Picking the best phone in 2021 is an expensive and complicated decision whether you’re looking for a handset from Samsung, Apple, Google or a variety of other smartphone manufacturers. We’ve seen a huge selection of new phones throughout the last few years, and this is our definitive list of the best handsets you can buy right now.
We’re constantly updating our best phones list to make sure you’re buying the absolute top smartphone for your needs. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is our new number one best pick, but also consider the iPhone 12 or Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which we’ve found powerful phones for different reasons.
Why we have more than one pick: We have a top pick, but not everyone looks for the same smartphone features. Some demand Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime, so that means sticking with iOS 14, while others will want infinite customizations and Google Assistant, which is available in Android 11.
There are price considerations, too, and we’ve factored that in, with choices like the OnePlus 8. Some phones even debuted at a notably cheaper price than competitors, like the Google Pixel 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition.
Likewise, AT&T plans, Verizon plans, or your cell phone plan of choice may sway your preference; the best AT&T phone may not be available on Verizon, and vice-versa. We’ve seen more unlocked phones in the US, but not all of them are available for every carrier.
Almost all smartphone prices have crept up to – and above – $1,000 so you’ll want to take your decision seriously. We’re here to guide you through the top phone picks with all of the expertise we’ve gained doing phone reviews.
5G phones are becoming important and more prevalent and foldable phones will one day become a big deal. Plus you should bear in mind this list may change a lot throughout the year as we expect to see the new OnePlus 9, iPhone 13 and more throughout the next 12 months..
The best phone in 2021? It has a large display, yet is easy to handle; packs a camera suite capable of replacing a point-and-shoot; and has enough processor power and battery to get work done while you’re on the go. You won’t find slow smartphones with anything less than all-day battery life on this ranked phone list.
Best phone at a glance:
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 mini
- Samsung Galaxy S21
- iPhone 12 Pro / iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- OnePlus 8 Pro
- iPhone SE 2020
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition
- OnePlus 8
- Samsung Galaxy S20 / S20 Plus
- Google Pixel 5
- iPhone 11
- Google Pixel 4a
- iPhone XR
- Motorola One 5G
1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
A top tier smartphone, and it takes our best crown
Release date: January 2020
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100
RAM: 12GB / 16GB
Rear camera: 108MP 10MP 10MP 12MP
Front camera: 40MP
Reasons to buy
The best camera zoom Mesmerizing design
Reasons to avoid
–Expensive at any level–No microSD card slot
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is our best smartphone in the world right now: here’s why.
Why it’s the best smartphone: We think the S21 Ultra is a fantastic choice for you with one of the best cameras, phenomenal power, great battery life, a solid design and a whole host of other great features. The Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t a cheap handset, the price is high for this one, but if you’re looking for the ultimate smartphone experience in 2021 you will be hard pressed to do better than this latest from Samsung.
Screen: The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra features a top 6.8-inch screen with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and a Quad HD resolution. This is one of the best smartphone displays on the market.
Battery life: The Samsung S21 Ultra’s battery life is solid, and we found it’d often see us through a whole day from a full charge. If you’re playing around with the 120Hz refresh rate, battery life is likely to be lesser but it’s a top choice if you’re after a long lasting phone.
Note the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t come with a charger in the box though, so you’ll have to use your existing one or buy one separately.
Camera: Samsung’s 108MP camera on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is going to be the highlight for many, and the camera doesn’t disappoint on this phone. Like its predecessor, you can take 100x zoom photography, but it’s far improved here over the Galaxy S20 Ultra with two cameras working to do the heavy lifting.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review