Best Smartphones For Every Budget And Use (As Of May 2021)

Date May 27, 2021
Blog category Mobile Phone
By Sieg C
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We're almost halfway through the year, and mobile manufacturers have graced us with their best tech so far! From big guys like Apple, Samsung, or Xiaomi, to emerging brands like Oppo, Vivo, or Asus, we’ve seen anywhere from futuristic gaming-focused designs to out of this world 120x zoom capability!

Strip all the bells and whistles and read beyond the spec sheet, which mobile phones bested the tough competition in their real-world capabilities? Are the numbers adding up to give you a beastly performance as advertised?

Check out the best of the best mobile phones released this 2021 to late 2020. To make this list more comprehensive, here are the best ones per category.

Note: Specs are from GSMArena.

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Best photo camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

From its 108MP main camera to its 100x space zoom, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t only sport flagship-level specs — it reflects real-world usage too! It has versatile shooters with a variety of features, perfect for both amateurs and professionals. This is paired with superior software processing capabilities to produce DSLR-grade photos.

Rear Camera Main lens 108 MP, f/1.8, 24mm, 1/1.33", 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
Periscopic lens 10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm, 1/3.24", 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
Telephoto lens 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm, 1/3.24", 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
Ultrawide lens 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 1/2.55", 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF
Extra features LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama
Front Camera Selfie lens 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm, 1/2.8", 0.7µm, PDAF
Extra features Auto-HDR

Best photo camera phone: Honourable mentions

Photos are always subjective, so there’s a big chance that you may not like the photos processed by Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. There are other just as capable and versatile shooters in the market.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

Rear Camera Main lens 12 MP, f/1.6, 26mm, 1.7µm, dual pixel PDAF, sensor-shift stabilization
Telephoto lens 12 MP, f/2.2, 65mm, 1/3.4", 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2.5x optical zoom
Ultrawide lens 12 MP, f/2.4, 120˚, 13mm, 1/3.6"
LiDAR sensor TOF 3D LiDAR scanner
Extra features Dual-LED dual-tone flash, HDR (photo/panorama)
Front Camera Selfie lens 12 MP, f/2.2, 23mm, 1/3.6"
Biometrics/depth sensor SL 3D
Extra features HDR

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Rear Camera Main lens 50 MP, f/2.0, 24mm, 1/1.12", 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
Periscopic lens 48 MP, f/4.1, 120mm, 1/2.0", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 5x optical zoom
Ultrawide lens 48 MP, f/2.2, 12mm, 128˚, 1/2.0", 0.8µm, PDAF
Extra features Dual-LED flash, HDR, panorama, 1.1” AMOLED selfie display
Front Camera Selfie lens 20 MP, f/2.2, 27mm, 1/3.4", 0.8µm
Extra features HDR, panorama

Vivo X60 Pro

Rear Camera Main lens 48 MP, f/1.5, 26mm, 1/2.0", 0.8µm, PDAF, gimbal stabilization
Telephoto lens 13 MP, f/2.5, 50mm, 1/2.8", 0.8µm, PDAF, 2x optical zoom
Ultrawide lens 13 MP, f/2.2, 120˚, 16mm
Extra features Zeiss optics, Pixel Shift, LED flash, HDR, panorama
Front Camera Selfie lens 32 MP, f/2.5, 26mm, 1/2.8", 0.8µm
Extra features HDR

Best video camera phone: iPhone 12 Pro Max

While its spec sheet isn’t as impressive as its competitors, iPhone 12 Pro Max still beats out its competitors when it comes to real-world footage! Its supreme software optimisation combined with capable hardware produces high-quality, stable, well-lit, and colour-accurate videos with up to 4k resolution at 60 frames per second.

Rear Camera Main cameras 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/120/240fps
Extra features 10‑bit HDR, Dolby Vision HDR, stereo sound recording
Front Camera Selfie camera 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/120fps
Extra features Gyro-EIS, stereo sound recording

Best video camera phone: Honourable mentions

You may also have different preferences when it comes to how you want their videos to look. Other smartphones may have a wide range of video profiles and approach for colours, highlights, shadows, stability, and sound recording.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Rear Camera Main cameras 8K at 24fps, 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/240fps, 720p at 960fps
Extra features HDR10+, stereo sound recording, gyro-EIS
Front Camera Selfie camera 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30fps
Extra features Dual video call

Google Pixel 5

Rear Camera Main cameras 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/120/240fps
Extra features Gyro-EIS
Front Camera Selfie camera 1080p at 30fps
Extra features Auto-HDR

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Rear Camera Main cameras 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/240fps
Extra features Gyro-EIS, HDR, 10‑bit video
Front Camera Selfie camera 1080p at 30fps
Extra features Panorama

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Best gaming smartphone: ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate

If you go big on gaming, ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is the best gaming smartphone currently available in the market. Just like its previous generations, it has a top-of-the-line processor and software, encased in a futuristic gaming design. Best of all, it has extra controls for gaming like pressure-sensitive zones, touch sensors, and ROG Vision.

