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Best phones in South Africa for 2021

Best phone
(Image credit: Apple, Samsung, OnePlus)

Our list of the best phones on the market lists all the flagship phones you would expect, sporting the very latest in processing power, multimedia and display technologies. 

Much of it is predictable, including Apple's new iPhone 12 series and Samsung's recent Note 20 models, but we've also thrown in some surprises from LG, Huawei and more.  Almost all of these phones now include 5G and have OLED screens. 

Many popular brands like Oppo and Nokia are launching their top models in South Africa soon and soon we'll be adding the first folding phones, so be sure to check back every month for the latest rankings.  

Best phones at a glance

  1. Samsung Galaxy S20 / S20 Plus
  2. Apple iPhone 12
  3. Apple iPhone 12 Pro
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
  5. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
  6. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
  7. LG V60 ThinQ 
  8. Samsung Galaxy S10 / S10 Plus
  9. Apple iPhone 11
  10. Huawei P40 Pro
  11. Vivo X50Pro  
  12. Apple iPhone SE

Samsung phone deals bank holiday sales

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy S20 / S20 Plus

The big phone is the best, but the standard is also great

Release date: March 2020
Weight: 186g
Dimensions: 166.9 x 76 x 8.8mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 3200×1440
CPU: Snapdragon 865
Storage: 128/512GB (up to 1TB with card)
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Latest and greatest specs+Great 30x zoom max+120Hz is smooth as silk
Reasons to avoid
-Price bump is aggressive-In-screen fingerprint sensor is poor

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the best phone on our list, though the S20 is so similar (and only slightly inferior) that we've lumped them together here. There are minute differences, but mostly in price: the standard S20 starts at R18,999, while the S20 Plus starts at R20,999. 

Screen: The Infinity-O AMOLED displays on both phones - 6.2 inches for the S20, 6.7 inches for the S20 Plus - are gorgeous, with a maximum WQHD+ resolution of 3200 x 1440. The notches are both centralized like the Note 10, but they're much smaller this time around, and the S20 Plus only has a single lens. The result: more screen. Also new this year is a 120Hz maximum refresh rate for silky-smooth media and gaming, though you'll mostly notice it while browsing - and you'll have to drop your display resolution down to FHD+ to enjoy it.  

Battery Life: The S20 packs a 4,000mAh battery, while the S20 Plus has 4,500mAh of capacity. That is, to put it lightly, a lot, and frequently got us through over a day without recharging. Keep in mind that battery life estimate will dip down if you set the refresh rate at 120Hz, use a ton of 5G connectivity or lend juice with Wireless PowerShare, so adapt accordingly if you're looking to keep your phone going longer. 

Camera: The S20 and S20 Plus have truly spectacular cameras. No, not their 12MP main shooters, which are fine - it's the 64MP telephoto that really shines. While it only has 3x optical zoom, it still manages to crop zoom in to a muddy 30x digital zoom - which means the interim intervals are still a good deal more impressive than the competition. The 12MP ultra-wide performs adequately, while the 10MP front-facing camera works just fine. Another first-time bonus: 8K 24fps video from the rear camera.

Mini verdict: While the Samsung Galaxy S20 is impressive enough, it's the S20 Plus that we vouch for as the best phone right now, even if it's more expensive than expected. The combination of incredible cameras with top-tier specs and a great display makes it an unquestionable winner with more battery life than its smaller sibling. 

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review and Samsung Galaxy S20 review