The best phones for 2021, tested by our expert reviewers

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. Google Pixel 6 Pro
  2. Apple iPhone 13 Pro
  3. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
  4. Google Pixel 6
  5. Apple iPhone 13
  6. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
  7. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
  8. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
  9. Apple iPhone SE 2020
  10. Apple iPhone 13 Mini

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.


Google Pixel 6 Pro

A superb combination of power, cameras and affordability

Google Pixel 6 Pro
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Smart, easy to use camera features
  • Great 120Hz display
  • Good battery life
  • 5G mmWave capable

Cons

  • Tensor processor doesn't quite live up to Google's lofty claims… yet
  • Slippery back is easy to drop
  • Odd volume/power keys arrangement

Why we chose it

Google's Pixel phones have always been good, but rarely have they been exceptional. That changes with the Google Pixel 6 Pro, the larger of Google's flagship phones for 2021. Its 6.7 inch 120Hz display is a joy to behold, and with variable refresh rates all the way down to 10Hz, it's also very capable of only sipping gently at its power, giving it superb battery endurance.

On the camera front, Google's dropped having single or even dual sensors in favour of a triple camera array matched up with some superb AI optimisations and smart, user-friendly features like the Magic Eraser for dropping photobombers and Motion modes for creative blurring.

The Pixel 6 Pro uses Google's own Tensor processor with a strong focus on machine learning, but at launch it's a mixed affair in terms of overall power. Other phones do outpace it in CPU terms, although it's the best GPU performer we've seen in a flagship Android phone this year. Google's primary pitch around Tensor that's exclusive to the Pixel 6 Pro is on-device language translation. Like much machine translation there are gaps in its performance, but it's totally adequate for essential communications. Speaking of communication, it's also the first mmWave-capable 5G phone to hit Australian shores. You probably don't live within speaking distance of an existing mmWave tower, but it's great to have future proofing in a flagship phone.

While it is a flagship, you could be fooled by the asking price, which starts at a modest – by flagship standards -- $1299. That's Google's not-so-secret weapon and a key reason why it sits on top of our best phone chart. It's powerful, the cameras are great, you get Android updates first and it's cheaper than the competition. There's really very little not to like here.

Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review.


Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Top performance and camera smarts.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Powerful camera array
  • A15 Bionic is insanely fast
  • ProMotion screen is gorgeous

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No supplied charger
  • Not the best battery life on an iPhone

Why we chose it

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is easily Apple's best phone of 2021, and it'd give the Pixel 6 Pro a run for its money if it weren't for the notable price gap between the two handsets. If you're firmly in the iOS camp, this is the phone for you.

Apple typically has left the very best features of its smartphones for its full size Pro Max phones, but that's not the way Cupertino bounced in 2021. Instead, the iPhone 13 Pro has the same processor and critically the exact same cameras as the bigger Pro Max, making for a more affordable (while still pricey) iPhone that's arguably easier to shoot stills and video with than its larger sibling.

Design-wise the iPhone 13 Pro is very much your classic iPhone, with only small changes such as a reduced size FaceID notch at the front and slight rearrangement of the side button positioning making it different from last year's iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12. You do get a slightly more limited range of colours compared to the regular iPhone 13, although this does include the exclusive Sierra Blue colour if you prefer light blue hues on your phone of choice.

You get the benefits of Apple's dynamically refreshing "ProMotion" screen, a triple lens camera array that delivered superb results in our camera tests and the best processor in a 2021 phone to date.

There's no denying that the Apple iPhone 13 Pro is a pricey prospect, but if you're after the best phone you can buy in Australia right now, this is it.

Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

A superb – but not inexpensive – smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Flexible and capable cameras
  • Delightful 120Hz display
  • S-Pen compatibility
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • S-Pen isn’t standard
  • Australia gets the weaker Exynos model (again)
  • AI focus can go off-track
  • No included charger or headphones
  • No storage expansion

Why we chose it

Samsung's 2021 flagship had held our top spot for most of 2021, despite being released relatively early in the year. It's still a great phone, and in any other year we might have seen an even better Note variant later in the year, but that wasn't the way Samsung positioned its 2021 flagships. If you're after an Android flagship and you like the way Samsung positions not only its software but also hardware it's a good choice, especially because we're seeing more units sell at significant discounts as we await the expected debut of the Galaxy S22 line in early 2022.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is 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 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.

