The best flagship phones you can buy today

The best flagship phones you can buy today

Choosing the perfect smartphone to fit your needs isn't an easy task. There are tons of devices on the market and it's tough to know which are the best ones, let alone which one is the right one for you. In this article, we've rounded up the best of the best flagship smartphones of 2021.

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Before you even start reading, please note that the handsets that made the cut were chosen after long-drawn discussions among the editorial staff here at NextPit. Thus, this list is the collective opinion of the NextPit staff. In case you have a different opinion or disagree with one of these selections, feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The best overall flagship of 2021

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. We think this is the best flagship smartphone in existence as of June 2021 / © NextPit

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • Confident design
  • 120 Hz WQHD+ AMOLED display
  • Excellent performance
  • Versatile camera setup
  • Highly effective 10x zoom
  • Good battery life
  • OneUI 3.1 fluid and feature-rich
 

Cons

  • Exynos variants still cannot match the SD888 version
  • No charger included
  • No microSD port
  • Fast charging capped at 25W
  • Expensive!

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers pretty much all the superlatives there are in Android smartphones this year. While many of you will contend that the phone is too generic and "not very revolutionary" compared to last year's Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, there is no denying that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is just damn good at what it does. Another aspect is the fact that the price of the phone has fallen quite a bit since its introduction earlier this year.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a showpiece of what Samsung is capable of. Everything - from its gargantuan 6.8-inch HDR10 + -certified WQHD+ AMOLED display - to the extremely versatile camera array screams flagship from the rooftops. The excellent camera hardware aside, Samsung also ensures you get extremely good photos out of the phone thanks to the well-tuned, easy-to-use camera app. 

On the performance front, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn't disappoint. If you're in Europe or some parts of Asia, you will have to live with the (slightly) less powerful variant with the Exynos 2100 processor.  In fact, the variant that we reviewed came with the Exynos SoC.  

We were also quite happy with the battery performance offered by the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. However, the lack of an in-box charger and the gimmicks with the new S-Pen did mar the overall experience. But if you had to choose a single smartphone from the Galaxy S21 series, and you have the money to spare, the Ultra is the one to go for.

OnePlus 9 Pro: The 'balanced' flagship

Oppo Find X3 Pro
Antoine thinks OnePlus flagships can finally stand neck-to-neck with the biggies / © NextPit

Note

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • The smooth 120Hz AMOLED display
  • Snapdragon 888
  • 65W wired and 50W wireless charging support
  • Versatile cameras, improved image processing
 

Cons

  • Design may not impress everyone
  • Zoom capabilities limited compared to competition
  • Gaming Pro mode did not impress

OnePlus 9 Pro review

Antoine - our French editor is a known OnePlus fan, but that did not cloud his judgment when he reviewed the OnePlus twins released in the first half of 2021. The rest of the team agreed with him over the fact that the OnePlus 9 Pro is a great improvement over its predecessor. Not only does the OnePlus Pro offer a versatile (and improved) camera, the display quality rivals the best in business 

The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC - which is the most powerful chip available for Android smartphones. That being said, you might want to reconsider the OnePlus 9 Pro in case you're really into gaming. In our test, we saw several instances where the phone overheated and resulted in thermal throttling.

And while OnePlus' newfound friendship with Hasselblad is appreciated, we still do not think the partnership has achieved something revolutionary in terms of overall improvement in image quality. Yes, the quality is miles ahead of previous generation OnePlus devices - but still falls behind the likes of Samsung and Apple

Samsung Z Fold 2 – The attention grabber

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
That form factor is a definite head-turner.  / © NextPit

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • Impressive borderless display
  • Front display is bigger, better
  • Excellent optimizations for one-handed use
  • Improved hinge quality
  • Intuitive multitasking 
  • Snapdragon 865+ still impresses
 

Con

  • Camera not 'up there' with other flagships
  • Hybrid zoom a gimmick
  • Annoying crease in the middle of the foldable panel
  • Super expensive!

