The best phones for 2021, tested by our expert editors

We've ranked the top 10 smartphones you can buy in Australia right now, based on hundreds of hours of hands-on testing.

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

The best smartphones for 2021, ranked

  1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
  2. Apple iPhone 12
  3. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20
  5. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
  6. Google Pixel 4a 5G
  7. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
  8. Apple iPhone 12 Mini
  9. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
  10. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

How did we pick this list?

Finder's team of experts have tested and reviewed every single phone featured in this guide to come up with our list of the best smartphones. For each phone, we assess and test the design, cameras, performance, battery life and overall value for money.

Our editorial team selected the phones on this list based on their overall quality and value compared to other phones on the market. The selection and order is not based on review scores.

More detail on methodology below.

Compare the best phones of 2021


1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

Samsung pulls out every trick it knows for a superb – but not inexpensive – smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
6.8-inch display | 128GB, 256GB, 512GB storage options | 12MP + 108MP + 10MP rear camera
  • Superb 120Hz display
  • Great camera array
  • S-Pen Compatibility
  • S-Pen/Charger/Headphones aren't included
  • No storage expansion
  • Exynos version slower than US Snapdragon model
RRP From $1,849

Why we chose it

Samsung's yearly release dates got a kick forward in 2021, headlined by the pricey but generally superb Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. It's almost a Note phone in that it supports Samsung's S-Pen stylus for productivity and creativity purposes, although you'll have to pay extra for the S-Pen, as it's not included. Samsung has put some serious work into its camera technology, and while the 100x Space Zoom isn't all that impressive, just about everything else it does for both stills and video shooting truly is. Combine that with a sleek design that does just about as good a job of hiding the rear camera bump as we've seen on any phone and plenty of processing power, and you've got the current best-of-breed in the Android world.

It's not a flawless device, mind you. Here in Australia we get the Exynos 2100 version of the phone, and that means it's slower than the Snapdragon 888 variant sold in the US. Samsung's followed Apple's lead and dropped the in-box charger and headphones, but also the ability to expand its storage with microSD cards.

Still, if you want the best Android phone and your budget can meet the Galaxy S21 Ultra's asking price, this is the phone to buy right now.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review.


2. Apple iPhone 12

The best option for iPhone upgraders or new Apple converts.

Apple iPhone 12
6.1-inch display | 64GB, 128GB, 256GB storage options | 12MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Good all-round camera
  • A14 Bionic processor runs superbly
  • Ceramic Shield glass keeps it safer
  • Only a dual-lens camera with no telephoto
  • Charger and headphones not included
  • Battery life mediocre for a premium phone
RRP From $1,349

Why we chose it

Typically, Apple's mid-range phones have involved compromises that made either the cheaper models or the full-fat flagships the ones to opt for. That's not the story this year, however.

Apple's never released five phones in just one year, and ranking them in any kind of order involves balancing features and price carefully. For our money – and yours – the Apple iPhone 12 strikes just the right balance between performance and price, mostly thanks to the fact that it's running on the exceptional Apple A14 Bionic processor behind Apple's rather heavily toughened "Ceramic Shield" glass. While 5G remains a nice-to-have rather than a must-have feature, it's great to see Apple finally join the 5G race, too.

Like its siblings, you don't get a charger or headphones in the iPhone 12 box, which may annoy some, and like many Apple phones the battery life could be a little better. Still, those upgrading from at least a 2 year old iPhone will appreciate the quality of life improvements in the iPhone 12, while also appreciating its lower price point for a flagship phone.

Read our full iPhone 12 review.


3. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

You don't have to spend a fortune to get a great phone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
6.5-inch display | 128GB storage options | 12MP + 12MP + 8MP rear camera
  • Great cameras for the price
  • 5G version has a nice fast processor
  • Wide range of colour choices
  • 4G model isn't as nippy
  • Average battery life
  • Plastic body
RRP From $1,499

Why we chose it

The biggest change in recent years in the flagship phone category has been the slow creep of really good phones in the mid-range price bracket. If you can't or won't meet the price point of Apple and Samsung's true flagships, you always had to put up with a lot of compromises.

That's essentially not the story of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. Samsung took the flagship processor for 2020 smartphones, tied it into a gorgeous 120Hz capable display and dropped the essential best bits of its camera technology into a phone, and then dropped the price as well. The end result is arguably Samsung's best 2020 handset, and one of the best value propositions in the phone space overall.

