The first wave of 2021 phones is here, with new flagship hardware from Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus and more now on sale, not to mention loads of cheaper budget and mid-range phones - but there's still more to come.
Phones tend to launch in waves, and so while the bulk of the spring releases have been and gone, we're expecting another set of major launches to come through autumn 2021. It's already started with the latest set of Samsung Galaxy foldables, the iPhone 13 series, and the first phones using the new Snapdragon 888+ chipset - beginning with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 and Honor Magic 3.
There are plenty of other launches to look forward to though, with the Google Pixel 6 still to come. Then there are quite a few phones that have been announced but not yet gone on sale worldwide, like the Honor 50 and Huawei P50 - and we're awaiting the long-teased revival of the BlackBerry brand.
This year we're seeing foldable designs are becoming cheaper and more durable, and battery technology is constantly improving too. We've also seen software enhancements too, making us even more excited for Android 12 and iOS 15, not to mention Huawei's new HarmonyOS software, which powers its latest phones and tablets.
Read on to ensure your next smartphone purchase is not immediately followed by regret, tying you into an unnecessarily lengthy contract. (Remember that there is a chance you could upgrade your contract early.)
Pro tip: As these new phones edge closer, the outgoing models will fall in price and you'll be able to scoop up some great deals. If you're not bothered about having the very latest tech, check out our take on the best phones you can buy today.
Best new phones coming out in 2021
Apple iPhone 13 - 24 September
There's a range of four phones again, from a Mini up to a Pro Max, all powered by a new A15 Bionic processor.
The notch is still there, but smaller, and the Pro models finally support 120Hz refresh rates.
Base storage has been doubled, and it goes all the way up to 1TB on the Pros. Otherwise expect the standard camera upgrades, battery life improvements, and tweaks to the available colours.
Read the latest iPhone 13 news.
Nubia RedMagic 6S Pro - 27 September
The RedMagic 6S Pro is an updated version of this year's 6 Pro, set to go on sale on 27 September.
There's one major change here: an upgrade to the Snapdragon 888+ chipset, which should bring with it (slightly) enhanced gaming performance.
Elsewhere, you still get a 165Hz refresh rate display with a 720Hz touch sampling rate on the spacious 6.8in AMOLED display, while 66W fast charging will keep the phone powered up - but be aware that you only get a 30W charger in the box, so will have to shell out for the top speeds.
Read more about the RedMagic 6S Pro
Sony Xperia 5 III - September
The last of Sony's Xperia III line is set to launch in the UK at some point in September - a whopping five months after Sony first announced it.
The 5 III nets you the same specs and core camera setup as the flagship Xperia 1 III, but drops down to a smaller 6.1in display that's only Full HD+ - though still 120Hz.
Find out more about the Xperia 5 III
Xiaomi 11T - 1 October
The Xiaomi 11T series is essentially a more affordable, remixed take on the Mi 11 flagship from earlier this year.
The 11T Pro goes on sale in the UK on 1 October, with the standard 11T following a week later on 8 October.
Both feature the same triple rear camera - led by a 108Mp main lens - and 120Hz AMOLED displays coated in Gorilla Glass Victus.
The main differences are chipset - a Dimensity 1200 on the 11T with a Snapdragon 888 on the Pro - and charging - with 67W wired speeds on the 11T, and a whopping 120W wired charging on the 11T Pro.
Find out more about the Xiaomi 11T series
Huawei P50 - 21 October
After teasing them at the HarmonyOS launch, Huawei has now revealed the P50 and P50 Pro in China, and it looks like they'll be unveiled officially for the West at an event on 21 October.
Both phones run the new HarmonyOS operating system, and boast high refresh rate OLED displays, fast charging, and powerful camera setups.
One oddity is that both use the Snapdragon 888 (with a Kirin 9000 variant of the Pro model too) but use 4G versions of the chip - a limitation of the company's ongoing US trade restrictions. That means that fancy as these phones are, they are 4G-only and still lack Google mobile services.
Check out the full Huawei P50 specs
Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE - October
Launched alongside the 11T series, the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE is actually a new take on the existing Mi 11 Lite 5G - the 'NE' stands for 'New Edition'.
Not much has changed, but there are some new colour options, and a slight change in chipset to the Snapdragon 778G - technically a downgrade, but only barely, and the lower price should make the change worthwhile if you've not picked up a Mi 11 Lite 5G already.