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass Victus), back (Gorilla Glass 3), aluminium frame
Audio DTS:X stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, 24-bit/192kHz 
Gaming features Pressure-sensitive triggers, touch sensors, ROG Vision monochrome
Screen Size 6.78 inches, ~82.0% screen-to-body ratio
Display AMOLED, 800 nits (manual), 1200 nits (auto)
Resolution 1080 x 2448 pixels, 144Hz, HDR10+, ~395 PPI
Memory Chipset Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm)
OS Android 11 on top of ROG UI
ROM 512GB, non-expandable
RAM 18GB RAM, UFS 3.1 storage
Battery Type Li-Po 6000 mAh, non-removable
Charging Fast charging 65W, Reverse charging 10W
Extra features Power Delivery 3.0, Quick Charge 5

Best gaming smartphone: Honourable mentions

The mobile gaming industry has been consistently growing, so big brands manufacture their own version of competitive gaming phones. If ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate doesn’t fit your extreme gaming needs, here’s a list of honourable mentions:

Lenovo Legion 2 Pro

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass 5), glass back, aluminium frame
Audio Stereo speakers
Gaming features 2 built-in cooling fans, 6 pressure-sensitive triggers, 4 ultrasonic buttons, 2 capacitive sliding buttons
Screen Size 6.92 inches, ~82.3% screen-to-body ratio
Display AMOLED, 1300 nits (auto)
Resolution 1080 x 2460 pixels, 144Hz, HDR10+, ~388 PPI
Memory Chipset Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm)
OS Android 11 on top of Legion OS
ROM 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, non-expandable
RAM 8GB,12GB, 16GB, 18GB RAM, UFS 3.1 storage
Battery Type Li-Po 5500 mAh, non-removable
Charging Fast charging 65W (Single-port), Fast charging 90W (dual ports)

Xiaomi Black Shark 4 Pro

Body Build Unspecified
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, 24-bit/192kHz
Gaming features Physical pop-up gaming triggers
Screen Size 6.67 inches, ~85.8% screen-to-body ratio
Display AMOLED, 1300 nits (auto)
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, 144Hz, HDR10+, ~395 PPI
Memory Chipset Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm)
OS Android 11 on top of Joy UI 12.5
ROM 256GB, 512GB, non-expandable
RAM 8GB,12GB, 16GB, 18GB RAM, UFS 3.1 storage
Battery Type Li-Po 4500 mAh, non-removable
Charging Fast charging 120W

ZTE nubia Red Magic 6 Pro

Body Build Glass front, glass back, aluminium frame
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, 32-bit/384kHz
Gaming features 400Hz touch-sensing zones, built-in cooling fan
Screen Size 6.8 inches, ~85.1% screen-to-body ratio
Display AMOLED, 630 nits (manual)
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, 165Hz, 1B colours, ~387 PPI
Memory Chipset Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm)
OS Android 11 on top of Redmagic 4.0
ROM 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, non-expandable
RAM 12GB, 16GB, 18GB RAM, UFS 3.1 storage
Battery

Type Li-Po 4500 mAh, non-removable
Charging Fast charging 66W
Extra features Power Delivery 3.0, Quick Charge 5

Best mid-range smartphone: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

Saving a few bucks doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the powerful features of your smartphone. Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro boasts an impressive spec sheet that you see on some flagship smartphones like a high refresh rate and 108MP main camera. The best part is, it comes with a fraction of the price!

Body Build Front and back (Gorilla Glass 5), plastic frame
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, 24-bit/192kHz
Extra features IP53 protection, Infrared port, FM radio, Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Screen Size 6.67 inches, ~85.6% screen-to-body ratio, AMOLED, Up to 1200 nits
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, 120Hz, HDR10, ~387 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Qualcomm SM7150 Snapdragon 732G (8 nm), Android 11 on top of MIUI 12
Memory Up to 128GB, Up to 18GB RAM, microSDXC, UFS 2.2
Camera Rear Lens 108 MP (main), 8 MP (ultrawide), 5 MP (macro), 2 MP (depth)
Front lens 16 MP (selfie)
Extra features LED flash, HDR, panorama

Best mid-range smartphone: Honourable mentions

The mid-range smartphone market is very stiff, and the competition gets even tougher with the introduction of new phones. Manufacturers develop bang-for-the-buck smartphones, with some of them being less than $500! Check these honourable mentions for the mid-range smartphone sector in New Zealand this 2021.

Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass 6), plastic back
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, 24-bit/192kHz
Extra features Infrared port, FM radio, Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Screen Size 6.67 inches, ~84.6% screen-to-body ratio, IPS LCD, Up to 450 nits
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, 120Hz, HDR10, ~395 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 (7 nm), Android 11 on top of MIUI 12 for POCO
Memory Up to 256GB, Up to 8GB RAM, microSDXC, UFS 3.1
Camera Rear Lens 48 MP (main), 8 MP (ultrawide), 2 MP (macro), 2 MP (depth)
Front lens 20 MP (selfie)
Extra features Dual-LED flash, HDR, panorama

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass 5), plastic back
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack
Extra features Under display optical fingerprint scanner, IP67 protection
Screen Size 6.5 inches, ~84.1% screen-to-body ratio, Super AMOLED, Up to 800 nits
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, 120Hz, HDR10, ~407 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Qualcomm SM7225 Snapdragon 750G 5G (8 nm), Android 11 on top of One UI 3.1
Memory Up to 256GB, Up to 8GB RAM, microSDXC, UFS 2.2
Camera Rear Lens 64 MP (main), 12 MP (ultrawide), 5 MP (macro), 5 MP (depth)
Front lens 32 MP (selfie)
Extra features LED flash, panorama, HDR

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass 3), plastic back and frame
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack
Extra features Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, Always-on display
Screen Size 6.2 inches, ~84.1% screen-to-body ratio, OLED
Resolution 1080 x 2340 pixels, HDR10, ~413 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Qualcomm SM7250 Snapdragon 765G 5G (7 nm), Android 11
Memory 128GB, 6GB RAM, UFS 2.1
Camera Rear Lens 12 MP (main), 16 MP (ultrawide)
Front lens 8 MP (selfie)
Extra features LED flash, Pixel Shift, Auto-HDR, panorama

Best compact smartphone: ASUS Zenfone 8

If your hands are on the smaller side, you may enjoy the ASUS Zenfone 8. At first glance, it may not look as powerful as larger smartphones — but it’s a flagship in its own right. It has all the best features such as a powerful Snapdragon 888 chipset, IP68 dust and water resistance, super AMOLED screen, and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus screen protection.

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass Victus), back (Gorilla Glass 3), and aluminium frame
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, 32-bit/384kHz
Extra features Under display optical fingerprint scanner, IP68 protection, FM radio
Screen Size 5.9 inches, ~84% screen-to-body ratio, Super AMOLED, Up to 1100 nits
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, HDR10+, 120Hz, ~446 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm), Android 11 on top of ZenUI 8
Memory Up to 256GB, Up to 16GB RAM, UFS 3.1
Camera Rear Lens 64 MP (main), 12 MP (ultrawide)
Front lens 12 MP (selfie)
Extra features LED flash, HDR, panorama

Best compact smartphone: Honourable mentions

There aren’t as many options when it comes to compact phones in the competitive smartphone market. However, some flagship-level smartphones still manufacture their small phone counterparts to those who may not like larger and bulky phones. Here are some of the best ones available in the market.

iPhone 12 mini

Body Build Front and back (Gorilla Glass), aluminium frame
Audio Stereo speakers
Extra features Face ID, IP68 protection, Ultra-Wideband support
Screen Size 5.4 inches, ~85.1% screen-to-body ratio, Super Retina XDR OLED, Up to 1200 nits
Resolution 1080 x 2340 pixels, HDR10, Dolby Vision, ~476 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Apple A14 Bionic (5 nm), iOS 14.6
Memory Up to 256GB, 4GB RAM, NVMe
Camera Rear Lens 12 MP (main), 12 MP (ultrawide)
Front lens 12 MP (selfie), SL 3D (biometrics/depth sensor)
Extra features Dual-LED dual-tone flash, HDR (photo/panorama)

Samsung S21 5G

Body Build Front and back (Gorilla Glass Victus), plastic back, aluminium frame
Audio Stereo speakers, 32-bit/384kHz, Tuned by AKG
Extra features Under-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, IP68 protection, Samsung Dex
Screen Size 6.2 inches, ~87.2% screen-to-body ratio, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, Up to 1300 nits
Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, HDR10, 120Hz, ~421 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Exynos 2100 (5 nm), Android 11 on top of One UI 3.1
Memory Up to 256GB, 8GB RAM, UFS 3.1
Camera Rear Lens 12 MP (main), 12 MP (ultrawide), 64 MP (telephoto)
Front lens 12 MP (selfie)
Extra features LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama, dual video call

Google Pixel 5

Body Build Front (Gorilla Glass 6), aluminium back and frame
Audio Stereo speakers
Extra features Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, IP68 protection, wireless charging
Screen Size 6.0 inches, ~87.6% screen-to-body ratio, OLED
Resolution 1080 x 2340 pixels, 90Hz, ~432 PPI
Memory Chipset and OS Qualcomm SM7250 Snapdragon 765G 5G (7 nm), Android 11
Memory 128GB, 8GB RAM, UFS 2.1
Camera Rear Lens 12.2 MP (main), 16 MP (ultrawide)
Front lens 8 MP (selfie)
Extra features LED flash, Pixel Shift, Auto-HDR, panorama

Pair the best smartphone with the best mobile plan!

These phones are already great on their own, but what will take them to the next level is a really good mobile plan! Getting unlimited data credits, texts, and calls means you’re covered whenever and wherever you are. 

Compare the best mobile plans in New Zealand, using our comparison tool right here at CompareBear.

About the author
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Sieg C

Sieg C is a content writer who has written in a diverse range of industries including tech, energy, automobiles, and finance. His daily creative booster is at least two cups of black coffee and his curated chill vibes playlist.

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