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There are more smartphones available than ever before, but many of the best phones have high price tags to match. Flagship phone pricing tends to start at $999 outright or above these days, with some models costing more than $2,000. If you're going to spend that kind of money, you want to make sure that you're getting good value.
That's where we can help you because every phone in this list has undergone our rigorous review process. We consider build quality, screen performance, camera features and output, application performance, network performance and battery life across multiple real-world tests and benchmarks to give us a true comparative picture of smartphone performance
When you're shopping for your next smartphone upgrade at these price points, it's vital that you consider your specific needs. The premium space is typically where you'll find the best cameras, but if you rarely need pin-sharp shots in the dark, you may be better suited to a mid-range or budget handset instead. That's because the smartphone market is very mature now, and the quality you can get at lower price points has gone up markedly.
There are still features you'll only find in premium phones, however, whether it's the fastest 5G performance, folding screens, multiple telephoto lenses with significant zoom or the highest storage and RAM capacities.
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, which is exclusive to the Pixel 6 Pro, is its 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 – $1,299. 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.
The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is easily Apple's best phone of 2021. Apple's also the brand that took out the award as the highest rated mobile phone brand in the 2021 Finder Retail Awards (https://www.finder.com.au/mobile-phones#awards).
It doesn't quite take the number one spot thanks to its price point relative to the Pixel 6 Pro, but if you're firmly in the iOS camp, this is the phone upgrade you want to get.
Apple has typically 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 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 uses an iPhone design. There are 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.
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.
All the signs are pointing to a late February or early March arrival for the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G(https://www.finder.com.au/samsung-galaxy-s22), which will replace the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G in Samsung's hierarchy – and most likely in our best phones list as well.
However, in the meantime, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G deserves consideration, especially if you can score one at a discounted price.
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 its hardware, it's a good choice.
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. Again, we're expecting to see more movement in the Note space with the S22 Ultra handset, so if that's important to you, maybe wait a while.
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
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.
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 great choice.
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 phone 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 impressed 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. 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'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, 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 $1,849 at a minimum – and a whopping $2,719 if you want the 1TB variant – and outside of the 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.
However, if big iPhones are what turns you on, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a very nice proposition.
Read our in-depth iPhone 13 Pro Max review here
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. The addition of S-Pen support adds a lot of possibilities around what you can do with that internal screen, but 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 "hole punch", the rear 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
The Oppo Find X3 Neo 5G isn't Oppo's current flagship phone – that's the rather more expensive Oppo Find X3 Pro with its fancy microscope camera – but for my money, I'd buy the Oppo Find X3 Neo first.
Why? While you don't get the microscope camera, it's ultimately a novelty inclusion where the Find X3 Neo plays more to Oppo's strengths in the general camera market. It also doesn't hurt any that it's a considerably less expensive proposition, although one that you'd have to weigh up against phones such as the Google Pixel 6 (and slightly less so for the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (https://www.finder.com.au/samsung-galaxy-s21-fe-5g-review)).
The Snapdragon 865 processor that runs the Oppo Find X3 Neo isn't the fastest in the market, but it's plenty powerful enough for most Android apps as well. Oppo's ColorOS launcher is a somewhat divisive matter; some may like its simple and very bright interface, while others might be concerned about the heavy level of permissions it wants for basic apps. Being Android, it's not too tricky to change those out if you're so inclined.
Battery life in our tests was only middling, especially on power-sapping 5G, although you do get the benefit of Oppo's very fast VOOC wired charging when you need to top it up.
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 here 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 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.
If you simply can't handle the size of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro or 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 the 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 display size, battery, overall rating and purchasing options of each phone in the table below. (Click on "View details" for more product specifications.)
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
We've assembled this list based on the extensive reviewing that we do on every phone made available to us for review, which is the vast majority of handsets that Australians can actually buy.
Each phone is tested and has its own review at Finder, and when assembling this list, we take into consideration not only the review and handset itself but also its position in the market at the point of time of writing. There are always newer and faster handsets emerging in the best phones space, but it's not just a question of having the fastest processor.
We also evaluate the shortcomings of each handset, including any issues found with displays, cameras, application performance, software updates or battery life.
