Greatest telephone to purchase in 2021 – CNET

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Fall is approaching when Apple, Google, and other phone companies are likely to update their top models for 2021. But if you can’t wait for a new phone until the holiday, flagship models like that iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 with amazing rear camera setups, powerful processors for lag-free gaming, wireless charging and 5G. But they’re not the only phones to consider, as other competitors like OnePlus, Motorola, and Google’s Pixel line all have great specs at different prices.

The sheer amount of solid competition gives you, the customer, great options to choose from at any price that fits your budget, whether your biggest concern is high-speed data, an AMOLED display, or a crisp camera. Choosing a cheaper handset doesn’t mean compromising on ease of use, as even inexpensive handsets offer large, vibrant displays and multiple rear view cameras. We’re even starting to see 5G connectivity on much cheaper phones.

To help you find the best of the best, we’ve rounded up our favorite phones for 2021. Every phone on this list has been thoroughly reviewed and tested, from camera performance to battery life. Each link leads to an unlocked phone and should work on most of the top four US wireless carriers unless otherwise noted. We update this list regularly to ensure that the best phone is always represented.

For more information, read our guide to finding the best phone for your needs and take a look at our tips how do i buy a new cell phone.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best phone Apple makes, and it got a great score on our full test. The smartphone has the powerful and fast A14 Bionic processor, a professional setup with multiple rear view cameras, 5G and a magnetic “MagSafe” function that allows it to be connected to other mobile accessories. Add to that the gorgeous screen and sleek design, and the 12 Pro Max ticks all the boxes for a flagship phone in 2021.

Read our review of the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The Galaxy S21 has a lot going for it, but the best part about this phone is certainly its price. Samsung’s next-generation flagship line of smartphones starts at $ 800, and you can find this Android phone now on Amazon for an additional $ 100 discount. Samsung made some compromises in order to reach this price point. In particular, the phone has 4 GB of RAM less than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S20; the wall charger and headphones are not included; and it doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expanded storage. But even with those sacrifices, you are getting a lot for your buck with this Android device, including a striking design, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, and 5G connectivity.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

Best phone for affordable 5G

Google Pixel 5A 5G

Sarah Tew / CNET

If you’re looking for a 5G phone that doesn’t cost too much, the Pixel 5A 5G is one of our top picks. The handset has solid battery life, fantastic dual rear cameras, and robust software support from Google. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles – or in-house Google processor – that the upcoming flagship Pixel 6 has, but it’s a solid option if you want 5G on a budget.

Read our Google Pixel 5A with 5G review.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

With its charged processor, great battery life and solid rear camera setup, the OnePlus 9 is an excellent all-round Android phone. Its starting price of $ 729 (£ 629) makes this phone a much cheaper option than its Apple or Samsung competitors. We also like the big, bold display and fast charging. It’s our best choice when you want flagship performance at a more affordable price.


The Motorola Edge Plus has pretty much everything you could hope for in a premium 5G phone: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset, a huge battery, an OLED screen with a high refresh rate and several rear cameras with robust features. Motorola has taken features found on other top-of-the-line Android phones, given them a Moto spin of their own, and incorporated them all into one of our favorite Android phones of the year.

Read our Motorola Edge Plus review.

Angela Lang / CNET

Starting at just $ 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 should be. Old school iPhone fans will also appreciate the return of TouchID and the home button.

Read our review of the Apple iPhone SE (2020).

Sarah Tew / CNET

The Galaxy S21 is an excellent all-around flagship for Android, but if you want the best of the best, then you should consider the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. This Samsung phone has a bigger display, battery, more RAM, and a more powerful rearview camera setup that includes an incredible 10x optical zoom lens that we absolutely love. If beautiful photography is high on your wish list for a new phone, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Read our Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review.

Angela Lang / CNET

Pixel smartphones have a loyal following, and for good reason. Without taking into account the cheap phone price, Google’s Pixel 4A has a first-class camera that takes brilliant photos. But it’s even better that this Pixel smartphone costs $ 349 (£ 349, A $ 599). The 5.81-inch handset also has a headphone jack, 128GB of storage, and better battery life than last year’s Pixel 4.

Read our Google Pixel 4A review.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series had some great specs, but their high prices made them out of reach for many. Not so with the S20 FE, which is crammed with great hardware but is much cheaper – and has earned the coveted CNET Editors’ Choice Award in the process. We liked the Galaxy S20’s vibrant screen, powerful processor, good camera quality, and 5G connectivity, but most of all the $ 650 price tag.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition review.

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