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10 smartphones we're most excited for in 2021

Oppo Find X2 Pro
A successor to the Oppo Find X2 Pro is one of the exciting upcoming phones (Image credit: Future)

With any luck, 2021 will be a whole lot better than 2020 was, but at the very least there are loads of exciting smartphones to look forward to.

From high-profile handsets like the iPhone 13 to oddities like the LG Rollable, there should be something for everyone. Below, we’ve highlighted ten of the most interesting options that we’re expecting to see before the end of the year.

These are phones that in most cases are likely to be great, and at the very least should be interesting, unusual, or innovative.

Samsung Galaxy S21 range

Samsung Galaxy S20

The Samsung Galaxy S20 (Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and its likely siblings – the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – are probably the most highly anticipated Android phones. There shouldn’t be long to wait for them either, as it’s rumored that the Samsung Galaxy S21 range could be announced as soon as January 14.

So what should you expect from the three phones? It almost goes without saying that they’ll have cutting-edge power, with rumors suggesting they’ll pack either the Snapdragon 888 chipset (in the US) or the Exynos 2100 (in most other places) – both of which are likely to be among the year’s most powerful.

The most exciting upgrade though might be support for the S Pen stylus on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, a rumored move that could bring the phone a lot closer to the Galaxy Note range. We’re also hearing talk of high-spec cameras, with the S21 Ultra potentially offering 10x optical zoom.

iPhone 13 range

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 (Image credit: TechRadar)

The iPhone 13 range is probably even more highly anticipated than the Samsung Galaxy S21 range, but there’s rather longer to wait for these phones, as they probably won’t land until September.

There could be some big upgrades for these new models, with high refresh rate screens, 1TB of storage, in-screen fingerprint scanners, and a smaller notch all rumored. There’s also talk of a periscope camera being added, which would allow for an increased optical zoom range.

With the phones being a long way off at the time of writing though, we’re not at all confident of these things yet. What you can be sure of is that they’ll be very powerful, and that Apple will probably offer the same assortment of handsets as in the iPhone 12 range – meaning an iPhone 13, an iPhone 13 mini, an iPhone 13 Pro, and an iPhone 13 Pro Max.

OnePlus 9 range

OnePlus 8T

The OnePlus 8T (Image credit: TechRadar)

The OnePlus 9 range is likely to land in March or April and offer a slightly cheaper way to get the sort of cutting-edge tech we’re expecting to see in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21.

There will probably be a OnePlus 9, a OnePlus 9 Pro, and possibly also a totally new model dubbed the OnePlus 9E.

As for what to expect, all three phones might use the top-end Snapdragon 888 chipset, and they’ll probably also have high refresh rate screens, with the Pro model likely offering at least 120Hz.

We don’t know a huge amount else about them yet, but leaks suggest the standard OnePlus 9 will have a 48MP main camera, a 48MP ultra-wide one, and an unknown third lens, as well as 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the OnePlus 9 Pro will probably be the only one of the three to have IP68 certification for water and dust resistance.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 (Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn’t likely to be as mainstream as most of the phones on this list, but it could be more exciting than most of them, as foldable phones are probably the future, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is likely to be the best one yet.

Beyond having a big, foldable screen, the main Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 rumors so far suggest it might support Samsung’s S Pen stylus, have an in-screen camera, and possibly even have an RGB light strip on its hinge.

We haven’t heard much else at the time of writing, but expect more rumors to roll in ahead of release, which could be in June if leaks are to be believed - though some sources reckon it won't land until the second half of the year.

LG Rollable

LG rollable phone patent

An LG rollable phone patent (Image credit: LG / LetsGoDigital)

The LG Rollable is very much a wild card, not least because we’re not at all sure it even exists. But there is some evidence that LG is developing a phone with a rollable screen, and that it might be out sometime in 2021.

Based on a patent, this might be a device that lets you extend the left and right screen edges, but because it rolls rather than folds, and because the mechanism is compactly hidden within the phone, it might look much like a normal smartphone when the screen isn’t extended. According to another leak it might extend from 6.8 inches to 7.4 inches.

