The Best Smartphones Of 2021 Ranked

Love it or hate it, Apple makes great products. Samsung was a strong competitor this year, launching high-end smartphones of both the folding and non-folding variety, but the company still hasn’t managed to outdo Apple at what Apple does best: offer a tightly integrated, cohesive, and highly useable ecosystem that seamlessly blends its own hardware, software, and services.

Buying an iPhone is more than just selecting iOS as your mobile operating system of choice. The handset works seamlessly with the Apple Watch, which itself still trumps anything you can get sporting Wear OS. In the same way, the iPhone works well with the iPad — which, again, exceeds any other tablet you can get for the simple reason that Android is entirely lacking on slates.

You don’t have to buy into the wider Apple ecosystem to get the iPhone, of course, and it’s possible the iPhone lacks a key feature you can’t live without, whether that’s a microSD card slot, built-in stylus, or 3.5mm audio jack. If you’re content with a phone that doesn’t include those finer trimmings, however, the iPhone 13 is worth serious consideration if you’re looking for a high-end upgrade.

The iPhone 13 line is comprised of the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. These models range in size from 5.4-inches to 6.7-inches, with the best features being found in the two Pro options.

The iPhone 13 Pro packs a Super Retina XDR screen with ProMotion and Ceramic Shield, an IP68 water resistance rating, Apple’s A15 Bionic chip, 5G support (including mmWave), ultra-wideband for using things like digital keys, Bluetooth 5, WiFi 6, and gigabit LTE.

Apple put a lot of focus on the cameras and related software with the iPhone 13 Pro. In terms of hardware, buyers get a “Pro” 12-megapixel camera system that includes wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto cameras. That is joined by the 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera on the front of the handset, which also powers the Face ID feature.

These cameras are joined by a variety of software features, including Apple’s new “Cinematic mode” for recording movie-like videos. This new mode includes support for the TrueDepth, wide, and telephoto cameras, as well as Dolby Vision HDR.

The iPhone 13 Pro’s camera features also include 6x optical zoom, 3x optical zoom for the telephoto lens specifically, support for macro video recording, improved low-light performance, “Photography Styles,” and what Apple describes as an end-to-end workflow directly on the phone that includes editing in ProRes and Dolby Vision.

Not interested in Apple products? Fortunately, several excellent Android alternatives were released this year.