What are the best smartphones of 2021? Our buying guide

Difficult to see clearly in the jungle that has become the smartphone market. Our guide will direct you to the most suitable mobiles for your budget and your needs.

The smartphone buying guide in summary

It has become our first communication tool, our portable camera and our mini play station all at the same time. The smartphone has taken a preponderant place in our lives. It is even now the main computer for many users.

The industry is so flourishing that there are now smartphones of all sizes, colors and tastes. We recommend the best choices according to your uses.

Benchmark smartphones

iPhone 12: the essential

The iPhone 12 // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Apple’s 2020-2021 range included no less than 4 smartphones, in order to meet all possible needs. In this catalog therefore, the iPhone 12 sold at 809 € occupies a prominent place thanks to solid technical characteristics. The Oled screen of the mobile is very successful and its camera delivers very convincing results. Bonus, the ultra wide-angle module will bring you even more versatility in the photographic exercise.

The only downside is the autonomy of the device, which is not as comfortable as that of certain competing models. Allow about a full day, but not much more. If you want an efficient, understated, and stylish phone, the iPhone 12 is here for you. Significantly, the mobile will undoubtedly benefit from Apple’s excellent software monitoring which will allow you to be quiet for at least 5 years. Find our full review of the device in our iPhone 12 review.

Galaxy S21: The Android benchmark

The Galaxy S21 from Samsung // Source: Samsung

Samsung’s flagship, the Galaxy S21 arrives with almost all the latest technologies available in the Android world. Excellent photophone, power monster and neat object, this S21 still makes some concessions on autonomy compared to its big brothers that are the S21 + or the S21 Ultra, but it is also much cheaper since the S21 is sold at € 859.

Concretely, the S21 will offer you the best of the Android experience and will surely last you a few years. If you want to equip yourself with a high-end mobile for less than 1000 €, the S21 is a safe choice. It is also the most compact high-end mobile from the manufacturer if this point is important for you.

The best smartphone for photography

The Pixel 5: excellence made in Google

The Pixel 5 // Source: Google

The Google Pixel 5 is theoretically Google’s ultimate smartphone. Released at the end of 2020, the mobile sold at € 579 produces breathtaking photos thanks to Google’s algorithmic know-how. Its 12 Mpx wide-angle module manages to produce quality shots, and for more versatility in the photo exercise, the mobile also has a 16 Mpx ultra-wide-angle camera.

The phone does not benefit from a very latest generation processor, but it will still respond to the finger to the eye, during your navigation. Only the most demanding users risk blowing the phone. This technical choice in return offers the Pixel 5 excellent battery life. If you want a great camera and don’t mind the binge of power, then the Pixel 5 is waiting for you.

If you have a smaller budget, the Pixel 4A at 349 € is also an excellent photophone.

The compact smartphone

The iPhone SE 2: small size for a low price

The iPhone SE 2 from the front // Source: Julien Cadot for Numerama

For those who want a compact iPhone at a reduced price, the iPhone SE 2 is the ideal solution. Offered at a price of 449 €, this model allows you to enter the Apple universe without breaking the bank, and has solid arguments for it, as we explained in our test of the iPhone SE 2.

We can notably mention the presence of TouchID (practical for unlocking your phone when you are hidden) or the quality of its screen and its exemplary finishes. The mobile is also excellent in photos. Small size rhymes with small battery on the other hand, so you will have to be careful to charge the iPhone SE every day so as not to be dry. But if you are looking for a small, inexpensive smartphone, then go for it.

The excellent quality / price ratio

OnePlus Nord CE: balanced and elegant

The OnePlus Nord CE // Source: OnePlus

The OnePlus Nord CE uses what made the success of the Chinese brand, namely a solid technical sheet for a minimum price. Sold at € 329, the OnePlus Nord CE offers enough power for most uses. The phone is also elegant and well finished. A feature that is not found on all phones offered at this price.

It is not the best in photography in its price category, however. The North CE produces clichés with slightly forced colors that may displease purists. Apart from that, the Nord CE ensures a balanced and efficient experience thanks to a beautiful screen and solid battery life. Recommended for all those who want a powerful and efficient phone without breaking the bank.

The best smartphone under 200 €

Redmi Note 10: The unbeatable entry level from Xiaomi

The Redmi Note 10 // Source: Xiaomi

Always unbeatable in the segment of low-cost phones, Xiaomi has achieved a tour de force with the Redmi Note 10. The phone offers you good battery life and a more than honorable technical sheet for its price of 199 €.

We will have to draw a line on 5G and accept not really exceptional results in photos, but for less than 200 € we can’t really find better. Apart from these few concessions, the Redmi Note 10 offers a good experience thanks to its excellent screen and will be able to follow you for two good days without claiming its charger. A small feat. If you want a fuss-free and inexpensive phone, the Redmi Note 10 might be for you.

What criteria should be taken into account to choose the right smartphone?

iOS or Android: choose the operating system

The mobile world today is divided into two camps: iOS and Android. The operating systems of Apple and Google swept away the competition to establish themselves as the only valid platforms in 2021. The choice of one OS or another will be more of your personal preferences as the two solutions are today ‘Mature technically and graphically. Apple’s ecosystem deserves credit for taking privacy and software tracking very seriously. IPhones generally receive updates for at least 5-6 years and come with features such as ad tracking blocking. Android phones are based on a code open to all, allowing users to customize and model the system to their desires, both technically and aesthetically.

Evaluate the smartphone’s photo capabilities

The trend in mobile photography today is the proliferation of sensors. Many smartphones are increasing the number of devices on the back to offer greater versatility in photo exercise. If the presence of an ultra-wide-angle or zoom module undeniably allows you to vary the pleasures, this does not guarantee that your photos will be impeccable. Sometimes it’s better to have a single, great camera than a bunch of average sensors.

Should we take a 5G smartphone?

The very latest generation of mobile broadband has been slow to arrive, but it has finally settled in France since the end of 2020. For the moment, the territory is not yet very well covered and 5G speeds are often random. These problems should resolve themselves over time. So should you fall for a 5G phone? It depends. If you want to keep your mobile for many years, it can indeed be worth preparing for the future. 5G phones are also quite capable of surfing the networks of previous generations. Many operators also use the 4G bands for 5G. Result to ensure better network reception, 5G is preferable.

Are foldable smartphones interesting?

Obviously technically impressive, foldable smartphones are now more a technological demonstration than a real revolution. Whether it’s the Huawei Mate Xs, Galaxy Z Fold 2 or Motorola’s Razr, all are still very expensive and still have some youthful flaws.

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