is made of plastic instead of glass.
Ultimately, the S21 (Check on Amazon) is not as advanced as the S21 Ultra (Check on Amazon), but it is thinner and lighter, with a great mix of specs and much more convenient. If you already own a Galaxy S20 (Check on Amazon), we do not recommend updating it, but for everyone else, this is the perfect phone.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: best flagship killer
You no longer need to pay $1,000 to get a top-of-the-line Samsung phone. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) (Check on Amazon) offers everything most people want from a flagship phone at a price most of them can afford.
Its notable features include a 6.5-inch 1080p Infinity-O display with a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate and without those annoying curved sides. There’s also 5G support, a 4,500mAh battery, expandable memory, and three cameras on the back that make it truly versatile. Samsung even equipped it with Qi charging and an IP68 rating.
We also really like the triple camera module on the back which includes a powerful 3x optical zoom and an impressive 30x digital zoom but avoids unnecessary gimmicks, as well as the high-resolution selfie cam (32MP).
It comes in two versions: the first, 4G, uses the Samsung Exynos 990 chipset, while the second, 5G, boasts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset which is faster and consumes less battery.
Although it sports a plastic back, rather than glass, the S20 FE still looks elegant and feels like a premium device. You’ll also have to settle for a slower charger than the regular Galaxy S20 series, but these trade-offs are worth it.
Ultimately, the Galaxy S20 FE retains the best characteristics of the other Samsung flagships, making only small compromises and thus being hailed as the modern flagship killer.
Google Pixel 4a 5G: best cheap 5G phone
If you want a 5G phone that doesn’t cost much, the Pixel 4a 5G is the best, since it combines the best features of the Pixel 4a (Check on Amazon) and Pixel 5 (Check on Amazon) into a package that costs just (Check on Amazon). It sports flagship performance, long autonomy, a fantastic camera and runs stock Android 11, guaranteed to receive timely updates for the next three years.
It is equipped with the same rear dual camera module, the same Snapdragon 765G processor, and 5G connectivity as the Pixel 5, while the OLED screen is even bigger (6.2” Vs. 6.0”). The Pixel 5 sports a 90Hz display though, but it also costs more.
That said, there are some compromises due to the lower price: while most modern phones have three or four rear cameras, the Pixel 4a 5G has only two, thus limiting its versatility; it is not equipped with wireless charging or waterproofing, and it has slightly less RAM than Google’s flagship device. Is this a dealbreaker? It depends on what you want from your phone.
The mix of price, performance, and features that the Pixel 4a 5G (Check on Amazon) manages to pull off easily makes it our favorite Pixel phone and an easy inclusion to our list of best phones of 2021.
Samsung Galaxy S21+: best flagship
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Check on Amazon) is not the phone with the best features and functions — that title belongs to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Check on Amazon). But its strength lies in its value: the S21+ is a flagship that is cheaper than many of its competitors.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ is the perfect smartphone thanks to its great mix of specifications, a solid design, and the fact that it is cheaper than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. If you already own any of the Samsung Galaxy S20s we do not recommend buying it, but for everyone else, this is the perfect phone.
In simple terms, the S21+ is an S21 (Check on Amazon) but with a larger screen (6.7 inches). Much has been said and written about the downgrade of Samsung to a Full HD+ resolution for the display of the Galaxy S21 and S21+, but in our tests, we did not notice any difference in image quality unless we were looking at this panel side by side with a Quad HD one. With a dynamic refresh rate of 48 to 120 Hz, peak brightness of 1,300 nits, and support for HDR10+, the screen of the Galaxy S21+ will please almost all of you.
The good news is that by limiting the screen resolution, the 4,800mAh battery of the S21+ will easily last you a full day on a single charge!
The Galaxy S21+ comes equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100 SoC – depending on where you are in the world – which are the same ultra-fast processors we find in the S21 Ultra, 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. This is a powerful package that scores impressive benchmark results and responsible for the excellent real-world user experience. This experience is further enhanced by its data connection that leverages its new state-of-the-art 5G modem.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ will also appeal to photographers, as it comes equipped with a triple rear camera module (12MP main sensor, 12MP ultra-wide sensor, and a 64MP zoom sensor) and a powerful selfie camera (10MP). These cameras are mostly the same as the ones on the Galaxy S20+ (Check on Amazon), but with some software improvements that make them a tad better. Overall, the photos taken with the S21+ are beautifully detailed and with bright colors – the photo quality is not as phenomenal as that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but for most of you, it will be more than enough.
Add to all this the latest Android 11 operating system, a fingerprint reader under the display, and fast charging and it’s easy to see why the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is one of the best phones on the market today.
There are definitely better Android smartphones coming our way — especially from OnePlus — but right now, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Check on Amazon) strikes the best balance between features and price.
OnePlus 8 Pro: the first OnePlus flagship
OnePlus points to the “ultra-premium” range of the smartphone market with the arrival of the OnePlus 8 Pro (Check on Amazon), a truly stunning device. The OnePlus 8 Pro offers unparalleled value because it manages to pack all the latest and greatest features we find on other flagships, into a phone that costs less.
