With the new year around the corner, we continue our series on 2021’s best smartphones. After crowning the best mid-range handsets under ₹15,000, ₹30,000, and ₹50,000, we are now moving onto the segment where money is no bar. We aim to zero in on the best flagship smartphone of the year. Unsurprisingly, this segment is dominated by Samsung and Apple. However, companies such as OnePlus, Vivo, and Xiaomi have done their best to challenge these established brands. So, let’s find out which phone turns out to be the best among the bests. But, before that, let’s introduce the contenders.
Best Flagship Smartphones of 2021 – Contenders
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max – ₹1,29,900
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro – ₹1,08,990
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – ₹1,04,400
- Samsung Galaxy S21+ – ₹76,990
- Vivo X70 Pro+ – ₹79,990
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra – ₹69,999
- OnePlus 9 Pro – ₹69,999
1. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
The latest iPhone 13 series misses out on a fresh design, but makes up for it in terms of power and specifications. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is based on Apple’s powerful A15 Bionic processor. It comprises six processing cores, 5 GPU cores, and a 16-core neural engine. Paired with the highly optimised iOS 15 platform, this chip delivers impressive user experience. Catching up with its Android counterparts, Apple has finally delivered its first 120Hz display.
The handset retains a notch on its forehead, which holds a 12MP selfie camera and an elaborate 3D scanning setup that uses LiDAR technology. Moving around the back, you get a 12MP main camera with sensor-shift image stabilisation for smoother videos. It is accompanied by a 12MP wide and 12MP telephoto snappers. The handset can record impressive 4K 60fps videos with HDR. The iPhone 13 Pro Max supports 5G, 4G VoLTE, GPS, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC. The phone has a 4,352mAh battery, which easily lasts over a day. The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with a 20W charging support, which is quite underwhelming for a flagship phone.
2. Apple iPhone 13 Pro
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If the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s large size is not your cup of tea, the iPhone 13 Pro has you covered. It features a 6.1-inch OLED display with Full HD+ resolution. This results in higher pixel density compared to the Pro Max model. The iPhone 13 Pro is powered by Apple’s powerful A15 Bionic chip. Owing to its six processing cores, 5 GPU cores, and 16-core neural engine, the latest iPhone is capable of handling resource-intensive tasks without breaking a sweat.
In the photography department, the phone comes with a 12MP primary camera with a 12MP wide-angle, and 12MP telephoto lenses. Much like its elder sibling, the iPhone 13 Pro comes with sensor-shift stabilisation. The phone has a 3,095mAh battery with the snail-paced 20W charging support. The rest of its features are identical to the iPhone 13 Pro max.
3. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the best Android all-rounders. It features a premium glass sandwich design with water and dust resistance. On the front, you get a thin-bezel design with a tiny punch-hole to accommodate a selfie camera. The Galaxy S21 Ultra sports a 6.8-inch OLED display with an impressive 120Hz refresh rate. The panel offers a peak brightness of up to 1500 nits. Moving on to the firepower, the phone relies on in-house Exynos 2100 SoC for the Indian market. This 5nm chipset is on par with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 SoC (System on Chip). The handset comes in 12GB and 16GB RAM variants with up to 512GB UFS3.1 storage.
In the photography department, the S21 Ultra brings a 108MP primary sensor to the table. On top of that, you get 12MP wide, 10MP telephoto, and 10MP periscope lenses. It can record 8K videos at 30fps or 4K videos at 60 fps. For selfies, the phone is equipped with a 40MP snapper. The Galaxy S21 Ultra holds a 5,000mAh battery with somewhat restrained 25W charging support. It drops down to 15W with inductive charging. In terms of connectivity, the handset covers 5G, 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, and NFC. On the software side of things, you get Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.1.
4. Samsung Galaxy S21+
If you are not a fan of bulky camera modules, the Galaxy S21+ is worth your consideration. It offers a streamlined glass body with a metal frame. Like most Samsung flagship devices, the S21+ is rated IP68 for water and dust resistance. Compared to the S21 Ultra’s QHD+ display, the S21+ settles for a more practical 6.7-inch Full HD+ OLED panel. The panel features a 120Hz refresh rate and 1,300 nits of peak brightness. To handle every app and game you throw at it, the Galaxy S21+ is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 2100 processor. Coupled with 8GB RAM, the phone comes in 128GB and 256GB internal storage options
It may not look impressive on paper, but the S21+’s 12MP rear camera pulls off a great performance. To keep it company, the phone comes with a 12MP wide and 64MP telephoto lens. Moving around the front, a 10MP module takes care of selfies. The S21+ is a 5G phone with support for Wi-FI 6, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, and NFC. The handset houses a 4,800mAh battery with 25W charging. The phone runs Android 11 with One UI 3.1 on top.
5. Vivo X70 Pro+
The X70 Pro+ bets big on the photography capabilities. The handset comes with Vivo’s in-house V1 imaging chip that powers noise reduction and motion compensation for the camera. At the rear, the handset features a 50MP main camera with a 48MP wide, 12MP portrait, and an 8MP periscope lens. In addition to impressive camera hardware, the phone delivers on power. It is backed by Qualcomm’s latest 5nm Snapdragon 888 Plus chip. The X70 Pro+ comes with 12GB of RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 internal storage.
