Editor choice

Best Phone of 2021: Editor’s Choice

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

Smartphone seasons come and go and there are always a handful of standout devices. Either way, only one can be crowned the best phone of the year, whether it’s the best Android phone or the best smartphone overall.

How We Chose Our Winner

Best 2021 smartphone cameras lined up - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max, Google Pixel 6 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 III, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

Deciding which phone is “best” is a tricky one. People have personal preferences, platform biases, and good and bad experiences to draw on. Brands have varying markets, product availability, and track records for customer support and service. Next, devices have different price points, features, and target audiences. It can be a bit of a minefield to call anything better when there are so many variables. This is where we come in.

We review a lot of technology, but phones have always been our bread and butter.

We review a lot of technology here at Android Authority but phones have always been our daily bread. Hundreds of hours are spent reviewing, testing and comparing the best of the best in every segment of the mobile market. Our team of seasoned reviewers and editors know the technology we write about better than anyone. But as the year draws to a close, our team crowns our pick for best phone of the year, based not only on performance but also on value for money and other intangibles like support for long term.

First, we’re creating a shortlist based on the most important and top-rated phones we’ve tested throughout the year. Next, we make sure our list contains devices from all major brands and price points. We include devices sold in the United States only as well as worldwide. Finally, we submit the list to the vote. Our most experienced reviewers award points based on their choices and the phone with the most points wins the set. Simple.

Android AuthorityEditor’s Choice Phone of the Year: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 Android Authority 2021 Editors' Choice

Jimmy Westenberg/Android Authority

When the dust settles on voting this year, it wasn’t even close. We had a very clear winner on our hands. The Pixel 6 offers almost as comprehensive a feature set as its more expensive stablemate, but with a price tag that can’t be ignored. The Google Pixel 6 is Android Authority‘s Editor’s Choice Phone of the Year for 2021.

The Pixel 6 has a price that can’t be ignored for what it offers.

At just $599, we called the Pixel 6 one of the easiest phones of the year to recommend in our review. Google is finally taking smartphone manufacturing seriously, and the Pixel 6 is a breath of fresh air. It packs a lot of the Pixel 6 Pro flagship experience, but only shaves off the good parts to bring the price down. We think the Pixel 6 is the best phone for most people in 2021.

Don’t miss: Pixel 6 Series Buying Guide

google pixel 6 press image sorta seafoam

Google Pixel 6

The most affordable Pixel

The Google Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch FHD+ display and runs on the brand new Google Tensor SoC. It has an improved camera system, exclusive software features, and offers some of the best hardware Google has ever produced.

Second place: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Back of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Silver

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

At $1,199 though, it’s twice the cost of the Pixel 6 and out of reach for many. But if you can afford to drop that much on a phone, it has everything you could want (except a charger). Samsung has really brought its A-game in 2021. The Galaxy S21 Ultra shows what the most expensive phones are capable of in 2021.

Third place (tie): Google Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Reinforcing just how great Samsung and Google’s product lines were this year, we had a tie for third place: the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 3. Google’s more expensive phone and Samsung’s fancier foldable have both achieved good results with our team. Both devices add a telephoto lens that the base Pixel 6 model and Samsung’s other 2021 foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip 3, lack.

Following: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Buying Guide

The extras here will cost you though. The Pixel 6 Pro costs $300 more than the regular Pixel 6. That’s nothing compared to the $700 price differential between the Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3. For those with deeper pockets, the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 3 leave nothing to be desired. They also give us insight into where Google and Samsung are placing their future bets.

Fifth place (tie): iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max

You certainly can’t say we’re biased against Apple when two iPhones are tied for fifth place. (If you think our calculations are wrong, we consider the Pixel 6 Pro and Z Fold 3 to take third and fourth place). While there’s nothing mind-blowing about this year’s iPhones, they nicely iterated on the already excellent iPhone 12 series. iPhones have gotten really good over the past two years and are great options for many people.

See more : iPhone 13 Series Buying Guide

Even in this tie, we see the same high-low price dichotomy at play, from the more affordable $799 iPhone 13 to the $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro Max. The simple truth is that good phones are cheaper / cheaper phones are better these days. Spending above the $1,000 threshold is only necessary if you want the best of the best from each brand. That said, the experience in the $600-800 price bracket is just as good for the vast majority of things.

Readers’ Choice Award: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Android Authority Readers Choice badge

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

Out of a mega-list of 33 contenders, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was voted our 2021 Readers’ Choice Phone of the Year, beating the Google Pixel 6 Pro by a practical margin. Check out the full breakdown showing just how far ahead the S21 Ultra was at every stage of the vote.