Choosing a new smartphone is a difficult task, and that’s because there are just so many to choose from. But to make the process more bearable, we have compiled ten of the best smartphones on the market, including the Galaxy S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9 Pro, iPhone 12, and ROG Phone 5. Every device that we assess is tested with the same combination of practical cases and repeatable bench market tests.
This means we test everything from battery life and processor performance during the full range of daily tasks, to call quality and screen calibration. Phones are now also our go-to devices for taking pictures so that the cameras are challenged in every possible situation. You want to know if the camera of a phone will impress not only in bright sunshine at an exotic location, but also when you take pictures of moving people at drunken parties, or just in the dull, flat light of a British winter.
List of the best smartphones of 2021
You may also want to know how your phone can handle a Netflix binge or video call, so our discharge tests take this into account. Above all, we take these phones with us and use them as ours for a more extended period, live with them to get to know their peculiarities, and discover their hidden treasures.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The best smartphone right now
One of the best phones you can buy, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is that rare phone that is practically perfect, especially for those who prefer big screens. You get an immersive 6.7-inch OLED screen, industry-leading A14 Bionic performance and 5G capability. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max really stands out for its long battery life, as it lasted nearly 11 hours during our web surfing test. This is by far the most durable iPhone 12 model.
Like the regular iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has three rear cameras, but it benefits from a larger main sensor that lets more light through. And you get a 2.5-telephoto zoom, compared to 2x for the regular Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also delivers amazingly colorful video recording in Dolby Vision, complete with sensor-shift stabilization for steady shots. At $1,099, the iPhone 12 Pro Max isn’t cheap, but overall it’s the best smartphone we tested.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The best flagship Android phone
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a superior phone with a big screen, with a dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display that scales from 10Hz to 120Hz for super-smooth performance. But the most important feature is the dual telephoto camera, with 3x and 10x optical zoom, and the ability to zoom up to 100x with a new Zoom Lock feature. Overall camera quality is also improved, with better-looking portraits and brighter shots with night mode.
The S21 Ultra also excels at shooting video with a new Director’s View mode that lets you shoot simultaneously with the front and rear cameras. Other highlights include the fast performance of the Snapdragon 888 chip and the extra-long battery life of the 5,000 mAh battery, as the S21 Ultra lasted nearly 11.5 hours during our web surfing test. The Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t come with a charger in the box or a microSD card slot, but overall it’s the best Android phone you can buy.
OnePlus 9 Pro
The best Flagship killer
The OnePlus 9 Pro features the best cameras ever to come with a OnePlus phone. With the help of camera specialist Hasselblad, the OnePlus 9 has an excellent range of lenses that capture colors accurately and produce photos that can rival what you get from leading camera phones, as you can see in our OnePlus 9 Pro camera face-off. For that reason, we think the OnePlus 9 Pro is the best phone Android users can get.
There are other features beyond the cameras that tip the scales in the OnePlus 9 Pro’s favor. You get a display with a dynamically adjustable refresh rate, which fluctuates between 1 and 120Hz. That helps with battery life, as the OnePlus 9 Pro lasted more than 10.5 hours during our battery test. OnePlus’ WarpCharge 65T technology means your phone can be fully charged in just over 30 minutes. Add to that a Snapdragon 888 processor and plenty of RAM and you have one of the best smartphones out there.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
The best Android phone for productivity
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is pricey at $1,299, but no other large-screen phone can do as much as this phablet. You get a gorgeous 6.9-inch OLED screen with a 120 Hz dynamic refresh rate, as well as plenty of new S Pen upgrades ranging from new air gestures to a smoother 9 ms response time. Additionally, the Note 20 Ultra features one of the most versatile camera setups ever, including a 108MP main sensor, a whopping 50x Space Zoom and a dedicated laser autofocus sensor to reduce blur.
The Note 20 Ultra is also a mini desktop PC and gaming console in disguise. Enhanced DeX mode lets you stream photos, apps and more to a nearby TV, and Xbox Game Pass lets you stream more than 100 Xbox titles via the cloud. The Note 20 Ultra also works well with your PC, as Link to Windows lets you run Android apps on your laptop and receive notifications, make calls and more. Add it all up and you have one of the best smartphones yet.
iPhone 12 Pro
Another top Apple phone
The iPhone 12 Pro is the best phone you can buy because of everything Apple has put into its sleek new design. You get the most 5G bands in any phone, along with the new A14 Bionic processor, which blows away all Android phones. But the real reason to buy the iPhone 12 Pro is the cameras. The main sensor now lets more light through, and night mode works on both the ultra-wide camera and the TrueDepth camera on the front. You can take portraits at night, thanks to the combination of the telephoto lens and LiDAR sensor.
