the best phones in usa 2021

These are the best phones for every budget based on our testing

The best phones deliver great cameras, the performance you need to multitask and the battery life to last the whole day. And with the Samsung Galaxy S21 series arriving on the scene, there’s a lot of excitement right now.

 

When it comes to buying a new phone, some people may prefer to have the biggest display possible along with the most advanced specs. And others want a solid mid-range phone that delivers all the basics without feeling cheap. To help you pick the best smartphone for you, we test dozens of handsets in the lab and in the real world to make our recommendations.

Our ranked smartphone list has something for everyone, including great bargains under $500 and under $300. Plus, there are some really great phone deals right now as carriers and retailers look to lure holiday shoppers. We’ve ranked all the top phones based on our testing. Here are the best phones right now.

What are the best phones?

Based on our testing, the new iPhone 12 Pro Max remains the best phone overall, as it captures great photos, a huge 6.7-inch display, 5G connectivity and offers the fastest performance of any handset. While other iPhone 12 models impress, the Pro Max gives you the most screen real estate along with the longest long battery life.

dynamic display, camera improvements and sleeker design. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Galaxy S20 FE still offers the best features of Samsung’s flagships for a lower price.

 

Especially price-conscious consumers are well advised to look at the Google Pixel 4a, an incredible bargain at $349, which provides twice the storage of the iPhone SE for $50 less. The Moto G Power is another good bargain buy, as it offers the best battery life we’ve ever tested.

The best phones you can buy today

1. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The best phone overall

Display: 6.7-inch OLED (2778 x 1284) | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 6GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4), 12MP telephoto (ƒ/2.2) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 8.03 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:53(5G)

Best-in-class cameras
Immersive 6.7-inch display
Superior performance
Charger sold separately
A bit heavy

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is one of the best phones you can buy and is that rare phone that is practically perfect, especially for those who prefer big screens.

You get an immersive 6.7-inch OLED display, class-leading A14 Bionic performance and 5G capability. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max really stands out with its long battery life, as it lasted nearly 11 hours on our web surfing test. It’s the longest-lasting iPhone 12 model by far.

Like the regular iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max packs three rear cameras, but it benefits from a larger main sensor that lets in more light. And you get a 2.5 telephoto zoom, compared to 2x for the regular Pro.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also delivers amazingly colorful video recording in Dolby Vision, complete with sensor-shift stabilization for steady footage. At $1,099, the iPhone 12 Pro Max isn’t cheap, but overall it’s the best phone we’ve ever tested.

2. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Best phone for Android users

Display: 6.8-inch OLED (3200×1400; 10-120Hz) | CPU: Snapdragon 888 | RAM: 12GB, 16GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Rear camera: 108MP wide (f/1.8), 12MP ultra wide (ƒ/2.2), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, f/2.4), 10MP telephoto (10x zoom, f/4.9), laser AF sensor | Front camera: 40MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 8.08 oz | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:25

Dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display
Dual telephoto lenses
S Pen support
No charger in box
Lacks microSD card slot

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a superior big-screen phone, offering a dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display that scales from 10Hz to 120Hz for super smooth performance.

But the killer feature is the dual telephoto cameras, with 3x and 10x optical zoom, and the ability to Space Zoom up to 100x with a new Zoom Lock feature. The overall camera quality is improved, too, with better-looking portraits and brighter shots with Night mode.

 

The S21 Ultra also excels at capturing video with a new Director’s View mode that lets you record using the front and back cameras at the same time.

Other highlights include snappy performance from the Snapdragon 888 chip and extra-long battery life from the 5,000 mAh battery, as the S21 Ultra lasted nearly 11.5 hours on our web surfing test. The Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t include a charger in a box or a microSD card slot, but overall it’s the best Android phone you can buy.

3. iPhone 12 Pro

Another top Apple phone

Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170) | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 6GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4), 12MP telephoto (ƒ/2.0) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 6.66 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:06 (5G), 11:24 (LTE)

Best-in-class cameras
A14 Bionic blows away Android phones
Tougher Ceramic Shield display
MagSafe charging is easy to use
No charger in box

The iPhone 12 Pro is the best phone you can buy because of everything Apple packs into its sleek new design. You get the most 5G bands in any phone along with the new A14 Bionic processor, which blows away all Android phones.

