The best phones in the UK 2021

(Image credit: Snapchat)

 The UK’s best phones include many different devices. These are not only familiar names if you have looked at our top picks overall but also the unique handsets made in the UK.

These phones have the best features: stunning displays, top cameras, and long-lasting batteries. These phones are often premium flagships or offer high-quality specs for a very low price. You can therefore find the perfect phone for your needs and budget.

The best Android phones

The best camera phones allow you to capture amazing photos

No matter which type of phone it is, the following list will help you choose the right phone for you.

Which phones are the best in the UK?

We’ve found the iPhone 13 Pro Max to be the best smartphone in the U.K. The iPhone 13 series is outstanding (two more models can also be found here), but the iPhone 13 Pro Max model has the best display, improved cameras, and the longest battery life.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers the most advanced Android experience. Oppo Find X3 Pro is also an excellent choice, but the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers superior camera performance and software support. The S21 Ultra can also be used in conjunction with Samsung’s S Pen.

Depending on your budget, the best options for budget options are the OnePlus Nord 2, Google Pixel 4a & Redmi Note 10 Pro. All of these have premium features, even though they are expensive. You’ll still feel special using them.

The rest of the year will see a few new phones. There should be a new iPhone 13 in September. Additionally, the Google Pixel 6 seems like it could finally be a Google smartphone capable of overtaking Samsung.

These are the best phones available in the UK.

The best phone you could buy right now

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch OLED (2778×1284)

CPU: A15 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

Rear camera – 12MP wide (f/1.5),12MP ultrawide(f/1.8),12MP telephoto, (f/2.8).

Front camera – Front camera : 12MP (f/2.2).

Weight: 238 grams

Battery: 4,352mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Class-leading cameras+Beautiful 120Hz display+Powerful chipset

There are reasons to avoid

-ProRes video not included in the charger. 128GB version only

Apple has once again dominated the phone industry with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Based on the Pro Max last year, this model has improved cameras, a larger and more reliable battery, as well as a pro-motion refresh rate of 120Hz. Apple continues to equip it with a powerful chipset and the most recent iOS, so you can fully enjoy all of the AppStore’s apps.

We are slightly annoyed that ProRes high-quality videos, one of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s signature features, can only be used in the iPhone 13 Pro Max has more than 256GB. Apple does not include a charger in the box. Additionally, the phone charges at a slow 20W wired speed and 15W wireless using MagSafe.

Please read our iPhone 13 pro-Max review.

 Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The best Android phone on the market

Specifications

Display: OLED 6.8″ (3200×1400; 10-120Hz).

CPU: Exynos 1200

RAM: 12GB, 16GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB

Rear camera

Front camera 40MP

Weight: 229 g

Battery: 5,000mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Variable 120Hz display+Twin telephoto cameras+S Pen stylus support

There are reasons to avoid

-No included charger-Heavy-Inferior Exynos chipset in the U.K.

Samsung’s flagship phone, the S21 Ultra, is the best phone you can buy in terms of hardware. The S21 Ultra is a benchmark for flagship phones that are powerful and versatile, whether it’s its 120Hz QHDOLED display, its dual telephoto camera, or stylus support.

This phone is not for everyone, unfortunately. Samsung decided, much like Apple, to remove the bundled charger in the S21 series box. This makes charging your phone at full speed much more difficult. Exynos 1200 also powers the European Galaxy S21 Ultra. It is comparable in performance to the Snapdragon 888-based model, but it has superior performance.

However, we love the S21 Ultra. It was nominated for Best Phone Design.

Read Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra reviews.

An iPhone that is still very good, but not as expensive.

Specifications

Display: 6.1 inch OLED (2532×1170).

CPU: A15 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

Rear camera – 12MP wide (f/1.5),12MP ultrawide (f/1.8),12MP telephoto(f/2.8).

Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2

Weight: 203g

Batteries: 3,095 mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Super-powerful chipset +Excellent photography+Much longer battery life

There are reasons to avoid

-No box charger -Video features limitations

The iPhone 13 Pro Max doesn’t reach the same heights due to its smaller display and lower battery capacity. The combination of power, ease of use, and Apple’s hard work to perfect it mean that this iPhone still has the edge over most Android competitors.