Read our comprehensive Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review


Google Pixel 6

Flagship performance at that critical sub-$999 price point

Google Pixel 6
Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Good price
  • Great camera
  • Excellent battery

Cons

  • No telephoto lens is a bummer
  • No Face Unlock
  • Seems too easy to damage

Why we chose it

We're seemingly never seeing the Pixel 5a here in Australia, and with stocks of the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G dwindling to nearly nothing, you've got a single choice when it comes to more affordable Pixel phones in Australia.

Luckily, it's a very good one. The Pixel 6 takes the same design cues (and the same Tensor processor) as its bigger sibling, the Pixel 6 Pro, and boils it down into a smaller and somewhat more hand-friendly 6.4 inch frame. It's notable for selling at just under $999 at launch, which means you're getting most of a flagship phone for around half the price of Samsung or Apple's flagships.

The Pixel 6 benefits from being an in-house Google phone, because you get the benefits of clean Android, 3 years of OS upgrades and a hefty 5 years of security upgrades as well. That's a beautiful peace of mind you don't get with too many other Android brands. However, it's worth considering if your budget can stretch just that little bit further to the Pixel 6 Pro, because there are some limitations on the Pixel 6. There's no telephoto lens, the display is 90Hz as distinct from 120Hz dynamic on the Pixel 6 Pro, and it's only using an older sub-6Ghz 5G modem, which means it'll never be as fast on 5G networks as the mmWave-capable Pixel 6 Pro.

Read our comprehensive Pixel 6 review here.


Apple iPhone 13

Compact and powerful, without sacrificing battery life.

Apple iPhone 13
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • A15 Bionic processor
  • Great battery life
  • Range of colour choices

Cons

  • Only a dual lens camera
  • Still stuck with the Lightning connector
  • Fixed storage

Why we chose it

Australians love iPhones, and have ever since the second generation of Apple's revolutionary smartphones landed on our shores. While the Pro phones are the go-to option if you want the best of the best, if your budget can't quite stretch that high, then the regular iPhone 13 is still a very compelling option.

You get the power of Apple's exemplary A15 Bionic processor, and while it's down one GPU core from the Pro models, it's still the equivalent of strapping a rocket engine to your car, because this thing is seriously powerful. Apple's iOS continues to be a guided joy to use for most users, and honestly there's not much that taxes the A15 Bionic just yet, which means that an investment in an iPhone 13 is one that you should be able to use for years to come.

Speaking of longevity, the iPhone 13 also impresses us with its battery life. Despite being the same size as the iPhone 13 Pro, it has a larger internal battery and tends to offer better battery life in real world testing scenarios. For the longest time iPhones were the joke of the phone battery world – but no more.

There are some disappointments, some expected and some not. You don't get a charger, and storage expansion is off the menu. You're also stuck with just wide and ultra wide cameras, and while they do shoot quite well in most situations – you can check out our iPhone 13 camera shootout comparison here – that's still limiting for what is a premium-priced handset.

Read our detailed iPhone 13 review here.


Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple's biggest phone has astonishing battery life… for a price.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • A15 Bionic smokes the competition
  • Big, beautiful ProMotion display

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • No included charger
  • Large size won't suit everyone

Why we chose it

Apple's biggest and most expensive iPhone really needs to justify its asking price, especially with competition not only from Google and Samsung but also from the cheaper iPhone 13 models, and especially the iPhone 13 Pro.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max features Apple's 120Hz capable "ProMotion" display, and there's a solid argument that to make the most of high refresh rates, you need a big screen to look at them on. At 6.7 inches, there simply isn't a bigger or better iPhone display.

