The best smartphones you can buy today

The best smartphones in 2021 in comparison

We’ve discussed the best smartphones of 2021 backwards and forwards among the editorial team and have come to the above conclusion. But of course, individual winners always depend on personal taste. For example, for those who tend to do a lot of video recording, then it is a no-brainer that the iPhone 13 Pro is the best camera smartphone in 2021. And for those who do not like iOS will be happier with another smartphone, particularly of the Android variation. We had the average user in mind when making our decision, but then again average is just about nobody.

Therefore in the following article, you will first find a general buying guide which features and differences that await you in the best smartphones of 2021. Following that, there is a short description and an alternative recommendation for each category in this article.

Table of contents:

  1. Buying advice: What smartphones are offered in 2021
  2. NextPit recommends: The best smartphones of 2021
    1. Best smartphone of the year: Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    2. Best smartphone camera in 2021: Google Pixel 6 Pro
    3. Best smartphone design: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
    4. Best value-for-money: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
    5. Best battery life of the year: Xiaomi 11T Pro
    6. Best foldable in 2021: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
    7. Most sustainable smartphone: Fairphone 4
    8. Best gaming smartphone: ASUS ROG Phone 5
  3. How did NextPit select the best smartphones?
  4. Alternatives to buying new
  5. Upcoming sales at a glance
  6. Further “Best Of” lists

Buying guide: What smartphones are offered in 2021

Each year, smartphone manufacturers try to add exciting new features to their models, ranging from cameras to batteries and even the form factor itself. Below are a few tips on what to look for when buying a smartphone in 2021.

What features do flagship smartphones currently offer?

  • Form factor: Foldable displays are probably the most exciting development in smartphones in recent years. Thanks to flexible displays, the form factors of the smartphones themselves are also becoming more flexible. In 2021, you will have choices between the ultra-compact Galaxy Z Flip 3, the standard brick format from the iPhone to the Xiaomi, or the foldable tablet in the form of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. You can find a current overview of the best foldable smartphones here:
  • Cameras: The vast majority of high-end smartphones offer at least three cameras at the back: ultra-wide, standard wide-angle and telephoto. Do not be blinded by the resolution count: The difference between 12 and 108 megapixels is not as big as the numbers suggest. What is more important are factors like the sensor size or the image processing algorithms. You can read more about this in the respective smartphone reviews or in the following article.
NextPit Google Pixel 6 camera
Essential for a top smartphone in 2021: a good camera! / © NextPit
  • Batteries: You hardly have to worry about battery life this year. Even with intensive use, you can get through the day with the vast majority of models. However, the differences are more stark when it comes to charging: While Xiaomi charges its smartphones completely using 120 watts in a matter of minutes, Apple and Samsung are more conservative. Additional information about batteries and fast charging can be found in the following article.
  • Display: First it was 60 Hz, then 90 Hz, 120 Hz, or even 144 Hz: Over the past two years, smartphones have been getting faster and faster displays. At long last, the Pro models from the iPhone 13 range too, have jumped aboard this bandwagon in 2021. High refresh rates ensure a smoother display, whether for gaming or in everyday use. However, the higher Hertz numbers also nibble away at the battery, so manufacturers usually adjust the refresh rates depending on the content being displayed. You can read more about screens via the following article.
  • Processing power & other specifications: In 2021, there is hardly any need to worry about ekeing out sufficient performance in a high-end smartphone. All better smartphones offer more than enough power for current games and for everyday life anyway. The same applies to 5G, which is now standard equipment in smartphones. However, you should carefully consider how much memory you need before buying. This is because expansion options like a microSD card slot are almost non-existent in the upper mid-range models.

NextPit recommends: These are the best smartphones in 2021

You want to know more about the different smartphones? In the following segments, we present our favorites and dive into the advantages and disadvantages briefly. Depending on the type of user, there is a perfect choice for everybody. 

Apple iPhone 13 Pro: The best smartphone of 2021

iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro currently offers the best overall package of all smartphones. However, those who do not like Apple or iOS will also find exciting alternatives in Samsung, Xiaomi, and other Android makes. / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Superb 120 Hz display
  • Excellent battery life
  • Great new camera module


  • USB-C port is long overdue
  • “Fast” charging only with 20 watts

Read the full iPhone 13 Pro review on NextPit

Which is the best smartphone in 2021? The answer depends, of course, on which universe you feel more at home in – Android or iOS. In October, our choice was the iPhone 13 Pro because we think it offers the best overall package across all aspects: from camera and performance to its operating system and ecosystem.

In our review of the iPhone 13 Pro, we were particularly impressed by the new camera features, especially the Cinematic Mode and the Photographic styles. And of course, we’re very happy to see that the compact Pro model also has the same camera as the Max version this year.

