Speaker 1: Welcome to best of 2021. I'm Justin tech. And today we are talking the best phones of the year. Now there are a lot of new features and upgrades this year, but in many ways that you wouldn't expect so here to uncover it with me today is Patrick Collins. C's phone EFIC auto. We're gonna have a conversation. We're gonna go through categorically form factor budget, a few other areas, and ultimately editor's choice. So here it is. [00:00:30] All right. Thanks for talking, Patrick. How's it going?
Speaker 2: Amen. It's shaken it's bacon. Can't wait to get some taken, taken into some best phones. That is
Speaker 1: So when it comes to phones in to 2021, what were the most standout features would you say this year?
Speaker 2: Well, I think this year has been the 5g year that everyone had hoped 2020 would be, or 2019 would be, uh, there's so many 5g phones. In fact, predominantly like 90% of the phones that we reviewed were 5g. Maybe even 95%. [00:01:00] Uh, the, uh, other trend we see is a mix of trends. The higher end phones, we see lots of big revisions to flagship phones, like the galaxy line and the iPhone and the pixel. But we also see on the lower end for budget phones, we see, um, a little more compromised than we have in previous years. So there's some solid budget phones, but they're not quite as appealing overall. Maybe the ones were in 2020 compared to 20 20, 20, 21 has been a very great year for phones.
Speaker 1: If you had to choose one from this [00:01:30] year, which would be like the go to budget phone that you would recommend,
Speaker 2: Um, that that's tough because budget phones really means anything. That's not a flagship phone. So that could be a $700 phone or $500 phone. Um, I can name a couple though. Um, I think a couple that I really like are the pixel five, a 5g, I think that's around $450. Um, and that has as the name might suggest 5g, but it also has Google's fantastic camera systems. It's found the same system they've been using for the last three years. Um, but it's not the [00:02:00] same cameras as the Google pixel six. I'm sure we about in a bit, uh, then you have like some, uh, phone makers like Motorola and Samsung who are like, kind of serving that 300 to $500 market. You got like something like the galaxy, a 52 5g, which I think is an outstanding phone. Uh, obviously if you're into cameras, I still think Google's a way to go. But overall, I think that is actually a fantastic phone for the money. You also have Motorola having the, um, this [00:02:30] is a mouthful, the Motorola Moto G stylist 5g. And so this is a 5g version of their, uh, even cheaper, um, Motorola motor G stylist. So that's the other thing with budget phones, nearly any price I tell you, you're not gonna pay full price for a Motorola phone. That's a budget phone or a Sampson phone or one plus phone TCL had some good ones as well. Uh, carriers are gonna discount discount discount.
Speaker 1: So you mentioned camera in there. What
Speaker 2: Would be the best [00:03:00] camera that came out this year? Even a couple years ago, that would be a tricky one to name completely. Uh, cameras on phones have improved drastically, but here I'll help you out a little bit. So I think overall camera for video and photo, not just photos, but video and photo. I still think the iPhone is a step ahead of the pack. When you look at it all together, uh, video on the iPhone is still ahead of what we get on Android. Android has really good video. I'm not saying it doesn't. Um, but I think something like the iPhone [00:03:30] 13 pro or 13 pro max is gonna be this, I think a really good all round system that said the galaxy S 21 ultra is one of my favorite phones in 2021. It has a more versatile camera system. You have a telephoto that can go up to, uh, well they say a hundred X space zoom.
Speaker 2: You're not gonna use it at a hundred X, but you might use it at 30 X and still get pretty good shots where something like the iPhone's gonna top out around like 12 X and that optical that's like three X, [00:04:00] I believe off the top of my head. Um, all that being said is I think that's a great camera system. Um, the video is pretty good, but I, I still think the iPhone with stuff like ProRes video, especially if you're filming, like we are, uh, gives you a little more up here for grading. Then there's this, this lovely little phone called the pixel six that launched red toward the end of the year. I think it just takes outstanding photos. And one of the things they marketed was, uh, the, the camera being more equitable. So they worked with, uh, artists who photograph and film communities [00:04:30] of color.
Speaker 2: And they were really honest with Google's engineers and they revamped, uh, the algorithms and Google's pixel six really lives up to the hype, um, tested it for seeing that. And, uh, I did another test for, uh, an ABC story and it it's just mind blowing how good, uh, the colors are, the skin tones are and all that. So as far as cameras, you have stuff like that. And the last thing I wanna mention though, is there's this little phone called Sony and Sony had the Xperia pro [00:05:00] I is imaging. Uh, I wanna say this is like a $1,700 phone, $1,800 phone. And what it does is it's taken the one inch sensor from Sony's RX 100 camera line, which is a very, it's probably the most popular quote unquote point and shoot camera that's still made today. Um, and put it into a phone. It's just amazing to see the images this creates in the videos, um, when it gets to low light, I still think something like the iPhone or the galaxy S 21 has in advantage, but [00:05:30] what Sony's doing is earing this phone with it has a shutter button on it. It has apps. So if you want to be a vlogger and do the kind of stuff we're doing, or a journalist, you can do that. If you want to be a filmmaker, you can use their cinema line. Uh, and all this stuff is baked into the phone. You don't have to get extra apps or anything. So when it comes to cameras, naming one is tough. But yeah, I think overall it's a good year to wanna buy a phone, to take photos or videos. Let's talk software
Speaker 1: Who brought the most OS game this year.
