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Best smartphone 2021: the 15 top mobile phones tested and ranked

A variety of the best smartphones including the OnePlus 9 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The OnePlus 9 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra all feature in our best phone list (Image credit: OnePlus, Apple, Samsung)

Looking for a brand new smartphone? Our best phone ranking is here to give you a definitive answer on the next phone you should buy. We've put together this list from our wide variety of reviews of handsets from a variety of manufacturers in the Android and iPhone space.

If you already have your mobile operating system allegiance set, you may want to check out either our ranking of the best Android phones or best iPhones. If what's on offer in our best smartphone list is a little too pricey for your taste, then you may want to check out our ranking of the best cheap phones

Our best smartphone list has undergone some major changes in the last few months with the introduction of them OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, Oppo Find X3 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

There are many more upcoming new phones in 2021 with the Google Pixel 6 expected by the end of the year. Apple also just revealed the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro that may appear in this list in the near future.

We know that it's not all about the high-cost, super spec phones all the time, so we've made you a handy list of all the top smartphones that you can get on the market right now and we assess what really matters to you.

We test these phones rigorously through our review process, making sure that we check every angle and feature - but most importantly, considering whether they've got a decent battery, great screen, strong design and a cracking camera.

Then, perhaps most importantly, we consider the price too. Not everyone can afford (or even wants) a supercar-like handset in their pocket at all times, so we've ensured to give you a full ranking.

Want to know the best part of this list for you? Our best phone list has never looked better. Let's get started on our list of the top 15 handsets. You can see them quickly below, and then we're set to talk you through the very best phone in the world right now. What could it be?

Best phone 2021: which smartphone is for you?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra from the front and back with its screen on

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image credit: Samsung)

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, and we think it's 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.

It 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.

The battery life is also solid, and we found it'd often see us through a whole day from a full charge. Note the 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.

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.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra won't be for everyone with its high price, but it's the ultimate smartphone you can buy right now taking our crown for the best smartphone money can buy. Be sure to read our full review before making your final decision, but if you're after one of the best overall smartphone experiences we believe you'll find it here with Samsung's latest.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
Price comparison: The best Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra deals

The OnePlus 9 Pro on a white background showing the front and back of the handset

OnePlus 9 Pro (Image credit: OnePlus)

2. OnePlus 9 Pro

A giant leap for OnePlus photography

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 197g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3216
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+The best OnePlus camera phone+Great power
Reasons to avoid
-High price-No microSD support

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a top-tier flagship phone and one that improves on the main weakness of previous OnePlus handsets – their cameras. This is a phone that can compete with the other best phones, and some may even prefer its camera to the other phones on this list.

It has a 6.7-inch screen, which will likely impress you with its 'Fluid Display' that sets the refresh rate to 120Hz. Not only does it make game look better, but simply scrolling the web looks smoother. You'll also find nice upscaling and HDR10+ here.

It doesn't offer the absolute best battery life we've seen on a smartphone, but it features a 4,500mAh cell that is set to last you a full day from a single charge. It also has great fast charging and wireless charging features.

Thanks to a new Hasselblad partnership and a ‘freeform’ ultra-wide lens, designed to reduce the distortion at the edge of images, the OnePlus 9 Pro is the best OnePlus camera phone. It isn't the absolute best camera phone, but it's a remarkable step up from the company with a great 48MP main camera alongside an 8MP telephoto and 50MP ultrawide.

OnePlus may have focused its attention on the cameras for the OnePlus 9 Pro, but this is an overall incredible smartphone offering top-end power, a great display and most features you'd expect from any other phone you'll find on this list. Battery life isn't the absolute best, and it's remarkably expensive considering OnePlus' history in the smartphone market but it has earned its place this high on our best smartphone list because it's the overall package.

Read more: OnePlus 9 Pro review
Price comparison: The best OnePlus 9 Pro deals

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iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro (Image credit: Apple)
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iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max (Image credit: Future)

3. iPhone 12 Pro / iPhone 12 Pro Max

Our favorite iPhone pair

Specifications
Weight: 189g / 228g
Dimensions: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm / 160.8mm x 78.1mm x 7.4mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch / 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532 / 1284 x 2778
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Varied color choices +Clear and vibrant screen 
Reasons to avoid
-No charging block in box -5G still an expensive luxury 

The iPhone 12 Pro is remarkably similar to the iPhone 12, and that coupled with the higher price means it may not be for everyone, but money aside it’s certainly the better phone.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max, however, has a few added extras that make it the best possible choice if money is no object and you're willing to have a big phone. This is a large phone with a 6.7-inch screen, but it does mean you get better battery life.

The iPhone 12 Pro has a great 6.1-inch OLED screen. It’s one of the best out there, but it’s not much better than the iPhone 11 Pro’s, and there’s only a 60Hz refresh rate. If you want an even bigger display, opt for the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The iPhone 12 Pro has acceptable battery life, but it’s not great while the Pro Max has better battery that will certainly see you through a full day on a single charge. You’ll be charging daily – and there’s no charging block in the box, though wireless charging is at least supported.

With 12MP main, ultra-wide and telephoto snappers, along with a LiDAR scanner, the iPhone 12 Pro has a versatile camera setup, and one that’s better in low light than its predecessor’s snapper assortment.

The iPhone 12 Pro isn’t a big upgrade on either its predecessor or the standard iPhone 12, but it's still one of the very best iPhones right now. If you want to save some money, you won’t be missing out on much with the basic iPhone 12 – while for the ultimate model there’s the iPhone 12 Pro Max. If you're willing to spend on it, you'll be getting the very best iPhone with the Pro Max.