The iPhone 12 Pro not only has a beautiful 6.1-inch oled display, but it is also protected by Ceramic Shield, which is designed to provide 4x more protection in the event of a drop. The flat edges also look very sleek, even if they press a bit in your hands. The optional MagSafe charger makes wireless charging a breeze, thanks to the magnets built into the iPhone 12 Pro. But Apple doesn’t supply a charger in the box. While the iPhone 12 Pro’s battery life could be better via 5G, it is the most complete phone for the money and one of the best smartphones yet.
The best iPhone for most people
The iPhone 12 takes much of what makes the iPhone 12 Pro great – the blazingly fast 5-nanometer A14 Bionic chip, the same impressive 7-element main camera and 5G connectivity – and puts it in a more affordable package. Maybe not everyone needs the above-average material design and photo and video capabilities of the iPhone 12 Pro, but the regular iPhone 12 is the best new iPhone all-around for most buyers.
That’s largely due to the way Apple has improved the basics. The iPhone 12 has a new oled display that is much better than the blurry low-resolution LCD panel of last year’s iPhone 11. And the iPhone 12’s new design has an elegant flat bezel and narrower edges, which means the device takes up even less space and makes the most of the screen. We’re also pleased with Apple’s new MagSafe initiative, which opens up new accessory options and makes wireless charging faster and easier than with iPhones of the past. Overall, this is one of the best smartphones right now.
Samsung Galaxy S21
A Samsung flagship for less than $800
If you’re looking for a flagship phone at an affordable price, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is one of the best phone options out there. The S21 makes a great first impression with its slim contour cut camera design, which allows the camera to blend into the back of the device. And the cameras themselves also impress, with improved portraits and a new Zoom Lock feature that gives you better results up to 30x zoom.
The Galaxy S21 makes some concessions on its $799 price tag. For example, there is no charger in the box, there is no microSD card slot and the back is plastic instead of glass. But this Samsung phone makes up for these shortcomings with strong performance from its Snapdragon 888 chip, a larger fingerprint sensor for easier unlocking and nice features like Single Take 2.0 for capturing photos and videos all at once.
Asus ROG Phone 5
The best gaming phone
Asus launched the latest version of its gaming phone, the ROG Phone 5, in March. It’s a huge phone with an equally huge 6,000 mAh battery, a 6.78-inch AMOLED screen with a 144Hz refresh rate, incredible front-facing speakers, two USB-C ports, and a whole host of software goodies to ensure you have the ultimate mobile gaming experience.
With the ROG Phone 5, you get uncompromising power with up to 16GB of RAM and the best Android processor yet, the Snapdragon 888. Everything about this phone is designed for gaming, even the placement of the SoC and the split battery for faster charging at 65 W. If you want more, there’s the ROG Phone 5 Pro with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, or the limited edition ROG Phone 5 Ultimate with a whopping 18GB of RAM.
Google Pixel 4a
What makes the Google Pixel 4a so special is that it offers almost everything you would want in a smartphone for just $349. And for that price, it’s remarkably attractive. Google’s mid-range offering includes a gorgeous 5.8-inch OLED screen; solid power from a Snapdragon 730G chipset; smart software features like Call Screen and Google’s handy Recorder live transcription app; and, of course, that marvel of a 12-megapixel camera, with perks like Night Sight and Super Res Zoom.
The one area where the Pixel 4a lags behind the competition is with respect to battery life. Even with a power pack significantly larger than that of the iPhone SE, it still doesn’t last that long on a charge. It also can’t match Apple’s $399 iPhone in terms of performance. But in almost all other respects, Google’s baby Pixel is a fantastically well-rounded device that anyone looking for a cheap phone should consider, with the best photography for the money.
Moto G Power (2021)
The phone with the best battery life
If you want a phone that lasts, get one of Motorola’s Moto G Power models. That includes the 2021 version of this budget phone, whose 5,000 mAh battery lasted more than 14 hours in our battery test. This puts the Moto G Power (2021) at the top of our list for best phone battery life, alongside last year’s.
The Moto G Power has more to offer than just a big battery. The cameras are solid for a budget phone, even the macro lens. And Motorola now offers a cheaper version if you don’t mind living with less RAM and storage: the 3GB/32GB model costs $199, while the 4GB/64GB model has that familiar $249 price tag.
So these are the Best Smartphones that you can buy right now. We made this list after carefully examining all the above-mentioned smartphones, along with some others like Pixel 4a, Moto G Power, etc. Also to mention, Apple is expected to launch its iPhone 13 series in the coming time. We’d keep an eye on them, and will update this list once those smartphones are launched. So we recommend you to bookmark and subscribe to our web for future updates.