Find out more about the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE
New BlackBerry Phone - H2 2021
You read that correctly, BlackBerry is back from the dead again. In August 2020, US company Onward Mobility licensed the BlackBerry name and announced that it will work to release a new BlackBerry device in 2021.
The company had targeted the first half of the year, but that's now been and gone, so we're not sure exactly when to expect the new BlackBerry.
According to Onward Mobility, the new BlackBerry will have 5G network capabilities and a physical keyboard. These really are the only two indications of specs that we have aside from the phone running Android, as currently the announcement is only of the partnership’s existence and nothing more.
Honor 50 - Q3 2021
Available now in China, the Honor 50 is launching globally - including the UK - "later this year".
The Honor 50 is powered by the new Snapdragon 778G chipset, which also delivers 5G support, and supports 66W charging with even faster 100W charging on the 50 Pro model.
Both versions get a quad rear camera, led by a 108Mp main lens. An ultrawide, depth sensor, and macro camera round out the set. The 50 has a 32Mp selfie lens, while the Pro packs both that and a second 12Mp wide-angle selfie.
Best of all? Honor has confirmed that it will be able to include Google Mobile Services on the international version of the phone.
Get the latest Honor 50 news.
Honor Magic 3 - Q3 2021
Like the Honor 50, the Honor Magic 3 series is getting a global release, we just don't know when.
The three phones here - the Magic 3, 3 Pro, and 3 Pro+ - are more premium than the Honor 50, with prices set to start from €899 in Europe.
The Pro models feature the Snapdragon 888+ chipset and quad rear cameras, while the base Magic 3 isn't far behind with an 888 and triple camera.
Like the Honor 50, all three phones will also have full Google support when they eventually ship worldwide.
Find out more about the Honor Magic 3.
Asus ROG Phone 5s - Q3 2021
Asus has unveiled the updated ROG Phone 5s and 5s Pro, with a launch confirmed for both phones in Taiwan - and we hope they'll reach the UK eventually too.
You can already buy the original ROG Phone 5 here, but the 5s packs an update to the Snapdragon 888+ chipset - the latest and greatest on the market right now.
There's also a bump to a 360Hz touch sampling rate, but beyond that these are essentially the same as the existing ROG Phone 5 range, with the same design, top performance, and novelties like the rear OLED display on the 5s Pro.
Read more about the ROG Phone 5s.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 - Q3 2021
Xiaomi's Mi Mix 4 launched in China on 10 August - though it's less clear whether or not the phone will make it to the UK and the rest of the world, and if so, when - though we're hoping to see it some time this autumn.
This is the most powerful - and expensive - numbered Mi Mix phone yet, with a Snapdragon 888+ chipset, 120W wired charging, and Xiaomi's first attempt at an under-display camera.
Get the latest Mi Mix 4 news
Vivo X70 - Q3 2021
Vivo has announced the X70 flagship series in China, and confirmed global release plans for the phones - though we're still waiting to hear if, and when, that includes the UK.
There are three phones in the range. The base X70 packs a triple camera and custom MediaTek Dimensity 1200 chipset. The X70 Pro upgrades to a quad camera with a periscope and a 50Mp main shooter.
Finally, the X70 Pro+ includes even better main and ultrawide cameras, along with OIS on every single rear lens - not to mention Vivo's first in-house image processor chip.
Get the latest on the Vivo X70
Google Pixel 6 - Q3 2021
Google has already teased the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and confirmed that the pair will turn up some time in autumn 2021.
Alongside the unusual new design language - check that camera module - Google has confirmed that the two phones will be powered by a new in-house SoC called Tensor, with no sign of the usual Qualcomm Snapdragon chips.
Other leaks point to a device known as the Pixel XE, but it's not yet clear if this is a fake, a new phone, or simply a codename for the Pixel 6.
OnePlus 9T - Q3 2021
OnePlus usually releases a tweaked 'T' variant of its flagship six months on, so we're expecting to see the OnePlus 9T arrive in September/October this year.
While there were three OnePlus 9 models - a regular, Pro, and India-exclusive 9R - we're only expecting a single 9T to arrive this autumn - though if the latest leaks are to believed, it might only be an India-exclusive OnePlus 9 RT.
If it does arrive, it's tipped to use a 120Hz OLED panel with variable refresh rate, and may be the first OnePlus phone to use camera hardware provided by Hasselblad - the company's new photography partner.
Read more about the OnePlus 9T.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE - Q4 2021
Much like the S20 was followed by the S20 FE, it's widely expected that the S21 will eventually be joined by the S21 FE - most likely around October if last year's release pattern is anything to go by.