It's worth noting that the 4G model is cheaper, but it does drop down to a slower and less impressive Exynos processor, and the biggest caveat with the Galaxy S20 FE is that it's very much a plastic body phone, rather than a solid metal one. The upside there is that it's available in a range of funky and attractive colours.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.


4. Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G

A great productivity handset.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G
6.7-inch display | 128GB, 256GB storage options | 64MP + 12MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Good camera quality
  • As fast as the pricier Note 20 Ultra
  • S-Pen is good for productivity and artistic endeavours
  • Average battery life
  • Space zoom remains a gimmick
  • Ultra model gets the better display
RRP From $1,499

Why we chose it

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 is 5G capable, comes with Samsung's unique and very useful S-Pen accessory and a triple lens camera that gives you everything from ultra-wide to heavily zoomed in telephoto shots in the one handset. That's a description that also applies to the pricier Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but the reality as we found in our review is that you end up paying a lot more for what's essentially just a slightly larger display and not much else of real use.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is still a nicer phone again, but at a higher price and without an S-Pen cavity if stylus accessibility is important to you. If it is, the Galaxy Note 20 is the handset you should be buying.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20.


5. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple's largest phone delivers a lot, including its price point.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
6.7-inch display | 128GB, 256GB, 512GB storage options | 12MP + 12MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Best camera in any iPhone
  • Good battery life
  • Huge display
  • Seriously expensive
  • Quite heavy
  • Australian model lacks 5G bands present in the US model
RRP From $1,699

Why we chose it

If you want the best of the best in the iOS camp and money is no object, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the phone that you should be dropping your cash on.
Meet its asking price and you'll get a phone with a larger camera sensor than the rest of the iPhone 12 line, an improved telephoto lens and very good battery life – although oddly, not quite as good as the 2019 flagship Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Apple's iOS arguably doesn't do enough with the larger screen real estate on the iPhone 12 Pro Max in terms of giving you extra columns for apps or iPad-style functions, but it's still a great device for movie watching or gaming, thanks to the power of the A14 Bionic Processor. Like every other 2020 iPhone 12 model it's also 5G capable, although Apple's keeping the full mmWave 5G capabilities purely stateside for now, which can't help but hurt on a phone that costs pretty much exactly the same here as it does in the US.

Read our full Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review.


6. Google Pixel 4a 5G

A superb 5G capable Android handset for those on a budget.

Google Pixel 4a 5G
6.24-inch display | 128GB storage options | 12.2MP + 16MP rear camera
  • Largest display in any 2020 Pixel phone
  • Camera is very easy to use
  • Good battery life
  • 5G is only sub-6GHz where the Pixel 5 has mmWave
  • Plain design
  • Mid-range processor
RRP From $799

Why we chose it

Google took an interesting take on what its customers might want out of a 2020 flagship, offering up the Google Pixel 5 and Google Pixel 4a 5G to consumers at a much lower price point than any of its premium competitors.

Google did so by using the mid-range Snapdragon 765G chipset rather than a top-tier CPU, but offset that – to an extent – with its own clean Android take and guaranteed updates for the next couple of years to entice consumers in.

The Pixel 5 is the flagship, but the Pixel 4a 5G is the better buy, thanks to its larger display, the inclusion of a headphone jack, and of course that lower price point.
Like the rest of its Pixel 'a' range phones, the Pixel 4a 5G's design isn't that flashy with a plastic case and a single "Just Black" colour as your only option. However, if you want a clean Android UI, guaranteed software updates and a good camera for a low price, it's hard to look past the Google Pixel 4a 5G.

Read our full Google Pixel 4a 5G review here.


7. Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G

Great cameras and fast performance plus those unique S-Pen features.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G
6.9-inch display | 256GB, 512GB storage options | 12MP + 108MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Great low light performance
  • Slick high refresh rate display
  • S-Pen compatibility works well on a large display
  • 120Hz display is a battery hog
  • Chunky camera bump
  • 50x Space Zoom delivers woeful results
RRP From $1,849

Why we chose it

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a nice phone, presuming that you can meet its rather hefty asking price, and you're not already tempted by the technically superior Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G.

For your money, you do get a lot of phone, with a 120Hz capable 6.9-inch display, seriously impressive triple lens camera with all the trimmings and, because it's a Note phone, Samsung's own S-Pen stylus thrown in as well. A larger phone needs a larger battery, and predictably if you're using 120Hz all the time it can run down pretty quickly in intense use scenarios. Like other "Space Zoom" cameras Samsung's released in 2020, its combination of digital and optical zoom can be pretty chunky at the extremes, but as long as you dial it back just a little it can deliver some really impressive results.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.


