The most anticipated smartphones of 2021

UPDATED: The Pixel 5a is officially coming... just not to the UK

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 the Samsung Galaxy S21 already old news, plus leaks and rumours pointing to big new phones from all of the other major makers. We’re sure to see 5G support in nearly every noteworthy release, including in more and more phones further down the price scale. 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.

Apple iPhone 13

It’s early days still, what with the excellent iPhone 12 (shown) just launching a few months back, but there are already several leaks and rumours about what to expect from the iPhone 13.

Multiple reports from the supply chain suggest 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. A grippier matte backing is also rumoured, but potentially only for the Pro models (it's unclear).

We could also see the sensor-shift optical image stabilisation from the iPhone 12 Pro Max extend out to the full iPhone 13 line, along with an improved ultra-wide camera and added astrophotography smarts. 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 - rumours suggest it will, along with an always-on display (as seen in a concept render up top). There's talk of a 1TB storage option, too, which would double the current peak available on the iPhone 12 Pro.

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.

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. While earlier concept renders didn't show much variance for Huawei's upcoming flagship, the latest round from reliable leaker OnLeaks are quite different.

Just check out that eye-popping camera module on the back. It's like a super-sized version of a usual double-stack module, with two extra-large circles. The concept renders don't show any detail, but we suspect that they may house more than one camera within each. After all, the P40 Pro had four rear cameras and the P40 Pro+ had five, so having just two on the P50 Pro would be very surprising indeed. On the other hand, a previous leak suggested the first-ever 1in mobile camera sensor made by Sony, so anything's possible.

We’ll surely see Huawei’s Kirin 9000 5G processor and some seriously great cameras too, but if nothing changes with the United States’ restrictions on Huawei pretty quickly, then there still won’t be Google apps and services onboard. In any case, we're looking forward to seeing how the camera situation pans out.

Google Pixel 5a

Things got a bit confusing between the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5, all launching in the later months of last year, especially with the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 boasting a lot of similarities. And things might get even more perplexing with the rumoured launch of the Pixel 5a.

That’s a concept render above from OnLeaks, and if you thought it was just the Pixel 4a 5G, well… we get it. There are no obvious differences that we can see, so maybe Google just found a design it really likes or the leaks just haven’t sprouted enough details yet.

Recent rumours suggested that Google had cancelled plans for the Pixel 5a due to the current chip shortage, but Google did a surprising thing: it confirmed that a Pixel 5a will release this year around the same time as last year's Pixel 4a (August), but that it will only release in the United States and Japan.

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 design allure while adding the S Pen and slot. The latest leaks suggest an under-display camera and a June or July release, as well.

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.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Finally! Xiaomi confirm some of the rumours we've seen scattered around the interwebs, most notably that the Xiaomi Mi 11 will have an additional 1.1in screen on the rear of the phone, plus a far-reaching 120x camera zoom.

It doesn't stop there. The Mi 11 Ultra comes with the fastest charging we've seen on any smartphone, along with a 6.8in AMOLED main display, and one helluva camera bump  it resembles a sun lounger with a build-in head rest. There's a 50MP main camera, joined by a 48MP ultra-wide camera, plusa 48MP telephoto camera offering 10x optical zoom and a whopping 120x digital zoom and Xiaomi claim it's capable of 8K video recording. There's a 20MP selfie camera too. 

Other confirmed specs include a monster 5000mAh battery and it charges 67W both wired and wireless, plus reverse charging is on board. A Snapdragon 888 processor sits at its core and sound is cared for by Harman Kardon.

What we don't know? The price of course, but we bet you it ain't cheap. 

Xiaomi are full of announcements and the most bittersweet is the arrival of the Mi Mix Fold, the companies first foldable phone which uses a liquid lens lens camera, so like the human eye, it can change shape depending on the subject matter. The bitter part being, that it's launching in China only.



Our 2021 phone reviews

Here’s a quick look at the 2021 phones we’ve already reviewed. Click the link on each to read the full, scored appraisal!

OnePlus 9 ProOnePlus's best camera phone to date with top performance and style too, why only a 4,500 mAh battery, though!?

Oppo Find X3 Pro: Not the biggest brand, but this is a fantastic flagship with killer specs and a cool microlens perk.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G: A big, beastly phone with dazzling cameras - but more than you probably need.

Samsung Galaxy S21: The plastic backing is a downgrade, but this is a stylish, well-equipped handset.

OnePlus 9Camera upgrades balance out a design downgrade, but still a phone that's easy to recommend to most.

Xiaomi Mi 11: A slick flagship at a more palatable price, albeit with software and camera niggles.

Realme 8 Pro: A boldly-stylised budget flagship with a punchy screen and solid power. Great value!

Motorola Moto G30Low on power, but an incredible value - with a 90Hz screen, too!

Motorola Moto G9 Plus: Not as cheap, but a smoother overall experience at a good price.

Huawei Mate X2: An awesome foldable device, albeit one held back by the lack of Google services.

Motorola Moto G10: Shockingly cheap, but you should pay the £30 extra for the G30 instead.