The Apple A15 Bionic continues Apple's dominance of the mobile phone processor space as well, putting an even wider performance gap between iOS and its Android counterparts in a straight line benchmark sense. There's not a whole heaping load of apps that absolutely need that power, mind you, but it gives the iPhone 13 Pro Max plenty of performance breathing room for years to come.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max also sees a very nice bump in camera capabilities, with some of the best low light and macro shooting performance we've seen out of any handset to date. It's also provided with the biggest battery in any iPhone, and while that big old screen does suck up the electrons, it's still the iPhone with the best battery life as a result.

So why isn't it higher on our list? It's a matter of price and comparison. You can't walk away with an iPhone 13 Pro Max for less than $1849 at minimum – and a whopping $2719 if you want the 1TB variant – and outside battery, all of its features exist in the smaller and more affordable (relatively speaking) iPhone 13 Pro. The smaller model will also suit more hands, pockets and purses, because some people really don't like the heft of a big phone.

If big iPhones are what turns you on, however, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a very nice proposition.

Read our in-depth iPhone 13 Pro Max review here


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

If you want innovation in your smartphone, the Z Fold 3 is the phone for you.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Improved durability
  • Tablet display allows easy multitasking
  • Good app performance
  • S-Pen capable

Cons

  • Still expensive
  • Samsung does better cameras on the S21 Ultra 5G
  • Not all S-Pens work
  • Unusual pocket shape
  • Battery life isn't great

Why we chose it

Samsung has been the primary driver in smartphone innovation in recent years thanks to its annual upgrades to its foldable phone families. With the Galaxy Z Fold 3, it's showing serious signs of maturity, delivering a hybrid smartphone and tablet that is genuinely useful and good from its front display through to its interior tablet one. The addition of S-Pen support adds a lot of possibilities around what you can do with that internal screen, too, although it's annoying that an S-Pen isn't included and older S-Pens may not work on its display.

Toughness has long been a criticism of the foldables market, and while Samsung hasn't 100% solved for this, the fact that the Z Fold 3 is IP rated for water is a big step in the right direction. The internal display is also tougher, but that screen crease is still a fact of life, and it is worth bearing in mind that any premium non-foldable phone will be tougher than the Z Fold 3.

While Samsung has dropped pricing generation on generation for its foldables, you do still pay a premium for them. It's a little disappointing that while it has some fancy tech like an in-display camera, so there's no "holepunch", at the rear its camera array lags behind the quality of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. Then again, if you fold the S21 Ultra 5G in half, you're both Superman and the owner of a broken smartphone.

Read our full Galaxy Z Fold 3 review here


Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

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

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Great app performance
  • Good low light camera
  • Flexible shooting for video or stills
  • Range of colour choices

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • 5G model carries a stiff price premium
  • 4G model uses a lower spec processor

Why we chose it

It's genuinely surprising that Samsung hasn't updated 2020's Galaxy S20 FE in over a year, but it's also a sign of just how good it is that while we're keenly waiting to see the Galaxy S21 FE, we're still heartily recommending its predecessor.

The good news here is that its older status, along with the fact that it was always a more "affordable" Galaxy phone option means that you really can grab the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE for some bargain prices right now.

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 was arguably Samsung's best 2020 handset, and one of the best value propositions in the phone space overall for now.

There are some caveats here, however. Samsung's newer 2021 A-series handsets offer much of the feature set at lower prices, although with their own compromises on board. Speaking of compromise, it's worth noting that the 4G model is cheaper, but it does drop down to a slower and less impressive Exynos processor.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.


Apple iPhone SE (2020)

Get on board with iOS for a lot less with the iPhone SE 2020.

Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Apple A13 processor is very powerful
  • A lower cost entry point for iOS phones
  • Small size is easy to carry

Cons

  • Only a single lens camera feels cheap
  • Low light shooting is poor
  • Battery life is sub-par

Why we chose it

The arrival of the iPhone 13, and particularly the smaller iPhone 13 Mini, puts a lot of focus on the affordability of Apple's popular smartphones. While the Mini is powerful, we can't call any phone that sells for over $1,000 truly "affordable", but for that need, there's the iPhone SE 2020.

