Smartphones are here to stay and that will not change for a really long time now and with these devices becoming better and more powerful each year, they are definitely replacing computers and tablets to some extent. There are so many smartphones already and we’re barely at the middle of the year but there are best premium smartphone 2021 which are kicking the high-ranks on every list you find on the web such as this one.
The advent of folding smartphones have changed the game indefinitely which in turn puts larger tablets in question but don’t take my words for it as tablets are still useful for those who use them.
But sometimes one might ask what really makes a “Premium” smartphone. Is it the features or just the price tag slapped on the device that determines whether it should be labeled as premium or not.
The reality is that the lines between a premium device and the so-called mid-rangers have been blurred with the over US$1000 smartphones having some unnecessary compromises in terms of features and accessories while the cheaper ones within the US$500 region even have more features and hardware accessories that make the ultra-expensive devices questionable.
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However, there are still some things you can see and feel that will make you conclude that a smartphone falls within the premium category and those includes the following
This is obviously one thing to take note of. Premium Smartphones are usually packed up with loads of features and usually at the highest end of it.
Take the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as an example, this device comes with some awesome features back in 2020 that will make you wonder what’s the peak of premium features in high-end smartphones.
Then there is the US$100+ iPhone 12 Pro Max which is usually the height or peak of every iPhone within its series. It’s like the term “Pro Max” denotes speed, size, features, specs, and of course price tag because the higher you go with the iPhones, the more you have to spend to acquire them.
Then there are the foldable smartphones which are obviously fascinating and daring in terms of features they have. The fact that you have multiple screens gives you unlimited access to consume content however you want it but then it’s not just about the screen.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 has tons of features and specifications that definitely put it in the high-end realm. It comes with multiple high-quality camera systems and great screens, it has the peak storage options at 512GB and also the super-fast Snapdragon 865+ chipset even though there is even a much faster Snapdragon 888 found in the Galaxy S21 series for 2021.
5G Network support?
It’s 2021 and it like no OEM can brag with the inclusion of a 5G modem on their smartphone as the basis of unnecessarily hiking up the price tag of the devices because while this seems to be a premium feature only found on high-end smartphones back in 2019 and 2020, things seem to have changed since 2021 within the blink of an eye.
However, one thing obviously is that almost all the premium smartphones come with 5G network support, unlike the mid-range smartphones which are still in-between the 4G and 5G eras.
So with that said, I’d say 5G is still one of the features that make a device premium. And obviously, 5G isn’t everywhere just yet and with Huawei being banned from operating in multiple regions across the globe, this has slowed the progress of this network in many regions.
And the advantage of the 5th generation network is very evident because this helps make Internet connection faster than expected which is the basis of the network in the first place.
I’d really say 5G which is synonymous with Speed is still one of the cool things to have on a smartphone however that definitely affects the price point of the device in every sense possible because with more feature comes more price tag.
Cameras are very important nowadays and to some degree, people wonder why one would still need to spend exorbitant prices on digital cameras when there are super clear cameras on smartphones nowadays.
Even US$300 smartphones come with powerful camera systems nowadays and of course, that’s what makes us wonder how interesting things will get with premium-tier devices.
When Xiaomi released the new Mi 11 Ultra, it stunned the world because it came with some of the best camera systems. But then there are other competitions like OnePlus which partnered with Hasselblad to create a better OnePlus 9 series camera system while also investing millions of dollars to further this research in bringing ultra premium-quality cameras to their future smartphones.
Apple’s iPhone seems to win in terms of consistency when it comes to the camera system and the iPhone 12 series is not left behind. While contenders like the Galaxy S21 Ultra or even the Sony Xperia ****** are built for professional photo taking, the point and shoot quality of the iPhone 12 Pro Max knows no bounds and that’s a great thing.
But speaking of camera capacity, premium-grade smartphones usually have the highest standard when it comes to camera specs and they usually have multiple camera systems which are very functional.
