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Best smartphones 2021: The best smartphones we’ve tested this year

Trusted Reviews recommends the very best mobile phones available now on Android and iOS, including the top options for photos, battery life and gaming

Introduction

On the market for a new smartphone? Look no further. We’ve tested and reviewed all the biggest phones available right now and you can find our favourites in this handy guide. 

Every phone in this list has been subject to rigorous testing and scored highly enough in our in-depth reviews to rival the best devices available at the time of publishing. Of course, we’re constantly testing new phones, so this list will continue to change and evolve as handsets are released. 

We look at everything from performance and battery life to display and camera quality, using a combination of real world scenarios and benchmarking tests to get a complete look of just how good a phone really is. 

This list includes the best of the best across a number of operating systems. If you know you want an iPhone, you may want to narrow down your search by heading over to our best iPhones list. If you prefer the Android OS, our guide to the best Android phones may be more up your street.

We also have breakdowns of the best cheap phones, the best mid-range phones and the best camera phones, so if any of these categories catch your fancy you may want to head directly to those guides. 

Or, scroll down this page to find the best phones we’ve tested across an array of styles, specifications and budgets.

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How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every phone we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, screen accuracy, battery life, performance and camera prowess.

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how much battery it loses per hour streaming video.

We also make sure to use every phone we review as our primary handset for at least 4 days to ensure our review is as accurate as possible. You can see a more detailed breakdown of our testing methodology in our how we test phones guide.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the biggest and best iPhone available
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Pros

  • Huge screen is gorgeous
  • Three very good cameras
  • Really impressive battery life
  • ProMotion finally on an iPhone

Cons

  • Selfie camera needs an upgrade
  • Notch feels tired
  • Other phones have better zoom

If you’re looking for a big phone packed with high-end specs and features, look no further than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. This is the most premium phone you’ll find running Apple’s iOS operating system. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the largest iPhone available right now with it’s 6.7-inch OLED display making it a full 0.6-inches bigger than the iPhone 13 and the 13 Pro. The display has a smaller notch than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, along with a faster 120Hz refresh rate. 

The phone is powered by the A15 Bionic chipset with a five-core GPU and up to 1TB of storage. 

There’s also a triple camera array consisting of a 12-megapixel (f/1.5) wide lens, a 12-megapixel (f/1.8) ultra-wide lens and a 12-megapixel (f/2.8) telephoto lens which supports 6x optical zoom and 15x digital zoom. 

The battery on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is also very impressive, allowing the phone to run longer than pretty much every mainstream flagship phone we’ve reviewed in the past year. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone 13 Pro Max Review

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra phone is the most advanced model in the new flagship lineup.
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Pros

  • Great screen thanks to WQHD+ and 120Hz
  • Much-improved design with an attractive finish
  • Far more versatile camera than the iPhone 12 Pro Max

Cons

  • Expensive, with many cheaper phones offering the same features
  • Big and heavy
  • No charger included

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the top Android phone to come out in 2021 so far and a great pick if you’re willing to pay a little extra to get the best of the best. 

The S21 Ultra is packed with high-end features. The list includes fast performance thanks to its Exynos 2100 chip (or the Snapdragon 888 if you’re shopping in the States), 5G support, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage. 

One of the headline features is the display. The S21 Ultra boasts a 6.8-inch, curved, WQHD+ screen. It’s bright, hitting 1500 nits, and supports HDR content as well as an adaptive 10-120Hz refresh rate. The fact that this display can handle 120Hz while still maintaining its 1440p WQHD resolution puts the screen ahead of that on its 2020 predecessor. The display even has S-Pen support to coax fans of the Galaxy Note over to the S series – albeit without a slot to store the pen. 

The quad-camera system is impressive. It includes a 108MP wide sensor that offers great depth of field, a 12MP ultra-wide sensor and two 10MP zoom sensors for capturing images from far away. 

The Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t the smallest phone on the market and it might be difficult to come to terms with the £1149/€1249/$1199 price, but if you can part with the cash you’ll struggle to find a better smartphone.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13 is the best iOS phone for most people
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Pros

  • Much improved battery life
  • Bright, vivid OLED display
  • Excellent main camera

Cons

  • No ProMotion
  • No optical zoom

The iPhone 13 is, in our opinion, the best iPhone for most iOS users looking for an upgrade this year. The phone packs a large number of Pro-level upgrades over previous iPhones without attaching the Pro and Pro Max’s more premium price. 

