There are some standout phones out right now, from the iPhone 13 family to the Samsung Galaxy S21 and everything in between. There have been Google Pixels, Sony Xperias, foldables, rugged phones and more, all vying for space in your pocket.
Join us as we run down the best smartphones to buy today, and take a look at what’s to come - 2022 is shaping up to be another vintage year for mobiles.
The iPhone 13 isn’t one of the best phones available, it’s four of the best. As usual, the range comprises four models – the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max – proving that there really is an iPhone for everyone.
Naysayers complained that this year’s model was really more of an iPhone 12S than iPhone 13, given that the improvements were fairly minor. But while minor, they still add up to making the best phone even better.
They include camera improvements like a Cinematic Mode that lets you shift focus, making videos more dramatic, a new, faster processor and a much-needed improved battery life.
Rumours abound that the iPhone 14 will be the real game changer, with an under-screen fingerprint sensor, no Mini variant and a smaller notch for the front-facing camera. But for now, the iPhone 13 will do us just fine.
Samsung Galaxy S21
Samsung usually launches its new Galaxy S phone in the first three months of the year, but until we see the S22 arrive, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is Samsung at the top of its game.
How? With a new processor, more advanced camera smarts and some well thought-out design tweaks. The S21 is more than capable, but if you want more power still – not to mention bigger screens – the S21+ and Ultra variants fit the bill. A superb all-rounder, and probably the best Android phone currently available.
Sony Xperia 1 III
Sony doesn’t get the same amount of coverage as Apple and Samsung, but it’s made some cracking phones of late. Its best? The Sony Xperia 1 III.
Odd name aside, it’s a beast of a phone, and possibly the best multimedia portable around right now. The screen packs a 120Hz refresh rate (ideal for rendering fast-moving games without blurring) along with a 4K resolution, giving you the ideal mobile cinema.
And it’s one of the few handsets to keep a headphone port, meaning you can use your trusty wired pair without shelling out for new wireless headphones. It’s not cheap, but if you prize picture and sound quality above all else, it’s the mobile for you.
Don’t want to spend that much? The Sony Xperia 5 II is a slightly smaller, cheaper alternative. Think of it as an Xperia 1 III Mini, if that’s not too much of a mouthful.
Google Pixel 6
Because the Pixel phones are made by Google (who also makes Android), they get the latest Android updates way ahead of other manufacturers’ phones. But that’s not the only reason they’re worth a look – they also pack some pretty awesome features into a package that’s not too pricey. The Google Pixel 6 starts at £599 – fantastic value for such a capable phone.
It features a new design (complete with a natty camera bar across the back), muted colours, top-notch screen and new, Google-made processor.
It also has some built-in AI smarts like offline translations for 55 languages (so you can get by abroad without racking up a huge roaming bill) and a feature that serves up apps you might find useful based on your location or situation (it’ll show your boarding pass when you get to the airport, for example). No wonder Google calls it the most helpful smartphone yet.
OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus started life calling itself a ‘flagship-killer’, the idea being it could offer high-end specs at midrange prices. That message became a little muddled when the firm started launching its own flagship phones, but with the Nord, it went back to basics, delivering a midrange phone that can take on the big boys.
The Nord launched last year, but the 2021 Nord 2 improves on it in almost every way. The battery goes for ages. The processor is plenty fast. And the camera produces some excellent shots. Sure, it lacks some flagship features like waterproofing and wireless charging, but if you can live without those, the Nord 2 is a lot of phone for not much money.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
It’s difficult to believe, but foldable phones have been around for a couple of years now. But thanks to high prices and some quality control issues (think cracking screens and dodgy hinges), they’ve not hit the mainstream.
While we wouldn’t say the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is quite ready for the mainstream just yet, it is the best foldable phone so far.
It’s more durable, and feels like it’ll survive everyday use, and it supports the S Pen stylus, giving it more features. It’s water-resistant too, so you don’t have to worry about a bit of the wet stuff breaking your expensive new toy.
Yes, expensive. Sadly it does still cost a pretty penny, but it’s such an improvement that early adopters won’t mind shelling out extra. All of which bodes very well indeed for the future of foldables.
How do you stand out from the smartphone crowd? By doing something no other phone can do, and doing it very well indeed. That’s the promise of the Doogee V10, a rugged phone that’s built to survive the elements.
Despite its tank-like build, it still packs some key smartphone specs like 5G and a 6-inch screen. And the battery is twice the size of some of its rivals. Extras like an infrared camera and very low price seal the deal.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Microsoft’s foldable opens like a book, runs Google’s Android operating system and has 5G connectivity. It supports a stylus for writing and drawing on-screen, has NFC for one-touch pairing, and has some pretty decent cameras. But it’s the hardware itself that impresses the most.
It feels built to last, which is not something too common to foldable phones. It feels so premium, we can even forgive the odd software bug.
Phones to look forward to in 2022
If the global events of the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that making predictions is a fool’s game. But that’s not so true in the world of smartphones. Here, the iPhone 14 follows the iPhone 13 as certainly as night follows day.
So which phones will we be getting excited about in the next 12 months? Which handsets will be vying for our attention, and what new specs and features will they offer? We’ve rounded up the best handsets set to land next year so you can look forward with at least a little bit of certainty.
