5G is no longer a new thing and numerous smartphone makers are making it even easy to figure out which of their devices comes with the feature and which doesn’t. A good example is the “5G” label behind each smartphone’s name and while that is a good thing, gone are the days when having that “5G” addition meant a higher price tag.
While 5G smartphones are still quite expensive compared to 4G smartphones in 2021, the fact remains that devices that have this support will continue to have a reduced price as time gets by.
Not mentioning the fact that 5G isn’t in fact global just yet, even in developed countries, the network isn’t everywhere and that is why the whole 5G trend sort of lost its momentum compared to 2019 when lots of media outlets were singing praises of how awesome 5G will be and how it will change lives. We are also part of those that did that – but I digress.
Most 5G smartphones fall in the higher price point which means they are likely premium flagships which is a big edge above others. An edge because they get to have other premium hardware specs such as a faster processor, good-enough battery, and great displays.
Why else should you pay about US$500+ for a smartphone that doesn’t have some good specifications right? And since the line between “Premium” and “midrange” smartphones continues to blur, often time, one might just have to stick with what they can very much afford in 2021.
But without any further ado, I and the rest of the team have compiled a shortlist of the best 5G smartphones you should consider in 2021 if you’re on the look for the very best 5G smartphone.
Google Pixel 5a 5G
- Qualcomm SM7250 Snapdragon 765G 5G (7 nm)
- 128GB 6GB RAM
- 6.34 inches, 97.0 cm2 (~85.0% screen-to-body ratio)
- Dual camera (12.2 MP and 16MP)
- Li-Po 4680 mAh, non-removable battery
The biggest difference between the newly announced Google Pixel 5a 5G and the older Pixel 4a 5G includes the bigger battery in the new model as well as support for the next-gen Android 12 upgrade and other tweaks here and there. However, both devices look extremely similar in every way possible. But that doesn’t discredit the fact that the Pixel 5a 5G is a really good device.
It has support for GSM / HSPA / EVDO / LTE / 5G technology and is powered by the mid-range Snapdragon 765G chipset. Remember that Google tried to make things affordable last year with the release of its Pixel 5 series it adopted a mid-range chipset to get the job done rather than the more expensive Snapdragon 865+.
That seems to have been extended to the Pixel 5a 5G which is supposed to be the mid-range upgrade of the Pixel 4a 5G. It’s a good device overall with long-lasting battery life and of course the camera capacity.
iPhone 12 Series
Apple isn’t always the early adopter of technologies that it isn’t sure about – if that argument makes any sense. The point is Apple doesn’t seem to be in the race to innovate any longer compared to 2007 when it came up with the first real smartphone thereby sending Google back to the drawing board to recreate the Android OS a year later.
Up till now, Apple is yet to adopt a high refresh rate or fast charge on its devices because it probably doesn’t feel there is a need to even though there are rumors the company might finally adopt a high refresh rate on its forthcoming iPhone 13 series – you get the point.
Apple finally gave us a 5G-powered series of smartphones when it debuted the iPhone 12 series which consists of four different devices with varying specifications from mid-range price point to a premium price point.
The cheapest of them is the tiniest iPhone 12 Mini which comes with some cool specifications and a really affordable price tag. Rumor has it that there may never be an iPhone 14 Mini – if Apple continues with the naming but let’s see.
However, there are others like the base model iPhone 12 which comes with specs such as GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE / 5G network and is powered by the current Apple A14 Bionic (5 nm) chipset. You get other cool specs like a 6.1-inch OLED display and storage options like 64GB and 4GB RAM, 128GB and 4GB RAM, or 256GB and 4GB RAM.
There are other high-end models such as the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max with all the maxed out specifications and of course a high price point. If you’re looking for an iPhone with 5G in 2021, these are the only four iPhones with support for this network – at least not until the iPhone 13 series are released.
Samsung Galaxy S21 series
Samsung did really great this year with the release of its Galaxy S21 series which includes the Galaxy S21 base model, S21 Plus, and then the maxed-out S21 Ultra with all the features and all the price values. All of these devices are 5G-powered but compared to the iPhone, the Galaxy S21 isn’t Samsung’s only 5G smartphone on the market.
Depending on your budget, you can get a Samsung device with 5G within the US$399 price point however, if you want a device from the Korean tech giant in 2021 which also falls within the premium level, then the Galaxy S21 series might just be the best you can get.