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review

Now, we're all aware that this is a rather contentious choice for "the best flagship of 2021" given that this phone launched in 2020. But hey, the team at NextPit really thought that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 has all the bells and whistles to be a flagship. The form factor only adds to the oomph. 

Even though it's been around for a while, the phone still retails for around $1500 - an indication that it hasn't decreased in value like most other Samsung flagships. Even though almost one year old now, the Snapdragon 865+ SoC in conjunction with 12 GB of RAM still offers flagship-grade performance. The camera setup is quite capable as well. The highlight, of course, is the foldable 7.6-inch AMOLED screen. The second-generation fold also has a larger, improved external display.

In our review, Antoine fell in love with the design, which he thought was a huge step up from the first version. The double display is great despite the noticeable fold, and the smartphone is much more ergonomic than its predecessor. Only the camera setup was a bit of a letdown for an ultra-high-end smartphone.

Best flagship smartphones of 2021: Honorable mentions

Now that you know what our top three picks for the best flagship smartphones of 2021 are, it's time to take a look at some of the other devices that grabbed eyeballs this year. 

Samsung Galaxy S21: Pint-sized powerhouse

samsung galaxy s21 white
The Samsung Galaxy S21/ © Samsung
 

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • Comparatively compact form factor
  • Fast performer even when compared to Plus & Ultra models
  • Plastic back looks surprisingly good
  • Extended software support
 

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • No S-Pen support
  • No UWB chip
  • No expandable memory

Samsung Galaxy S21 Review

While not without its flaws, the Samsung Galaxy S21 does make for a great compact smartphone for 2021. Our German editor Ben  - wh reviewed the phone - was glad to see that the vanilla Galaxy S21 doe match up to its more expensive siblings in terms of performance. There were questions raised about the plastic body of the phone prior to launch. Upon usage, however, many people - including us - liked the high-quality plastic used on the phone. While the camera setup certainly is a step down from the S21 Ultra, you still get flagship-grade shots.  A cause of concern - something that is inevitable with shrinkage in size -is the 4,000mAh battery that the phone gets. To summarize, the Galaxy S21 is a nice little phone, but not one without its flaws.

Best camera on a flagship: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
You've seen it in this list before - and it's back again winning the award for the flagship phone with the best camera / © NextPit

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • Confident design
  • 120 Hz WQHD+ AMOLED display
  • Excellent performance
  • Versatile camera setup
  • Highly effective 10x zoom
  • Good battery life
  • OneUI 3.1 fluid and feature-rich
 

Cons

  • Exynos variants still cannot match the SD888 version
  • No charger included
  • No microSD port
  • Fast charging capped at 25W
  • Expensive!

We have already chosen the Galaxy S21 Ultra as the best flagship overall, but it makes an appearance on this list once again thanks to its excellent camera hardware/software combo. The powerful 108-megapixel quad camera on the back is pretty much the best thing in cell phones as of June 2021.

iPhone 12 Pro: The best iPhone you can buy in 2021

iPhone 12 Pro
The iPhone 12 Pro is our pick for the best Apple iPhone you can buy today. The Pro Max is great if you have the money! / © NextPit

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • Design language
  • Bright AMOLED Display
  • Excellent cameras
  • Beast of a processor
 

Cons

  • No charging adapter included
  • Average battery life
  • Expensive!

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

If you know your way around the Apple cosmos, you won't have to look far for an Apple flagship. Because all models from the company that launched in 2020 are, in effect, flagships. Nevertheless, in case you are currently looking for the iPhone with the best performance, you cannot avoid the iPhone 12 Pro. It offers a balanced mix of performance and price. Of course, if you have the money, you should definitely go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max. For the rest of you, the iPhone 12 Pro – thanks to 5G support and long-term software updates, makes fro a good future investment. 

