Best of 2021: Our favorite smartphones

The world is slowly healing. When the pandemic ravaged the world at its peak, the smartphone world buckled under shortages and declining purchasing power. Now, we’re bouncing back. Though shortages are still a problem, consumers are seeing a lot of change. More than anywhere else, we’re seeing it in the top smartphones in the world this year.

iPhone 13 series [Best overall series]

Last year, the iPhone 12 series took the top spot as the world’s best flagship series. This year, Apple goes up a notch by improving all the variants of the iPhone 13 series. Three of the four smartphones in the series earned our seal of approval. Though the series isn’t a huge departure from the previous series, the iPhone 13 series includes a variant for most users looking for a top-notch smartphone.

Honorable Mention: Samsung Galaxy S21 series

Google Pixel 6 Pro [Best flagship]

The new Pixel 6 series takes over from Apple’s stalwart position last year as the world’s best flagship. Hyped months before its actual launch, the flagship series is Google’s first flagships with its own in-house processors called the Tensor. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro were more than impressive; they promised a new era for the Android-heavy series. In fact, the series is only a step behind the iPhone 13 series from taking the overall crown too. However, we’d love to see how the Pixel 6 expands its lineup next year first.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 [Best foldable]

It’s another year of dominance for Samsung in the foldable market. Years after its debut in the niche market, the South Korean company once again wows with a healthy palette of foldables. However, the Galaxy Z Flip3 proves a more impressive foldable than the Galaxy Z Fold3 this year. Though the latter is still a capable device in its own right, the former puts in substantial work in elevating Samsung’s other foldable form factor: the clamshell phone. Instead of presenting an incredibly premium device, the Galaxy Z Flip3 offers an experience that can believably move Samsung’s foldables to a device that even regular users can own.

Honorable Mention: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3

ASUS ROG Phone 5 series [Best gaming phone]

Speaking of stalwarts in the smartphone rankings, ASUS is once again at the top of the gaming market with the ROG Phone 5 series. Just this year, the company launched a blossoming trio of mobile gaming devices. On its own, the regular ROG Phone 5 was quite the performer. However, ASUS launched two more devices in the series months later: the ROG Phone 5s and 5s Pro. All three phones carry the best specs for smartphones available at the time — with each succeeding entry pushing the edge closer to perfection.

Sony Xperia PRO [Best creativity phone]

At this day and age, you can’t create content without camera-centric smartphones. And it goes beyond photo-shooting capabilities; you need a capable video shooter nowadays. Given the sheer power underneath all its rugged exterior, the Xperia PRO carries one of the most robust cameras available in a smartphone. With three 12-megapixel cameras at its back, the Xperia PRO can take brilliant photos and 4K video. Plus, since it has 5G compatibility, it can stream 4K video capably. Further, it can serve as a conduit for professional cameras. However, though the phone has an impressive shooter, its 2020 specs and hefty price tag prevent this beast from ascending even further up the rankings.

Google Pixel 5a 5G [Best midrange]

Remember when we mentioned that we’re waiting for a more expanded Pixel 6 series? Well, the lack of a midrange Pixel 6 doesn’t mean that Google can’t bag another title with another series. Before the Pixel 6 launched, Google released the Pixel 5a 5G, increasing the lifespan of last year’s Pixel 5 series just a little bit longer. Of course, the Pixel 5a 5G has its set of compromises to present a more affordable Pixel experience. Regardless, it’s an impressive midrange smartphone that can deliver a flagship-caliber Android experience for users.

OnePlus Nord N10 5G [Best budget]

When OnePlus launched the Nord series last year, the company promised a return to its roots: delivering a capable smartphone experience for a significantly smaller price tag. The Nord was certainly a refreshing sight to see amid OnePlus’s flagship-oriented lineup. This year, OnePlus expanded the lineup even further with more budget-friendly devices. The Nord N10 5G, one of those devices, offered the Nord experience with 5G for around less than US$ 300. Besides 5G, the device has an impressive 90Hz screen for an affordable driver and a capable camera.

Honorable Mention: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

realme GT [Most elegant]

Look at that sexy stripe! Though the smartphone has the typical slab phone build, the Realme GT’s brilliant yellow rear stands out among the rest. Plus, the phone has that black vertical stripe leading down from the rear camera. In our eyes, it looks like an elegant racing stripe that you’d often see in car tie-ins with smartphones. It’s enough to earn the phone an award for being the most elegant. (If that’s not enough, Realme also released a rugged Realme GT Master Edition.)

LG Wing [Swan song]

Yes, we’re aware that the LG Wing came out last year. However, given what happened this year, LG’s unique dual-screen device last year deserves a curtain call. Much like what we thought last year, the LG Wing is still one of the most revolutionary smartphones available on the market. However, since LG shut down its smartphone business, it might take a while, if at all, before we see another LG-like smartphone experiment.

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Best of 2021: Our favorite smartphones Best of 2021: Our favorite smartphones Reviewed by Telenor Editorial on December 14, 2021 Rating: 5

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