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Technology.

24 September 2021

Top smartphones for 2021

We reveal some of the very best mobile phones you can buy – models that have aced our tests thanks to brilliant battery life, cracking cameras and dazzling displays
Alice Williams
Choosing-your-perfect-phone2

There's lots to consider when you're buying a smartphone – do you want the best battery life to see you through a busy day, premium camera quality for your photos and videos or a model that makes the most of the games you download?

In the tables below, we pick out some of the models that excel in specific areas, based on how they've fared in our tough test labs. 

Not everyone has the budget for a flashy top-of-the-range phone, so we've chosen more affordable models to sit alongside pricier handsets.

Which? members can log in to see the products behind the scores. If you’re not already a member, try Which? and get access to all our online reviews and product test scores.


Which? is bringing legal action against Qualcomm. If you bought an Apple or Samsung phone after 1 October 2015, you could be affected.


Our pick of the best smartphones

Don't want to compromise? We've picked three are great all-rounders at different price points. If you just want the very best phone for your budget, look no further.

  • 82%
    £800.00

    This joint top-scoring phone has the holy trinity: a super-fast processor, stunning cameras and excellent battery life. When you add in a vibrant display and decent sounding speakers, you have a phone that just about justifies its astonishingly high price.

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  • 80%
    £805.00

    It's missing 5G, but otherwise this top-of-the-range smartphone has it all: it's quick, durable, the battery lasts a long time and its cameras are great, too. The high price has come down a lot since its launch, so you can get a good deal.

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  • 78%
    £562.30

    If you're on a tighter budget, this is the best phone you can get for less than £350. It has the processing power and high-quality display of a premium phone, plus a long battery life, user-friendly interface and excellent sounding speakers.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of April 2021.

Haven't found the product for you? Browse all of our mobile phone reviews.

Best smartphones for battery life

The best phones we've tested last for more than 40 hours before going flat, while the worst manage just 16. That's the difference between your phone keeping up with busy days of scrolling, texting, calling and watching videos, and running out when you need it most. If long battery life is your most important feature in a phone, the models below will serve you well.

  • 79%
    £489.99

    This is one of the stand-out phones from a brand becoming known for its amazing battery life. You only need an hour of charging to reach 100%, which will last you an amazing 31 hours on full brightness. As well as a great battery, it also offers a powerful processor and stunning display.

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  • 76%
    £549.99

    You don't have to pay a premium for good battery life, as this mid-priced phone proves. With 34 hours of full brightness battery life, plus four good rear cameras, a vivid display and an easy-to-use interface, it deserves a spot on your shortlist.

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  • 74%
    £329.00

    This phone has the accolade of the longest lasting battery we've ever tested. You get 60 hours of runtime, or 11 if you only have time for a short charge. The cameras aren't the best, but it does have a speedy processor, high-definition OLED display and user friendly layout.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of April 2021.

How we test battery life

Each phone we test is rigged up to a robotic arm that simulates a full day's use on your phone, watching videos, making phone calls, using the camera and a map app. We measure how long it takes for it to run flat, so you can have peace of mind that your phone can keep up with you.

You may not always have time for a full charge, so we also check how long it takes to get to 100% and how well the battery copes if you can only plug it in for 15 minutes, taking both into account in the overall battery score.

If you're prepared to take a major hit on features and functionality, a simple mobile phone will give you much longer battery life than your average smartphone.

Best smartphone cameras

Here are our recommendations for the phones with front and rear cameras that take the best photos and videos.

  • 79%
    £949.00

    This brand has made a name for itself with its stunning camera quality, so it's no surprise this phone made the shortlist. It also has good battery life from a full charge, the display is one of the best we've seen and it has enough processing power to run several apps at once.

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  • 79%
    £649.99

    It's the cheapest phone in its range, but it produces just as stunning photos and videos as the more expensive models. You also get a powerful processor, user-friendly layout and 29 hours of battery life from a full charge.

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  • 77%
    £489.95

    You'll love the photos and videos from this phone's two rear and one front camera. It doesn't have the best battery life we've seen, but it more than makes up for it with a vibrant display, great amount of processing power and impressive speakers.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of April 2021.