A trademark application for the ‘LG Rollable’ name meanwhile includes mention of “electronic touch screen pens”, so as with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, you might be able to get a stylus for it.

The LG Rollable sounds ambitious and we haven’t heard much about it yet, so there’s every chance it won’t land in 2021, and if it does it will probably be very expensive, but it certainly sounds interesting. The only release date rumor for it so far states that it could land in the first half of the year.

Oppo Find X3 range

Oppo Find X2 Pro

The Oppo Find X2 Pro (Image credit: Future)

Oppo isn’t as big a name as Samsung or OnePlus, but in recent years it’s been making phones that rival their best, and the Oppo Find X3 range could be the next ones to do that.

In fact, they might actually be more exciting and innovative than most of the big-name flagships, as rumors suggest the Oppo Find X3 Pro will have a macro camera that could function a bit like a microscope, with 25x zoom and lights around the lens.

The phone might additionally have NFC that works on both the front and back of the handset, so you can tap the screen against payment terminals rather than the rear – a small feature perhaps but one we’ve not really seen before.

Beyond that the specs sound top-end through and through, with talk of a 3K resolution, a high refresh rate screen, fast charging, loads of camera lenses, and more. And you shouldn’t have to wait long, as we’re expecting the Oppo Find X3 range to launch early in the year.

Nokia 10

Nokia 9 PureView

The Nokia 9 PureView (Image credit: TechRadar)

We’ve been waiting for the Nokia 10 for a long time, so much so that it’s gone through a few names since it started being rumored – originally it was thought to be launching as the Nokia 9.1, but as time went on that changed to Nokia 9.2, 9.3, and now Nokia 10.

Whether 2021 will be the year it lands remains to be seen, especially since we still don’t really know much about it yet, but rumors point to an in-screen selfie camera, a sapphire glass display, a stainless steel frame, and a top-end Snapdragon 888 chipset, so this could be a very premium phone.

There’s also talk of it having a very different camera setup to the penta-lens Nokia 9 PureView, though in what ways it will differ is unclear.

iPhone SE 3

iPhone SE 2020

The iPhone SE (2020) (Image credit: Future)

While the iPhone 13 range is clearly the most anticipated of Apple’s upcoming phones, the company might also launch a successor to the iPhone SE (2020) in 2021.

We’ve heard very little about the iPhone SE 3 so far and there’s every chance we won’t see it until a later year, but if it does launch in 2021 it will probably have an A14 Bionic chipset (the same as the iPhone 12 range).

There’s also talk of an iPhone SE Plus, which might end up being the iPhone SE 3 in all but name. This is thought to have a larger 5.5 or 6.1-inch screen, but to retain the general affordability of the iPhone SE range. What’s not clear is whether the iPhone SE 3 will keep the physical home button and big bezels – a design that’s becoming increasingly dated.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 range

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

The biggest question about the Samsung Galaxy Note 21 range is whether it will even launch, with rumors swirling that Samsung is looking to add stylus support to the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3 so that it can discontinue the Note range.

At this point it looks likely that the Note range’s days are numbered, but we might still get a Samsung Galaxy Note 21.

There’s not really any news on what it will offer yet, but as usual for the range you can expect an S Pen stylus, a big screen to make the most of it with, and plenty of power. If the Samsung Galaxy Note 21 does launch we’ll probably see it in or around August.

Sony Xperia 1 III Compact

Sony Xperia 1 II

The Sony Xperia 1 II (Image credit: TechRadar)

As well as the expected Sony Xperia 1 III there are rumors that the company might launch a Sony Xperia 1 III Compact, and it’s this phone that we’re more excited about, as there aren’t many high-end compact phones that days.

Rumors suggest it might have a 5.5-inch screen and an upper mid-range chipset – though we’d hope for a high-end one. We don’t know much else yet about either the Compact or the standard Sony Xperia 1 III, but with the phones possibly launching in the first half of the year we’ll hopefully learn more before long.