And then, there are also upgrades like the 120 Hz display (finally!), a longer-lasting battery, the smaller notch, and the more potent SoC yet again. You can find an overview of all current iPhone models in the following link as apart from the iPhone 13 Pro, Apple currently officially carries five more smartphones in its portfolio.

2.2 Google Pixel 6 Pro: Best camera smartphone in 2021

NextPit Google Pixel 6 Pro camera camera
Behind this black bar hides the best smartphone camera of 2021. / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Adaptive frame rate (10 – 120 Hz).
  • Massively versatile camera
  • Android 12
  • Five years of security updates
  • IP68 certified
  • Price


  • Battery charging time
  • Limited memory availability in many regions
  • Niche product

Check out the Google Pixel 6 Pro review at NextPit

The Google Pixel 6 Pro not only has arguably the most eye-catching camera design of the year, but also the most versatile as well. Yes, Google isn’t alone with its flexible camera hardware of ultra-wide, wide-angle, and telephoto lens. But no other manufacturer has delivered camera features as impressive as Google’s this year – while also delivering amazing image quality. We’re committed to saying that the best camera smartphone in 2021 hails from Google.

But the Pixel 6 Pro is also far more than a glorified mobile camera. The design is certainly a matter of taste, but it is definitely striking – and we like that. The case feels good in the hand and is protected against dust and water according to IP68 certification. The AMOLED display is amazing to look at, offering great display quality and a variable refresh rate from 10 to 120 Hertz.

Finally, the new Tensor SoC performs well and is simply fun to use in combination with the new Android 12 operating system. However, the fact that Google promised three major Android updates and five years of security patches were not enough for all Android fans. There was also criticism for the rather limited amount of small storage and variants (the iPhone offers up to 1 TB!) as well as the (relatively) slow “Quick” charging.

We have reserved the best for the last. With a recommended retail price of $899, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is not a bargain, but is still pleasantly “cheap” for a flagship. And if you can make do without the telephoto lens, the little Google Pixel 6 sibling also offers a great camera experience for just $99. In the following article, we dive into all the differences in detail with the price comparison below showing you the current prices.

2.3 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: Best smartphone design of 2021

NextPit Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 test camila selfie
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is exceptional – and our design favorite of the year. / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Stunning design
  • Foldable display
  • IPX8 certification
  • Four years of security updates


  • Battery life
  • Disappointing camera at this price

Click here to read the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review at NextPit

Boom! Yes, five stars. That doesn’t mean the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the perfect smartphone. But it is our way of honoring Samsung’s success in finally creating a new class of devices that is suitable for the masses: foldable smartphones. The Z Flip 3 no longer feels like a fragile prototype, but like an everyday item, thanks in part to its IPX8 certification.

And what a chic everyday object it is! The wow effect of the fold-out display is not lost even after our review that is several weeks old. And when folded, the smartphone is just delightfully small. Samsung has also improved the everyday usability with minor hardware and software improvements. For example, the exterior display is now more useful and offers more functions than its predecessor.

Of course, this smartphone is not free from weaknesses. At just $999, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 resides in the higher price segment for smartphones, but it offers comparatively very little camera performance. And the battery is also not quite as capable as compared to the competition. It is a pity since there simply must be more space for the chassis to store a larger battery.

2.4 Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro: Best value-for-money smartphone in 2021

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro NextPit 1
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro may not be new, but it offers amazing value-for-money. / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Great build quality
  • Great 120 Hz AMOLED display
  • Solid performance
  • Good main camera
  • Long battery life
  • Triple slot for dual SIM + microSD
  • Decent, loud stereo sound


  • Somewhat bulky camera bump
  • Camera performs poorly in low light conditions
  • No 5G
  • No wireless charging

Click here for the detailed review of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

Amidst outstanding flagships that cost around $1,000, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro looks a bit lost here. But despite, or perhaps because of, its low price of approximately $250, this smartphone has earned its place in this “Best of” list. The device makes numerous flagship-class features available to the masses.

That begins with the great AMOLED display, which provides a smooth display at a 120 Hz refresh rate. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G cannot keep up with the stronger SoCs of the 7-series or even the 8-series, but it is sufficient for most games. Only having 5G support would have been good here. In return, there is very decent battery life thanks to the 5,000 mAh cell within.

The main camera relies on a 108-megapixel sensor from Samsung and delivers solid results. However, you should not expect miracles from the ultra-wide-angle camera and the dual telephoto camera, and neither is this a performer in low-light conditions. Of course, the significantly lower price compared to the aforementioned devices would require sacrifices somewhere.

After the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro was announced in March 2021, you can expect one or another special offer in the coming weeks.