The triple camera system of the Mi 11 Ultra produces a high-quality result and can in fact shoot in 8K resolution which is yet another great thing to have in a smartphone.
Huawei went a step ahead with the camera system of the Mate X2 folding smartphone by incorporating the camera system of its P40 Pro Plus with it which obviously beats the Galaxy Z Fold 2 even though both camera systems are still far out of reach for most midrange smartphones.
In terms of cameras, so much can be said and the list of expectations from consumers are endless because it’s part of what it’s being paid for, and that’s why everyone craves that ultra-clear and high-performance camera system on their ie thousand-dollar-plus smartphones.
What’s more important in a smartphone after so much feature if not the longevity of the battery life, however, the most expensive phones don’t necessarily have the highest or biggest batteries.
While most $1K-worth smartphones have batteries that fall within the 4000mAh range, they usually compensate with fast charging capacity and also wireless charging support.
One reason that justifies this would be the fact that premium devices are usually the slimmest in terms of thickness and also they usually come with loads of features and cracking up all of that with a massive battery could lead to another wave of disaster as the Galaxy Note 7 back in 2017.
Another theory that I’ve formulated is that most people who can afford these ultra-expensive smartphones have access to electricity and so it’s going to be much easier for them to get their devices charged up whenever they want with ease.
And when it comes to battery life for rugged and heavy-duty usage, that’s why there are now categories called “Rugged smartphones” which fill that spot for users who want a smartphone that can last for days and do more while being agile and super tough in every sense possible.
As I said, it’s part of the compromise that you get for opting for an expensive device. I don’t know if that makes sense.
This is also where all the magic happens. While foldable smartphones are definitely the peak of smartphones currently because they give you that multiple screen options to chose from, conventional smartphones still have massive screens.
Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a big 6.8-inch and the same is the case across the board from iPhone 12 to Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra to Sony Xperia, ASUS, Huawei and all those.
Smartphones’ screens getting more massive is like a game nowadays and that’s what makes it even fascinating for everyone since the bigger it gets, the better it seems.
Even Apple opted for the large display since the advent of the iPhone X back in 2017 and never looked back since then. The addition of the Pro Max to the line changed things for everyone who wants larger displays indefinitely.
Display technologies such as LTPO AMOLED is commonly used by OEMs in 2021 because it aids the always-on display which is also one of the coolest things to have on your premium smartphone in 2021.
While I’m a big fan of curved screens, when Huawei took things up a notch by making the 90% curved “Horizon display” on the Mate 30 Pro which has since extended to the Mate 40 series and probably coming with the Mate 50, the trend probably won’t stop with them and some people like me love it like that.
But Samsung also made flat screens fun again and Apple won’t deter from this any moment since that’s what we know the iPhone series for since inception.
Best premium smartphone 2021 by Subcategory
With so many smartphones on the market right now all vying for the top spot, some seem to have left the big scene as the competition gets fierce every year.
Just this past month, LG announced it will be exiting the smartphone market for good which came as a shock considering the fact that this company has pioneered a lot of interesting features and cool additions we mostly see on smartphones nowadays and the fact that they suddenly exited the scene made it clear that the smartphone market is fierce.
But then there is Google which kind of took a step backward from the ever-growing premium market. And while it might be a bit hard to categorize the Pixel smartphones as mid-rangers, putting it in the upper-tier mid-range smartphones might just be the best label for it.
So for this post, I’ll be listing out the subcategories of the best smartphones on the market in 2021 which you can buy right now but be ready to get set back by nearly $4000 depending on which you’re opting for.
- Smartphone with the best Camera (Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra)
- Smartphone with the best Battery (Moto G Power 2021)
- Best Big smartphone 2021 (Huawei Mate X2)
Smartphones with the best camera 2021
What we examined with these devices includes the number of cameras and how they perform in different environments. Also the specifications of the camera systems. Matching up the quality of each camera can be a really daunting task but we did that anyway.