The final step is to evaluate the phone based on typical market pricing. Over time, most Android phones tend to dip in price, while it's much rarer to see true bargains for Apple iPhone handsets while they're still sold as the current flagship model. We leave price until last because, while it's probably the first detail you think of, pricing shifts over time, so it's entirely feasible that a phone that was "expensive" at one time becomes more "affordable" over time – and as a result better value. However, its core feature set, examined above won't markedly change beyond perhaps an operating system update or two.
We constantly review new smartphones as they become available and update this list based on new models and whether they're worthy of inclusion in this list. If a phone sits in our best phones list, you can be assured that it's a quality model. It's always worth reading our full reviews of each handset before making your purchase decision because everyone's needs, wants and budgets will be slightly different.
Because smartphones are an ingrained part of pretty much everyone's life right now, the odds are good that if you're looking to buy a new mobile phone, it's because it's an upgrade from your existing handset. Here's what you should consider when picking between the best phones – or indeed any mobile phone handset you might want to buy.
Many premium phones opt for very large screens, typically 6.5 inches or more. You get a lot more display, which is great for games or Netflix binges, but you do need to weigh that up – quite literally. A larger phone won't suit smaller hands, and it's also going to be heavier to hold for longer periods of time. Thankfully, there are some smaller but still powerful options available, so if you do want to go compact, consider models like the iPhone 13 Mini or Google Pixel 6.
In the flagship space, you absolutely should also expect a high-resolution screen with a high refresh rate. Most flagships are now offering 120Hz refresh rates, which means you'll get silky-smooth screen scrolling on web pages and faster response times for your taps, although this can impact battery life.
Lots of manufacturers will try to dazzle you with big megapixel counts on their smartphone cameras, especially in the premium space. Good photo quality is a lot more than just having a high MP count, however.
If you're paying premium money, you should be getting a range of sensors, including portrait, landscape, zoom and possibly even a bit more to play with. Basic daytime photos can be handled quite well by mid-range phones, so the premium space has picked up its game a lot with features like extensive optical zoom lenses as well as low light and astrophotography options.
There's also more of a focus on artificial intelligence to enhance your photos as you're taking them, using the power of the high-end processors to sharpen focus and enhance colours even in tricky situations. Again, our reviews look to test these features out to see how they compare, so it's well worth reading reviews of multiple handsets at Finder to make sure you're getting the camera that truly meets your needs.
Every year, flagship phones get slightly faster processors, and there's no doubt that if you're spending premium money that's what you want. However, not all phones use that power equally, as we find in both benchmarks and day-to-day usage.
The reality here again is that, for most users, the power of a mid-range phone is generally "enough" for tasks like web browsing, mobile games and social media. Flagship phones tend to be more responsive simply because they've got more gas in the tank to handle keeping multiple apps updating in the background while you use your phone. Many Android handsets in the flagship space also offer a lot more RAM, which gives them breathing room for app multitasking and complex mobile games. It's not the same story on the iPhone side of the fence, but there Apple's strong control over both hardware and software often makes this moot.
You don't have to worry too much these days about phones being locked to specific carriers like you used to, although if you do get your phone through a telco, you'll still have to pay it off if you do jump contracts and carriers.
However, at the circuit level, not all phones, even in the flagship space are born equal. In the premium space, you absolutely should expect 5G compatibility built in. To date, however, only one handset – the Google Pixel 6 Pro – has offered 5G using both sub 6Ghz and mmWave frequencies. Why does this matter? Because mmWave is where 5G speeds seriously ramp up into the stratosphere, at least in theory. Of course, if there's no 5G signal where you live, work and play, or your phone contract doesn't include 5G access, it's less relevant.
Most phone makers will list either a battery-life figure in mAh or an "up to" battery-life figure.
There are problems with both of these figures. Some phones have huge battery tanks – the mAh number's typically around 4,500mAh-6,000mAh – but drink up their electrons like they're dying of thirst. Others offer more moderate battery tanks but use clever power-saving techniques to last a whole lot longer.
Manufacturer "up to" claims are often, to put it politely, a little optimistic. Any figure that's "up to" can always include much lower ranges, after all.
That's why we put all our reviewed phones through a range of battery-life scenarios, with a comparative test and day-to-day usage considered when we evaluate battery life. It's especially important in the 5G era because 5G access is an absolute battery hog. If 5G is an important part of your smartphone buying equation, opt for a phone that tests well for battery life – you'll need it.
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