Like the 13 Pro, the iPhone 13 features a 6.1-inch OLED display with a 20% smaller notch compared with the iPhone 12. However, it lacks the 120Hz refresh rate found on the Pro models. 

The iPhone 13 is also powered by the A15 Bionic, this time with a four-core GPU and up to 512GB of storage, along with the same six-core CPU and 16-core Neural Engine. 

The dual camera is excellent and consists of two 12-megapixel sensors – one a wide lens with an aperture of f/1.6 and the other an f/2.4 ultra-wide lens. The camera is able to capture 4K at 60fps and also supports Dolby Vision. 

The iPhone 13 also showcases improvements in battery life over its predecessors. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone 13 Review

iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro is a smaller version of Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max
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Pros

  • Great to finally see a 120Hz display on an iPhone
  • Good battery life
  • Seriously impressive camera system

Cons

  • Other phones have better zoom
  • The notch feels dated

The iPhone 13 Pro is the most advanced iPhone available if you prefer a slightly more compact display over the 13 Pro Max’s sizable 6.7-inch screen. 

Otherwise, many of the specs remain the same across both Pro models. 

The 13 Pro packs the same 120Hz refresh rate and shrunken down notch on a smaller 6.1 display, along with the same A15 Bionic, five-core GPU and massive 1TB of storage. The 13 Pro also takes advantage of the same extended battery life as the 13 Pro Max. 

The triple camera array is identical, made up of a 12-megapixel (f/1.5) wide lens, a 12-megapixel (f/1.8) ultra-wide lens and a 12-megapixel (f/2.8) telephoto lens, capable of 6x optical zoom and 15x digital zoom. Both phones also include a LiDAR scanner for Night Mode portraits and faster autofocus in low light. 

The 13 Pro offers everything the Pro Max does in a smaller package and at a smaller price. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone 13 Pro Review

Asus Zenfone 8

If you’re on the hunt for a smaller Android phone then the Asus Zenfone 8 is a winner
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Pros

  • Great size for those who find Android phones big
  • Impressive speed
  • Lovely screen
  • Impressive value

Cons

  • Can get hot when gaming
  • No telephoto camera
  • No wireless charging

The Asus Zenfone 8 is the smartphone surprise of 2021 so far. This dinky flagship offers a wildly different experience to other Android phones on this list and it does so without sacrificing too many high-end features.

The size here is similar to that of the iPhone 12 (rather than the 12 mini) which is rare in the Android space. It’s small and perfectly usable with one hand, but it packs internals like the flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset, up to 16GB RAM and 30w charging.

During testing, we found the Zenfone 8 snappy and as capable as anything from Samsung, OnePlus or Xiaomi. It does get a little hot during gaming sessions, though.

The 5.9-inch display is great with a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling, OLED for rich colours and deep blacks and only a very small cutout for the front camera. Asus has even found zoom for a set of stereo front speakers and a headphone jack.

The main camera is good, however the lack of any zoom (aside from the digital one) is a shame. Same goes for the lack of wireless charging.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Asus Zenfone 8

Oppo Find X3 Pro

The Oppo Find X3 Pro is the followup to our favourite phone of 2020. Coming loaded with the latest Snapdragon 888, loads of camera features and a lovely screen this could be the phone to beat this year.
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Pros

  • Thin and light for a 6.7-inch phone
  • Adaptive 120Hz display is gorgeous and highly customisable
  • Oppo’s software has seen huge improvements

Cons

  • Battery life not as good as the Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Loses the periscope zoom skills of the Find X2 Pro
  • Vibration motor is terrible

Oppo impressed us a lot with the Oppo Find X2 Pro so it’s hardly a surprise the follow-up, the Find X3 Pro, is one of the best phones you can buy right now.

The handset goes toe-to-toe with Samsung’s best for specs and features. Matching the specs of most current flagships, it comes with a super-powerful 5G-ready Snapdragon 888 chipset, wonderfully calibrated, 120Hz, 6.7-inch screen, and a lovely curved glass design.

During testing, we found its support for 65W fast-charging saw battery life go from 0-100% in around half an hour, which is a seriously impressive achievement.

The only downside is that, unlike the older X2 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the zoom skills of the rear cameras are limited. Oppo has ditched the periscope zoom lens, instead offering a far better ultra wide sensor and a 3x optical zoom. 

