2021 has already given us new flagship hardware from Samsung, Xiaomi, Apple 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 summer 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 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 this year. 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 becoming cheaper and more durable, and battery technology is constantly improving too. We've also seen software enhancements making us even more excited for Android 12 and iOS 15, not to mention Huawei's new HarmonyOS, which powers its latest phones, tablets and wearables.
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
Google Pixel 6 - 19 October 2021
Google has already teased the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and confirmed that the pair will be revealed in full on 19 October 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.
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
Honor 50 - 26 October
Available now in China, the Honor 50 is launching globally - including the UK - on 26 October.
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 - though we're not expecting to see this model launch here.
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.
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 Magic 3 - Q3 2021
Like the Honor 50, the Honor Magic 3 series is getting a global release, but 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 Mix 4 - Q3 2021
Xiaomi's 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 Mix phone yet, with a Snapdragon 888+ chipset, 120W wired charging, and Xiaomi's first attempt at an under-display camera.
Get the latest Xiaomi 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
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. This was tipped to launch in October, but leaks now suggest it may launch quietly later in the year or even early in 2022 - and may even have been cancelled entirely.
The phone has been pretty much leaked in full though, and 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. This could appear alongside the Pixel 6 series in October, or have its own event later in the year.
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 2020, 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.