2.5 Xiaomi 11T Pro: The best battery life of 2021

NextPit Xiaomi 11T Pro fast charging
Consumes more power than a refrigerator: The thick charger on the left pumps up the battery of the Xiaomi 11T Pro at 120 Watts / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Charges to 100% battery in just 17 minutes
  • Beautiful display
  • A lot of performance for a small price
  • Interesting video features


  • Overall camera quality is below average
  • No micro SD slot
  • Maximum 256 GB memory despite 8K video capability
  • Snapdragon 888 with overheating problems
  • Really big and heavy
  • No IP certification

Click here for the detailed review of the Xiaomi 11T Pro

The Xiaomi 11T Pro boasts an impressive speed record: In just 17 minutes, the 5,000 mAh battery can be charged to 100 percent. Instead of charging the smartphone overnight, you can now perform everyday charging while showering and brushing your teeth. Insane.

The screen of the Xiaomi 11T Pro is also impressive, having won Ben over in the review. However, that’s about it for its major strengths. Although there’s plenty of processing muscle thanks to the Snapdragon 888 SoC, the smartphone cannot run at its full potential due to overheating problems. The camera system has a 108-megapixel sensor and 8K video recording capability, but picture quality is somewhat disappointing in reality.

The bottom line is, the Xiaomi 11T Pro is a specifications monster that is less than the sum of its parts. If battery and charging performance are your primary concerns, then you are in the right place.

2.6 Samsung Z Fold 3: The best foldable of 2021

NextPit Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 display
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is more tablet than smartphone / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Two well-calibrated 120 Hz AMOLED screens.
  • Waterproof, rugged design (IPX8)
  • OneUI and Flex mode work perfectly
  • Good photos during the daytime
  • No punch-hole notch on the main display
  • 3 Android updates, 4 years of security patches


  • Lame camera module
  • Disappointing under-display selfie camera
  • Battery life is not outstanding
  • Quick Charging is too slow
  • Aggresive thermal throttling
  • Price is still too high

The full review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 can be found here.

What we wrote about the Flip at the beginning also applies to the Galaxy Z Fold 3: Samsung’s foldables have grown up and matured. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is more rugged than its predecessor and feels more adult-like, and more of a complete device. It offers the same IPX8 certification as the Flip 3 model, but is also significantly more expensive with a starting price of $1,799 and will thus probably remain an exotic device that is out of reach of the masses.

But it is an impressive exotic nonetheless. The two 120 Hz displays are gorgeous, and thanks to amazing performance and continuously improved software, it is really fun to use in everyday use. Only when you game does the thermal throttling occasionally throw a wrench in your plans, and the battery life is not exactly outstanding either.

The cameras perform decently but cannot keep up with current flagships which is a bit disappointing considering the initial cost. Well, the successor of the Galaxy Note series is just a workhorse, and not a photo pro; even if there is a “first” in the Z Fold 3, as far as the camera is concerned. Samsung hides the selfie camera under the display which offers less spectacular results in reality than it sounds.

2.7 Fairphone 4: The most sustainable smartphone of 2021

NextPit Fairphone 4 battery
Fairphone 4: When was the last time you saw a replaceable battery? / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Optimally will receive up to 6 years of Android updates
  • Sustainable manufacturing process
  • Fair working conditions
  • Surprisingly good cameras
  • Feels valuable
  • Good battery life


  • Comparatively expensive
  • Quite large and heavy
  • LCD display with teardrop notch
  • Technically not quite up to scratch

Read the Fairphone 4 review at NextPit

Yes, the Fairphone 4 is neither the slimmest, nor the prettiest, nor the fastest smartphone. And considering what it offers, it’s not cheap either. But: Fairphone does everything in its power to ensure that the smartphone is produced in a sustainable manner and under fair working conditions. Furthermore, the smartphone comes with a five-year warranty, and Fairphone plans to roll out Android updates until 2027.

The hardware can also be upgraded: Besides the battery, you can also replace the camera modules or the memory, for example. The solid build quality also gives us hope that the smartphone will last much longer than just the industry-standard of two years.

Of course, there is also a downside: For a recommended retail price of €579 (there are no plans for the Fairphone 4 to be sold Stateside), you will receive far less power in the Fairphone 4 than in handsets from Xiaomi and its ilk. At least the Snapdragon 750G SoC offers solid performance and is also capable of 5G support, but will that still be sufficient in 2027? We shall see. The included cameras also performed surprisingly well for a small manufacturer. The bottom line is, the Fairphone 4 offers a well-rounded overall package and has thus earned four out of five stars.

2.8 Asus ROG Phone 5: The best gaming smartphone of the year

NextPIT Asus ROG Phone 5
The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the best high-end smartphone for gaming / © NextPit


Bewertung Design und Handling


  • Smooth 144Hz AMOLED display
  • Powerful Snapdragon 888 SoC
  • Exemplary temperature control
  • Great battery life
  • Sleeker design, but not out of character


  • Camera module too average
  • ROG UI has very few software updates
  • Very big and heavy

Read the Asus ROG Phone 5 review on NextPit

With the Asus ROG Phone 5, the manufacturer has given the ROG Phone 3 from last year a worthy successor. The smartphone offers very high performance levels thanks to the Snapdragon 888 chipset and paired the SoC with enough cooling power to counteract thermal throttling.