But the real reason to pick up the iPhone 12 Pro is the cameras. The main sensor now lets in more light, and the Night Mode works on both the ultrawide camera and the front TrueDepth camera. You can take portraits at night, thank to the combination of the telephoto lens and LiDAR sensor.

 

Not only does the iPhone 12 Pro boast a gorgeous 6.1-inch OLED display, its protected by Ceramic Shield, which is designed to deliver 4x the protection in case of a drop.

The flat edges look pretty sleek, too, even if they did into your hands a bit. The optional MagSafe charger makes wireless charging a breeze, thanks to the magnets built into the iPhone 12 Pro. But Apple doesn’t include any charger in the box. Although the iPhone 12 Pro’s battery life could be better over 5G, it’s the most complete phone for the money and the best camera phone yet.

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The best Android phone for productivity

Display: 6.9-inch AMOLED (3088×1440) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus | RAM: 12GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / Yes | Rear camera: 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom (ƒ/3.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2) | Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 7.33 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:15

Dynamic 6.9-inch 120Hz display
Smoother S Pen performance
Powerful 50x zoom camera and laser autofocus
Very good battery life
Expensive
 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is pricey at $1,299 but no other big-screen phone can do as much as this phablet. You get a gorgeous 6.9-inch OLED display with a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate, as well as lots of new S Pen upgrades, ranging from new air gestures to a smoother 9 ms response time. Plus, the Note 20 Ultra packs one of the most versatile camera setups ever, including a 108MP main sensor, a whopping 50x Space Zoom and a dedicated laser autofocus sensor to reduce blur.

The Note 20 Ultra is also a mini desktop PC and game console in disguise. With the improved DeX mode, you can beam photos, apps and more to a nearby TV, and with Xbox Game Pass you can stream more than 100 Xbox titles over the cloud.

The Note 20 Ultra works well with your PC, too, as Link to Windows enables you to run Android apps on your laptop as well as get notifications, make calls and more. Add it all up and you have one of the best phones yet.

5. iPhone 12

The best iPhone for most people

Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170) | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 5.78 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:25 (5G), 10:23 (LTE)

Attractive new design with MagSafe
Comprehensive 5G coverage
Incredible performance
Only 64GB of base storage
Digital zoom could still use work
 

The iPhone 12 takes much of what makes the iPhone 12 Pro great — the blistering-quick 5-nanometer A14 Bionic chip, same impressive 7-element main camera and 5G connectivity — and places it in a more affordable package.

Not everyone may need the above-and-beyond material design and photo and video capturing capability of the iPhone 12 Pro, but the regular iPhone 12 is the best new iPhone all-around for most buyers.

Much of that has to do with how Apple improved the basics here. The iPhone 12 has a new OLED display that far outpaces the blurry, low-resolution LCD panel in last year’s iPhone 11.

And the iPhone 12’s new design sports an elegant flat-edge motif and narrower bezels, further shaving down the handset’s footprint to maximize screen real estate. We also like Apple’s new MagSafe initiative, which unlocks new potential for accessories and makes for faster and more convenient wireless charging than iPhones of the past.

Of course, we wish Apple shipped a charging adapter in box with this phone, and increased base storage to 128GB. But those annoyances aside, the iPhone 12 is an all-around excellent device that delight any iPhone user.

 

Best phones in 2021: The top smartphones rated

best phones

The best phones deliver great cameras, the performance you need to multitask and the battery life to last the whole day. And with the Samsung Galaxy S21 series arriving on the scene, there’s a lot of excitement right now.

 

When it comes to buying a new phone, some people may prefer to have the biggest display possible along with the most advanced specs. And others want a solid mid-range phone that delivers all the basics without feeling cheap.

To help you pick the best smartphone for you, we test dozens of handsets in the lab and in the real world to make our recommendations.

Our ranked smartphone list has something for everyone, including great bargains under $500 and under $300. Plus, there are some really great phone deals right now as carriers and retailers look to lure holiday shoppers. We’ve ranked all the top phones based on our testing. Here are the best phones right now.