Speaker 2: [00:06:00] Like the flagship phones, I would say Android jump from 11 to 12 is probably the biggest jump we've seen on Android in five, six years. Uh, not only a big overhaul of the way it looks, but the UI, they fixed so many things. A lot of us have been complaining about or have had annoyances with over the years. And it's fantastic. Uh, I've tried it out on the pixel six, which it's kind of does, like, that's like the, uh, the phone is designed for [00:06:30] and it's just outstanding. I really, really love it. Um, obviously the other big, uh, system we like to talk about is IO. Uh, and with iOS 15, we saw some significant upgrades there, not quite as groundbreaking or different as, uh, Android 12. In fact, I think apple, if you look at iOS 13, iOS 14 and I 15, yeah. It's kind of hard to tell 'em apart. I think that's the idea that if you wanted to change things about your phone, you can, if you like the way it is, because the leave it like that and think Apple's very smart, the way [00:07:00] it's been approaching iOS updates.
Speaker 1: That kinda leads me to my next question, which is like the coolest form factor device this year. Like we know Samsung comes out with like a new type of folding phone all the time. I have a galaxy Z flip that I love to use and flip. Uh, so yeah,
Speaker 2: Best warm factor. Let's start with like the rectangle stuff because rectangles or rectangles or rectangles. Um, but here are two that I really like this year. Uh, this is the galaxy S 21 ultra. Uh, I love the way [00:07:30] they integrated the camera, bump on it as well. It's just a very beautiful phone. Then we have the pixel six pro, uh, and it's defining features, gonna be this camera bar. So, uh, some people might not like this. Some people think it looks like Robocop, which could be a good thing too. Um, I really like it cuz when you put it down, it doesn't wobble. Like all the other phones are gonna wobble and I think it's very striking the way they're doing like a two-one design as well. Uh, but this is definitely the most pre thing I've [00:08:00] seen from Google a long time, but you alluded to foldable phones and yeah, two of my favorite are made by Samsung.
Speaker 2: Um, and probably my favorite, uh, phone, uh, design wise was the galaxy Z flip three, which when you really just take the colors away from, it is not radically different in any way than the, the, uh, original galaxy Z flip or the Z flip 5g, which is kinda like the unofficial second version. Um, but I just love the way they, uh, had an alloy, uh, metal [00:08:30] for the frame, which made the whole thing feel more like one piece. It's one of my favorite phones this year is the galaxy Z flip three. The only knock I had against it was the battery life. The woo my, if you're used to a regular phone, it's a step down. But if you can deal with that, you're gonna have a delightful time with that phone.
Speaker 1: Okay. Taking all of this in, we got form factor, we got software, we got cameras. What is the editor's choice phone this year?
Speaker 2: Okay. So with editor's choice, we give it, uh, editor's choice to phones that we think are outstanding and it doesn't mean [00:09:00] they have the highest rated review. It doesn't mean, uh, it's like, you know, unanimously, we, we have like a little private meeting and put like mask on and vote in silence or anything. It's just something like, Hey, this phone really connected with me. And the first one we have a couple. So the first one is the galaxy S 21 ultra. I've talked about this quite a bit already. Uh, and this came out almost a year ago and I still would recommend it. I, I, I would say that we know Samsung's likely gonna update this in a month or two. That just that's the way they update these phones [00:09:30] is on that yearly cycle, but this is an outstanding phone. And right now you're gonna find some of lowest prices to get it.
Speaker 2: Another one is another Android phone and I alluded to, which is the pixel six, a pro, and also the regular pixel six, a, this is just an amazing phone. I love this phone. Like I feel a, such a connection with it. And, um, I'm having a hard time sending them back to, I gotta send all these songs back, but this one has just been really special with [00:10:00] me. It's kinda like how you were talking about, uh, the Z flip three. How you, how much you love that, how you connected with that. It's like, it's kinda how I feel about this. And then of course, no surprise, uh, the iPhone, the iPhones 13 series. I think a lot of people when it came out were like, eh, what's different. It, it doesn't look crazy different. Looks about the same as the 12. And that goes back to, I think Apple's biggest, uh, cell is consistency.
Speaker 2: If you're upgrading from a iPhone, I don't know, iPhone 10 or 10 S to one of these, it's not gonna be a radically [00:10:30] different phone. It's gonna be able to like, be able to put your stuff on there and have a pretty good experience. Get better photos of video, have a better screen. But this is just an amazing packaging. Almost feels like the S version of the iPhone 12, which is not a bad thing. So those are some of the, uh, phones that receive AceNet editor's choice award. And, uh, I was fortunate up to review a few of them, so, yeah.
Speaker 1: Amazing. Well, thank you so much, Patrick. And thank you. If you guys wanna learn more about any of these phones, check out at those links down in the description. I'm Justin for [00:11:00] CNET and I'll take you later.