This includes low-light, video recording, the highest resolutions of video recording and other technology such as optical image stabilization are some of the few things we consider before ranking these devices which includes post-image processing.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- iPhone 12 Pro
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
- Huawei Mate 40 Pro Plus
- OnePlus 9 Pro
- Google Pixel 5
Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra definitely excelled on this one with the powerful camera superpower it possessed.
It came with a quad rear camera setup all of which are essentially useful and that’s what you get when you opt for a premium smartphone because all of their parts are working.
The primary sensor is the humongous 108MP camera which is able to capture ultra-detailed pictures and works pretty well in low-light. That’s part of what makes it an amazing camera phone but then this is combined with another triple setup which consists of a 10MP + 10MP + 12MP all of which function well to capture great pictures.
There is a big 40MP sensor up front for selfies and those number seems to be the same with the previously released Galaxy S20 Ultra back in 2020.
But the Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t all about the camera but also comes with some pretty high-end features such as a massive storage option ranging between 128GB and 512GB couple with a 12GB or 16GB of RAM.
Powered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset which is known for speedy input/output capability as well as a massive 6.8-inch super AMOLED display, you’re definitely opting for a premium-grade device with the Galaxy S21 Ultra and that’s what this is all about.
In terms of power, it comes with a 5000mAh battery which is surprisingly big compared to others on this list but that’s due to its big screen which obviously consumes much more power than your average smartphone on the market.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a thousand-plus dollar smartphone depending on where you plan to get yours but either way, that’s what you expect when opting for a premium smartphone because the more feature, the more money you have to spend.
iPhone 12 Pro
The new iPhone 12 Pro is such a brilliant smartphone with so much to offer. And for the first time, the iPhone 12 Pro has a slightly bigger 6.1-inch OLED display which offers a better user experience for those that opt for the device.
iPhones are known for their camera prowess as well and that’s a really important thing to take note of and that’s also the case with the new device offering a triple rear camera setup.
Basically, the numbers aren’t as crazy as the Galaxy S21 Ultra but the triple 12MP sensors are great performers in terms of shooting ultra-crisp photos.
The first 12MP is a wide-angle sensor that has an f/1.6 aperture, dual pixel PDAF as well as optical image stabilization or OIS.
The second 12 MP is a telephoto camera with a bigger f/2.0 aperture, with other cool features like 1/3.4″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, and lastly 2x optical zoom.
The third option is another 12 MP ultrawide angle sensor with f/2.4 aperture and 120˚, 13mm, 1/3.6″
TOF 3D LiDAR scanner for depth sensing.
As a matter of fact, this is definitely a camera smartphone with some pretty cool options. Its Pro – Raw shooting is also another great feature to have and this makes the smartphone a perfect device for shooting professional footage right in the palm of your hand.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
When you see the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra from the front, there’s nothing out of the ordinary and the device looks just like any other smartphone out there.
It has a nice 6.8-inch display with a tiny hole-punch camera cut out at the top. The OLED display offers some super crispy details about the device and of course, it’s a premium device so you might expect all that.
But when you flip the Mi 11 Ultra to the back, it’s then you realize this is a different device in every sense possible.
First, there is a massive or should I say polarizing camera bump that’s deliberate and took a real lot of space at the back of the device.
One of the reasons for this decision is likely due to the fact that Xiaomi decided to also include a viewfinder right at the back of the device next to the camera system which makes this device outstanding in every sense possible.
The camera system in question is a triple setup that consists of a 50MP wide-angle sensor with f/2.0 aperture as well as features such as Dual Pixel PDAF, Laser AF and, OIS.
Then there is the second sensor which is another big 48 MP periscope telephoto sensor which is much larger with an f/4.1 aperture, measuring at 120mm, 1/2.0″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, and lastly, it has 5x optical zoom.
Still on the ultra cranked up features of this device, you also get another massive 48 MP ultra wide-angle camera with f/2.2 aperture, 128˚ with features like 0.8µm, and PDAF.
