There are thousands of Android smartphones available right now, and while it’s great there are so many choices, the abundance of devices can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created a list of The best smartphones 2021 to buy, with something for every price point and taste. By the end, you should have all of the information you need to make an informed purchase.
Google Pixel 4a
The Pixel 3a was Android Police’s Smartphone of the Year for 2019, and Google has delivered a solid sequel for 2020. The Pixel 4a is a top contender for the best budget Android phone, thanks to its fantastic camera, solid software, and Google’s promise of three years of OS and security updates.
Some of the standout features include a Snapdragon 730G SoC, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage (no microSD, unfortunately), a 5.81-inch OLED screen, a 12MP rear camera, an 8MP front camera, a 3,140mAh battery, and a headphone jack. Best of all, you get all of that for just $350 — less than half the price of a Galaxy S21
In our review, David wrote, “By all meaningful metrics, I consider the Pixel 4a a total success. It’s a phone that feels built for the moment: cheap, uncompromising, and noticeably—even charmingly—devoid of useless software bloat. The 4a is a pure distillation of what the essential smartphone experience is all about: communicating, consuming, sharing, and capturing. It does all of three of the first of these just as well as any other phone, but when you launch that camera app, you always know you’re going to get a great shot – The best smartphones 2021.”
The Pixel 4a is a fantastic value, but if you’re looking for a bigger phone with slightly better hardware, the Pixel 4a 5G is also a great buy. It’s $200 more than the 4a, but adds a larger 6.2-inch 90Hz screen, more RAM, a larger battery, and 5G support. It also keeps the headphone jack from the 4a.
In our review, Ryne wrote, “I think most folks looking at the more expensive Pixel 5 should reflect on what they value in a phone and consider if this can deliver what they want for hundreds less. This isn’t really a Pixel 4a 5G, this is the Pixel 5 Lite, and if you can live without an IP rating, wireless charging, and a 90Hz screen, this offers a similar experience at a much better value of The best smartphones 2021.”
The Galaxy S21 series is Samsung’s current mainstream flagship line, and the Ultra is the most feature-packed of the three phones. It has a Snapdragon 888 SoC (or an Exynos 2100 outside the US), a large 6.8-inch curved AMOLED screen, 12-16GB RAM, 128-512GB storage, and no fewer than four rear cameras. The S21 Ultra is also the first non-Note phone to support Samsung’s S Pen, but it’s sold separately (and also can’t be stored inside the phone).
In our review, David wrote, “this feels very much like the phone the Galaxy S20 Ultra should have been. And while I think the price is still eye-popping in its own right, it’s also no longer bizarrely out of step with the iPhone, lending Samsung more credibility with customers leery of the Ultra’s value proposition. For the Samsung fan who wants a massive, uncompromising phone, this is as good as it gets. It also happens to be the best camera phone I’ve ever used.”
If the S21 Ultra is too much money for you, or you just want a smaller device, the Galaxy S21 is an excellent option. The 6.2-inch phone has a Snapdragon 888 chipset (Exynos 2100 outside the US), 8GB RAM, 4,000mAh battery, 128-256GB storage, and three rear cameras. Compared to the S21 Ultra, you’re getting a smaller screen and losing the S Pen support and optical telephoto camera. The best smartphones 2021: However, it is significantly cheaper at only $800 (and it has already dropped to $700 once).
Just like on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung decided to remove two features that have been commonplace for years on the company’s phones: microSD support and MST for contactless payments (on payment terminals that don’t support NFC/Apple Pay/Google Pay). If those features are important to you, a Galaxy S20 FE might be a better buy.
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a Snapdragon 865 chipset (with 5G support), a 6.8-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, 8/12GB of RAM, 128/256GB of internal storage, four rear cameras, a 16MP front camera, a 4,510mAh battery, and an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It’s also one of the few phones sold in the United States with dual-SIM support, and is OnePlus’ first device with an IP68 water resistance rating and wireless charging.
In our review, Ryne wrote, “While $900 is competitive in the current market for a 5G Snapdragon 865-powered phone, It’s still a huge increase in cost over the $670 OnePlus 7 Pro and $600 7T. Given the crazy prices we are now seeing across the board this generation, I have a feeling that increase may have more to do with Qualcomm than OnePlus, but it doesn’t really matter whose fault it is. When you get down to it, this is a really expensive phone — but it’s worth every penny.”