Skip to main content

Best phone 2021: the top 15 smartphones you can buy in the US right now

Best phone 2021
A selection of the best phones right now (Image credit: Apple, Samsung, OnePlus)

The best phone right now is an Android, but we've got a mixture of the best iPhones from Apple and a whole host of devices from a variety of manufacturers in our top 15 picks. Our phone experts have reviewed every smartphone on this list, and we've compared them all to come up with a ranked list of the best phones for 2021.

Buying a phone is a complicated decision, as you'll probably be spending a lot of money. You need options, so that's why we've come up with a list of the best rather than just a single 'best phone' recommendation. We weigh the pros and cons of each model on our list based on performance, cameras, price point, and other metrics.

We're constantly updating our best phones list to make sure you're buying the absolute best smartphone for your needs. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is our latest number one pick, but also consider the iPhone 12, OnePlus 9 Pro iPhone 12 Pro or Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which we've found powerful phones for different reasons beyond operating system of choice. 

So 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 phones running 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 9 ranking high on our list for the value it provides. Some phones even debuted at a notably cheaper price than competitors, like the Google Pixel 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, which are great picks for those who don't want to spend a lot to get a good phone.

Likewise, your cell phone plan of choice may sway your preference; especially since certain carriers often provide especially good cell phone deals for some handsets in particular, whereas others don't.

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 with handsets like the iPhone 13, Google Pixel 6 and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 expected to debut in the next 12 months.

What does the best phone in 2021 need to have? It has a large display, yet is easy to handle. It packs a camera suite capable of replacing a point-and-shoot, and it has enough power and battery to get stuff done while you're on the go. You won't find slow smartphones with anything less than all-day battery life in our best phone ranking.

Best phone at a glance:

  1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  2. iPhone 12 Pro / iPhone 12 Pro Max
  3. Samsung Galaxy S21 / S21 Plus
  4. iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 mini
  5. OnePlus 9 Pro
  6. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
  7. iPhone SE 2020
  8. Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition
  9. OnePlus 9
  10. Samsung Galaxy S20 / S20 Plus
  11. Google Pixel 5
  12. iPhone 11
  13. Google Pixel 4a
  14. iPhone XR
  15. Motorola One 5G

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

A top tier smartphone, and it takes our best crown

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Weight: 227g
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
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
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 camera suites, 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 with a pricetag that, despite being cheaper than its predecessor, is still costlier than any competing flagship, 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 drain faster, 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 telephoto cameras working in tandem to do the heavy lifting.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review