We're going to see 5G connectivity become a standard feature not only in flagships but also in mid-range and budget phones. We'll see more screens that boast 144Hz refresh rates (and even faster!), which is good news for gaming and video, and camera phones continue to pile on the megapixels and larger sensors, unlike anything we've ever seen before.
Foldable designs are becoming cheaper and more durable, and battery technology is constantly improving too. We've also seen software enhancements too, making us even more excited for Android 12 and iOS 15, not to mention the first phones powered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset. And that's not even mentioning Huawei's new HarmonyOS software, set to shake up the market in April.
In this feature, we've outlined all the major smartphone launches expected to take place in 2021 and beyond, along with an outline of what new features and hardware specifications have been or are likely to be included.
Read on to ensure your next smartphone purchase is not immediately followed by regret, tying you into a long two-year contract. (Remember that there is a chance you could upgrade your contract early.)
Pro tip: As these new phones edge closer, the outgoing flagships will fall in price and you'll be able to scoop up some great deals. If you're not bothered about having the very latest tech, check out our take on the best phones you can buy today.
Best new phones coming out in 2021
Oppo Find X3 - 14 April (UK)
Oppo has unveiled the Find X3 series, with the phones officially going on sale in the UK from 14 April, though pre-orders are live now.
The Find X3 Pro is the flagship, with a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 65W fast charging, and a 10-bit AMOLED display. That's not even mentioning the wild curved glass design, or a camera module that features two primary cameras and throws in a first-of-its-kind microscopic camera to boot.
At £1,099 it's pricey though, so if you want to spend a little less consider the £699 Neo or £379 Lite. These don't have the same striking design as the Pro, but both still offer meaty specs and solid camera chops for the price.
Sony Xperia 1 III - 14 April
Sony usually announces its latest Xperia flagship in February, so we're already overdue for the Xperia 1 III, but we're expecting to see it at an event confirmed for 14 April.
Like its predecessor we're expecting a focus on camera specs and display quality - hopefully with a jump up to 90Hz or 120Hz without losing that 4K resolution.
Leaks so far point to a Snapdragon 888 chip - no surprise - while leaked renders show off a periscope camera, the classic Sony 21:9 aspect ratio, and - more surprisingly - a headphone jack!
Sony Xperia 10 III - 14 April
The last two years have seen a new Xperia 10 model in spring, so it stands to reason that we're about to see the Xperia 10 III show up soon alongside the Xperia 1 III.
Expect a mid-range phone, likely running the Snapdragon 690 based on one leak. Expect it to keep Sony's slim 'n' tall aspect ratio too, though beyond that solid rumours are thin on the ground.
Nubia Red Magic 6 - 15 April
Nubia has already launched the Red Magic 6 and 6 Pro gaming phones in China, but the company will launch the pair globally from 15 April, with pre-orders opening a little earlier on 9 April.
Both phones support world-first 165Hz refresh rates on the 6.8in FHD+ AMOLED displays, along with a new ICE 6.0 cooling system and the Snapdragon 888 5G chipset.
The 6 Pro also goes up to a ludicrous 120W fast charging, while the standard 6 is no slouch at 66W.
Find out more Red Magic 6 details.
Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold - 16 April
Xiaomi broke the rhythm of the Mi Mix series by pivoting to the wrap-around display concept device Mi Mix Alpha, and now it's mixed things up yet again with the Mi Mix Fold.
The company's first folding phone is cheaper than rival devices from Huawei or Samsung (the Chinese price converts to around $1,500), but delivers an 8in folding OLED screen, with a 6.5in 90Hz display on the outside.
The camera offers a 108Mp main lens, backed up by an ultrawide and a 3x zoom lens - similar to the Mi 11.
It launches in China on 16 April, though sadly it's been confirmed that it won't ever arrive anywhere else, so it'll be import-only.
OnePlus 9 - 26 April (UK)
The OnePlus 9 series is here, with two phones for most of the world and a cheaper OnePlus 9R for India.
In the UK the 9 Pro is out now, but there's a longer wait until 26 April for the regular OnePlus 9. They're both available to order now.
You get 120Hz displays and 65W wired charging across the board, along with cameras tuned by Hasselblad. The 9 and 9 Pro are powered by the Snapdragon 888, and also get wireless charging - up to 50W on the Pro model.
The India-exclusive 9R uses the slightly slower Snapdragon 870, and drops wireless charging entirely, but is otherwise impressively similar given the lower price.