All devices have upgraded specifications such as the Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm) for consumers in the US and China while international customers get the Exynos 2100 variant. All devices also have support for the following networks: GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE / 5G.
While the powerful battery is certain especially with the higher-model, the Galaxy S21 Ultra, you also get multiple camera systems on all three devices. There is Gorilla Glass Victus protection on the Galaxy S21 Ultra and super-fast charging, unlike the iPhone 12 series.
Look I’m not trying to start another Apple versus Samsung war here but in the end, we all know that Samsung is currently the king on the Android market which is why they are the main contender Apple has in 2021.
Samsung Galaxy A72 5G, A52 5G, and A32 5G
Samsung is one of the many Android smartphone makers blurring the lines between what we call flagship and mid-range. When you get a list of all the cool features and see the specifications of some of the Galaxy A series, you get to question why you have to invest so much into the Galaxy S series or even the Note series.
The new Galaxy A72 5G, A52 5G, and A32 5G all have 4GLTE variants but the fact that there are 5G variants makes the whole Galaxy A series far more interesting than you can imagine. The good thing I love about these devices is the design which looks very much premium even though there are some cheap aspects to them.
A good example of that is the fact that the device’s backs are all made of plastic which some might not find very appealing but those are few compromises. I honestly don’t have any issue with this considering the fact that the devices also get Gorilla Glass protection upfront making their display extremely scratch-resistant.
Other great features include a high refresh rate which is in fact missing in the most expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max at the moment and also has fast charging support. Multiple camera systems to give you that great capture and lots of storage options to chose from. The Galaxy A72 5G, A52 5G, and A32 5G have all won the hearts of many people and that is why many are picking them over other Galaxy series. The inclusion of 5G network support is just one of those things you get on an affordable smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series (2021)
The new Galaxy Z Fold series released in 2021 all come with amazing features and these devices are beginning to get more practical with each release. Those are still in their infancy, only time will tell as more Android OEMs dabble into the foldable smartphone market in the very near future.
The newly announced Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Z Flip 3 both offer support for the 5G network and they also come at a cheaper price point. Although they are still very much expensive than your average flagship for that matter, the fact that these devices are even cheaper than the previous models means that each year, they will get better and cheaper.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 which Samsung is turning into a multi-tasking tool now has support for the S-Pen stylus as well as being rated IPX8 which is water and splash resistant. As for the Galaxy Z Flip 3, this device is better than ever and has a base price tag of about US$999.99.
A bigger secondary display makes the device more usable and it’s tougher than the previous Z Flip released back in 2020. Both Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Z Flip 3 have support for the 5G network and are both powered by the high-end Snapdragon 888 chipset and protected by the Gorilla Glass Victus which is tougher than ever.
If you want a stylish foldable smartphone, then the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is your best bet and if you want a powerful multi-tasking device, then you can go for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 but it’s all about the money. Below are other options you get apart from those offered by Samsung.
Xiaomi Mi 11 series
Apart from the monstrous Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra with its external tiny display slapped to the back of the device, you still get the more affordable Mi 11 Lite 5G, Mi 11, and of course the Mi 11 Pro all of which are premium flagship from the Chinese tech giant in 2021.
We all know the notoriety of Xiaomi as being the company that often floods the smartphone market with innumerable devices every year, well, they have done it again this time around. The good thing about the Xiaomi Mi 11 series is its capability and value for the money. While the ultimate Mi 11 Ultra has everything including a ceramics build at the back, the device also appears very sleek and really polarizing especially with the design of the rear camera bump.
But let’s leave the camera specs out and talk about the others. First, the Mi 11 Lite 5G – which is the cheapest of them all and offers some cool specifications despite its price point. You get Gorilla Glass 6 protection both at the front and back of the device compared to Samsung which often makes use of plastic on its affordable devices. Then you get an OLED panel and powerful camera specifications.
Fast charging is available on all four devices and they all come with 5G support. If you want a valuable device that is also affordable yet packed with innumerable features, Xiaomi excels in this category and its new Mi 11 series all have everything in one case.
OnePlus 9 Series
Aside from the Hasselblad collaboration for the camera development, we all know that OnePlus is an excellent brand even though some people might be calling the company out for ditching its earlier audience of enthusiasts. The introduction of the new OnePlus Nord 2 5G kind of solves that issue. Then we have the more expensive OnePlus 9 series both of which are the peak of OnePlus in 2021.
