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LSA’s Smartphone Awards 2021 – The 8 best smartphones of the year

Right from the camera and big specs, to dimensions and battery, these are LSA’s picks of the best smartphones of 2021.

The last 365 days of the calendar year has been phenomenal for the smartphone industry. The ‘power of the smartphone’ has provenly risen in 2021, pushing the boundaries of photography, connectivity, micro-engineering, and our digital life. Flagships have upped the ante, foldables are no longer fancy novelties but impressively practical alternatives, and smartphone gaming is at an all-time high.  As an annual ritual at Lifestyle Asia, we pick out the greatest from each department to not only give credit where it’s due but also help you splurge smartly. Let’s declare the winners of LSA’s smartphone awards 2021.

Best smartphones of 2021: Camera, display, foldable, budget

Best smartphone design – Vivo X70 Pro+

Image courtesy: Vivo

2021 has seen plenty of good lookin’ smartphones. We’re in an age of triple cameras, and fitting those lenses with sensors on limited real estate can be a hard task. However, few have emerged who managed to do so elegantly and impressively. This year, the Vivo X70 Pro+ did it best. It’s neat, fuss-free, and looks like a professional tool yet at the same time, doesn’t overdo it.

Best foldable smartphone – Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

z flip 3 best smartphones of 2021
Image courtesy: Samsung

I think this year finally gave me the confidence to say that foldables aren’t just novelties but legit alternatives to conventionally shaped smartphones. The constant worry of mid-screen creasing and possibly display issues always had me reluctant to invest in one. However, I think Samsung finally managed to fix that. Also, the Galazy Z Flip 3 is a pretty handsome and sassy smartphone, I think we can all agree there. With the newly introduced bespoke trimmings, I think it takes things a step further too. Arguably, its sibling should have won this award, the Z Fold 3 however, I think Flip 3’s dimensions and design make for a better case.

Best camera – iPhone 13 Pro Max

iphone 13 pro max
Image courtesy: Apple

Was there even competition? Cinematic Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max changed the smartphone photography game, truly. I’ve been an iPhone user for six years now, and I can comfortably say that the 13s is their greatest camera leap. Also, ProRAW, how could we forget, their big chip on professional photography.

Best compact smartphone – iPhone 13 mini

iphone 13 mini
Image courtesy: Apple

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the market still appreciate the sub-6″ smartphone. It’s easier to hold and carry. However, the task was to fix big flagship specs into these smaller dimensions. Which obviously, is where microengineering comes in. The one brand that aced this, was Apple. They stuck to the old dimensions to cater to that customer niche and managed to dominate this segment.

Best ‘value for money’ smartphone – OnePlus Nord 2

OnePlus Nord 2 best smartphones of 2021
Image courtesy: OnePlus

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – The OnePlus Nord 2 proves that excellence can be affordable too. Starting at just shy of Rs. 30,000 the Nord 2 is loaded with flagship specs and a killer camera. Three cameras (50, 8, and 2-MP), 12-GB of RAM and, 5G. If that’s not value for money, I don’t know what is.

Best gaming smartphone – Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate

asus rog phone best smartphones of 2021
Image courtesy: ASUS

Smartphone gaming’s a bigger deal than ever and in 2021, it’s not just about the player and the skill, but also the weapons. And the apex weapon in the game is the ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. Mind you, this isn’t your everyday smartphone, it’s specifically designed and built for gaming. It boasts a 2.84-GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 888 64-bit Octa-core Processor with 18-GB of RAM. Its AMOLED HDR10+ display has a 300-Hz touch sampling rate. There’s also a 6000-mAh battery under the hood. 

Best battery – iPhone 13 Pro Max

iPhone 13 pro max
Image courtesy: Apple

Well, hello again to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It’s a big phone with a big battery. Every tech critic I know told me this is one of those phones that doesn’t have you constantly worrying about the battery. It promises a full day of battery life, no cap. Also, expect 28 hours of video playback and 95 hours of audio playback.

Best smartphone of 2021 – Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

samsung galaxy s21 ultra
Image courtesy: Samsung

Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. The smartphone of the year – The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the apex Android. Tried and tested, this smartphone’s loaded with industry-leading specs. Maybe not in every field, but just the right combination of things that make a great phone in 2021. You get a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display that stretches 6.8″. The camera department too is a true heavyweight in the league, there’s a 108-MP + 10-MP + 12-MP + 10-MP. All of this is powered by a 5000-mAh battery.

Hero image: Courtesy Apple. Features image: Courtesy Samsung

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Mikhail Gomes
Features Editor, Lifestyle Asia India & Contributor - Augustman
A watch aficionado, Mikhail also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.
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