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The best phone to buy for 2021 – CNET

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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Phone makers are innovating and evolving faster than ever, and the past year has been one of the most interesting ones for phones. Not only have we seen more devices with flexible screens and handsets with 5G connectivity, but there’s been an influx of phones that tout premium specs and affordable price tags. Some things though, remain the same — like the fact that Apple and Samsung still dominate the market. Their newest flagships, the iPhone 12 and Galaxy Note 20, respectively, offer powerful processors, fantastic rear multicamera setups and 5G

But despite Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy lines being the top choice for many, other companies like OnePlus and Motorola sell great phones too. The sheer amount of solid competition gives consumers excellent options to choose from at a range of prices. 

To help you figure out the best of the best, we gathered our favorite phones to buy in 2021. Every phone on this list has been thoroughly reviewed and tested, from their batteries to camera performance. We’ve linked to the unlocked version of each phone, and they should run on most of the big four US wireless carriers, unless specified otherwise. We update this list regularly to ensure the best phone is always represented.

And for more info, read our guide to help find the best phone for your needs and take a look at our tips on how to buy a new cell phone


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2020’s best smartphone

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The iPhone 12 (and its higher-end iPhone 12 Pro counterpart) received one of our highest scores ever. The smartphone features the powerful and fast A14 Bionic processor, dual rear cameras, 5G and a magnetic “MagSafe” feature that allows it to connect to other mobile accessories.

Read our Apple iPhone 12 review.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you want a 5G phone that doesn’t cost too much, the Pixel 4A 5G is one of our top picks. The handset has a solid battery life, fantastic dual rear cameras and robust software support from Google. There’s also the Pixel 5, which has a great 90Hz display, but it costs more at $699 (£599, AU$999).

Read our Google Pixel 4A 5G review.

Angela Lang/CNET

OnePlus released a lot of phones in 2020, including the OnePlus 8 Pro and the 8T, but our favorite this year is the OnePlus 8 due mostly because of its price. At launch the smartphone cost $699 (£599, AU$1,180 converted) and has since been discounted. The phone features a 6.55-inch AMOLED screen, a 90Hz display, a water resistant design and 5G.

Read our OnePlus 8 review.

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The Motorola Edge Plus has pretty much everything you’d hope for in a premium 5G mobile phone: A Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset, a giant battery, an OLED screen with a high refresh rate and multiple rear cameras with heavy-duty specs. Motorola took features found on other top-of-the-line Android phones, put its own Moto spin on them and built them all into one of our favorite Android phones of the year.

Read our Motorola Edge Plus review.

Angela Lang/CNET

Starting at only $399, the 2020 version of the iPhone SE is the best budget phone you can find right now. With an A13 processor (the same as the iPhone 11) and an amazing camera, the iPhone SE is way more powerful than it has any right to be. Old-school iPhone fans will also appreciate the return of TouchID and the home button.

Read our Apple iPhone SE (2020) review.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Note 20 Ultra, along with its smaller counterpart the Note 20, is a pricey, ultrapremium Android phone with an expansive screen size, an embedded S Pen stylus and 5G. The Note 20 Ultra also has a triple-rear camera array, the high-powered Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and reverse wireless charging. It comes with either 128GB or 512GB of internal storage.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.

Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel phones have a loyal following and with good reason. Without considering its price, Google’s Pixel 4A has a top-notch camera that takes brilliant photos. But it’s even better that the phone costs $349 (£349, AU$599). The 5.81-inch handset also features a headphone jack, 128GB of storage out of the box and a better battery life than last year’s Pixel 4.

Read our Google Pixel 4A review.

Juan Garzon/CNET

In addition to its main Galaxy S flagship phones, Samsung has a more cost-conscious A series line of phones. This year it launched the Galaxy A51 and it’s another Samsung phone that costs $399 (£329, AU$599) — though there is a 5G variant that costs $499. The Android device has four cameras, an in-screen fingerprint reader and expandable storage.

Read our Galaxy A51 review.

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Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries

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Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver

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EBay will sell its South Korean business to retailer Shinsegae Group and e-commerce firm Naver for about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion), local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.

Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.

South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.

Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.

($1 = 1,117.7000 won)

 

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum

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Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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