The iPhone 13 Pro, a 6.1-inch screen, still features a stunning display and fantastic cameras. The A15 Bionic chipset is identical to that found in the iPhone 13 Pro Max. This latter feature allows the iPhone 13 Pro, in benchmarks and real-life testing, to beat other Android phones.

Keep an eye out for the charging brick missing from the box. It may be necessary to get a new charger depending on the model of your previous phone. Apple’s ProRes mode video mode doesn’t work if you have an iPhone 13 Pro with at least 256GB storage. It seems unfair to those who don’t use the extra space.

Read our iPhone 13Pro Review.

The U.K.’s top premium phone value

Specifications

Display: 6.8 inches AMOLED (3200×1440), 30/60/90/120Hz

CPU: Snapdragon 800

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB

Rear camera: 108MP main (f1.8), 13MP ultrawide (f2.4), 5MP telemacro (f2.4)

Front camera 20MP (f2.2).

Weight: 196 grams

4,600 mAh battery

The Reasons Why You Should Buy

+Powerful specs for price+Impressive macro camera+Stunning display

There are reasons to avoid

-Moderate normal photography-No rating IP-Smaller batteries

The Xiaomi Mi 11 is a flagship Android phone with specs comparable to the more expensive ones. Its screen is the main highlight. It is nearly as detailed and large as the Galaxy S21 Ultra. And it has a decent variable rate system. It charges at 55W (wired) and 50W (wireless), which is a lot faster than most other smartphones.

Although it is unlikely that you will have to test it, it doesn’t have an IP rating for water/dust resistance like the premium phones. The Mi 11’s cameras are a little dated, but its main sensor at 108MP is still very efficient, and its Telemacro camera, which allows you to get close-up shots from any phone, is an excellent way to do so.

The iPhone with the most features

Specifications

Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170).

CPU: A15 Bionic

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB

Rear camera: 12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4)

Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2

Weight: 173g

3.240 mAh Battery

Here are some reasons to buy

+Amazing performance+Much more battery life+Improved lighting

There are reasons to avoid

Only 2 rear cameras-No 120Hz display

Apple’s basic iPhone 13 includes many of the features we love about the iPhone 13 Pro Max but costs PS300 less. It includes the A15 Bionic Chipset with 5G capabilities and a bright OLED LCD display. A small battery increase has helped improve the phone’s battery life.

The iPhone 13’s refresh rate isn’t 120Hz like the Pro siblings. That makes it one of only two phones in 2021 with a refresh rate greater than 60Hz. Apple has also reduced the number of cameras available, offering only main and ultrawide sensors. They still produce great photos.

Apple’s eco-friendly initiative also includes an in-box charging station, but this is not available. It is quite inconvenient. It is still the right iPhone, for most people, because of its ideal combination of price, size, and power.

Read our iPhone 13 full review.

It’s a fantastic alternative to the flagship

Specifications

Display: OLED 6.7 inch (3216×1440; 5 to 120Hz).

CPU: Snapdragon 800

RAM: 12GB

Storage: 256GB

Rear camera – 50MP main (f/1.8);50MP ultra wide(f/2.2); 13MP zoom (f/2.4); and 3MP microlens. (f/3.0).

Front camera – 32MP front camera (f/3.0).

Weight: 193g

Battery: 4,500 mAh

Why you should buy

+Great display+Flexible camera system+Powerful performance

There are reasons to avoid

-Gimmicky Microscope Lens-Design is a Dirt-Magnet

Oppo’s latest flagship model is a step above the rest. Oppo Find X3 Pro has the same LTPO technology found in the OnePlus 9 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra. But, the display uses a lower minimum rate to conserve battery. The display can also support 10-bit color, which allows for more vivid video and photo appreciation.

Oppo’s phone comes with a unique unibody body design that looks amazing (until your fingerprints get all over it). It also has the same 65W wired charger as the OnePlus 9 Pro, making this one of the fastest phones to charge.