8. Apple iPhone 12 mini

Apple goes for a smaller iPhone with plenty of power, although not battery power.

Apple iPhone 12 mini
5.4-inch display | 64GB, 128GB, 256GB storage options | 12MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Compact size
  • Plenty of power thanks to the A14 Bionic
  • Same cameras as the iPhone 12
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Small screen doesn't suit every app
  • Slower wireless charging
RRP From $1,199

Why we chose it

Apple's iPhones all used to be "small" phones, but it jumped away from that trend a good few years back. Small iPhones became a thing again in 2020 via the Apple iPhone 12 Mini, which promises all the power of the iPhone 12 in a smaller form factor if that's your style. The Apple iPhone 12 Mini, which is basically just the iPhone 12 with the corners shaved off, for better and worse.

If you favour a smaller handset because you find those hefty models too hard to hold it's a really compelling option, with the exact same processor and near-identical performance to the full-fat options like the iPhone 12 Pro Max at a fraction of the cost.

That smaller screen can be a bit of a trap for some content like video watching, and while it supports the new MagSafe magnetic charging, it does so at a lower wireless charging rate. That's a problem that compounds slightly when you consider its lower battery endurance compared to the other iPhone 12 models, although most users should be able to sail through a day's usage without too many woes.

Read our full iPhone 12 Mini review here.


9. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Meet the foldable future of smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
7.6-inch display | 256GB storage options | 12MP + 12MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Massively improved front display
  • Cameras are good
  • Improved and resilient hinge
  • Still no water or scratch resistance
  • Frighteningly expensive
  • Lacks storage expansion
RRP $2,999

Why we chose it

2020 was meant to be the year of foldable phones, but then, well… 2020 happened, as we all know.

That meant that only a few foldable phones actually made it into the hands of consumers. While flip phones as embodied in the Galaxy Z Flip or Motorola RAZR emerged as a category, for our money if you want a foldable, the expanding book style is the way to go. Huawei has its second take with the Huawei Mate Xs but if you're buying a foldable, the model to buy is Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Samsung vastly improved the external display to a level that was far more usable than on the original Fold, added a sturdier hinge, more pleasing internal display and some pretty decent cameras too, making a premium buy that has a lot of appeal. Then again, at a price point that makes plenty of people scream, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 very much needs to have lots of appeal.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review.


10. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Apple's mid-range flagship has plenty of power.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro
6.1-inch display | 64GB, 128GB, 256GB storage options | 12MP + 12MP + 12MP rear camera
  • Adds a telephoto lens option
  • Great A14 Bionic performance
  • Toughened Ceramic Shield glass
  • Premium price but the cameras in the Pro Max are better
  • iPhone 12 is close and cheaper
  • No included headphones or charger
RRP From $1,349

Why we chose it

It's an odd year where Apple releases so many phones, and it can make picking between them trickier. The idea behind the iPhone 12 Pro is that it's just that bit nicer than the iPhone 12 without having the full whack pricing of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

However, it's still a premium priced phone and that puts it in the slightly tricky "middle child" position of being more expensive than the iPhone 12 while only being slightly better, and within striking distance of the iPhone 12 Pro Max too.

It's still a highly capable handset, and a good choice if the immense size of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is off-putting to you and you want access to features like a telephoto lens and Apple's new ProRAW format for photography.

Read our full Apple iPhone 12 Pro review here


Compare the best phones of 2020

Compare the display size, battery, overall rating and purchasing options of each phone in the table below. (Click on "View Details" for more product specifications.)

Name Product Display Display Rear camera Battery size Overall rating More info More info
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
6.8
inches

3200x1440

  • Display

    6.8 inches

    3200x1440

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 108MP + 10MP
  • Battery size

    5,000 mAh
12MP + 108MP + 10MP + 10MP
5,000
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 12
6.1
inches

2532 x 1170

  • Display

    6.1 inches

    2532 x 1170

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
12MP + 12MP
N/A
View details
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
6.5
inches

2400 x 1080

  • Display

    6.5 inches

    2400 x 1080

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 8MP
  • Battery size

    4,500 mAh
12MP + 12MP + 8MP
4,500
mAh
View details
Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G
6.7
inches