During testing we found this means you can’t get quite as close to the action as you could before. At least the quality from the wide and ultra cameras are very good – with lovely colours and a strong low-light mode. There’s even a microscope camera that takes some interesting close-up shots.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Oppo Find X3 Pro Review

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t what you expect
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Pros

  • Much more affordable at launch than S20
  • Still a great screen (and it’s flat)
  • Snappy performance

Cons

  • Lack of microSD and WQHD+ resolution make it feel like an S20 downgrade
  • Doesn’t feel as good as previous S series phones
  • Minimal camera upgrades

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and the larger Galaxy S21 Plus are two great options if the S21 series appeals to you but you’re hesitant about spending S21 Ultra-level money on your next phone. Samsung has also decreased the price of its most affordable flagship devices this year, making this an even more tempting offer.

Both the S21 and S21 Plus pack the same fast Exynos 2100 chipset (or Snapdragon 888, depending on your region), 5G support and in-display fingerprint scanner as the Ultra, the latter being a major bonus right now with masks making face log-ins more challenging than usual.

There are a few differences between the standard S21 and the Plus model. While the Plus is all glass, the cheaper S21 has a plastic back. The WQHD+ resolution has also been swapped out for a FHD+ display on the more affordable smartphone. That said, during testing we found both the 6.2-inch (S21) and 6.7-inch (S21 Plus) OLED displays bright and sharp and the addition of an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate means the displays are smooth, too.

Both of these S21 models pack a triple camera made up of a 12MP wide sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide sensor and a 64MP zoom sensor. On the front, there’s a 10MP selfie camera and you can capture video up to 8K. Photos taken with the S21 are beautifully detailed and the colour is bright and punchy. 

The S21 may not be as advanced as the S21 Ultra, but the phone is slimmer, lighter and a lot more affordable for most people.

If you’re considering picking up the S21, you may want to hold out to learn more about the S21 FE, which is expected to launch this year at an even lower price.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Samsung Galaxy S21 Review

OnePlus 9 Pro

Following months of hype, the OnePlus 9 Pro is here with its Hasselblad-emblazoned camera and some of the fastest charging speeds I’ve ever seen.
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Pros

  • Excellent screen
  • Fast wired and wireless charging is a dream
  • One of the best versions of Android
  • Impressive ultra-wide camera

Cons

  • The camera can be frustratingly slow to open
  • No great zoom skills and better photos taken elsewhere
  • Not widely available on contract

The OnePlus 9 Pro is the best OnePlus phone you can buy and a real rival to the S21 Ultra and Oppo Find X3 Pro for the best overall Android phone award this year. During testing we found the 9 Pro only misses the mark slightly when it comes to overall camera quality, which falls below its two main competitors.

When compared to the OnePlus 9, the Pro model has a sharper 1440p display, a full metal body, a proper IP68 water resistance rating and very fast wireless charging. During testing, we found that the upgrades really are worth it if you’re willing to spend a little bit extra cash as they make the phone feel significantly better built.

While the camera system does fall below the very best camera phones, the Hasselblad-branded camera system with its main 48MP sensor and an 50MP ultra-wide is still capable and we found it a noticeable improvement when compared to the previous OnePlus cameras. We had standout praise for the ultra wide camera.

Performance is fantastic thanks to the Snapdragon 888 chipset and, aside from a slow camera app, the software is among the best you’ll find on any Android phone even if there are a few bugs here and there.
Another highlight is the rapid charging, both wired and wireless, which can give you a full charge in roughly 30 minutes.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: OnePlus 9 Pro Review

Xiaomi Mi 11

The Xiaomi Mi 11 is a top-tier flagship with a Snapdragon 888, 108MP camera and very quick charging all for a price that sits below much of the competition.
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Pros

  • Strong display
  • Excellent performance in all areas
  • Likely far more affordable than similarly specced phones
  • Quick to charge

Cons

  • It’s very big, with no smaller option
  • The software is buggy
  • No IP rating
  • Camera choices aren’t always the best

The Xiaomi Mi 11 is a strong alternative to the Galaxy S21 if you want a bigger screen and faster charging but aren’t keen on spending more.
The display is the star here, which we found doesn’t fall too far short of the panel used on the S21 Ultra when it comes to image quality and performance. At 6.81-inches it’s large and it packs a 1440p resolution, HDR support and a 120Hz refresh rate to give you smooth scrolling and responsive gaming.

Like the display, the internal and camera specs are high-end and great for the price. This is one of the more affordable Snapdragon 888 devices and it’s paired with 8GB RAM and up to 256GB storage.