What are the best phones?

Based on our testing, the new iPhone 12 Pro Max remains the best phone overall, as it captures great photos, a huge 6.7-inch display, 5G connectivity and offers the fastest performance of any handset. While other iPhone 12 models impress, the Pro Max gives you the most screen real estate along with the longest long battery life.

 

Especially price-conscious consumers are well advised to look at the Google Pixel 4a, an incredible bargain at $349, which provides twice the storage of the iPhone SE for $50 less. The Moto G Power is another good bargain buy, as it offers the best battery life we’ve ever tested.

The best phones you can buy today

1. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The best phone overall

Display: 6.7-inch OLED (2778 x 1284) | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 6GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4), 12MP telephoto (ƒ/2.2) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 8.03 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:53(5G)

Best-in-class cameras
Immersive 6.7-inch display
Superior performance
Charger sold separately
A bit heavy

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is one of the best phones you can buy and is that rare phone that is practically perfect, especially for those who prefer big screens.

You get an immersive 6.7-inch OLED display, class-leading A14 Bionic performance and 5G capability. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max really stands out with its long battery life, as it lasted nearly 11 hours on our web surfing test. It’s the longest-lasting iPhone 12 model by far.

Like the regular iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max packs three rear cameras, but it benefits from a larger main sensor that lets in more light.

And you get a 2.5 telephoto zoom, compared to 2x for the regular Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also delivers amazingly colorful video recording in Dolby Vision, complete with sensor-shift stabilization for steady footage. At $1,099, the iPhone 12 Pro Max isn’t cheap, but overall it’s the best phone we’ve ever

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

2. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Best phone for Android users

Display: 6.8-inch OLED (3200×1400; 10-120Hz) | CPU: Snapdragon 888 | RAM: 12GB, 16GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Rear camera: 108MP wide (f/1.8), 12MP ultra wide (ƒ/2.2), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, f/2.4), 10MP telephoto (10x zoom, f/4.9), laser AF sensor | Front camera: 40MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 8.08 oz | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:25

Dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display
Dual telephoto lenses
S Pen support
No charger in box
Lacks microSD card slot

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a superior big-screen phone, offering a dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display that scales from 10Hz to 120Hz for super smooth performance. But the killer feature is the dual telephoto cameras, with 3x and 10x optical zoom, and the ability to Space Zoom up to 100x with a new Zoom Lock feature. The overall camera quality is improved, too, with better-looking portraits and brighter shots with Night mode.

 

The S21 Ultra also excels at capturing video with a new Director’s View mode that lets you record using the front and back cameras at the same time. Other highlights include snappy performance from the Snapdragon 888 chip and extra-long battery life from the 5,000 mAh battery,

as the S21 Ultra lasted nearly 11.5 hours on our web surfing test. The Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t include a charger in a box or a microSD card slot, but overall it’s the best Android phone you can buy.

iPhone 12 Pro review

iPhone 12 Pro review

3. iPhone 12 Pro

Another top Apple phone

Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170) | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 6GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4), 12MP telephoto (ƒ/2.0) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 6.66 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:06 (5G), 11:24 (LTE)

Best-in-class cameras
A14 Bionic blows away Android phones
Tougher Ceramic Shield display
MagSafe charging is easy to use
No charger in box

The iPhone 12 Pro is the best phone you can buy because of everything Apple packs into its sleek new design. You get the most 5G bands in any phone along with the new A14 Bionic processor, which blows away all Android phones.

But the real reason to pick up the iPhone 12 Pro is the cameras. The main sensor now lets in more light, and the Night Mode works on both the ultrawide camera and the front TrueDepth camera. You can take portraits at night, thank to the combination of the telephoto lens and LiDAR sensor.

 

Not only does the iPhone 12 Pro boast a gorgeous 6.1-inch OLED display, its protected by Ceramic Shield, which is designed t deliver 4x the protection in case of a drop.

The flat edges look pretty sleek, too, even if they did into your hands a bit. The optional MagSafe charger makes wireless charging a breeze, thanks to themagnets built into the iPhone 12 Pro.

