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5 smartphones to look out for in 2021

The hottest phones to watch next year.

With new iPhones, a new Samsung Galaxy S range, foldable devices and plenty more innovation besides, 2021 is shaping up to be quite a year in terms of mobile devices. But what should you be looking out for? What will be different about them? And when can you expect these innovations to land?

We’ll gaze into our crystal ball and see what the next 12 months have in store. Remember, you read it here first…

Oppo Find X3

You may not have heard of Oppo, but its Find X2 handsets (all four of them) were some of the finest of 2020. The Chinese brand has built a good reputation for making hardworking phones across a range of price brackets, so we’re excited to see what the Find X3 has in store.

One thing’s for certain – it will feature Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 5G chipset. (We know because Oppo has announced it.) This will make it one of the first phones to feature this brand new chipset, which should make it one of the most powerful flagships around.

It will also feature Oppo’s Full-Path Colour Management System, which Oppo has also previously announced. This will provide better colour temperatures and all-round visual performance.

Oh, and the Find X3 will be 5G, too, and will launch in the first three months of 2021.

That’s what we know for sure. But what are we hoping for? Leaks point to a 3K screen, dual-lens camera system and fast charging capabilities. Definitely one to watch next year.

Samsung Galaxy S21


This year has been one of the most unpredictable on record, so it’s heartening to see that some things never change. Just as the clocks always go forward in spring, Samsung always launches a new Galaxy S handset in the first half of the year. And next year looks to be no different.

The Galaxy S21 range looks like comprising the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra. Rumours are rife that the phones will hit shops on Friday 5th March, but some say Samsung will announce the handsets way before then, possibly as early as 14th January! Pre-orders could even go live that very day. That’s nearly two months in advance. Expect the hype to reach fever pitch by the time the phones actually go on sale.

So what can we expect from the phones themselves?

Analysts predict Samsung could drop the price of the standard S21 to account for the economic fallout of the global pandemic. It could sell for around £800, which would be a smart move, as Apple’s iPhone 12 current starts at just £699 and the Google Pixel 5 costs £599. Samsung will have to find savings somewhere if it wants to stay competitive.

Screens are always a highlight of the Galaxy S range. Next year’s S21 is said to sport a 6.2-inch screen, the S21 Plus a 6.7-incher and the S21 Ultra a 6.8-incher.

All three are said to be 120Hz panels, but only the S21 Ultra is thought to offer Samsung's 'adaptive refresh' LTPO panel, as found on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. This would allow the S21 Ultra to deliver up to a 1600-nit peak brightness, 200 nits more than the S20 Ultra. You might need to wear sunglasses to use it.

Razor-thin bezels are a dead cert, making the phone’s front practically all screen. And we can expect the punch hole camera to remain a fixture for now. The S21 could also work with Samsung’s S Pen stylus, which so far has been the sole preserve of the firm’s Galaxy Note series.

On the camera front, expect the S21 to have the same arrangement as the S20. But the S21 Ultra should be a step up. We’re expecting a second-gen take on the 108-megapixel snapper found in the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra, plus a 3x optical telephoto sensor and a 10x optical telephoto sensor.

Expect more power, longer battery life, and possibly 65W charging speeds for quicker juicing up. Samsung should also launch the Galaxy Buds Pro true wireless earbuds alongside the new handsets. Roll on the new year.

Pre-order the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

Pre-order the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

Pre-order the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 21

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 FE

Or not. According to a recent Reuters report, Samsung is considering canning the Note line-up next year. This would be the first time it hasn’t launched a new Note since the range launched in 2011.

This is apparently due to a “steep drop” in demand for high-end phones during the coronavirus pandemic. The S Pen stylus will live on, however. Samsung is said to be making the accessory compatible with its new S21 range, and its foldable phones. It’s also thought to be ploughing the R&D budget for the Note 21 into its foldables, which could speed up development considerably.

Its foldables currently include the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Z Fold 2. So far, they’ve been held back by malfunctioning mechanisms and high prices, but if Samsung can sort these two big hurdles to adoption, we could see its foldables become a really compelling proposition during 2021. So maybe the Note won’t be missed so much after all.

iPhone 13


Could it be unlucky 13 for Apple in 2021? Or, more likely, will we see the iPhone take one of its biggest steps forward in its 13-year history next year?

The big word is wireless. The iPhone has had wireless charging for a while now, but 2021 could see the first ever completely wireless iPhone. That’s thanks to Apple’s MagSafe magnetic tech. This makes it much easier to correctly position a wireless charger, as it just snaps into place. Plus it makes wireless charging much quicker than previously possible.

So who needs a Lightning port? That could be Apple’s thinking, as it’s rumoured to want to drop the port altogether from the iPhone 13 range in favour of completely wireless charging.

The benefits could be twofold. Not only would it allow the iPhone to be slimmer, as it would need fewer internal components to connect to a wired charger, but it would also make it easer to waterproof, as there would be no port to let water in.

Apple has previous in this regard. It was the first firm to drop the headphone port from its handsets. While it prompted outcry from customers upset at having to buy a new pair of headphones, the rest of the industry duly followed suit. The same could soon happen with charging ports…

ZTE Axon 20

ZTE is another Chinese phone maker that has flown under the radar on these shores. But it’s also one of the most innovative mobile companies around.

Take the Axon 20. It’s the first phone with a front-facing camera built under the screen. That means no unsightly camera-housing notch or pinhole in the display itself, making for an uninterrupted viewing experience.

And what a viewing experience it will be. The screen is a 6.92-inch FHD+ OLED number, that uses a combination of materials, display syncing and a “special matrix” to hide a 32-megapixel selfie camera.

Admittedly it launches on 21st December, so 2020 rather than next year. But it’s sure to pave a way forward for more phones to launch next year with cameras built under the screens themselves.

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