It’s very speedy too, with any app or game playing with ease when we reviewed it. There’s really nothing that can push this phone too far. You’ve also got 5G support if you’re using the phone in a supported area.

There’s a main 108MP camera (along with two other sensors, which aren’t quite so good) on the back that takes decent pictures and 65w charging that’ll give you a full charge in about 40 minutes.

The most disappointing part of the Xiaomi Mi 11 is the software, which we found is a little too buggy making it slightly frustrating to use. Apps crash, wallpapers randomly change, notifications take an age to appear and there’s too much bloatware.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Xiaomi Mi 11 Review

Asus ROG Phone 5

The Asus ROG Phone 5 takes the multimedia crown as one of the best phones for gaming and movie streaming
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Pros

  • Long-lasting, fast-charging battery
  • 144Hz AMOLED screen
  • Fantastic stereo speakers

Cons

  • No telephoto camera
  • No wireless charging

Gaming-focussed devices are still a niche sector of the smartphone space, but after a few years of being disappointed with what was on offer, we’ve finally been impressed by some of the gaming phones we’ve reviewed recently. 

While you’ll get excellent gaming performance from an iPhone 12, Galaxy S21 Ultra or OnePlus 9 Pro, the Asus ROG Phone 5 takes things up a notch with a ridiculously smooth 144Hz display, gaming accessories and booming speakers.

With a lot of the phones on this list trying to be more svelte, the Asus ROG Phone 5 goes the opposite way. This is a bigger phone so there is room for beefy speakers, a display without a notch and huge 6000mAh battery. There are also a couple of touch-sensitive triggers on the top, letting you ditch the usually terrible on-screen controls

If you’re all about smooth, modern design that you should probably look elsewhere.

Inside, the specs show this for the true power-user. There’s up to 18GB RAM, the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 chipset and plenty of storages for games.

Reviewer: Basil Kronfli
Full review: Asus ROG Phone 5 Review

Sony Xperia 1 III

If you want a phone for watching media. the Sony Xperia 1 III is a great pick
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Pros

  • No notch and cutout leaves screen uninterrupted
  • Narrow body is great most of the time
  • Features ditched elsewhere like SD card, headphone jack included

Cons

  • Screen doesn’t get bright enough outdoors
  • Tall display can make certain things feel cramped
  • Low-light and zoom photography isn’t that great for something that costs this much

Sony has made a great device in the Xperia 1 III. It’s powerful, well-designed and full of handy additions not found elsewhere anymore.

These include a 3.5mm headphone jack, expandable storage, notification LED, notchless display and included charger.

During testing this made the phone feel like the first Xperia without compromises in quite some time. There’s a 120Hz 4K display with HDR support, the top Snapdragon 888 chipset and 12GB RAM. While we would like the display to be slightly brighter for outdoor use, it is generally very good.

On the back there are three cameras. The standard wide takes fantastic burst shots, while the tele lens is variable and can switch between 2.9 and 4.4x zoom. Pictures are mostly good, though zoom and low-light performance isn’t the best we’ve seen.

The rest of the phone is rounded off with good software, a battery that’ll comfortably make it through the day based on our testing and IP68 dust and water protection.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Sony Xperia 1 III review

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

A clamshell-style foldable that appeals to mainstream buyers
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Pros

  • Folds up into a neat package
  • Smooth 120Hz inner display
  • Water resistant
  • Much cheaper (but still not cheap)

Cons

  • The outer display is better but still fairly limited
  • Mid-range cameras
  • Average battery life

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is Samsung’s retro clamshell phone and the easiest foldable to recommend to mainstream buyers. 

The Z Flip 3 features a 6.7-inch 120Hz display that measures 4.2-inches when folded down to slip into your pocket and can be bent in half to prop the phone up. 

The Gorilla Glass Victus screen and IPX8 water resistance rating makes the phone more durable than the last Flip, and there’s also a 1.9-inch front display for notifications, alarms and to function as a tiny viewfinder for the camera. 

The Z Flip is powered by Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 and comes with 8GB of RAM and 128/256GB of storage. 

While the camera isn’t the focus on this phone, there are two main 12-megapixel cameras – one with an aperture of f/1.8 and OIS and one f/2.2. Because of the way the phone is built with the second display, you can use both cameras for selfies, as well as the 10-megapixel inside camera for things like video calls. 

