The past year has been one of the more interesting ones for phones, with phone makers evolving and innovating faster than ever before. Not only have we seen more Apple and Samsung still dominate the market. Their newest flagships, the and Galaxy S21, respectively, offer fantastic rear multicamera setups, powerful processors and, of course, 5G.and , but there's also been an influx of devices that tout premium specs at . Some things, however, remain the same -- like the fact that
But despite Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy lines being the top choice for a lot of consumers, other companies like Motorola and OnePlus sell excellent phones too. The sheer amount of solid competition gives us great options to choose from at a range of prices.
To help you figure out the best of the best, we gathered our favorite phones to buy in 2021. Every phone on this list has been thoroughly reviewed and tested, from their camera performance to batteries. We've linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise. We update this list regularly to ensure the best phone is always represented.
And for more info, read our guide to help find the best phone for your needs and take a look at our tips on .
The iPhone 12 (and its higher-end iPhone 12 Pro counterpart) received one of our highest scores ever. The smartphone features the powerful and fast A14 Bionic processor, dual rear cameras, 5G and a magnetic "MagSafe" feature that allows it to connect to other mobile accessories.
There's a lot to like about the Galaxy S21, but the best thing about it has got to be the price. Samsung's next-gen flagship smartphone lineup starts at $800, and you can find it on Amazon right now for an extra $100 off. Samsung made some trade-offs to get to that price point. Specifically, the phone has 4GB of RAM less than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S20; the wall charger and headphones don't come in the box; and it doesn't have a microSD card slot for expanded storage. But even with those sacrifices, you're getting a lot for your money, including a striking design, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, and 5G connectivity.
If you want a 5G phone that doesn't cost too much, the Pixel 4A 5G is one of our top picks. The handset has a solid battery life, fantastic dual rear cameras and robust software support from Google. There's also the Pixel 5, which has a great 90Hz display, but it costs more at $699 (£599, AU$999).
OnePlus released a lot of phones in 2020, including the OnePlus 8 Pro and the 8T, but our favorite this year is the OnePlus 8 due mostly because of its price. At launch the smartphone cost $699 (£599, AU$1,180 converted) and has since been discounted. The phone features a 6.55-inch AMOLED screen, a 90Hz display, a water resistant design and 5G.
The Motorola Edge Plus has pretty much everything you'd hope for in a premium 5G mobile phone: A Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset, a giant battery, an OLED screen with a high refresh rate and multiple rear cameras with heavy-duty specs. Motorola took features found on other top-of-the-line Android phones, put its own Moto spin on them and built them all into one of our favorite Android phones of the year.
Starting at only $399, the 2020 version of the iPhone SE is the best budget phone you can find right now. With an A13 processor (the same as the iPhone 11) and an amazing camera, the iPhone SE is way more powerful than it has any right to be. Old-school iPhone fans will also appreciate the return of TouchID and the home button.
The Note 20 Ultra, along with its smaller counterpart the Note 20, is a pricey, ultrapremium Android phone with an expansive screen size, an embedded S Pen stylus and 5G. The Note 20 Ultra also has a triple-rear camera array, the high-powered Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and reverse wireless charging. It comes with either 128GB or 512GB of internal storage.
Pixel phones have a loyal following and with good reason. Without considering its price, Google's Pixel 4A has a top-notch camera that takes brilliant photos. But it's even better that the phone costs $349 (£349, AU$599). The 5.81-inch handset also features a headphone jack, 128GB of storage out of the box and a better battery life than last year's Pixel 4.
In addition to its main Galaxy S flagship phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A51 and it's another Samsung phone that costs $399 (£329, AU$599) -- though there is a 5G variant that costs $499. The Android device has four cameras, an in-screen fingerprint reader and expandable storage.