The Find X3 has a unique microscope camera that allows you to capture amazing close-ups. While it’s less versatile than a standard telephoto sensor this camera helps distinguish the phone. If you are not interested in the same feature set as other flagship Android smartphones, the Find X3 Pro’s more unusual features may be enough for you to consider a purchase.

The Tom’s Guide Awards 2021 honoree for the Find X3 Pro also includes the Find X3 Pro. It was highly recommended in the categories of Best Phone Design and Fastest Charging Smartphones.

Read our Oppo Look X3 Pro review.

The best premium flagship phones value

Specifications

Display: Display: 6.7-inch AMOLED (3168×1440; 1–120Hz)

CPU: Snapdragon 800

RAM: 8GB, 12GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB

Rear camera: 48MP Wide (f/1.8), 50MP Ultrawide (f/2.2), 8MP Telephoto with 3x Optical (f/2.4), 2MP Monochrome

Front camera: 16MP, f/2.4

Weight: 197g

Battery: 4,500mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Great display+Speedy charging via wired or wireless+Good cameras

There are reasons to avoid

-Slow battery life-Fast night mode photos

The OnePlus 9 Pro really elevates OnePlus’s game. Hasselblad tuned cameras make up a weaker part of the OnePlus phone’s arsenal. OnePlus now has some of the fastest wireless charging and wired charging available, as well as a beautiful QHD display with a variable 120Hz refresh speed.

Even though the boosted cameras produce better low-light images than the others, they still fall short of the best. Additionally, a monochrome lens doesn’t add the same amount of value as a second camera with a telephoto. You shouldn’t discount what is otherwise an excellently-crafted phone.

We awarded the OnePlus 9 Pro a win for Fastest Charging Phone and a “Highly Recommend” for the Best Phone Overall.

Our OnePlus 9Pro Review.

The UK’s top phone for its unique features

Specifications

Display: 6.81-inch QHD AMOLED (3200 x 1440; 30Hz/60Hz/90Hz/120Hz); Rear – 1.1-inch AMOLED (126 x 294)

CPU: Snapdragon 800

RAM: 12GB

Storage: 256GB

Rear camera: 50MP main (f/1.95), 48MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 48MP telephoto (5x optical zoom, 120x max zoom, f/4.1)

Front camera 20MP (f/2.2).

Weight: 245g

Battery: 5,000mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Secondary LCD+Powerful triple cameras+Rapidwired/wireless charging

There are reasons to avoid

-Very costly-Poor battery lifetime-Heavy & unergonomic

Xiaomi’s Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has more features than anyone else this year. These include the Mi 11 Ultra’s 1.1-inch back display. You can use this to view the time and notifications as well as to take photos with any of the three 48MP rear cameras. The Mi 11 Ultra’s stunning display is identical to the Mi 11. It also has faster wireless and wired charging speeds of 67W.

The Mi 11 Ultra is priced at twice the normal price for the hardware. And the battery life is worse because it has an average-sized smartphone that has much more power than most phones. The large display bump and its huge size make it difficult to hold. It’s a great phone, but you won’t be able to beat the reaction you get from people when you display the Mi 11 ultra’s features.

Please read our Xiaomi Mi11U full review.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The best phone for productivity

Specifications

Display: 6.9 inches AMOLED (3088×1440, 10 -120Hz)

CPU: Snapdragon865 Plus

RAM: 12GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB (expandable)

Rear camera – 108MP wide, f/1.8; 12MP telephoto with 5-x optical zoom (f/3.0);12MP ultrawide (f/2.2).

Front camera 10MP (f/2.2).

Weight: 208g

4,500 mAh

There are several reasons to purchase

+Dynamic display+Superb stylus+Strong camera+Long battery life

There are reasons to avoid

-Expensive and difficult to hold

The Galaxy Note model, last year’s Galaxy Note, keeps the best features in the phablet but makes them even better. The S Pen that comes with the phone, its defining feature, has never been more responsive. Samsung has also significantly improved the display and battery life.

This phone is big with a 6.9″ display and a huge camera bump. The larger storage options are more expensive than a Samsung flagship. You won’t mind the large size of this phone when you see just how much you are able to do with your phone.