2400 x 1080

  • Display

    6.7 inches

    2400 x 1080

  • Rear camera

    64MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,300 mAh
64MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,300
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
6.7
inches

2778 x 1284

  • Display

    6.7 inches

    2778 x 1284

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
12MP + 12MP + 12MP
N/A
View details
Google Pixel 4a 5G
6.24
inches

1080 x 2340

  • Display

    6.24 inches

    1080 x 2340

  • Rear camera

    12.2MP + 16MP
  • Battery size

    3,140 mAh
12.2MP + 16MP
3,140
mAh
View details
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
6.9
inches

3088 x 1440

  • Display

    6.9 inches

    3088 x 1440

  • Rear camera

    108MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,500 mAh
108MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,500
mAh
Not yet rated
View details
Apple iPhone 12 mini
5.4
inches

2340 x 1080

  • Display

    5.4 inches

    2340 x 1080

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
12MP + 12MP
N/A
View details
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
7.6
inches

2208 x 1768

  • Display

    7.6 inches

    2208 x 1768

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,500 mAh
12MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,500
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
6.1
inches

2532 x 1170

  • Display

    6.1 inches

    2532 x 1170

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
12MP + 12MP + 12MP
N/A
View details
loading

Compare up to 4 providers


Methodology

150+
Mobile phones reviewed
10,000+
Hours spent testing
10
Best smartphones ranked
  • We've spent thousands of hours testing and reviewing mobile phones.
  • Our editorial team has a combined 60+ years of experience writing about tech and reviewing the latest devices.
  • The phones on this list are chosen by our editorial team and are not based on commercial relationships.

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.

14 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    JamesAugust 4, 2019

    What is the advantage or the object of having Dual Sims on a mobile phone?

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiAugust 5, 2019

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your question. Some people prefer carrying a phone that has a dual sim feature. These people do this because they have 2 different sim cards and typically, one sim card is for personal use and the other one is for business. This is best for them as need not bring two phones all the time.

      Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    AnayaSeptember 19, 2017

    Hi

    I am looking at buying a new mobile phone. I am currently using a Note 5. I am just wondering if you could help me find a phone with good battery life and good camera also a decent screen size (phablet type). I had a look at S8, but it appeared too narrow. Note 8 is really expensive and I can’t justify spending that much money. Ideally I am looking at buying something within $1000.00 range.

    Could you please help me find a phone?

    Cheers,
    Anaya

      Default Gravatar
      JonathanSeptember 19, 2017

      Hello Anaya,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Currently we don’t have dedicated page for phablets, but if you’re looking for long-battery life handsets and good camera ones, then we have those on a plan. In case you’d like to buy it outright, you can visit the respective stores of the providers offering them.

      Alternatively, if reading multiple tabs is of no concern then you can use our finder search result page regarding different phablet reviews.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

    Default Gravatar
    BobJune 29, 2017

    I want to buy a mobile phone 3G or 4G? All I have seen is you have to swipe a finger across and as I shake it, will not work as I’m over 80.

    I want a simple one like a 2G phone I do not use text only used to dial out and receive phone call only. I do not have much money and with the 2g I have a Vodafone 365 day deal pay $20 per year.

    What can I buy?

      Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 29, 2017

      Hi Bob!

      It sounds to me that you only need a basic phone or also known as a “feature” phone. :)

      You may stay on 3G handsets since you mostly use it for calls and texts.

      Take note this is only a handset, you need to buy a 3G or 4G compatible sim to use your new phone.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

    Default Gravatar
    JeffJune 12, 2017

    After a new one, intending to choose LG or HTC, was wondering what happened to Sony XZ or Z5 ?? Only asking as my old Z1 had an excellent camera, and curious if the new ones are any good.
    Thanks
    Jeff

      Default Gravatar
      DanielleJune 13, 2017

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. 😃

      I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly whether the new ones would be good or not as that will depend on your needs, preference, and budget.

      With this in mind, I suggest you read reviews for the upcoming phones. You may also be interested in reading our review pages for Sony XZ and Sony Z5.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

    Default Gravatar
    JohnMay 7, 2017

    Is there any news about a possible release of huawei mate 9 pro in Australia. If so when?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      DeeMay 8, 2017Staff

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your question.

      Huawei currently sells the Mate 9 outright in a dual SIM configuration through Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi for $999. If you prefer a phone on contract, the single SIM variant is offered by both Vodafone and Optus on 24-month contract terms. You can check our Huawei Mate 9 review to learn more about this product and related phone plans.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

Go to site