The pandemic might’ve slowed and stopped many things in 2020, but it didn’t prevent the tech world from pumping out a bunch of really stellar smartphones.
That trend looks to continue unabated into 2021, with leaks and rumours pointing to big new phones from all of the major makers. We’re sure to see 5G support in nearly every noteworthy release, including in more and more phones down the price scale, and we hope to see some really distinctive designs in the mix as well.
If you’re plotting an upgrade sometime this year, here’s a look at all of the big phones that are rumoured or leaked for this year so far. And stay tuned, as we’ll be updating this list with new entries and info over the course of the year, as well as with links to our reviews of released phones.
Samsung Galaxy S21
The Galaxy S21 doesn’t look like a total reinvention from the Galaxy S20, based on the leaked renders (via OnLeaks and WinFuture) we’ve seen so far, although the back camera module takes on a larger and more distinctive shape.
Leaks suggest that both the S21 and S21+ will drop down to Full HD+ panels for their 6.2in and 6.7in screens, respectively, while the 6.8in S21 Ultra will reportedly keep a QHD+ option while adding the ability to use a 120Hz refresh rate at the very same time. Previously, you had to choose between QHD+ and the speedier refresh rate.
They’ll be powerful flagships with great cameras too, no doubt, and leaks also point to the Galaxy S21 Ultra enabling S Pen support, with a specialised case coming with a slot for the stylus. The phone itself won’t have a slot for it, but in any case, it could spell the end of the Note line going forward.
The Galaxy S21 line will be announced at the Galaxy Unpacked event on 14 January, and we’d expect a release by the end of the month.
Apple iPhone 13
It’s early days still, what with the excellent iPhone 12 just launching a couple months back, but there are already some leaks and rumours about what to expect from the iPhone 13.
Mac Otakara reports from the supply chain that the iPhone 13 may feature a smaller notch — something that’s been rumoured since the iPhone X released, to no avail — but otherwise be pretty similar to the iPhone 12’s aesthetic.
We could also see the sensor-shift optical image stabilisation from the iPhone 12 Pro Max extend out to the full iPhone 13 line. And let’s hope that the rumoured 120Hz screen refresh rate that didn’t make the cut on the iPhone 12 shows up on the iPhone 13. Apple’s usual release window is in September, although the pandemic pushed the last one to October. We expect to see the iPhone 13 in the same kind of autumn window this year.
Motorola Moto G (2021)
Motorola has just announced its latest budget phones for 2021, and they’re keeping the same Moto G models and names as last time. They see a spec bump and some visual changes in the process, with fairly different configurations between the three of ‘em.
The Moto G Play is the entry-level model with a 6.5in 720p display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chip, a single back camera, and a huge 5,000mAh battery. It’ll sell for $169 in the States. The Moto G Power has a slightly larger 6.6in 720p screen, a faster Snapdragon 662 chip, a dual-camera setup with a 48MP main sensor, and the same 5,000mAh battery pack. That one goes for $199.
The Moto G Stylus, meanwhile, bumps up to a 6.8in 1080p screen with a Snapdragon 678, triple-camera setup, 128GB storage, and pop-out stylus (of course), but also a lesser battery at 4,000mAh. It’s priced at $299. The company also announced a Motorola One 5G Ace, its most affordable 5G phone at $399, packing a Snapdragon 750G and 6.7in 1080p screen.
They’re only announced for North America at this point, and will roll out in the US on 14 January. We’ll have to wait and see on global availability.
Huawei P50 Pro
Huawei appears poised to roll out a new P-series model this spring, with concept renders and leaks of the P50 Pro emerging of late. These glimpses suggest a phone that doesn’t visually deviate too much from its predecessor, with another waterfall-style screen onboard.
The biggest visual change on the front appears to come with a single, centered camera cutout in the screen, rather than a double-wide cutout in the left corner. We’ll surely see Huawei’s Kirin 1000 5G processor and some seriously great cameras too, but if nothing changes with the United States’ restrictions on Huawei in the coming months, then there still won’t be Google apps and services onboard.
Last year saw OnePlus entirely shed its “budget flagship” status with its priciest phones to date, then try to make up for it by rolling out mid-range and low-end models. It’ll be interesting to see how the company positions itself in 2021, and all eyes are on the OnePlus 9 to reassert the brand’s status as a fan favorite.
OnePlus CEO has stated on social media that the company is focused on improving the quality of its cameras this year, as that has long been the weakest point of the experience. A partnership with Leica has been rumoured, but there are mixed reports on that front.
The above OnePlus 9 Pro concept render from leaker OnLeaks shows how this year’s most premium model might look, with a 6.7in screen and a design borrowing from both the OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8T.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
With S Pen stylus support officially coming to other Samsung phones and the Note line rumoured to be phased out, could the foldable Galaxy Z Fold take up the mantle of Samsung’s super-luxe productivity phone?
Rumours point to an incoming Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 this year with an S Pen slot, and the inclusion makes sense: the huge, tablet-sized screen on the inside of the foldable phone is an excellent surface for on-the-go work needs. LetsGoDigital and ConceptCreator produced the above concept render, borrowing some of the Galaxy S21’s leaked design allure while adding the S Pen and slot.
Additionally, Samsung is rumoured to be preparing a more affordable Galaxy Z Fold model for 2021, potentially called the Galaxy Z Fold FE to follow in the footsteps of the budget-friendlier Galaxy S20 revision. We haven’t heard much chatter about how the purported FE version will cut corners to trim down the price, but leaving out the S Pen would make sense alongside some more modest spec and material choices.
We thought we’d see the successor to the Nokia 6.2 by now, but no such luck. However, a recent leak from OnLeaks showcases what looks to be the refreshed design, and we should see it before too long.
Expected to be released either as the Nokia 6.3 or 6.4 (should Nokia skip a digit), the new phone doesn’t look dramatically different, but the back camera module has a more distinctive ring-like look and OnLeaks says the fingerprint sensor sits in the power button on the right side of the screen now. Expect a larger 6.45in display this time around.