Also read: Buying an iPhone? We've compared all Apple phones for 2020

Best gaming smartphone (2021): Asus ROG Phone 5

NextPIT Asus ROG Phone 3
You're looking at the best gaming phone of 2021. / © NextPit

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pro

  • Smooth 144Hz AMOLED display
  • Powerful Snapdragon 888 SoC
  • Great temperature management
  • Excellent battery life
  • Unique, practical design
 

Contra

  • Camera performance is average at best

  • Tracking in ROG UI software

  • Large and heavy form factor

Asus ROG Phone 5 review

With the Asus ROG Phone 5, the manufacturer has come up with a worthy successor to last year's ROG Phone 3. Thanks to the Snapdragon 888, the phone offers flagship-grade performance which is further enhanced by the effective cooling mechanisms to avoid thermal throttling.

Then there is the smooth 144Hz AMOLED display which enhances the gaming experience. The massive 6,000 mAh battery ensures day-long battery life even with extra-long gain sessions. In addition, you will find the well-known advantages of the ROG phones consisting of air triggers, a high digitizer sampling rate, and suitable accessories such as an additional external fan.

While not a camera-centric device, the ROG Phone 5 still gets a decent camera setup that includes a 64MP main camera, a 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera, and a 5MP macro sensor. As a gaming phone, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is also not exactly light and compact. But that will certainly not bother you if you are looking for such a device.

Best gaming smartphone (2021)alternative: Nubia Redmagic 6

NextPit RedMagic 6 camera
The Nubia Redmagic 6. / © NextPit

Rating

Evaluation of design and handling

Pros

  • 165 Hz AMOLED display

  • 360 Hz touch sampling rate

  • 5000 mAh battery

  • Affordable price

  • 3.5 mm jack

 

Cons

  • Poor camera performance
  • 66-watt charger is exclusive to the Chinese model
  • Noisy internal fan
  • No IP certification
  • Poor software support from Nubia

Nubia RedMagic 6 Review

Like the Asus smartphone, the Nubia Redmagic 6 is a real gaming phone. The design alone leaves no room for doubt. The same applies to the specsheet. Gamers will certainly enjoy the beautiful165Hz AMOLED screen that also supports 360 Hz touch sampling.

There's plenty of power for gamers under the hood too. The Snapdragon 888 offers great performance and thanks to its 5000 mAh battery it should hold out for longer sessions. Speaking of perseverance: A fan ensures that the smartphone does not overheat, but it does tend to get really loud. 

Of course, there are also a few disadvantages: The camera setup and the pictures you get out of it are unimpressive. There is no IP certification either and it is somewhat obvious that the brand is more interested in the Chinese market. The 66-watt charger, for example, is only available in the home market, and we thought the software could have been better. 

Before you buy a flagship smartphone

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? All these things should be considered before you swipe your card.  

Alternatives to purchasing a new smartphone

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 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 bargains and sales dates

Mark these days down in your 2021 calendar:
Event Date
Amazon Prime Day 21 and 22 June 2021
Singles Day 11 November 2021
Black Week 23 to 27 November 2021
Black Friday 27 November 2021
Cyber Monday 30 November 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 test reports 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. 

More "Best Of" lists on NextPit

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Readers' favorite comments

  •   46
    Deactivated Account Apr 30, 2017

    No LG phones again!! Come on people why are you so biased against LG? The V20 and the G6 should be on the list.

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  • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

    I guess I don't wAnt to wave a flag. None of these interest me at all


  • DeirdreKing 9 months ago Link to comment

    What about Xiami Redmi Note 9 Pro?


  • Zeeshan_sid Mar 24, 2020 Link to comment

    I think LG phones are good


  • Andrew Burgin Mar 18, 2020 Link to comment

    Motorola Edge should be released soon,and with Samsung now struggling with the sales of there new S20 models,they have got stop over pricing there phones,or they will be struggling soon,and its there own problem cause by copying the pricing policy of Apple


  • storm Mar 18, 2020 Link to comment

    OnePlus is too expensive to merit best value.