Read Samsung Galaxy Note20U review.

The best Android flagship available for most people

Specifications

Display: 6.2 inch OLED (2400×1080;48-120Hz).

CPU: Exynos 2100

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB

Rear camera – 12MP (f/1.8), large; 12MP(f/2.2) superwide; 64MP [f/2.0] telephoto, with 3x optical zoom

Front camera 10MP (f/2.2).

Weight: 171g

Battery: 4,000mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Compact+Beautiful display+Small, elegant design

There are reasons to avoid

-No charger-Exynos instead of Snapdragon

Samsung made a smart decision with the Galaxy S21 by reducing its quality compared to the Galaxy S20 in 2020. You get a quality entry-level product at a fair price with a nice-looking screen, but with plastic backing.

The S21 doesn’t come with an adapter, and the European version you can buy in Britain doesn’t have the Snapdragon 8888 chipset. The Exynos 2100 is the phone’s power source, so it lags slightly behind the U.S. model.

Do not let that stop you from getting the Galaxy S21. This model offers flagship features at a fraction of the price of other S21 models.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

The best mid-range phones for U.K. shoppers

Specifications

Display: 6.43 in AMOLED (6.43 in, 60Hz/90Hz).

CPU: MediaTek Dimension 1200-AI

RAM: 8GB/12GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB

Rear camera: 50MP main (f/1.88), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.25), 2MP mono (f/2.5)

Front camera: 32MP selfie (f/2.45)

Weight: 189g

Battery: 4,500 mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Top cameras+Still performance for price+Slow charging

There are reasons to avoid

-Fixed refreshing rates

Nord’s latest smartphone is a mid-range champion. It comes with all the basics and some premium features, at an affordable price. The handset offers 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage. It also features the impressive Dimensity 1200-AI chipset. This gives you performance that is comparable to flagships.

Nord 2 can refresh at a maximum rate of 90Hz. However, it must be manually set. This is unlike higher-end phones which offer both smoothness and longer battery life.

The OnePlus Nord 2’s cameras easily compare to other smartphones in its class. The Nord 2’s 65W Wired Charging is the best, and it beats most phones on sale today.

Our OnePlus Nord2 Review.

A budget phone without compromising on quality

Specifications

Display: 6.67-inch AMOLED HD (2400 x1080; 60/120Hz).

CPU: Snapdragon 732G

RAM: 6GB/8GB

Storage: 64GB/128GB

Rear camera: 108MP main (f/1.9), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 5MP telemacro (f/2.4), 2MP depth (f/2.4)

Front camera 16MP (f/2.45)

Weight: 193g

Battery: 5,020mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Impressive display+Speedy charging+Effective cameras

There are reasons to avoid

-Weak performance, Low default storage

Redmi’s budget phone is a great choice. Redmi Note 10 Pro boasts a large AMOLED touchscreen display that refreshes at 120Hz, much like smartphones four times more expensive. It charges at 33W faster than other expensive phones, thanks to its included charger.

However, 64GB of storage is included in the base price. That’s not too bad these days. Long-term, the Snapdragon 732G chipset lacks power and feels slow. However, as long you don’t use any high-intensity programs, you will be fine.

The Note 10 Pro also has the same telemacro cam as the Xiaomi Mi 11 but it’s just the right quality despite the fact that it’s a cheaper phone. The other cameras do a remarkable job as well.

Read Redmi Redmi Note 10 Pro review.

The best software phone in the middle-range/budget range

Specifications

Display: 5.81″ OLED (2340×1080).

CPU: Snapdragon 730G

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB

Rear camera: 12.2MP (f/1.7).

Front camera: 8MP, f/2.0

Weight: 143 grams

3.140 mAh Battery

There are several reasons to purchase

+Excellent Software Support+Strong Cameras

There are reasons to avoid

-Low processing powers,-Low battery

U.K. buyers will still be able to purchase the Pixel 4a as long as they are not restricted to the U.S. and Japan. This is all fine as this older phone does certain things better than others in its category.

The Pixel 4a Android phone from Google offers the best Android experience, first and longest than any other. The Pixel 4a’s rear camera is the only one available, but it still takes better pictures than most other phones.