Read more: iPhone 12 Pro review | iPhone 12 Pro Max review
Price comparison: The best iPhone 12 Pro deals
The best iPhone 12 Pro Max deals

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Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21 (Image credit: Samsung)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus (Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy S21 / S21 Plus

Not the best of the S series, but nevertheless great

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Weight: 169g/200g
Dimensions: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm / 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.2-inch / 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 4,000mAh / 4,800mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic, versatile camera+Cheaper than the Galaxy S20
Reasons to avoid
-No microSD support-Screen isn’t the best

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus aren't the height of spec and prowess as its predecessors used to be - the Samsung Galaxy S20 used to sit at the top of this list - and instead Samsung's Ultra handset is taking the limelight.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and its bigger sibling are trying to do something differently, and both are remarkably cheaper than the Galaxy S20 range was at launch. Both still offer a phenomenal smartphone experience, and with a lower price it'll be a top choice for many.

Much has been said about Samsung's switch to Full HD for the Galaxy S21, but in our testing we didn't notice the knock down in resolution much unless we were testing the phone side by side with a QHD display. With a 120Hz refresh rate and great brightness, the Galaxy S21's screen will satisfy many and if you're after a larger option you'll find the Plus is built for you with its 6.7-inch screen.

The battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S21 will last you a full day from a single charge, and its 4,000mAh cell means you'll get a lot of usage out of the handset without having to recharge the phone. We found the S21 Plus offers the longer battery life though with its 4,800mAh cell.

The Galaxy S21's camera is much the same as the Galaxy S20, but a few software tweaks have been included from Samsung that make it just that touch better. Overall, this isn't as phenomenal as the Galaxy S21 Ultra but for most just wanting to shoot the odd snap, this will suit you perfectly.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 will be the perfect smartphone for many with its great mix of solid spec, a great design and the fact it's cheaper than the Galaxy S21 Ultra as well as its predecessors. If you own the Samsung Galaxy S20 we wouldn't recommend buying this, but for others this will be the perfect smartphone. If you need a slightly longer lasting battery and a larger display, also consider the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus (even though its specs are remarkably similar).

Read more: Galaxy S21 review | Galaxy S21 Plus review
Price comparison:
The best Samsung Galaxy S21 deals
The best Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus deals

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iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 (Image credit: Apple)
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iPhone 12 mini

The iPhone 12 mini (Image credit: Apple)

5. iPhone 12 mini / iPhone 12

The best Apple iPhone bang for your buck

Specifications
Weight: 134g / 164g
Dimensions: 131.5mm x 64.2mm x 7.4mm / 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 5.4-inch / 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 / 1170 x 2532
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Colorful OLED display +Future-proofed with 5G  
Reasons to avoid
-Cameras are similar to last iPhone 11-Battery life only okay 

The iPhone 12 is a similar phone in a lot of ways to the iPhone 11, but with 5G for the first time, coupled with an OLED screen, a more durable build, and increased power, it’s the best iPhone for most people.

Plus, this time it comes with the iPhone 12 mini in tow that allows you to have a smaller screen size for your next iPhone with a 5.4-inch display making it an easy to hold phone.

The upgrade to OLED on the standard iPhone 12 means this has an excellent display – one that can stand up to its pricier siblings, though this is still just a 60Hz screen. The iPhone 12 mini may be small but it features 476 pixels per inch, which is an impressive result.

The iPhone 12’s battery life is solid – and better than its predecessor’s battery, but it still can’t compete with the longest lasting smartphones. You’ll probably be charging it nightly, but at least you have the option to do that without wires. The iPhone 12 mini battery isn't as good, but it's a similar affair.

The dual-lens camera (consisting of 12MP main and ultra-wide snappers) on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini performs well even in low light, but it’s not much of an upgrade on the iPhone 11 here. Though being able to use Night Mode with both sensors is a nice bonus.

The iPhone 12 isn’t the best spec iPhone available, but it strikes a good balance between price and features, packs a class-leading chipset, and has the future proofing of 5G. If you want a smaller device with that same spec, but a lower price, look to the iPhone 12 mini. So if you want an excellent iPhone that won’t completely decimate your bank balance, these are the ones to go for.

Read more: iPhone 12 mini review | iPhone 12 review
Price comparison: 
The best iPhone 12 mini deals
The best iPhone 12 deals

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra on a white background with its S Pen stylus sitting next to it

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

This productivity powerhouse is the best phone to get stuff done on

Specifications
Release date: August 2020
Weight: 208g
Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.9-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3088
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus / Exynos 990
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 128/256/512GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 108MP, 12MP, 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Useful S Pen features+Great-looking screen
Reasons to avoid
-Slow charging-Ultra-expensive

Samsung's latest Note entry is the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, with advanced features, a great-looking screen, and special features for the S Pen stylus which comes included in the phone, that give you added versatile ways to use your device.

Sure it's expensive, and pretty huge, and doesn't actually have all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S20 Ultra or Galaxy S21 Ultra. But those weaknesses are made up for with plenty of advantages.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has one of the best display's on any smartphone, with a 120Hz refresh rate (at FullHD+ resolution) and the option of QHD+ resolution (at a 60Hz refresh rate) - plus at 6.9 inches there's plenty of space for movies, games and productivity apps.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera is... impressive. With 0.5x ultrawide, 1x regular,  5x optical and 50x digital zoom levels, you can get closer to subjects and still get stunning shots.

If the Note 20 Ultra has a slight weak point, it's battery. In the most of the world (basically outside North America) the handset comes with Samsung's Exynos 990 chipset which isn't quite as power efficient - if you push the handset, you'll need to recharge before the day is out.

This is a real top-end phone with top specs in every sector, so if your budget (and hand) can stretch for it, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the power and productivity user's phone of choice.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
Price comparison: The best Galaxy Note 20 Ultra deals