Spec details are thin on the ground so far, and there's already disagreement - on whether it will have a 60Hz or 120Hz display, for example. Still, most agree the phone will have an AMOLED panel and the latest Exynos and Snapdragon chipsets.
Google Pixel Foldable - Q4 2021
This is a bit of a wild card - but leaked internal documents and bits of code suggest that Google may be working on a Pixel-branded foldable device to launch in late 2021.
Beyond the device's existence there haven't been many leaks with details of what sort of foldable device it will be, or what specs it will have, but we know a lot of people will be curious about a Google-branded folding phone with that Pixel camera.
Oppo X 2021 - 2021
The clue's in the name really, with the Oppo X 2021 expected to launch...well, some time in 2021.
This rollable phone from Oppo was first unveiled last year and seemed to be only a concept phone, but subsequent announcements from Oppo suggest that the phone might launch as a consumer product after all - though expect it to be ruinously expensive, with both a scrolling display and new wireless air charging tech built-in.
Read the latest Oppo X 2021 news.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE - 2021
Samsung is yet to confirm anything official, but we have some reason to expect that a more affordable 'Fan Edition' of the Galaxy Z Fold is set to launch some time in 2021 - only we have no idea when.
One early leak pins the phone as costing $1,099, with a Snapdragon 865 chipset - last year's flagship - though curiously claims it will lack the 5G support that has so far been mandatory with that chip.
Others claim that the Fold FE will simply be the first-gen Fold, re-packaged at a lower price tag to reflect the older tech - that would mean the even older Snapdragon 855, but would explain how Samsung could hit a mainstream price point.
Read more Galaxy Z Fold FE rumours and news
Xiaomi 12 - 2021/22
Xiaomi usually unveils its latest Mi series flagship at the beginning of the year - but the Mi 11 arrived in China at the tail-end of December 2020, so there's also a chance that the Xiaomi 12 could arrive from December 2021.
With the phones so far off rumours are still light, but we've heard rumblings of a 200Mp camera and even 200W wired charging on the Ultra model - though that's likely to arrive even later. It's also almost certain to be one of, if not the, first phone to use the next flagship Snapdragon chipset.
Read more about the Xiaomi 12.
Samsung Galaxy S22 - Q1 2022
Samsung releases a new flagship phone series every spring, like clockwork, so we're expecting to see the Galaxy S22 arrive in spring 2022.
We don't know too much about what to expect, but it seems a safe bet that we'll once again get three phones: a standard, Plus, and Ultra models.
Camera updates seem inevitable, but the specific specs are hotly debated by leakers, with word of a 50Mp upgrade for the regular and Plus, and a 200Mp jump for the Ultra - the latter denied by other tipsters.
Get the latest Galaxy S22 leaks and rumours.
Apple iPhone SE 2 or SE Plus - 2022
Apple's new iPhone SE went on sale back in April, but rumours since have pointed towards the launch of either a follow-up or a Plus model. If you're thinking that might be imminent, though, don't hold your breath; we could be waiting until 2022.
The long-rumoured SE Plus is not simply a larger version of the iPhone SE, mind you. Prolific Apple leakster Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the iPhone SE Plus will feature either a 5.5 or 6.1in display and, crucially, it’ll sport a “full-screen design” like that of the iPhone 11 range. It may also have Touch ID built into the power button.
iPhone 14 - September 2022
The iPhone 14 may still be a while away, but we have our first leaks of what to expect from the next Apple flagship.
Renders based on leaks sourced by Jon Prosser reveal the alleged end of the controversial notch - supposedly replaced by a punch-hole camera, with the rest of the Face ID tech hidden under the display itself.
Round volume buttons return, while the camera lenses are now flush against the body - achieved in part by making the phone itself thicker.
It's too far off to know if this is what the iPhone 14 will look like for certain, but it's already enough to get us excited.
Get the latest iPhone 14 news
Foldable iPhone - 2022/2023
A folding iPhone has been rumoured ever since the first foldable display tech existed pretty much, but thanks to leaks and rumours we have pretty good reason to believe Apple is at least working on a foldable iPhone - even if it's probably years away.
Apple is rarely the first to market with new tech, though given that Samsung has already released several iterations of its folding tech there's a risk Apple will look backwards if it doesn't follow suit until 2023 - though if it can perfect the tech in that time it may well be worth the wait.
Check out all the foldable iPhone rumours so far.