But Apple doesn’t include any charger in the box. Although the iPhone 12 Pro’s battery life could be better over 5G, it’s the most complete phone for the money and the best camera phone yet.

Read our full iPhone 12 Pro review

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra size

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra battery life

(Image credit: Future)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The best Android phone for productivity

Display: 6.9-inch AMOLED (3088×1440) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus | RAM: 12GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / Yes | Rear camera: 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom (ƒ/3.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2) | Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 7.33 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:15

Dynamic 6.9-inch 120Hz display
Smoother S Pen performance
Powerful 50x zoom camera and laser autofocus
Very good battery life
Expensive
 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is pricey at $1,299 but no other big-screen phone can do as much as this phablet. You get a gorgeous 6.9-inch OLED display with a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate, as well as lots of new S Pen upgrades, ranging from new air gestures to a smoother 9 ms response time.

Plus, the Note 20 Ultra packs one of the most versatile camera setups ever, including a 108MP main sensor, a whopping 50x Space Zoom and a dedicated laser autofocus sensor to reduce blur.

The Note 20 Ultra is also a mini desktop PC and game console in disguise. With the improved DeX mode, you can beam photos, apps and more to a nearby TV, and with Xbox Game Pass you can stream more than 100 Xbox titles over the cloud.

The Note 20 Ultra works well with your PC, too, as Link to Windows enables you to run Android apps on your laptop as well as get notifications, make calls and more. Add it all up and you have one of the best phones yet.

 

iPhone 12 review

iPhone 12 review

 

iPhone 12 review

 

iPhone 12 review

5. iPhone 12

The best iPhone for most people

Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170) | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 5.78 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:25 (5G), 10:23 (LTE)

Attractive new design with MagSafe
Comprehensive 5G coverage
Incredible performance
Only 64GB of base storage
Digital zoom could still use work
 

The iPhone 12 takes much of what makes the iPhone 12 Pro great — the blistering-quick 5-nanometer A14 Bionic chip, same impressive 7-element main camera and 5G connectivity — and places it in a more affordable package.

Not everyone may need the above-and-beyond material design and photo and video capturing capability of the iPhone 12 Pro, but the regular iPhone 12 is the best new iPhone all-around for most buyers.

Much of that has to do with how Apple improved the basics here. The iPhone 12 has a new OLED display that far outpaces the blurry, low-resolution LCD panel in last year’s iPhone 11.

And the iPhone 12’s new design sports an elegant flat-edge motif and narrower bezels, further shaving down the handset’s footprint to maximize screen real estate. We also like Apple’s new MagSafe initiative, which unlocks new potential for accessories and makes for faster and more convenient wireless charging than iPhones of the past.

Of course, we wish Apple shipped a charging adapter in box with this phone, and increased base storage to 128GB. But those annoyances aside, the iPhone 12 is an all-around excellent device that delight any iPhone user.

Read our full iPhone 12 review

Image 1 of 4
 

Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Samsung Galaxy S21 review

6. Samsung Galaxy S21

A Samsung flagship for less than $800

Display: 6.2-inch OLED (2400×1080; 48-120Hz) | CPU: Snapdragon 888 | RAM: 8GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No | Rear camera: 12MP (ƒ/1.8) wide; 12MP (ƒ/2.2) ultrawide; 64MP (ƒ/2.0) telephoto with 3x optical zoom | Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2) | Weight: 6.07 oz | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:54

Excellent dynamic 120Hz display
Powerful performance
Refined design
No charger or microSD card slot
Plastic back
 

If you’re looking for a flagship at an affordable price, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is one of the best phone options around. The S21 makes a great first impression with its sleek contour cut camera design, which blends the camera into the back of the device. And the cameras themselves impress, too, with improved portraits and a new Zoom Lock feature that lets you get better results up to 30x zoom.

The Galaxy S21 makes some trade-offs for its $799 price tag. You won’t find a charger in the box or a microSD card slot, and the back is plastic instead of glass. But this Samsung phone makes up for those shortcomings with strong performance from its Snapdragon 888 chip, a larger fingerprint sensor for easier unlocking and fun features like Single Take 2.0 for capturing photos and videos at once.

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