But it’s not just about the numbers, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra outperformed so many premium smartphone cameras in 2021 and that is why it took the third spot on this list.
If not for the fact that Huawei was banned from working with US companies like Google, we all know how extreme the Chinese brand can get when it comes to hardware development.
The same is the care with the recently announced Huawei Mate 40 Pro Plus which is the peak of the Mate 40 series.
In terms of design, this device is outstanding and it’s a marvel. Its space ring or donut camera module is a cool design aesthetic that gives the device that same unique look and feel as always.
And in terms of specifications, the Mate 40 Pro Plus comes with a 50 MP wide-angle sensor with f/1.9 aperture, 1.22µm, omnidirectional PDAF, Laser AF, and lastly an OIS capacity.
Then there is the second 12 MP telephoto sensor with an f/2.4 aperture with features such as PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom, and then a smaller 8MP periscope telephoto sensor with 10x optical zoom and OIS.
Lastly, you get a 20 MP ultra-wide sensor with f/2.4 aperture, 14mm PDAF
While the software might lag because it doesn’t have support for the Google Mobile Service, the Huawei hardware is top-notch and that’s what makes this device a pretty decent and valuable smartphone you can get in 2021.
OnePlus 9 Pro
The Chinese brand decided to take things up a notch with the release of the OnePlus 9 series which is the partnership with the iconic camera maker Hasselblad which was a big deal considering the fact that the latter has a lot of reputation in the camera industry and is known for making the camera that was used to take pictures of the moon landing back in the days of the Apollo 11 mission.
Aside from the high-quality camera specifications of the OnePlus 9 Pro, the device definitely excelled in other areas as well which includes the display, its processing capacity, and also its battery longevity which has earned it a solid 7 stars out of 10 in total reviews across boards.
Speaking of the camera capabilities of the OnePlus 9 Pro, you get a big 48 MP wide-angle lens as the primary sensor which has an f/1.8 aperture, and measures about 23mm with cool features such as 1/1.43″, 1.12µm, omnidirectional PDAF, Laser AF and Optical image stabilization which smoothens out video footages taken with this amazing device.
Still, on the camera specs, you also get a smaller 8 MP telephoto camera with f/2.4 aperture, and measures about 77mm, and features: PDAF, OIS, 3.3x optical zoom, Next is another bigger 50 MP ultrawide sensor with f/2.2 aperture, and lastly a smaller 2 MP monochrome sensor with an f/2.4 aperture.
The OnePlus 9 Pro camera is definitely a great performer and that is a cool thing to have which is why you should consider it if you don’t aim to overspend but also enjoy the high-quality features a premium-tier device can offer you in 2021.
Google Pixel 5
When Google announced it was stepping back from the expensive US$1000 price point while releasing a great device with minimalistic aesthetics and cool features at an affordable price point, the Google Pixel 5 definitely needs a place on the list and forever, the camera aspect still remains the strength of the Google Pixel devices.
This is a device with some pretty decent premium-tier features but some compromises such as the processor. Google decided to opt for this because it doesn’t want to release some ultra-expensive smartphone that its customers won’t be able to afford.
That is why it decided to step down from the Snapdragon 865+ chipset arena for a cheaper Snapdragon 765G chipset which includes a 5G capacity.
For real, the performance of the device is topnotch and there is nothing bad about the speed and overall performance of the Pixel 5 despite the chipset powering it. Its CPU is an Octa-core (1×2.4 GHz Kryo 475 Prime & 1×2.2 GHz Kryo 475 Gold & 6×1.8 GHz Kryo 475 Silver) and it has a storage capacity of 128GB coupled with 8GB RAM.
Now to the camera aspect of the Google Pixel 5, you get a 12.2MP wide-angle primary sensor with a 1/2.55 aperture with features such as a dual pixel, PDAF, and OIS. Then there is a secondary 16MP ultrawide angle sensor with an f/2.2 aperture allowing the device to capture really awesome photographs.