For lots of people, what they want out of a smartphone can be defined as "an iPhone". The problem there is that Apple's range of current models tends towards the very expensive, and many of us are working with ever more constrained budgets these days.

Enter the iPhone SE 2020, which is what happens when Apple takes the core of an iPhone 8 and straps a rocket to its internals, in the form of the Apple 13 Bionic. Apple has faster processors in pricier phones it's true, but the A13 Bionic can fly through just about any app need you've got, while giving you easy access to the app store and the wider Apple ecosystem. You even get TouchID if you're not a fan of Apple's FaceID biometrics!

On the downside, because it's basically just an iPhone 8 with a rocket inside it, it burns through its battery pretty quickly, and the design does look rather dated. Apple won't say, but it's feasible there could be an updated iPhone SE model coming, though we wouldn't expect to see that before early to mid 2022 at this stage.

Still, if you're after a new iPhone that won't break the bank, this is the model to buy.

Read our full iPhone SE 2020 review here.


Apple iPhone 13 Mini

Apple's smallest new phone has surprising power.

Apple iPhone 13 Mini
Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • A15 Bionic processor
  • Range of colour choices
  • It's really small and easy to handle

Cons

  • Small screen limits display possibilities
  • Battery life suffers relative to other iPhone 13 models
  • Dual lens at this price isn't great

Why we chose it

If you simply can't handle the size of the iPhone 13 Pro Max or iPhone 13 Pro/iPhone 13, Apple still has a model of iPhone 13 to sell you. That's the iPhone 13 Mini, and rarely has a phone had a more descriptive suffix. With just a 5.4-inch display, this is a tiny phone, albeit a very colourful one with a lot of choices to make in terms of final finish.

It's also basically just an iPhone 13 in a tiny shell casing, but that brings with it both features and limitations. You get the same excellent power of the A15 Bionic on board, and there's nothing in Android land that can match it, but on a smaller screen and with a smaller battery as a result, you also get more limited battery life.

It's also just running with dual wide and ultra-wide cameras, and that can't help but feel a little poor in what is still a premium-priced handset. Apple of course wants you to pony up the extra cash for the Pro models. Experiences can vary, but the Mini can also be a little tricky to shoot stills and video with thanks to that smaller size, as it's trickier to place your hands correctly.

Still, if you want a pocket rocket of a phone and the iPhone SE 2020 won't meet your needs, the iPhone 13 Mini is the way to go.

Read our full Apple iPhone 13 Mini review here


Compare the best phones of 2021

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
Google Pixel 6 Pro
6.71
inches

1440 x 3120

  • Display

    6.71 inches

    1440 x 3120

  • Rear camera

    50MP + 12MP + 48MP
  • Battery size

    5,003 mAh
50MP + 12MP + 48MP
5,003
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 13 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
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
Google Pixel 6
6.4
inches

1080 x 2400

  • Display

    6.4 inches

    1080 x 2400

  • Rear camera

    MP + 50MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,524 mAh
N/A
4,524
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 13
6.1
inches

2532x1170

  • Display

    6.1 inches

    2532x1170

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
12MP + 12MP
N/A
View details
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
6.7
inches

2778 x 1284

  • Display

    6.7 inches

    2778 x 1284

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,352 mAh
12MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,352
mAh
View details
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
7.6
inches

2208x1768

  • Display

    7.6 inches

    2208x1768

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,400 mAh
12MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,400
mAh
View details
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (2021)
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (2021)
inches
  • Display

    inches

  • Rear camera

    MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
N/A
N/A
Not yet rated
View details
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
4.7
inches

1334 x 750

  • Display

    4.7 inches

    1334 x 750

  • Rear camera

    12MP
  • Battery size

    1,821 mAh
12MP
1,821
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 13 Mini
5.4
inches

2340x1080

  • Display

    5.4 inches

    2340x1080

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
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.

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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
      danielle.valino@findercrew.comJune 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

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