There’s also a 3300mAh battery, offering a good (but not great) amount of battery.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Review

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung’s largest foldable has been given an update
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Pros

  • Much tougher than past versions
  • Powerful performance
  • Bright, punch main screen that’s great for gaming

Cons

  • Apps still don’t always display correctly

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the latest iteration of Samsung’s famous foldable line capable of folding out into a tablet, but it’s more expensive than the Galaxy Z Flip 3. 

The Z Fold 3 features a large 7.6-inch OLED display that can be folded in half to get a tall, but slightly chunky, smartphone screen. Like the Z Flip 3, the Z Fold 3’s two display feature a 120Hz refresh rate and are coated with Gorilla Glass Victus to make them more crack-resistant and durable. There’s also an IPX8 IP rating. 

As far as cameras go, there’s a 4-megapixel in-display front camera to avoid taking away from the full screen look with a notch, along with three 12-megapixel rear cameras that perform well, though not as impressively as those on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. 

The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 888 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage and packs a 4400mAh battery which, while large, is still quite small for a phone with two 120Hz screens.  

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full review: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Review

Pixel 6 Pro

A true Google flagship
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Pros

  • Wonderfully clean, future proof Android 12 software
  • Great translation and photo editing services
  • All round brilliant rear camera

Cons

  • Mediocre battery life

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s most advanced phone yet and one of the best camera phones and Android phones we’ve seen this year. The phone is Google’s flagship for 2021, designed to compete with the likes of the iPhone 13, Galaxy S21 and the OnePlus 9 Pro. 

The 6 Pro is the first device to run on Google’s own Tensor CPU with 12GB of RAM, as well as the first to include Android 12 out of the box, making it one of the best Android phones to come out this year. 

The 6 Pro features an all-new three-tone design with a wide camera module, packing three excellent rear cameras – a 5-megapixel main lens, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens and a 48-megapixel telephoto lens. There’s also an 11.1-megapixel front sensor and a number of new camera features, including Face Unblur and Magic Eraser. 

The 6.7-inch is larger than the 6.4-inch screen on the regular Pixel 6 and features a 120Hz variable refresh rate for smoother scrolling and gaming. 

The biggest downside here is the battery life, which drains quickly when used to stream TV, game and record videos. 

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full review: Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

Pixel 6

Google’s most affordable Tensor-powered phone
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Pros

  • So many great software features
  • Nice array of colours
  • Strong camera hardware for the price

Cons

  • Some jank in the software
  • The display lacks the 120Hz refresh rate of many similarly priced rivals
  • A couple of odd design choices

The Google Pixel 6 is the latest affordable smartphone from Google, featuring a completely new design and a brand new Google-made chip. 

Like the Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 6 comes with Google’s first Tensor processor offering a larger focus on AI and machine learning than previous chipsets. Google uses the new chip to power new features like auto-translations and the Magic Eraser in the camera. 

The rear camera itself consists of a 50-megapixel main lens and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens, paired with Google’s advanced photo-processing algorithms, though there’s no telephoto sensor as is found on the pricier Pixel 6 Pro. 

The Pixel 6 does feature the same three-tone design as the 6 Pro (in different colour palettes) and runs Android 12 out of the box, though there’s no 120Hz refresh rate on the slightly smaller 6.4-inch display. 

The 4600mAh battery also suffers the same issues when it comes to more intensive tasks like gaming, but the phone is still £250 cheaper than the Pro. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Google Pixel 6 Review

FAQs

What is the best phone in 2021?

Our current best phone pick is the iPhone 13 Pro Max, or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra if you’re an Android user. But all the phones featured on this list are highly recommended.

Which phone has the best camera?

Both the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are top picks when it comes to camera performance.

If you’re looking for a camera phone, please visit our best camera phone list.

How much should I spend on a phone?

There are excellent phones at all price points these days, with the best often costing above a grand if you want the very best. If you aren’t so fussed on things like camera performance and display quality you can get an excellent device for £500/$600.

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Comparison Specifications

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Battery
Wirless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Resolution
HDR
Refresh Rate
Ports
Chipset
RAM
Colours
Bin capacity

Trusted Reviews test data

1 hour music straming (online)
Max brightness
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
30 minute gaming (intensive)
30 minute gaming (light)
1 hour music streaming (offline)
Time from 0-100% charge
Time from 0-50% charge
Geekbench 5 multi core
Geekbench 5 single core
DCI-P3
sRGB
Adobe RGB
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme
3D Mark – Wild Life

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Best Smartphones 2021 (Copy)
Best Smartphones 2021 (Copy)
Best Smartphones 2021 (Copy)