Xiaomi Mi 11 series - April
The regular Xiaomi Mi 11 may have launched a while ago, but soon it'll be joined by a full range of phones: the Mi 11 Lite, i, Pro, and Ultra.
Only the Lite and Ultra will launch here in the UK, though Europe will get those two plus the Mi 11i - for now the Pro remains strictly a China-exclusive. All of the phones launch at some point in April, with dates varying by market.
While the Lite and i offer the familiar Mi 11 design and similar specs at less prices, it's the Pro and Ultra that really excite. The use the giant new Samsung GN2 image sensor for their main cameras, introduce IP68 ratings, and in the case of the Ultra even throw in a tiny extra rear display.
Redmi Note 10 series - April (UK)
The Redmi Note 10 series was unveiled in early March, and three phones are set to come to the UK: the Redmi Note 10 Pro in April and the cheaper Note 10S and Note 10 5G some time in Q2.
Specs vary across the range, but the Note 10 Pro (pictured) offers a 108Mp main camera and 120Hz AMOLED screen for just $279 (the UK price is yet to be confirmed).
The cheaper phones drop the screen size and spec, and the megapixel count, but both also offer solid specs for the budget market - though the 5G model makes a fair few compromises to squeeze the networking tech in.
Read the latest on the Redmi Note 10 series.
Poco F3 - April (UK)
Poco has dubbed the F3 'The Real Beast', and looking at the spec list it's easy to see why.
At the heart you get the near-flagship Snapdragon 870 chipset, paired with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 storage.
The 6.67in AMOLED display delivers 120Hz refresh rate and 360Hz touch sampling rate, and you also get 33W fast charging a 4520mAh battery, and a 48Mp triple camera system. All that in a phone that's only 7.8mm thick.
It's on sale in some markets from late March, while the UK gets it some time in April, starting from just £329.
Poco X3 Pro - April (UK)
Alongside the F3, Poco also unveiled the X3 Pro - a souped up version of last year's X3 NFC.
This budget device upgrades its chipset to the brand-new Snapdragon 860, making it one of the most powerful 4G phones on the market, while simultaneously improving the RAM and storage options.
Most of the rest of the phone remains the same, but the X3 NFC was our favourite budget phone of 2020, so any upgrade is welcome.
Asus ROG Phone 5 - Late April (UK)
Asus has unveiled the ROG Phone 5 series, which consists of three gaming phones with the usual OTT specs: Snapdragon 888 chipset, 144Hz OLED displays, and up to 18GB of RAM.
There are three phones - regular, Pro, and Ultimate - but only the standard model is set to launch in the UK, and will arrive in late April. Elsewhere in the world that phone will ship this month, with the Pro in April and the Ultimate following in May.
All three feature another perk: a rear display. On the standard edition this is a static LED panel, though the Pro and Ultimate get more customisable OLED mini-displays that can show graphics, custom images, notifications, and more.
New Nokia range - from late April (UK)
Nokia has unveiled a set of six new smartphones across a re-branded range, and they begin to launch from late April through June.
The C10 and C20 fill out the cheaper end, going through the G10 and G20, then up to the X10 and X20 (pictured) - though even that's pretty affordable at £300.
Specs vary across the range, but expect 60Hz displays across the board and fairly basic specs. The two X phones have 5G support and Zeiss cameras at least, which could help make them competitive.
Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 - May
Lenovo has unveiled the Legion Phone Duel 2, the follow-up to one of 2020's most exciting and impressive gaming phones, and it goes on sale worldwide in May.
Expect a Snapdragon 888, up to 16GB of RAM and super-fast 90W charging across the dual batteries, along with the return of the side-mounted pop-up camera.
The phone is totally committed to a gamer-focussed design, so won't appeal to everyone, but for those who get it there's nothing quite like it elsewhere.
Moto G100 - Q2 2021
The Moto G100 has already launched, though it's not actually on sale in the West yet - though will be soon.
The 'G' name implies that it's part of Motorola's budget line, but in fact it features the powerful Snapdragon 870 chipset, along with a 64Mp rear camera, 5000mAh battery, and 6.7in 90Hz display.
There are compromises too though: that display is LCD, not OLED; charging is limited to 20W wired; and the display is flat with a thick bezel, giving away that this isn't a true flagship, despite the 870 chip.
More curiously, it comes with the new 'Ready For' dock, which allows you to connect the G100 to a display for a desktop-style experience.