How to buy the best smartphone camera

There's a fair amount of technical jargon around smartphone cameras, but it's worth knowing your way around it if you're looking for a phone that doubles as a camera.

First up, you should know what lenses do what. An ultra-wide angle lens helps you get more of a landscape in your shot, a telephoto lens is best for portraits and optical zoom, a macro lens gives great detail in a close-up and a time-of-flight lens works as a depth sensor to distinguish the foreground from the background.

Megapixels refer to the number of light capturing elements on the surface of the camera's sensor. The more pixels a camera has, the higher the resolution – and, in theory, the more detailed your photos will be. Bigger doesn't always mean better, though, and some of the best cameras we've seen have just 12Mp lenses.

Aperture (the amount of light that can enter the camera) is just as important for getting a good shot. Look for an aperture of f/1.8 or wider for the best results.

How we test camera quality

Camera specs only tell some of the story. The only real way to gauge a phone camera's quality is to test it in lots of different environments, which is exactly what our camera tests do. We look to see how well the front and rear lenses pick up colours, textures, detail and different skin tones, plus how well the zoom and image stabiliser works, so you don't end up with blurry or shaky images and videos.

Find our more by reading our expert guide on camera phones.

Best 5G phones

  • 82%
    £1160.00

    This beast of a phone has almost every feature it's possible to cram into a handset, including 5G compatibility. It doesn't drop the ball in any area, with excellent cameras, display, battery life and audio. If you can justify the price, it's the best 5G phone you can buy.

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  • 77%
    £239.26

    5G phones are getting more affordable, and some, such as this one, are excellent performers, too. We love the super-long battery life, quick charging times and powerful processor, and it's a worthy competitor for much pricier 5G models.

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  • 76%
    £546.97

    This is the best 5G phone from a more affordable smartphone brand. It gives you an impressive 61% battery life from just a quick charge, plus it's easy to use with a beautiful OLED display.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of April 2021.

What is 5G?

5G launched in the UK in 2019, and since then, EE, 02, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have started to launch their network in major cities and towns, with plans to reach 90% of the country by 2024.

5G could revolutionise the way we communicate, with experts citing its potential use in connected cities and driverless cars. The average user could see huge improvements in download speeds, fewer dropped connections and better signal strength indoors. If you want to take advantage of this, you'll need a 5G contract with your provider as well as a 5G-enabled phone.

See the table below for the best 5G phones for your budget, or click through to check 5G coverage in your area.

Best smartphones for gaming

A good gaming phone mainly needs three things: a large screen (we recommend 6.5-inches or more), a high-resolution display and a processor powerful enough to run the app without any glitches. Usually these requirements add up to a pretty pricey phone, but we've also chosen a cheaper model that fits the bill in the table below.

  • 81%
    £903.00

    With one of the biggest screens we've ever seen on a smartphone, this model is great for gaming or catching up on your favourite shows. If your budget will stretch this far, you'll get an all-round excellent phone that's quick, durable, easy to use, with brilliant battery life and camera quality.

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  • 80%
    £685.00

    It's the biggest and the best phone from a brand that consistently impresses in our test lab. The processor is powerful enough to run the latest games and the high-definition display really does them justice. Also, considering the long battery life and decent camera quality, it's certainly one to have on your shortlist.

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  • 75%
    £355.00

    This phone is the cheapest Best Buy we've tested in the last couple of years. With four rear cameras, a powerful processor and 6.5-inch AMOLED screen it has all the specs of a premium phone, and the performance to match it too. The battery life is among the very best we've seen in our test lab.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of April 2021.

The worst mobile phones to avoid

With the good come the bad. Not all smartphones are worth spending money on - the two we've highlighted below have dismal screens, rubbish cameras and unimpressive battery life.

  • 28%
    £80.00

    A slow processor, woeful cameras and poor battery life make this cheap smartphone one of the worst we've ever tested. Also, considering that the face scanner is practically unusable, there's absolutely no reason to buy this cheap phone.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of April 2021.

More on smartphones

Whether you're trying to pick a smartphone brand, deciding which features to prioritise or looking for advice on your current handset, Which? experts have you covered. Click through to read more on: