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Best phones in 2021: Which smartphone should you buy?

September 7th, 2021 at 11:54 AM
Best Phones

Getting the best phone for you can be important. For many, the phone is a primary computer, serving as a way to interact with friends and family, consume entertainment, and even work. The only problem is, there are hundreds of phone models out there, and finding the best phone for your needs can be a tricky task.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide.

Of course, there are tons of things to consider before buying a new phone. For example, you’ll want to think about the operating system you want, how much processing power you need, and more. If you’ve already decided on the operating system, check out our full guides on the best iPhones and the best Android phones.

You’ll also want to consider other specs that may impact your day-to-day life. For example, screen size is important for many users. A larger screen size means that you’ll be able to see content better on the display — but it also means that the phone will be larger. Recent phones also support 5G networks — though 5G support doesn’t necessarily impact day-to-day life that much just yet. That will likely change over the next few years. Before you make your ultimate decision, check out our full phone buying guide, which details everything to consider when buying a new phone.

Without further ado, here are the best phones to buy in 2021.

Best phone overall: Apple iPhone 12

Pros: Great design, excellent performance, good camera

Cons: Not cheap, no telephoto camera

If you’re simply looking for a solid phone that you can use from day to day, then the Apple iPhone 12 is the way to go. The device offers excellent performance, a good battery life, a great camera, and a stunning new flat-edged design.

As is usually the case with an iPhone, the iPhone 12 boasts excellent performance. The device has Apple’s new A14 Bionic processor, which should be able to handle anything you can throw at it — and should power the phone for years and years to come. It also has an excellent camera system, with one 12-megapixel main camera and one 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. There’s no telephoto camera here though — for that you’ll need to go for the iPhone 12 Pro.

Other great features include a new OLED display, which offers deeper black levels and higher contrast. The iPhone 12 also offers Apple’s new MagSafe charging tech, and supports the new 5G networks.

There are some other things to consider. Perhaps the most important thing is that the iPhone 12 is set to be replaced by the iPhone 13, likely at an event on September 14. It may be a few weeks before the phone is fully available for purchase though.

Apple iPhone 12 Price:$799 Buy Now BGR may receive a commission

Read our full review

Best Android phone: Samsung Galaxy S21

Pros: Great camera, nice new design, solid display

Cons: 1,080p resolution, plastic back

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is not only far better than the last-generation Galaxy S20, but it’s also a little cheaper, coming in at $800 instead of $1,000. The device boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, coupled with a stunning new design, a triple camera system, and a great display.

There are a few compromises made for this device to get its price down, but those compromises don’t really impact day-to-day use of the phone — and as a result, you’re still getting a flagship phone experience. For example, the display has a 1,080p resolution compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 1,440p display, but it still has a 120Hz refresh rate, and it looks great. The back of the device is plastic, but it still looks and feels nice.

The camera on the Galaxy S21 is great. You’ll get a triple camera system with one 12-megapixel main camera, one 64-megapixel telephoto camera, and one 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. In other words, it’s a pretty versatile camera system.

There are some other minor downsides to consider, though they’re not huge issues. Samsung fans may be disappointed to find out that there’s no MicroSD card support. And, there’s no charger in the box. Still, most have a charger, and most should be able to get by with the built-in storage.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G | Factory Unlocked Android Cell Phone | US Version 5G Smartphone | Pro-Gr… Price:$799.99 Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Read our full review

Best camera phone: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Pros: Excellent camera, super-fast, great design,

Cons: Expensive, huge

Simply looking for the best camera in a smartphone? In that case, the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max is the phone to get. The device is huge and expensive, but if you don’t mind those things, then you’ll get an incredible camera experience.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max offers a triple camera system, with one 12-megapixel main camera, one 12-megapixel telephoto camera with 2.5x optical zoom, and one 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. Unlike the iPhone 12 Pro, however, the 12 Pro Max offers a much larger sensor that captures more light with less noise. The wide camera also has a new sensor-shift stabilization technology. Safe to say, with this phone you’ll get detailed, vibrant shots.

