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The Google Pixel 6 is Android Authority's pick for best phone of 2021

The regular Pixel 6's price-performance ratio made it our Editor's Choice pick for best phone of 2021.

Published onDecember 18, 2021

Best Smartphones 2 End of Year 2021
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Smartphone seasons come and go and there are always a handful of standout devices. Regardless, only one can be crowned the best phone of the year, whether it’s the best Android phone or the best smartphone generally.

In this article, we share Android Authority’s Editor’s Choice winner for the best phone of 2021, alongside those devices that placed in the top five. We’ve now also crowned our Reader’s Choice best phone of 2021 winner and awarded our full list of the best products of 2021.

How we chose our winner

Best Smartphone Cameras 2021 lined up - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max, Google Pixel 6 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 III, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Deciding which phone is the “best” is a tricky problem. People have personal preferences, platform biases, and good and bad experiences to draw upon. Brands have varying markets, product availability, and track records for support and customer service. Then devices have different price points, features, and target audiences. It can be a bit of a minefield to call anything the best when there are so many variables. That’s where we come in.

We review a lot of tech but phones have always been our bread and butter.

We review a lot of tech here at Android Authority but phones have always been our bread and butter. Hundreds of hours go into reviewing, testing, and comparing the best of the best from all segments of the mobile market. Our team of seasoned reviewers and writers know the tech we write about better than anyone. But as the year draws to a close our team crowns our pick for the best phone of the year, based on not just performance but also value for money and other intangibles like long-term support.

First, we create a shortlist based on the most important and well-rated phones we’ve tested throughout the year. Then we ensure our list has devices from all major brands and price points. We include devices sold in the US only as well as globally. Finally, we submit the list to a vote. Our most experienced reviewers assign points based on their picks and the phone with the most points overall wins. Simple.

Android Authority‘s Editor’s Choice phone of the year: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 Android Authority Editors Choice 2021
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

When the dust settled on voting this year it wasn’t even close. We had a very clear winner on our hands. The Pixel 6 offers a feature set almost as full as its more expensive stablemate but with a price tag that cannot be ignored. The Google Pixel 6 is Android Authority’s Editor’s Choice phone of the year for 2021.

The Pixel 6 has a price tag that cannot be ignored for what it delivers.

At just $599, we called the Pixel 6 one of the easiest-to-recommend phones of the year in our review. Google is finally taking making smartphones seriously and the Pixel 6 is a breath of fresh air. It packs much of the flagship experience of the Pixel 6 Pro but shaves off just the right parts to get the price down. We think the Pixel 6 is the best phone for most people in 2021.

Don’t miss: Pixel 6 series buyer’s guide

google pixel 6 press image sorta seafoam
Google Pixel 6
The more affordable Pixel
The Google Pixel 6 features a 6.4-inch FHD+ display and runs on the all-new Google Tensor SoC. It has an upgraded camera system, exclusive software features, and offers some of the best hardware Google has ever produced.

Second place: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Silver back
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

At the other end of the price spectrum, we have our first runner-up, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Jam-packed with all the best Samsung has to offer, the S21 Ultra perfectly represents “peak smartphone.”

Read next: Samsung Galaxy S21 series buyer’s guide

At $1,199 though, it’s double the cost of the Pixel 6 and out of range for many. But if you can afford to drop this much on a phone, it has everything you could ever want (except a charger). Samsung really brought its A-game in 2021. The Galaxy S21 Ultra shows what the most expensive phones in 2021 are capable of.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Third place (tied): Google Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Reinforcing just how great both Samsung’s and Google’s product lines were this year, we had a tie for third place: the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 3. Google’s more expensive phone and Samsung’s fancier foldable both scored highly with our team. Both devices add a telephoto lens that the base model Pixel 6 and Samsung’s other 2021 foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip 3, miss out on.

Up next: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 buyer’s guide

The extras here will cost you though. The Pixel 6 Pro costs $300 more than the regular Pixel 6. That’s nothing compared to the $700 price differential between the Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3. For those with deeper pockets though both the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 3 leave nothing to be desired. They also give us a glimpse of where Google and Samsung are placing their future bets.

Google Pixel 6 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Fifth place (tied): iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max

You certainly can’t say we’re biased against Apple when two iPhones tied for fifth spot. (In case you think our math is off, we consider the Pixel 6 Pro and Z Fold 3 to have taken places three and four). While there wasn’t anything mind-blowing in this year’s iPhones, they iterated well on the already-excellent iPhone 12 series. iPhones have gotten really good in the last couple of years and are great options for a lot of people.

See more: iPhone 13 series buyer’s guide

Even in this tie, we see the same high-low pricing dichotomy at play, from the more affordable $799 iPhone 13 to the $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro Max. The simple truth is that good phones are cheaper/cheaper phones are better these days. Spending above the $1,000 threshold is only necessary if you want the very best of the best each brand has to offer. With that said, the experience in the $600-800 price range is just as good for the vast majority of things.

Apple iPhone 13
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Reader’s Choice award: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Android Authority Readers Choice badge
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

From a mega-list of 33 contenders, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has been voted our 2021 Readers’ Choice phone of the year, defeating the Google Pixel 6 Pro by a handy margin. Check out the full breakdown showing how far ahead the S21 Ultra was at every stage of the voting.

That’s it from us but be sure to check out our picks for the rest of the best products of the year in many other categories.

Recap: Check out our 2020 Editor’s Choice winner and 2020 Reader’s Choice winner.

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