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23 December 2020

Top five best 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.
Choosing-your-perfect-phone2
Louise Muyanja

We've handpicked five terrific smartphones that are really worth considering, and highlighted three that we think you should steer clear of.

As well as a few of the very top scorers, our top five list also unearths some smartphones that offer excellent value for money.

Our five favourites impress across the board, from battery life and camera quality, to screen clarity and processor speed. Below, we also show you some of the worst we've seen, which are nothing short of infuriating to use.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Our pick of the best smartphones

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82%
Best Buy
£1199.00
Reviewed

If you're in the market for a 5G phone, this is the very best (a lot of) money can buy. Its super-huge 6.9 inch display won't be for everyone, but the vibrancy and attention to detail makes it perfect for gaming and watching films on the go. Battery life, camera quality and the processor are also superb.

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82%
Best Buy
£749.00
Reviewed

This model isn't quite as eye-wateringly expensive as our other top two choices, but it can more than keep up with those premium phones. Expect perfect pictures with its five cameras, image stabilisation and live photo improvement tips, plus 32 hours of battery life on full brightness.

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82%
Best Buy
£1149.00
Reviewed

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%
Best Buy
£799.00
Reviewed

It's bigger and pricier than other models from the brand, but with 5G connectivity, waterproofing and a high spec processor this phone has plenty to tempt you. It's durable with a long battery life, but the beautiful display is where it really shines.

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78%
Best Buy
£699.00
Reviewed

This top-of-the-range phone has an impressive specs sheet, with 5G, a quad camera set-up and a 6.7-inch full HD+ display. It excels at its main tasks - it's quick thanks to the powerful processor, is easy to use and has great battery life.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of November 2020.

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

The worst mobile phones to avoid

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

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37%
Don't buy
£120.00
Reviewed

This model is only a tenth of the price of a premium smartphone, but don't let this tempt you. Battery life is woeful, it's hard to snap a half decent photo and the processor is too slow to cope with anything more than some light Internet browsing. Avoid at all costs.

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39%
Don't buy
£70.00
Reviewed

This phone is about as cheap as they come, but this is reflected in the poor quality of the cameras, tiny storage space and super slow processor. You don't have to spend a lot more to get a much better handset.

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51%
£119.00
Reviewed

It's an easy to use, durable budget smartphone, but there are too many downsides to make it worth buying. This includes a dreadful camera, lack of security features such as a fingerprint scanner and a crawling processor that makes catching up on your favourite shows practically impossible.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of November 2020.

Five tips for choosing the best mobile phone

There are hundreds of mobile phones to pick from. As so many make grand claims about how they're the best for this, or the highest rated for that, you'd be forgiven for wanting to cut through the noise.

We've rounded up our top five tips for compiling your shopping shortlist:

  • Price – While it's possible to pick up a phone for a two-figure price, we'd recommend spending at least £100 to help you avoid buying a complete dud. If you just want a phone for simple everyday tasks, such as messaging and web browsing, you can find a few good options for £150-£200 in our guide to the best cheap mobile phones. Spend upwards of £400, and you'll find phones with vibrant displays, high-end specs and a few more extra features.
  • Size – Many of the latest mobile phones have 5.5-inch displays, making them harder to use with one hand. While bigger phones are great for watching films and browsing the web, they aren't for everyone - some people find them too large and awkward to hold. The best way to find out which handset size is right for you is to try holding a few in a shop.
  • Storage – Think about how many apps and photos you're likely to want on your smartphone. If it's just a few, you might get away with 16GB storage space or less. But if you like to have several news apps, lots of photos and some streaming apps, such as Spotify and Netflix, it's worth thinking bigger. An alternative to buying a larger-capacity phone is to make sure you buy one that has a micro-SD card slot - this lets you buy and insert a separate memory card to give you more wiggle room.
  • Operating system – This is the software that powers your phone. It shapes what the phone menu looks like and what apps it can run, and impacts how easy the phone is to use. There are three main operating systems to choose from: iOS, Android and Windows. iOS is the operating system used by Apple iPhones and is pretty easy to use, although Apple iPhones are expensive. Many manufacturers use the Android operating system, including Samsung, LG and Sony, and it's extremely customisable.
  • Features – Consider which features you might like. For instance, you might like a fingerprint scanner for fast unlocking of your phone. You might also want a water-resistant phone, especially if you have previous experience of accidentally dropping your phone in the toilet.

For more information on making the right choice with your next smartphone purchase, head straight to our guide on how to choose the best mobile phone.

How to get the best deal on a new mobile phone

The price of mobile phones has skyrocketed, at least at the top-end of the scale. It's now possible to pay over £1,000 for flagship models from some of the big brands – but fortunately there are ways to save.

One way is to opt for a good mid-range mobile phone – these are now far more capable and it's possible to get features more typically found in high-end handsets – such as dual cameras and large displays, for a fraction of the cost.

But if you are determined to buy the best, you can avoid paying a premium by simply waiting it out. When new phones are released you'll usually find the predecessor discount in price, and often quite heavily. For example, Samsung's popular Galaxy S8 became available for about half the original price just over a year after launch, and importantly, saw a significant drop when the Galaxy S9 was released. It's often the case that last year's flagship model will still be better than a brand new mid-range handset. 

As well as using our in-depth mobile phone reviews to check a potential purchase, browse the best current bargains in our guide to the best mobile phone deals.

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