  • Kimberley M. Williams Dec 26, 2019 Link to comment

    The upgrades are coming day by day but there is some new phone nowadays and it is amazing


  • Sajibuzzaman Nov 6, 2019 Link to comment

    Thanks


  • Ronald Fwanio Nov 3, 2019 Link to comment

    Been Using Galaxy Note 8 for 3 years and S10+ for awhile and they have the best Specs and Features!! Lovin' it!!


  • David Martrano Nov 1, 2019 Link to comment

    I've been using the s10+ since it's release. This phone is simply a pleasure to use. I really have no complaints. All the premium features. Display, cameras & battery are excellent, there is no finer even after 8 mos of very heavy use!


  • GT Ohh Oct 31, 2019 Link to comment

    I'm rockin a Samsung Galaxy S10 and loving it, my only gripe is the lack of an LED notification. That said its great so far. My wife has the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and she says its the best device shes ever owned. Does anyone know when Samsung is releasing android 10 & the new One UI 2?


  • marco sarli
    • Admin
    Oct 29, 2019 Link to comment

    Only expensive ones


  • eSparkBiz Jun 7, 2019 Link to comment

    Android phones are the best in terms of cost because iPhones are expensive! Recently, one of my friends has bought Huawei P30 Pro. This phone has excellent features and less price.


  • Steven Clark Seeds May 1, 2019 Link to comment

    £234 as 'best value'?! Come off it. My Moto G5+ was £159 nearly 2 years ago, the G6 and its Play version are now similarly priced...
    While I'm at it, imo it's high time smartphone users, makers and commentators started demanding that ALL battery-powered devices (not only phones...) have batteries that can be replaced by the user. Getting a new phone because the battery is failing is simply unsustainable - and we all KNOW that in our hearts of hearts...


  • Say What?? Apr 30, 2019 Link to comment

    The Mate 20 X has the best battery life. I get around 11-13 hours of screen on time daily. The S9+, Note 9 would be one of the best phones if they gave us a non edge screen version. I'm not a fan of the curves.


  • Ross Downer Dec 25, 2018 Link to comment

    Why is there a crappy iPhone on the middle of your main image when you are talking about android. No android user would be stupid enough to fall into the the Apple arena. I would rather not have a phone then buy Apple. Bring on the Galaxy F. I have used all of the phones above and in my opinion the Samsung Note 9 and Galaxy S9 are by far the best paired with the Galaxy watch they are fantastic.


  • David Martrano Dec 24, 2018 Link to comment

    The s9 series for me are the best phones on the planet. Design, display and of course every premium feature. They are the swiss army knife of all phones. Viewing movies & videos are an extreme pleasure, there is no finer. These and the Huawei mate 20pro are the absolute best phones money can buy!


  •   25
    Deactivated Account Dec 24, 2018 Link to comment

    I think Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro are the best. Next year I will probably be buying P30 Pro.


  • Bob Orend Aug 22, 2018 Link to comment

    I found the Umidigi s2 pro to be even better than the Samsung S9 and it only costs a little over $500.00! Cheers! 👍😀


  • Uzair Jaleel Jul 13, 2018 Link to comment

    WEll xz2 is better than s9, don't know why they put s9 and p20 at the top


  • CJ Brown Jul 11, 2018 Link to comment

    Honor 7X / Huawei Mate SE

    LG Stylo 4 (Cricket Wireless has 3gig Ram 32gig ROM 6.2 screen built in stylus)

    Moto E Supra (Cricket Wireless has 3gig Ram 32gig ROM 6.0 screen LED flash on front and back laser auto focus 5000 mAh battery)

    Those are all decent no contract phones for around the $180-$200 range (I guess we won't see a new ZTE for a while?). It's a bummer there are no shops where you can walk in and check out and Honor or Huawei (that seals the deal).

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