In addition, there is a very smooth AMOLED display with a 144 Hz refresh rate, a great battery life thanks to a 6,000 mAh battery, and a somewhat simpler design. Beyond that, you’ll find familiar benefits of ROG Phones that consist of Air triggers, a high digitizer sampling rate, and matching accessories like an additional external fan.

Less convincing is the camera module which only offers a 64 MP main camera, a 13 MP ultra-wide-angle camera, and a macro sensor at 5 MP. While that’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not good enough for a flagship. As a gaming phone, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is also not exactly lightweight and compact. However, that certainly won’t bother you if you’re looking for such a device to get your game on wherever you are.

How did NextPit choose the best smartphones in 2021?

Anyone who is considering buying a smartphone for over $1,000 or the hereabouts is likely to be quite familiar with the smartphone world. After all, there has to be a fundamental interest in investing the price of a used small car on a mobile phone!

Before you commit to a purchase, take a hard-look look at the spec sheet. Make sure the phone of your choice meets all your requirements. Flagship Android and iOS smartphones can easily last for several years thanks to frequent updates. Picking up the flagship smartphone is therefore also an investment for the future and should therefore be carefully considered. 

So take a good look at the smartphone and if possible, get a hands-on before you buy. Do you like the software? Are you bothered by elements such as a plastic back or a huge notch in the display? For these reasons, the rankings in the above list are not set in stone. Everyone has different preferences and needs, and so, one smartphone that works for you might not work for your other half. All these things should be considered before you swipe your card.  

Alternatives to buying new

Refurbished, sale units, and used smartphones

If removing the protective film for the first time on your new device does not cause you to jump for joy, you can pick up more expensive smartphones from the second-hand or refurbished market. It is particularly advisable to use devices that carry a refurbished guarantee. These are used smartphones that have been checked and refurbished by reputable companies to ensure that they are in tip-top condition. Refurbished devices are particularly exciting to check out when they come with an extended warranty. This is how you protect yourself when picking one up just in case the handset gives up the ghost just a few weeks down the road.

Of course, you do not have this advantage when buying a used smartphone from private owners on platforms such as eBay, eBay classifieds, or other portals. However, used devices can be found for significantly reduced prices here, as there are no additional costs because the middleman has been cut out. With the so-called ‘sale’, you also secure older models that online shops still carry in new condition but which are no longer in production.

Promotions and sales

Towards the end of the year, each consumer electronics device that you purchase is accompanied by an even greater risk of stumbling upon a cheaper offer just a few weeks down the road. This can be attributed to sales like Black Friday and its associated Black Week, Amazon Prime Day, Singles Day, and Cyber ​​Monday, all of which are discount days in the months of October and November, which are meant to prime the economy before the Christmas shopping frenzy season begins. Since smartphones are one of the most popular consumer electronics devices in the market, you should keep your eyes peeled for great deals. You can check out the dates for this year’s sales and promotions in the table below:

Upcoming sales days

You might want to wait for these sales days before buying a new smartphone:
Action Date
Singles Day November 11, 2021
Black Week November 23 to 27, 2021
Black Friday November 27, 2021
Cyber Monday November 30, 2021

It’s best to keep an eye on our homepage on these days. Because we search for offers in every online shop and manufacturer’s website and assess the offers according to their value. As in this article, you can inform yourself with further reviews and news about the respective devices before buying.

Sign up for a contract with a service provider or an installment plan

If your old smartphone is completely broken and cannot be used, leaving you in desperate need of an immediate replacement, you can always opt for an installment plan that covers several months of payments. Normally, this is seen in the traditional framework of smartphone contracts, where you obtain a new smartphone for free for a monthly surcharge or for a lower one-time payment. Generally speaking, restrictions of a particular smartphone model to a specific network operator no longer exists today. However, there is still the risk of paying more for the device at the end of the contract compared to buying it outright now.

On the other hand, you also obtain cheaper prices with a monthly financing plan. You pay off the purchase price of the new device across an agreed number of monthly installments sans contract and with 0% interest. Such financing packages are extremely popular, but it also comes with its own risks. For instance, if you lose your new smartphone immediately after buying it or if it breaks, you will still honor the remaining installments for a device that can no longer be used or is limited in functionality. 

What do you think of this approach as well as our selection? Which models have we missed out on which do you think deserve to be included in the list? Let us know in the comments!

More “Best Of” lists on NextPit

This article was republished on 27 October 2021. Existing comments have been preserved.

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