The OnePlus 9 Pro has support for GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE / 5G and has other cool specifications such as an LTPO Fluid2 AMOLED display with 1B colors, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, and its brightness can reach 1300 nits at its peak. But that’s just about the display. You also get the Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm) with storage options varying from 128GB with 8GB RAM, 256GB with 8GB RAM, and 256GB with 12GB RAM.
While all those features are the “Pro” model, the base model also comes with some amazing features such as a bright camera, powerful battery, and super-fast charging all at a reasonable price point.
You want a premium smartphone in 2021 with 5G network support, then you can just opt for any of the OnePlus 9 series and you’ll get yourself the ultimate value for your money.
Huawei Mate 40 and P40 series
To some, Huawei fell from grace rather quicker than expected but when you are banned from working with Google in a smartphone world that’s flooded with the Android OS, you might never stand a chance until you go to China where there is less dependence on Google services.
Let’s forget about the fact that Huawei is now porting in its own HarmonyOS, the fact remains that the company still makes great hardware and the Huawei Mate 40 series and P40 series both of which were released back in 2020 proved that.
Personally, I loved the design of the Huawei P40 Pro with the overflowing display just that the pill-shaped camera cut out blew me over. Great camera system on all 6 devices – Mate 40 series has three models which are Mate 40, Mate 40 Pro and Mate 40 Pro+ and there is the P40, P40 Pro, and P40 Pro Plus. There is also the special edition called the P40 RS Porsche Edition which is ultra-premium and costs a lot.
You still get the same great Huawei device with all the nice design and hardware specifications. The devices are all powered by the Kirin chipset which is fast and doesn’t get hot. There is a high refresh rate and powerful OLED display as well as long-lasting battery life. If you don’t care about US sanctions but trust a Chinese company enough to handle your personal data, then Huawei is definitely the good option to pick out if you’re on the market for a 5G smartphone in 2021.
Motorola Moto G50 5G
Even though Motorola is trying to get its spot back as one of the pioneers of mobile phones. The company isn’t trying to battle with other big players like Samsung or Apple for the premium market but continues to pump out amazing mid-range and entry-level devices all of which perform great and that is the same story with the new Moto G50 5G.
The device comes with support for GSM / HSPA / LTE / 5G and has some pretty decent specifications such as MediaTek MT6833 Dimensity 700 5G (7 nm) which might not really move you but this is an entry-level device within the US$250 price point that still manage to have 5G network onboard.
There is also 128GB internal storage with support for MicroSD coupled with 4GB of RAM. A triple rear camera setup with a 48MP primary sensor as well as a single front-facing snapper. None of that is as amazing as its Li-Po 5000 mAh, non-removable battery with support for 15W charge which might be a bit disappointing. There is also USB Type-C to power up the device as fast as possible.
ASUS ROG Phone 5s Pro
The ROG Phone 5s Pro is what you get when a smartphone OEM is trying to include everything in one device. Because this is a premium gaming smartphone, It’s not surprising that it comes with support for GSM / HSPA / LTE / 5G and other high-end specifications which are honestly innumerable. Some of which include the Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888+ 5G (5 nm), Octa-core (1×2.99 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680) processor, and the storage option is an absolute 512GB of internal storage with 18GB RAM of RAM. There is no support for external MicroSD cards.
In the camera department, you get a triple rear setup with the primary camera being a 64MP sensor that can shoot 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, and 720p@480fps.
The ASUS ROG Phone 5s Pro will come with a big Li-Po 6000 mAh, a non-removable battery which is definitely a true gaming device. I love the design of the device and it’s a feature-rich smartphone but all of these comes at a premium price tag.
Asus Zenfone 8 Flip
The device has a flipping camera that can convert from the back to the front serving both as the primary sensor and the selfie camera at the same time. This is a big win for the device and anyone trying to own one. The ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip all comes with support for GSM / HSPA / LTE / 5G networks and has other cool specifications such as a Super AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support, and brightness that can reach 1000 nits at its peak.
It is a Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm) powered smartphone with 128GB and 8GB RAM, or 256GB and 8GB RAM storage option while also offering support for MicroSD slot.
In the camera department, you get a triple set up with the primary sensor being a 64MP sensor, and it has the ability to shoot up to 8K video. There is a Li-Po 5000 mAh, non-removable battery powering up the ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip which can be recharged with a 30W fast charger.