The days of needing huge amounts of money to buy the latest tech are long gone. While you will still need to spend quite a lot if you want flagship products, excellent smartphone options are available for every consumer at pretty much every price point. Despite rising prices, the smartphone market is still strong, so whether you’re replacing an old device or entering the world of smartphones for the first time, you’re covered. From ultra-budget phones all the way to souped-up beasts, no matter how much money you’ve got in your pocket, you’ll find something for you. Here are the best smartphones for every budget in 2021.
Samsung really does make the best phones in the world, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra is no exception. Its gorgeous, ultra-smooth display handles video, games, and everyday tasks with aplomb, and its abundance of RAM and processing power means you’ll never notice a hitch no matter what you’re using it for. The S21 Ultra’s bezel-less display inches it past the iPhone 13 Pro Max for the best flagship phone on the market (although we will be seeing Apple’s device again before this list is out!). If you want the best phone on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the S21 Ultra is what you should go for.
The Android operating system is owned by Google, so you know that the Mountain View tech giant knows how to wring the most power out of its software. That’s definitely true of the Pixel 4A. This beast of a phone may not boast flagship specs on paper, but when you fire it up and start using it, you’ll quickly realise that it doesn’t matter. The Pixel 4A is buttery-smooth and completely free of bloat; this is stock Android at its best, sleek and powerful. If you want flagship performance at the kind of price you could afford just by taking out £500 loans, then you’ll want to get the Pixel 4A.
Substitute the iPhone 13 Pro if you’ve got smaller hands and don’t want the colossal display the Pro model brings with it. Put simply, the iPhone 13 range is the best Apple has ever made. Finally, we have a 120Hz display (although the base iPhone 13 models don’t come with this option) to match the beautiful iPad Pro screen, and remarkably, the A15 chip that powers the handset is actually faster and more powerful than Apple itself claimed. The iPhone ecosystem remains as divisive as ever, but if you already love Apple, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a no-brainer.
OnePlus has proven itself a capable manufacturer of flagship-style devices for low prices time and time again, so the Nord 2’s quality perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. When we got our hands on this “budget” device, though, we were flabbergasted by what it could do. Just like the Pixel 4A, the Nord 2 offers near-flagship performance at a staggeringly low price. You won’t be able to hook this one up to wireless charging, and you probably shouldn’t leave it out in the rain for too long owing to a lack of waterproofing. Despite these drawbacks, the Nord 2 is an easy sell for anyone looking for a less costly phone that can still handle daily tasks with aplomb.
When you buy a phone for gaming, you want it to do one thing and one thing only: run games well. The Asus ROG Phone 5 fulfils that promise. Its performance is lightning-fast, and you won’t notice any hitches or stutters in even the most graphically demanding games. The incredible 144Hz refresh rate makes this a great phone for seriously competitive gamers, too; Call of Duty: Mobile felt speedy and responsive when we tried it out, and you’ll get an experience with Fortnite that’s better than some dedicated gaming PCs can offer. This one ain’t cheap, but it’s the only real choice if gaming is your number one priority.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a phone that isn’t designed to smash performance records, but rather to survive no matter what you throw at it. The Nokia XR20 has 5G capabilities, so you won’t find it lacking in the speed department, and its performance is perfectly satisfactory for a phone of this type. It’s not going to win any awards for its storage, though; there’s a paltry 64GB in the base model, although this is upgradeable with a microSD card (a 128GB model is also available). The biggest selling point for this device is its dedicated emergency button, which you can program to dial an emergency contact.
What can we say? Samsung has the market cornered on budget devices and flagships alike. The A32 has excellent battery life; it should easily last you a couple of days before you need to charge it, and even more intensive users will find it stands up to music streaming and YouTube sessions with ease. Obviously, the A32 shouldn’t be anywhere near a hardcore gamer’s wishlist, nor should it be your go-to device if you’re a power user who constantly needs to multitask on their device. However, for light browsing, productivity tasks, and day-to-day usage, the A32 shines.