We can think of so many reasons why the OnePlus 8 Pro is such a special phone, but first and foremost we have to talk about its striking Quad HD+ display, with a 120Hz refresh rate, and support for HDR10+, the best one ever seen on a smartphone. Other flagships tick a couple of those three important features (120Hz, QHD+, HDR10+), but none managed to include all three in one device… till now that is.
Opting for the 120Hz refresh rate can reduce battery life, but the phone will still be able to last for an entire day of work.
The 8 Pro is also the first OnePlus phone to support wireless charging; even better, it’s the fastest wireless charging we’ve ever seen.
The OnePlus 8 Pro also features high-end hardware, the best implementation of Android 10, in the form of OxygenOS, 5G connectivity, and a selection of advanced features such as reverse wireless charging and IP68 certification. Of course, since this is an OnePlus phone, the design and ergonomics are also great.
Most flagships sport better cameras, but the OnePlus 8 Pro can – under the right conditions – match them in photo quality. This is a great Android phone, that doesn’t cost four figures.
Google Pixel 5: best pure Android phone
Pixel 5 is Google’s first 5G device. Unlike past Pixel models, it is not meant to compete with Apple’s and Samsung’s flagship models; instead, it boasts all the essential hardware paired with Google’s software capable in order to measure itself against the iPhone 12 mini (Check on Amazon) and OnePlus 8T (Check on Amazon). Priced at (Check on Amazon), the Pixel 5 is a great choice if you want to get a new Android 5G phone guaranteed to receive timely updates for the next 3 years.
The Pixel 5 doesn’t feature a high-end chipset, does not sport a flashy design, and has fewer cameras than the competition. But at a lower price and a more compact body it is still an attractive choice for many: the Pixel 5 makes do with a 6-inch display with Full HD+ resolution (1,080×2,340 pixels), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of internal memory, a 4080mAh battery, a dual rear camera (a 12MP main lens and a 16MP ultra-wide lens) and an 8MP front camera that is housed in a hole punch notch, while also abandoning some of Pixel 4’s (Check on Amazon) advanced features, including Face Unlock, that we will miss.
The good news? The Pixel 5 is priced at (Check on Amazon), which makes it one of the best phones on the market in this price range, especially if you like the clean and stock version of Android.
It also comes with some premium features, including a 90Hz display, a metal (aluminum) body, IP68 waterproofing, and wireless charging. And there are also some useful Pixel exclusives on the software side (like the Recorder app that can transcribe in real time whatever you say).
As usual for the Pixel series, it is the camera that helps the Pixel 5 stand out from the competition. While the hardware hasn’t changed much from last year, Google’s image processing continues to impress, and it’s hard to beat it in terms of photo quality.
The main sensor paired with Google’s brilliant software optimization lets you capture amazing photos, even in harsh conditions – Night Sight mode has been improved further! The ultra-wide lens on the other hand is ideal for landscapes. And you can also shoot [email protected] videos taking advantage of a selection of new stabilization modes. And you shouldn’t forget about its astrophotography function.
But perhaps the most obvious reason to switch to the Pixel 5 is that last year’s battery woes are gone, thus solving the Pixel 4’s biggest drawback. Last but not least, its 12W wireless charging works through the metal rear shell.
Apple iPhone 11: best bang for your buck
The iPhone 11 (Check on Amazon) currently offers the best mix of features and price among Apple devices. Of course, it doesn’t have some of the most advanced features of the iPhone 11 Pro (Check on Amazon) or iPhone 11 Pro Max (Check on Amazon), but it is the iPhone with the best value.
The display for example, is brilliant and up to Apple’s standards without being OLED. The camera is also similar to the one on the iPhone XR (Check on Amazon). If you want the best of the best, you will have to splurge for the Pro, otherwise, the iPhone 11 does a solid job. It also offers a good autonomy, although not exceptional like the one on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, that will still last you a full working day.
The iPhone 11 offers the best from Apple, at an acceptable price. And if you want more, you will have to be prepared to spend a whole lot more!
Read more: Apple iPhone 11 review: redefining limits
OnePlus Nord: best mid-range phone
The Nord is OnePlus’s attempt to return to producing the best “flagship killers”. Despite its price (Check on Amazon) this smartphone is full of premium features, beginning with the screen that has a refresh rate of 90Hz and finishing with the six cameras (in total), things you typically don’t find on phones that cost less than $500.
The screen in particular is absolutely spectacular. Not only because of the 90Hz refresh rate – a feature usually reserved for phones that cost hundreds of dollars more — but also for the 6.44 inch AMOLED panel that can become particularly bright to use outside and can make blacks and shadows stand out when watching videos or playing games.
But let’s talk now about the compromises. The Snapdragon 765G processor — assisted by 8GB of RAM — cannot match the performance of the high-end SoCs that we find on the various flagship phones, even though this Qualcomm chipset means that the Nord can connect to faster 5G networks. And despite all those cameras OnePlus’s image processing software still makes the colors appear too cold. Last but not least, there is no wireless charging and no official IP rating, while the battery life is only “OK” rather than exceptional.
But, for this price, the OnePlus Nord is one of the best Android phones you can buy right now, period!