The Pixel 4a’s low-powered chipset and the small battery are where you will find its limitations. These issues could present a problem for smartphone users who use their phones frequently during the day. You should consider the Pixel 4a if you are a lighter user and want an excellent phone for a very low price. This phone won the Best Phone Value award at the Tom’s Guide Awards 2020.

View our google Pixel4a review

 Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

A Samsung flagship phone for much less

Specifications

Display: 6.5-inch OLED (2480×1080; 120Hz)

CPU: Snapdragon 865

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB

Rear camera – 12MP main (f/1.8),12MP ultrawide(f/2.2),8MP telephoto (3x zoom) (f/2.4).

Front camera: 32MP, f/2.2

Weight: 190g

Battery: 4,500mAh

Reasons to Buy

+Large screen 120Hz+Strong performance+Flagship-quality on a tight budget

There are reasons to avoid

-Disappointing battery lifetime-Slower included charger

It doesn’t take as much to get a Samsung flagship as you might think. The Galaxy S20 FE trims down on some features but retains the best, such as its Snapdragon 888 chips, 6.5 inch 120Hz display, and triple rear cameras.

The Galaxy S20 FE’s lithium-ion battery doesn’t do a very good job of keeping all parts charged for extended periods. While it isn’t an issue, the 15W charger included in the box doesn’t provide enough power to charge your phone. Your phone can support 25W. You can either accept a slower charging time or pay extra for a charger you don’t use.

The Tom’s Guide Awards ‘2021 rated the S20FE as “highly recommended” in Best Phone Value. It is possible that the Galaxy S21 FE will be replacing it this fall.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review.

How to pick the best U.K. telephone for you

When shortlisting phones, your first question should be: Android or Apple? The iPhone is a great phone, but choosing not to buy an Android phone will restrict your choices. If you are looking for the latest and greatest hardware, an Android phone will do. iPhones, however, prefer to use well-optimized software that works seamlessly with your iPhone.

It is also important to pay attention to the dimensions of the phones you are looking at. You will find that most phones these days measure over 6 inches. If you prefer something smaller, it is worth searching for the best small phone.

When it comes to key features, you will want to concentrate on the battery and cameras. Smartphones have effectively replaced compact digital cameras. It is important to have a wide range of cameras. But high megapixel counts don’t mean everything. Have a look at our comparison photo sliders in the reviews to see how different phones perform against each other.

You should know the importance of the battery and charger. You want your smartphone to last as long and be able, ideally, to power up again quickly. As a rule of thumb, the longer a phone’s battery lasts, the better. This is not always the case. Although iPhones have one of the most efficient batteries, some phones still make our best battery life phone list. Check out our reviews to see how long these phones will last when used for everyday tasks.

How to test smartphones

Every smartphone must pass a series of tests to be on the top of our phone list. Some of these tests take place in our labs while others are done out in the real life.

Geekbench5 and GFXBench are synthetic benchmarks that measure performance in graphics. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones as well as Android devices. We also perform real-world video transcoding testing on each phone with the Adobe Premiere Rush app, and time the result.

To determine the quality of a smartphone’s display, lab tests are performed to measure its brightness (in units) and the screen’s color (DCI-P3 color gamut). Higher numbers are more reliable in these cases. The color accuracy of each panel is also measured with a Delta E rating. Lower numbers are more accurate and a score below 0 is ideal.

One of our most important tests is Tom’s Guide batteries test. The battery test is run over 5G/4G at 150nits of brightness, until the screen goes black. The best phone battery life is generally between 10 and 11 hours.

Last, but not least we take the best phones to the field to take photos outdoors in bright light, indoors in low light, and night in low lights to compare them with their closest competitors. We photograph landscapes, food, portraits, etc., and let you be the judge by comparing them side-by-side in our reviews.

Richard is a Tom’s Guide staff member based in London. His work includes news, reviews, how-tos, and advice for phones, gaming, and other topics. He’s also published articles for WIRED U.K.., The Register, and Creative Bloq. When he isn’t working, he is likely to be thinking about how he can make specialty coffee perfect.

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