The dual camera is able to shoot 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps; and it has features such as gyro-EIS, LED flash, Pixel Shift, Auto HDR, and Panorama. Definitely nothing out of the ordinary with the Pixel 5 but this is one of the best camera smartphones in 2021.
Smartphone with the best Battery
What’s a good smartphone without a powerful battery. All of the devices on this list can last beyond the 7 hours mark and they have batteries within the 4,000mAh range which is powerful enough to power their screen and multiple features.
These devices can even share power with other devices through reverse wireless charging which is really awesome and that makes them both power banks as well as great smartphones at the same time.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus/S21
- iPhone 12/iPhone Mini
- Xiaomi Mi 11
- Moto G Power (2021)
Samsung Galaxy S21 / S21 Plus
The Galaxy S21 series is definitely one of the best premium smartphones in 2021 because of the interesting features it has one of which is its battery capacity. These devices feature a massive 4800mAh battery which is able to last for a pretty long period of time.
Both devices offer really interesting perks from Samsung’s standard and that is why they both fall within the premium region. First of all, you get an interesting super AMOLED display with some pretty decent color composition which makes the device a true value but of all that, the long-lasting battery life is a must-have which is one of the very cool things that makes the device outstanding among the rest on this list.
The 4800mAh Li-Ion battery that came packaged with this device is an interesting value for the money and the powerful camera system is top-notch.
While the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus might not last you for one week, they definitely have the capacity to last you for hours upon hours on active heavy usage. Recharging is also pretty fast even though Samsung had decided to follow the footsteps of Apple by excluding the power bricks from the device.
Overall, the valuable device offers some interesting perks and though it might not be in the range of the aforementioned Galaxy S21 Ultra, it definitely has some immense features that make it outstanding and worth its price tag.
iPhone 12/iPhone 12 Mini
Both are basically the same thing just that the iPhone 12 is a much smaller smartphone with just a 5.4-inch display however, you can’t dispute that these devices are top-tier considering the interesting features and perks they have to offer.
While the previous mid-range iPhone 11 had some compromise especially in the display area – because it had an IPS LCD panel, Apple has decided to step things up with the iPhone 12 series which is why the entirety of the line-up came with an OLED panel.
But aside from the interesting display capacity, there is also the battery capacity which is yet another fascinating thing about both devices. The iPhone XR and then the iPhone 11 during their times featured a pretty fascinating battery life because of the lessened features within the system.
The same goes with the iPhone 12 Mini which has a 2227mAh Li-Po battery and then the iPhone 12 which has a 2815mAh Li-Ion battery. You might then wonder how these small batteries can match against the likes of 4800mAh in other Android devices but the reality is that iOS devices do not consume battery and storage space much like Android devices. It’s one of the differences between the two popular operating systems.
Xiaomi Mi 11
This is yet another cool smartphone to have on the list. The Xiaomi Mi 11 series was released earlier this year and has grown exponentially in popularity mainly because it offers some pretty decent features that make the device outstanding to so many consumers out there.
First of all, it comes with the iconic 108MP sensor which seems to be a big deal for Xiaomi’s premium devices, and then it comes with a powerful AMOLED display and of course the powerful Snapdragon 888 5G chipset with lots of storage space and 8GB to 12GB of RAM.
The Mi 11 is definitely a fine smartphone that offers a long-lasting battery life thanks to its 4600mAh Li-Ion battery that helps the device last for hours upon hours when actively used. It’s a pretty expensive device that falls within the US$700 price mark and that makes it an upper-tier mid-range or maybe premium device depending on whatever you want to call it.
Moto G Power 2021
Motorola has been excellent with batteries lately and that’s a big deal to the brand because last year’s Moto G7 Power was one of the smartphones with the best battery and the same is the case with Moto G Power (2021) which sports a massive 5000mAh battery.
