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The hottest and nottest smartphones of 2021 at launch, as voted on by you
There were loads of solid smartphones to choose from in 2021, with the likes of ASUS, Motorola, Samsung, Xiaomi and more all delivering the goods in various price segments. In fact, we’d argue that it was tough to buy a truly bad phone this year.
But what did you think of these phones at the time of their release? We posted polls throughout the year, asking whether a brand-new phone was “hot” or “not.” Now that we’re winding down the year, we thought it would be a good idea to grab these poll results to see which devices were hottest and which ones were, well… not.
Just to clarify, we opted to grab results that received 1,000 votes or more to get a more accurate picture of reader sentiment. That means some notable phones like the OnePlus Nord 2, OPPO Find X3, vivo X70 Pro Plus, and ASUS Zenfone 8 series missed the cut as they simply didn’t attract the minimum amount of voters.
In any event, our graph below shows the proportion of “hot” votes in green versus the “not” votes in red.
The hottest and coldest phones of 2021
The big winners
The hottest device of 2021 according to readers was a major surprise. Over 91% of polled readers said the Sharp Aquos R6 was a hot device, making it the only phone on this list to cross the 90% hot threshold. Sharp’s flagship offered standout features like a gargantuan 20MP one-inch camera sensor (the only rear camera on the phone aside from a ToF sensor), a 240Hz OLED panel, a 5,000mAh battery, and a 3.5mm port. The big downside is that this phone (and the Leica Leitz Phone 1 variant) is only available in Japan.
Our runner-up was the Google Pixel 6 series, as 86.3% of polled readers at the time thought the phones were hot. Both phones receive in-house Tensor chipsets for the first time, while also receiving notable battery upgrades, and a new primary camera for the first time in years. It doesn’t hurt that the base Pixel 6 starts at just $600, stealing the thunder from devices like the OnePlus 9 and Galaxy S21.
The Xiaomi Mix 4 claimed third place, with 85.3% of respondents saying it was hot at the time. This is Xiaomi’s first phone with an under-display selfie camera and the first commercially available Mix phone since 2019’s Mi Mix 3 5G.
Samsung and OnePlus phones didn't crack the top 10, according to our hot-or-not polls throughout the year.
In fourth place was the Redmi Note 10 series, as 83.5% of polled readers thought these phones were hot. Redmi’s Pro model brought a 108MP main camera and 120Hz OLED screen to the mid-range segment. The standard Redmi Note 10 was no slouch either, offering a 60Hz OLED panel in the budget tier.
Rounding out the top five was the Sony Xperia Pro-I. Sony’s late 2021 release has a massive price tag, but offered a one-inch camera sensor, 4K/120fps HDR video recording, and a 4K/120Hz OLED panel. Clearly, readers seemed to like phones that offered gigantic camera sensors.
There were only four phone lines that received more “not” votes than “hot” votes at the time of launch. And the big loser in this regard was Apple’s iPhone 13 series, receiving 21.7% of “hot” votes compared to 88.3% of respondents voting “not.” We can’t say we’re surprised given our Android focus and the fact that most readers are Android users.
The iPhone 13 range does see features like Ceramic Shield cover glass, water resistance, wireless charging, a great ecosystem, and good battery life. But we also lamented the slow charging speeds, proprietary Lightning port, and polarizing software in our reviews.
What about Android phones though? It turns out that the least-popular Android devices in this regard are the OnePlus 9 (29.5% hot) and OnePlus 9 Pro (32.8% hot). Comments in our original results article point to the company’s software support being the issue, along with rising costs over the years.
OnePlus didn’t do itself any favors with the OnePlus 9 either, axing wireless charging from the Indian variant and not bringing an official IP rating to the unlocked model. For what it’s worth, we thought the OnePlus 9 Pro was the best OnePlus phone in years, contrasting sharply with the initial reader reception.
Finally, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series were the only other phones to receive more “not” votes than “hot” votes (45.6% hot). It’s interesting to note that, despite this, the Galaxy S21 Ultra received the Android Authority Reader’s Choice award for best smartphone of 2021.
This might serve as evidence of how the initial reaction to a phone release doesn’t always line up with reactions months down the line. But it could also suggest that the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus dragged the S21 Ultra down at the time of our original poll. All three phones lacked microSD support, but the base model lacked a glass back while the base and Plus variants topped out at FHD+ display resolution.
Were you surprised by this ranking? Do you think any phones deserved to be much higher or lower? Let us know below.