Apart from the camera, the iPhone 12 Pro Max also offers excellent performance thanks to the Apple A14 Bionic chip, and that classic iOS experience. But, you’ll pay for it — the device starts at $1,099, which is not cheap.

Other downsides include the fact that the iPhone 12 Pro Max isn’t small. You’ll have to be comfortable with how much room it takes in your pockets or bag. Also, we’re expecting the device to be replaced by something in the iPhone 13 series in the near future — and we recommend waiting until then to buy a new phone.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Price:$1,099 Buy Now BGR may receive a commission

Best gaming phone: Asus ROG Phone 5

Pros: Excellent performance, great display

Cons: Expensive, middling cameras

If you’re a mobile gamer, you might want a phone that not only performs well, but also offers all the features you can get to better enjoy your games. If that’s the case, then we recommend the Asus ROG Phone 5.

There are a number of features that make this such a great gaming phone. For starters, it has a massive 6,000mAh battery that should keep your phone powered for hours of gaming. Not only that, but the device also offers a massive 144Hz refresh rate, meaning it has one of the most responsive displays on the market.

The ROG Phone 5 has all the other features you would expect from a flagship phone. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, coupled with up to a massive 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. And, you’ll get nice dual front-facing speakers in case you forgot your headphones.

So what are the downsides? Well, the device is pretty heavy, and it doesn’t have wireless charging or waterproofing, which is a little frustrating. Also, the phone’s cameras are only average, so if a high-end camera is important to you, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Asus ROG Phone 5 Gaming Phone Price:$939.99 Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Best foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 is IPX8 water-resistant. Image source: Samsung

Pros: Stunning displays, excellent camera, solid design

Cons: Expensive

Samsung has pioneered the foldable phone, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the company’s best foldable yet. The device offers two beautiful displays, an excellent camera, and more. Sure, it’s expensive, but if you like the concept of a foldable phone, it’s still absolutely the way to go.

As you might expect from a foldable device, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has two displays. There’s one 6.2-inch display on the outside for day-to-day use, and one huge 7.6-inch display on the inside that’s perfect for playing games, watching movies, and so on. Both displays are AMOLED displays, and they both look great. The device also has a great triple camera array, along with top-tier performance, and plenty of storage for all your files.

So what about downsides? Well, the device is still pretty expensive, coming in at $1,799.99. Also, we still don’t fully know how durable foldable phones are, though Samsung seems to have put a lot of work into the tech, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 has held up for at least the last year. Lastly, the inside front-facing camera isn’t necessarily great, though it is an under-display camera, so that’s to be expected.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 List Price:$1,799.99 Price:$1,599.99 You Save:$200.00 (11%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Best cheap phone: Apple iPhone SE

Pros: Excellent performance, solid design, inexpensive

Cons: Display and camera are only fine

Looking for an inexpensive phone that will last you at least a few years and still offers excellent performance? The iPhone SE may not be the most modern-looking phone, but as an all-around great device, it’s still the way to go.

There are plenty of things to love about the iPhone SE. Notably, the device comes with Apple’s A13 Bionic processor, which is easily able to handle everything you can throw at it. That also means that the phone should last at least a few years of normal use, and Apple will likely continue to support the phone for four years or so. The best thing about it? The fact that the device comes in at around $400.

Of course, given the fact that it’s so inexpensive, there are some downsides to consider. The camera on the phone is fine, but it’s not that versatile in 2021, and not necessarily as crisp as the cameras on other devices. Also, the display on the phone is a little lower-resolution compared to other phones, even other phones in this price range.

Still, despite those issues, the iPhone SE is still the best phone under $400 for most people. It should last longer than most others, while still performing excellently.

Apple iPhone SE Budget Phone Price:$399 Buy Now BGR may receive a commission

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