While this isn’t necessarily an expensive smartphone, by all means, it’s a device with some pretty decent features, and it’s worth every penny spent.
Take, for example, this is an entry-level smartphone with a Qualcomm SM6115 Snapdragon 662 (11 nm) chipset and storage option that range between 32GB with 3GB RAM and 64GB with 4GB RAM. And in other aspects such as the camera specifications, it’s definitely not so worthy on this list because it’s of n match to any but one aspect where it excels is the battery department and that is its Power.
Best Big smartphones
I basically invented this category myself because there are some smartphones that are better on this list than on another list. I should have simply called it Best phablets but it’s like the line between a smartphone and a phablet is already blurred thanks to brands like Samsung and Huawei all making massive smartphones.
- Huawei Mate X2
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Galaxy Z Fold 2
Huawei Mate X2
This is the second-generation foldable smartphone from Huawei making the Chinese brand a true contender in the foldable smartphone market right next to Samsung and that is a big deal for real. The interesting thing about this device is that it took some of its design inspirations from the Galaxy Z Fold 2 itself but has some pretty awesome features that definitely ace the Galaxy smartphones.
In the display area, it has some pretty features that make it even much more outstanding. While there is a less visible crease between the conjoined displays at the middle and when Zack from JerryRigEverything tried bending the device in the opposite direction, the superior engineering design of the device makes this very impossible.
The Mate X2 has almost some of the best and high-end features from any Huawei device so far. First, it’s powered by the Kirin 9000 chipset which is obviously the top-tier chipset that powers other high-end Huawei devices then there is the usability factor of the front screen which when closed can still be used as a normal smartphone with one hand.
The carrot-shaped design of the device is meant to help balance the device when used with one hand and the overall performance of the Huawei Mate X2 is top-notch. But this is a really expensive and limited smartphone that can only be found in China because Huawei isn’t allowed to work with Google and obviously that has dwindled its reach globally.
Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was released with style and its elegance knows no bound. The design aesthetics of the device and the golden color choice made the device even much more premium-looking especially wh the massive display which makes the device outstanding.
Although there were rumors that Samsung might be ending the Galaxy Note product line because the Galaxy Z Fold and the Galaxy S series seem to have blurred the purpose of the Galaxy Note which is supposed to be this business-class top-tier smartphone.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate the interesting features and elegance the device has to offer. First is the outstanding camera system which allows the device to produce some pretty top-notch photographs and then we have the processing prowess of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and other cool features you can expect from a thousand-dollar device.
Even though the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was released back in 2020, the device is still 100% relevant in 2021 and will be like that for a couple more years in terms of its design, its functionalities, and its battery life and camera capacity.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the peak of the iPhone 12 series released back in 2020 and the device is definitely one of the best smartphones on the market right now featuring some of the high-end features you can expect from a device of its level.
Obviously, the US$1000+ price tag slapped on the device meant that users need to understand that they’re buying a valuable device that they can use for years to come and with Apple’s constant software update roll-out, this is the kind of smartphone that you can count on for a couple of years to come.
The sharp-edged design of the device much like other iPhone 12 series gives the device a unique aesthetics much like the olden iPhone 5 or the iPad Pro which all have the same design aesthetics.
The triple camera system is also unique and amazing all offering the device the top-tier feature any user will expect to have on their expensive premium smartphone.
Galaxy Z Fold 2
The second foldable smartphone on the market and obviously one of the best. One thing that will make this to be better than the Huawei Mate X2 is just because it has support for Google Mobile Service that’s all.
But with that, this is still some g]pretty decent smartphone with high-end features such as the triple screens with the middle screen conjoined together. Then there are the powerful camera systems and also the interesting spec-sheet which is definitely endless.
I like the quality of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and the device opens a lot of possibilities for those who can afford it because this is a pretty pricey device.
The list goes on and on but the aforementioned devices all offer some pretty awesome features and of course they are all pricey to an average consumer which is why they are called “Premium” devices.