Samsung Galaxy S22
One of the biggest phones of the year is also likely to be one of the first to launch. Samsung usually announces its new Galaxy S phones in the first three months of the year, and last year year, it went earlier than usual, unveiling the Galaxy S21 in mid-January. Which suggests 2022 will be only days old before we see the S22 break cover.
What can we expect? Plenty, if the rumours are on the money.
The S22 and S22 Plus are said to feature new 50-megapixel main cameras – not only can these capture 50-megapixel still images, they can also drop down to 12.5-megapixel pics through a process called ‘pixel-binning’. These lower-resolution snaps will take up less space on your phone, and have greater image brightness. Sounds like win-win to us.
Rumours are that the main S22 handsets will have five rear cameras, which should give you plenty of shooting options. But the S22 Ultra looks like the one to watch.
As the top-of-the-range model of the S22 family, it’s expected to resemble the now-discontinued Galaxy Note phones, with squared-off corners and a slot for the S Pen stylus. Seeing as Samsung didn’t launch a new Note device in 2021, it could be rolling the phone into the Galaxy S range to satisfy those missing their hit of Galaxy Note goodness. We should find out before too long...
The iPhone 13 was a case of evolution over revolution, but if the rumours are right, Apple’s next iPhone should have some major improvements.
Such as? The notch is for the bin, as Apple is set to introduce a hole punch front-facing camera instead, with the Face ID tech housed under the screen. A new processor should make it faster than ever, and the camera bump should be a thing of the past, as the rear lenses sit flush with the back of the phone.
We’re also expecting Apple to dump the Mini variant of the phone, meaning your only options are the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, or the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max. We’re not complaining...
iPhone SE 3
According to a recent report from market research firm TrendForce, the next version of Apple’s wallet-friendly iPhone SE should land in the first three months of 2022. The current model launched in April 2020, so the successor would follow on nearly two years later.
We're expecting a bigger screen, 5G support, the same A15 Bionic chip as the iPhone 13 and the usual iOS experience. And all for much cheaper than the latest iPhone. Where do we sign?
OnePlus started life as a niche alternative to mainstream mobiles – it was so alternative at first that you needed an invite to be able to buy one. Now its wares are stocked alongside major mobile players in the likes of John Lewis and Amazon. So what does it have in store for 2022?
The OnePlus 10 is thought to be the firm’s next flagship phone, and as such will command a premium price. It’s rumoured to launch in China at the start of the year, and the rest of the world around March or April.
One leak says it will have a 6.7-inch 1440 x 3216 screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and a 20:9 aspect ratio. It also posted some renders of the phone, which are apparently based on a photo of the device itself.
Like the OnePlus 9 before it, it should be joined by a bigger, more powerful Pro variant too. Exciting.
Google Pixel Fold
For most of 2021, rumours swirled that Google would launch a foldable Pixel phone before the end of the year. That didn’t happen, but those rumours haven’t gone away.
Its codename was said to be Passport, but its release name should be the Pixel Fold. These leaked via internal documents from Google itself, which certainly lends them some credence.
Also fanning the rumours flames is Google’s Android 12L – this is an operating system designed specifically for big-screen devices like tablets and foldables. And how better to show it off than with a Google-made foldable phone?
Android 12L is scheduled to launch in full around March next year, so if Google is working on a foldable, expect to see it around then.
Microsoft Surface Duo 3
The Surface Duo 2 is one of the most compelling foldable phones so far: a dual-screened, stylus-supporting beast of a mobile that improves on the original in pretty much every way. So hopes are high for a sequel coming in 2022.
Not much is known about the Duo 3 so far, or even if Microsoft is planning another instalment in the Duo line-up. Fingers crossed.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
FE stands for Fan Edition. For FE phones, Samsung boils down the best elements of a handset, strips out anything unnecessary, and sells it for a knockdown price. The S21 should be next to get the treatment.
We’re hoping Samsung will retain the S21’s excellent camera and screen, and maybe package it in a plastic housing as a way to cut costs. Expect supercar performance on a supermarket budget.
The Nokia 10 was originally planned to launch in 2019 – since then, word went suspiciously quiet on the device. It’s the follow-up to the Nokia 9 PureView, and the latest rumours say it could be renamed the Nokia X60.
Like the 9 PureView before it, it should be a flagship phone, packing 5G, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor and sapphire glass display and a stainless steel frame.
The 9 PureView features five rear cameras, so expect something special in the photography department from the Nokia 10. If it ever sees the light of day, that is.
Asus ROG Phone 6
Asus’ flagship gaming phone will enter its sixth generation next year, and the ROG 6 is shaping up to be the best yet.
As you would expect, it should pack some serious power. It’s mooted to boast the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, a ridiculously high touch sampling rate of 400Hz and near 7-inch screen. Gamers, this is the phone for you.
Huawei Mate 50
The Mate range is Huawei’s flagship family of smartphones, and is usually announced towards the end of the year. It’s rumoured to have the Kirin 9000 chipset, which is the same as the Mate 40 Pro. Hence it might not be that much of an upgrade.
It’s also thought to feature an ultra advanced display that varies its refresh rate depending on what’s on-screen. That means it can keep up with fast-moving content while preserving battery life when a lower refresh rate is adequate.