BBK electronics’ subsidiary has opted for a 10-bit OLED panel, which offers rich colours and keeps banding at bay. The 6.7-inch panel has Quad HD+ resolution and supports a 120Hz refresh rate. The X70 Pro+ covers 5G, 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and GPS. The phone comes with a 4,500mAh battery with incredibly quick 55W charging support. Vivo has also managed to tweak the inductive charging to 50W. The phone features an understated yet premium design. For longevity, the company has treated the phone for water and dust resistance. The X70 Pro+ ships with Android 11 with Funtouch OS 12 on top.
6. Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Xiaomi is best known for its budget smartphones. However, the company has proved it can deliver an excellent flagship device with the launch of Mi 11 Ultra. Like any flagship phone, the Mi 11 Ultra features a sleek design and edge-to-edge display. What sets it apart, however, is the 1.1-inch secondary screen on the rear. It allows users to take a selfie with the main camera module. Moreover, this tiny display can deliver important notifications so that you don’t have to power on the primary display too often. The Mi 11 Ultra’s 6.81-inch main display has Quad HD+ resolution. This OLED panel supports a 120HZ refresh rate and a peak brightness of up to 1,700 nits.
To ensure you don’t face any slowdowns, the handset is equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset. It is fused with 12GB RAM and up to 256GB internal storage. Xiaomi’s phone also packs in some serious photography hardware. It sports a triple camera setup that comprises a 50MP rear camera, 48MP wide-angle lens, and 48MP telephoto sensor. The camera supports OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) and can record 8K at 24FPS and 4K 60FPS. Selfies are taken care of by a 20MP module. The Mi 11 Ultra doesn’t leave out anything when it comes to connectivity either. You get everything from 5G to NFC. The handset packs -in a 5,000mAh with blazing-fast 67W charging support. The phone’s user experience is defined by Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 based on Android 11.
7. OnePlus 9 Pro
From a flagship killer to making flagship phones, OnePlus has come a long way. Its latest handset the 9 Pro delivers on the refined design we expect from the company. Moreover, it brings in some unique features including the Hasselblad camera module. Speaking of which, the camera assembly holds a 48MP main camera, 50MP wide sensor, 8MP telephoto lens, and 2MP depth sensor. The handset can record 8k videos at 30 fps and 4K videos at up to 120fps. For smoother output, the main camera module is equipped with OIS.
The phone sports a 6.7-inch OLED display with Quad HD+ resolution. It is a 10-bit panel that ensures higher colour fidelity. The screen supports a 120Hz refresh rate and offers 1,300 nits peak brightness. For its top-of-the-shelf device, OnePlus has gone with the Snapdragon Snapdragon 888 chipset. Depending on the requirement, users can choose from its 8GB and 12 GB RAM variants. Compatible with 5G technology, the phone is future-proof. Apart from that, it covers other essentials such as 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, and NFC. The OnePlus 9 Pro draws power from a 4,500mAh battery. It can be topped up swiftly thanks to the 65W charging support. The phone runs OxygenOS 11, which is one of the best Android customisations in the market.
Winners Of Best Flagship Smartphones of 2021 Awards
- Gold Award Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro
- Silver Award Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Bronze Award Winner: Vivo X70 Pro+
1. Gold Award Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro
Be its raw power, camera performance, or user experience, the iPhone 13 series blows the competition out of the water. Out of the line-up, we selected the Phone 13 Pro over Pro due to its compact size. The phone features one of the best OLED displays on the market. Tuned for 120Hz, it keeps up with the speeds of iOS 15 without any issue.
Speaking of speeds, the A15 chip’s performance is unmatched by anything from the Android camp. The phone delivers excellent camera performance. Not a single phone on the market can beat the latest iPhone line-up when it comes to video recording quality. Moreover, we love how Apple has kept the camera interface fairly straightforward like a point-and-shoot.
2. Silver Award Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
If you are not a fan of Apple’s walled garden, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best from the Android stable. In terms of design and build, this phone can easily compete with the iPhone 13 line-up. It is also a great option for those who can’t stand the iPhone’s large notch. Moreover, the quality of S21 Ultra’s 6.8-inch OLED panel is top-notch. The phone comes with a 108MP main camera along with 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto, and 10MP periscope cameras.
As highlighted in our review, the S21 Ultra is one of the few handsets that can challenge the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera. The phone packs in a 5,000mAh battery with 25W charging support, and the battery lasts a whole day a bit more. The phone is packed to the gills with connectivity features such as 5G, 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 6E, UWB, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, and NFC. Samsung’s One UI 3.1 may not be as classy as iOS 15, but it is loaded with neat features.
3. Bronze Award Winner: Vivo X70 Pro+
While the Vivo’s X70 Pro+ has won us over in the under ₹50,000 category, its elder sibling, the X70 Pro+, takes a slot in the flagship segment. Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888+ chip, the X70 Pro+ holds its own against the latest iPhones and Galaxy handsets. The X70 Pro+ also impresses with a 10-bit OLED panel tuned for a 120Hz variable refresh rate.
The star of the show, however, is its 50MP + 48MP + 12MP + 8MP camera setup. Vivo has invested plenty of effort in getting the photography performance right. Even the lenses feature the Zeiss T coating that reduces flare and similar artefacts. Vivo has also baked in gimbal-esque stabilisation for smoother videos. On top of that, the Vivo X70 Pro+ comes with quick 55W charging support. That’s more than twice faster as what you get on the latest iPhone. There are other features, too, including stereo speakers, an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, fast wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging.
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