There are plenty of other launches in the meantime though, including quite a few phones that have been announced but not yet gone on sale worldwide, like the Sony Xperia III range, Vivo X60, and Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2. We're still waiting for the Huawei P50 and Asus Zenfone 8 series to be unveiled too, along with that 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, set to shake up the market this spring.
Read on to ensure your next smartphone purchase is not immediately followed by regret, tying you into a long two-year 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
Realme 8 & 8 5G - From 12 May
The Realme 8 Pro is already on sale - read our review now - but we're still waiting for the 8 and 8 5G to join it.
Both are due in the UK and Europe from 12 May, with prices starting from €199, and feature quad cameras and 5000mAh batteries.
The Realme 8 gives you a 64Mp main camera, 30W charging, and an AMOLED display, all powered by a Helio G95 chipset. The 8 5G drops down to 48Mp, 18W charging, and LCD (though jumps to 90Hz refresh rate) and uses a Dimensity 700 chip. Essentially you drop a few specs, but gain 5G as a trade-off.
Read more about the Realme 8 range.
Asus ZenFone 8 - 12 May
The ZenFone 7 launched last September, but the ZenFone 8 is coming a little earlier this year, with a launch confirmed for 12 May.
Expect to see another flappy, flippy camera module - now a bit of a ZenFone trademark - though leaks suggest there may be an additional mini model without the flipper, with as many as three phones in total.
Expect Snapdragon 888 chipsets and OLED panels, with an IP68 rating also confirmed.
Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 - May
Lenovo has unveiled the Legion Phone Duel 2, the follow-up to one of 2020's most exciting and impressive gaming phones, and it goes on sale worldwide in May.
Expect a Snapdragon 888, up to 16GB of RAM and super-fast 90W charging across the dual batteries, along with the return of the side-mounted pop-up camera.
The phone is totally committed to a gamer-focussed design, so won't appeal to everyone, but for those who get it there's nothing quite like it elsewhere.
Realme GT - Q2 2021
Once codenamed 'Race', the next Realme flagship launched in China on 4 March 2021, and we're hoping it'll make it to Europe some time this spring. will pack a Snapdragon 888 and a quad camera.
The GT packs a Snapdragon 888, 65W fast charging, and a 120Hz AMOLED display - and despite all that costs the equivalent of just £310 in China, though we'd expect a UK release to set you back a little more.
It's since been joined by the even more affordable GT Neo, which boasts a flashier design, but drops to 50W charging and a MediaTek Dimensity 1200 chipset.
Vivo X60 - Q2 2021
The Vivo X60 series is available now in China, but while we know the X60 is coming to Europe we're still waiting to find out exactly when.
The X60 and X60 Pro share 120Hz AMOLED displays along with 33W charging and 48Mp Zeiss cameras. In China they're powered by the 5nm Samsung Exynos 1080 chipset, but they're switching to the Snapdragon 870 for the global release - and the Pro is also losing its periscope zoom lens.
The even more powerful X60 Pro+ upgrades to a Snapdragon 888 chipset and a 50Mp main camera, along with a snazzy leather rear and 55W charging, though unfortunately this model is only launching in China and India.
Honor View 40 - Q2 2021
Honor unveiled the V40 in China in January 2021, but we're still waiting for official word on the phone's European release.
Expect a 120Hz curved OLED display with a dual hole-punch front-facing camera setup, a 50Mp RYYB-pixel-arranged primary camera, and impressive 66W wired charging alongside 50W wireless charging.
We're not sure yet if it will launch in Europe - likely as the View 40, if it does - and it's still unknown if Honor will be able to include Google Mobile Services on the international version of the phone, since the company is now free of the trade restrictions against former parent company Huawei.
Instead, the company may skip a global View 40 launch and just go straight to the recently rumoured Honor 50 series, expected to launch in China this month.
Get the latest Honor V40 news.
Huawei P50 - Q2 2021
We've had the Mate 40 phones, so next up from Huawei are the P50 series, expected to be announced in spring 2021 if the company follows its usual release cycle.
Expect to see three phones - a P50, P50 Pro, and P50 Pro Plus - with prices going up and over a grand for the top model.
They should be powered by the Kirin 9000 processor found in the Mate 40 phones, and will likely borrow some of those phones' camera features too. They could also be the first Huawei phones to use 120Hz panels, though most rumours so far still only point to 90Hz.
Here are the latest Huawei P50 rumours
Xiaomi Mi Note 11 - Q2 2021
We're overdue the announcement of the Mi Note 11, though despite that there have been very few leaks about the device so far - though just enough that we're confident it is on the way.
Going by the Mi Note 10, we should expect top camera and battery specs paired with a mid-range processor, and we'd expect to see it announced some time in the next few months.
Sony Xperia 1, 5 & 10 III - Summer 2021
Sony unveiled the 2021 Xperia range in April, with three phones available: the flagship Xperia 1 III, the smaller 5 III, and the more affordable mid-range 10 III. All three phones are due this summer.
