(Pocket-lint) - With the pace of smartphone evolution moving so fast, there's always something waiting in the wings. No sooner have you spied the latest handset, that there's anticipation for the next big thing.
Here we look at those phones that haven't yet launched, the upcoming phones for 2021. We'll be updating this list on a regular basis, with those device rumours we think are credible and exciting.
As for already-launched handsets, we've rounded up the best smartphones for 2021 elsewhere - those we consider to be the best across all platforms. If your budget is a little smaller, there is also our budget smartphones for under £200 feature - and there's a mid-range roundup up to £400 as well.
The upcoming generation of phones
Before we dive into the detail, here are some of the anticipated handsets for 2021:
- Redmi Note 10 & 10 Pro
- Asus ROG Phone 5
- Oppo Find X3 Pro
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 4
- OnePlus 9, 9 Pro and 9E
- Huawei P50 Pro
- Sony Xperia 1 III
- Sony Xperia 10 III
- Google Pixel 5a
- Nokia 7.3 5G
- Nokia 9.3 PureView - or Nokia 10?
- Samsung Galaxy Fold E
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 2/3
- Folding Google Pixel
- Apple iPhone SE 2 Plus
- Apple iPhone 13
- Xiaomi folding phones
- Oppo folding phone
Redmi Note 10 and Note 10 Pro
The Redmi Note 10 is expected to be the new flagship device from Redmi, with regular and Pro models. The launch date is 4 March with India getting it first, likely then rolling out across other regions soon after. The phone is expected to have IP52 protection, big displays, with a Pro offering 120Hz, Snapdragon 700 series hardware and 64-megapixel main cameras.
Asus ROG Phone 5
The ROG Phone 5 will be officially unveiled on 10 March but we've already had some concrete information on it. It will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, have a 64-megapixel main camera and an RGB style graphic on the rear of the phone. Oh, and it's also been judged by DxOMark to be the best audio performer on the market - both in terms of playback and recording.
Oppo Find X3 Pro
Oppo had one of our favourite flagships in 2020 with the Find X2 Pro - and we're expecting a follow-up in 2021. The launch is expected in March 2021, it will have a 6.7-inch display and be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, with boosts to the camera. A pair of 50-megapixel cameras on the rear for wide and ultra-wide could be supported by a 13MP zoom and 3MP macro camera.
Mi Mix 4
Xiaomi might be about to add the Mi Mix back into the ... mix with a new model. The company has teased a new version of the phone on Chinese social media, suggesting that it's on its way. Will it keep the sliding mechanism or will it opt for an under-display camera to achieve that undisturbed display? We might lean more at MWC China, sheduled for the end of February.
Huawei P50 Pro
The Huawei P50 Pro is expected to launch around April 2021. We're not expecting huge changes from the P40 Pro, but we're expecting a 6.6-inch display on the front, moving to a single front camera. We suspect much of the focus will be on Harmony OS, with Android firmly in the rear view mirror.
Sony Xperia 1 III
Sony's timeline has been knocked off a little, but an update to the flagship phone, the Xperia 1, is due. We'd expect Sony's 4K device to get the Snapdragon 888, a 6.5-inch display, and camera improvements.
Sony Xperia 10 III
Sony normally announces new device in February, but it looks like there are delays - but an uptick in leaks suggests we'll soon have a new Xperia 10 from Sony Mobile. The Xperia 10 III could be powered by the Snapdragon 765G, meaning it will be 5G, with a 6-inch display and triple camera on the rear.
Google Pixel 5a
Leaked designs for the Pixel 5a came as something of a surprise - but did come from a reliable source. With a design that appears to be almost the same as the Pixel 4a 5G, it's hard to see where Google is going with this one, as any hardware component upgrade would eclipse the Pixel 5 flagship.
Nokia 7.3 5G
Nokia is looking to add another affordable 5G phone to its selection and it's rumoured that this phone will use Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G hardware or MediaTek Dimensity. Nokia has confirmed it's working on more affordable 5G devices and that there will be devices on this new Qualcomm hardware in the future.
Nokia 9.3 PureView
Rumours of a new flagship have been circulating for well over a year, with no sign of the elusive handset. The Nokia 9.3 PureView was thought to be the next model, but it's been some time since we've seen any leaks. More recently, a leaked doc has hinted at a Nokia 10 instead.
LG future flagship
LG is said to be preparing a future flagship phone launch, which is expected in Q1 2021. Little has been said about what to expect, but the general feeling is that it's going to be based on the V series of devices.
LG Velvet 2
It's thought that LG will be launching an update the Velvet - the Velvet 2. It's expected around March 2021 on updated Snapdragon 700 series hardware, still to be announced. Little else is known about the phone, but we expect it to be an incremental update.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
Samsung is focusing its efforts on foldable phones and we're expecting it see a new Flip in 2021. We think it will appear in June/July 2021. The display is said to get an update to 120Hz for smoother scrolling, while it's thought it's going to be cheaper than the predecessor.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung's next Z Fold model is expected to be the flagship phone for the next-generation of folding phones from Samsung. It's expected to take the progress of the Z Fold 2 and add S Pen support into the package. There's a rumour that Samsung will add an under-display camera for the first time. Launch is expected in June/July 2021. It could also be the first device to get Exynos hardware with AMD graphics.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold E
There have been several threads of a rumour that suggest Samsung is looking at more affordable folding phones - and the Galaxy Z Fold E is what we might get. There's talk of a Fold model with a smaller external display like the Z Flip, designed to sell much cheaper - with $1100 suggested. Could this be a cheaper Fold model for 2021?
Folding Google Pixel
News of a folding Pixel first appeared in 2019, with a second leak in 2020 suggesting that the codename was Passport, and that it would be launched in Q4 2021.
With increasing support for folding and larger phones in Android 12, and news from Korea that Samsung Display has been tapped-up to supply a 7.6-inch folding display for Google, a folding Pixel might be on the horizon.
Apple iPhone SE Plus
As soon as the 2020 iPhone SE was announced, rumours started circulating about a larger model. With the iPhone SE essentially taking the iPhone 8 body, there's those wondering if a Plus model will be launched to slot into the iPhone 8 Plus space. With the new iPhone 12 mini costing much more than the SE, will Apple fill this cheap-but-big gap?
Apple iPhone 13
The iPhone 12 is pretty new, but we're already hearing that Apple might be looking at an under-display Touch ID system. Knowing Apple, the design of the new iPhone would take the same design as the 12, but will it reduce the notch on that display?
Xiaomi flip phone
Xiaomi has shown off a number of folding prototypes in the past, and in 2021 it's expected that we'll see three folding devices. That could include in-folding, out-folding as well as clamshell. Whether all will come to market remains to be seen, but more recent rumours have said that orders have been placed with Samsung Display for an 8.03-inch folding panel, which would be an in-folding device.
Oppo folding phone
Oppo has shown off folding phone prototypes before, including an out-folding device. But the most recent leak suggests that Samsung Display will provide a 7.7-inch display for a clamshell-style device. Little else is known.