The 1 III boasts the industry's first 4K 120Hz display at 6.5in and a dual focal length periscopic zoom camera, along with top internal specs including the Snapdragon 888.
The 5 III nets you the same specs and core camera setup, but drops down to a smaller 6.1in display that's only Full HD+ - though still 120Hz.
Finally, the 10 III drops to a Snapdragon 690 and compromises on a few of the other specs too, including the camera, but should still be a competitive mid-range device. And like the other two phones, it packs a 3.5mm headphone jack too.
New BlackBerry Phone - H1 2021
You read that correctly, BlackBerry is back from the dead again. In August, that US company Onward Mobility licensed the BlackBerry name and has announced that it will work to release a new BlackBerry device in the first half of 2021.
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.
OnePlus Nord 2/SE - H1 2021
Following on from the Nord N10 and N100 models, we're still expecting OnePlus to unveil a true successor to its mid-range Nord phone some time in 2021, and early signs point to it being called the Nord SE.
There haven't been any leaks about the device yet, but it's likely it would jump from 90Hz refresh rate to 120Hz and upgrade to the 65W fast charging seen in the OnePlus 8T.
Throw in Android 11 and a new processor and that would make the Nord 2 very tempting indeed. Complicating things are separate rumours that point to an upcoming phone called the Nord N1, so we're a little unsure how the various Nord phones will fit together into OnePlus's strategy for 2021.
Google Pixel 5a 5G - August 2021
Google has confirmed that the Pixel 5a 5G is on the way, and that it will be announced around the same time as last year's 4a models - which makes August 2021 likely.
There is a big caveat to that though: the big G also confirmed that the phone is only planned to launch in the US and Japan, and while it hasn't ruled out a wider release later on, we're not getting our hopes up.
An early leak has revealed a phone that looks very similar to last year's Pixel 4a 5G, so you should expect a big phone and minimal upgrades beyond some spec bumps - though Google may yet surprise us.
Get the latest Pixel 5a rumours.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 2 - Q3 2021
It's all but a given that a second Galaxy Flip 2 is on the way - a proper sequel after the half-step upgrade of the Z Flip 5G - and we're expecting to see it some time in the second half of 2021.
While we had hoped it would launch alongside the S21 series in January, tipsters have suggested it's currently more likely delayed to late summer, so there's a bit longer to wait.
When it does arrive, expectations are for a larger outer display and a bigger battery, and almost certainly a jump to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.
Read the latest Galaxy Z Flip 2 news & rumours
Apple iPhone SE 2 or SE Plus - H2 2021
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 the second half of 2021.
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.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 - Q3 2021
Samsung is widely expected to launch the next generation of its flagship foldable series in autumn 2021.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will pick up where the Fold 2 left off, but is rumoured to add in S Pen stylus support, and potentially an invisible under-display selfie camera inside the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE - Q3 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.
Apple iPhone 13 - Q3 2021
As soon as one iPhone is out, it's time to look to the next, which means we're thinking about the iPhone 13 series already.
New iPhones usually launch in September, but the iPhone 12 was a bit later in October - either way we should see the iPhone 13 series in autumn 2021.
It's likely we'll see a range of four phones again, from a Mini up to a Pro Max, all powered by a new A15 Bionic processor.
Word is that the notch will still be there, but smaller, and we're hoping we'll finally see the display itself jump up to 120Hz. Storage is rumoured to go up to 1TB too, and we're keeping our fingers crossed for the return of Touch ID too, maybe even in an under-display sensor.
The more out-there rumour is that Apple might go entirely port-less now that it can lean on MagSafe charging, but we think that change is more likely to roll out for the iPhone 14 or beyond...
Read the latest iPhone 13 news
Google Pixel 6 - Q3 2021
Google normally releases a new Pixel flagship every autumn, so it stands to reason that the expected Pixel 6 will turn up some time in autumn 2021.
We don't know a lot about what to expect from the phone yet, but a jump to a 120Hz refresh rate sounds plausible, and it's also probably time for Google to upgrade its main camera sensor - unchanged for a few years now - to make sure it clings onto its photography crown. It's also rumoured to ditch Qualcomm in favour of an in-house chipset, à la Apple and Samsung.
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.
Google Pixel Foldable - Q4 2021
This is a bit of a wild card - but leaked internal documents 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.
Sony Xperia Compact - 2021
Here's an unexpected one: word on the street is that Sony is set to revive its Compact line with a new pint-sized Xperia phone some time in 2021.
We've already seen renders of the handset appear online, though tipsters still disagree on whether this will offer flagship specs or something more affordable.
Those renders do suggest a dual rear camera and a single 8Mp selfie camera, and the surprise move away from the slim 21:9 aspect ratio Sony has used in recent years for something a little more blocky.
Check out the latest Xperia Compact rumours.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE - 2021
Samsung is yet to confirm anything official, but we have pretty good 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
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.