Black Shark 4 - Q2 2021
The Black Shark 4 and 4 Pro have already launched in China, but we're still waiting to find out when they'll launch in the rest of the world.
Both feature 144Hz OLED displays, with class-leading 720Hz touch sampling rates, along with 120W charging and a 4500mAh battery, which together will apparently deliver a full charge in less than 15 minutes.
The main differences are in core specs: only the Pro uses the Snapdragon 888, with the regular sticking to the 870. RAM and storage options are also a bit higher for the Pro model.
Realme GT - Q2 2021
Once codenamed 'Race', the next Realme flagship launched in China on 4 March 2021, and we're hoping it'll make it to Europe some time this spring. will pack a Snapdragon 888 and a quad camera.
The GT packs a Snapdragon 888, 65W fast charging, and a 120Hz AMOLED display - and despite all that costs the equivalent of just £310 in China, though we'd expect a UK release to set you back a little more.
It's since been joined by the even more affordable GT Neo, which boasts a flashier design, but drops to 50W charging and a MediaTek Dimensity 1200 chipset.
Vivo X60 - Q2 2021
Like the Mi 11, the X60 series is available now in China, but while we know the X60 is coming to Europe we're still waiting to find out exactly when.
The X60 and X60 Pro share 120Hz AMOLED displays along with 33W charging and 48Mp Zeiss cameras. In China they're powered by the 5nm Samsung Exynos 1080 chipset, but they're switching to the Snapdragon 870 for the global release - and the Pro is also losing its periscope zoom lens.
The even more powerful X60 Pro+ upgrades to a Snapdragon 888 chipset and a 50Mp main camera, along with a snazzy leather rear and 55W charging, though unfortunately this model is only launching in China and India.
Honor View 40 - Q2 2021
Honor unveiled the V40 in China in January 2021, but we're still waiting for official word on the phone's European release.
Expect a 120Hz curved OLED display with a dual hole-punch front-facing camera setup, a 50Mp RYYB-pixel-arranged primary camera, and impressive 66W wired charging alongside 50W wireless charging.
We're not sure yet if it will launch in Europe - likely as the View 40, if it does - and it's still unknown if Honor will be able to include Google Mobile Services on the international version of the phone, since the company is now free of the trade restrictions against former parent company Huawei.
Get the latest Honor V40 news.
Huawei P50 - Q2 2021
We've had the Mate 40 phones, so next up from Huawei are the P50 series, expected to be announced in spring 2021 if the company follows its usual release cycle.
Expect to see three phones - a P50, P50 Pro, and P50 Pro Plus - with prices going up and over a grand for the top model.
They should be powered by the Kirin 9000 processor found in the Mate 40 phones, and will likely borrow some of those phones' camera features too. They could also be the first Huawei phones to use 120Hz panels, though most rumours so far still only point to 90Hz.
Here are the latest Huawei P50 rumours
Xiaomi Mi Note 11 - Q2 2021
We're overdue the announcement of the Mi Note 11, though despite that there have been very few leaks about the device so far - though just enough that we're confident it is on the way.
Going by the Mi Note 10, we should expect top camera and battery specs paired with a mid-range processor, and we'd expect to see it announced some time in the next few months.
New BlackBerry Phone - H1 2021
You read that correctly, BlackBerry is back from the dead again. In August, that US company Onward Mobility licensed the BlackBerry name and has announced that it will work to release a new BlackBerry device in the first half of 2021.
According to Onward Mobility, the new BlackBerry will have 5G network capabilities and a physical keyboard. These really are the only two indications of specs that we have aside from the phone running Android, as currently the announcement is only of the partnership’s existence and nothing more.
OnePlus Nord 2/SE - H1 2021
Following on from the Nord N10 and N100 models, we're still expecting OnePlus to unveil a true successor to its mid-range Nord phone some time in 2021, and early signs point to it being called the Nord SE.
There haven't been any leaks about the device yet, but it's likely it would jump from 90Hz refresh rate to 120Hz and upgrade to the 65W fast charging seen in the OnePlus 8T.
Throw in Android 11 and a new processor and that would make the Nord 2 very tempting indeed. Complicating things are separate rumours that point to an upcoming phone called the Nord N1, so we're a little unsure how the various Nord phones will fit together into OnePlus's strategy for 2021.
Google Pixel 5a - H1 2021
The Pixel 'a' phones are always budget-friendly takes on the flagships that arrive a little later, so we're expecting to see a Pixel 5a turn up some time in summer 2021.
An early leak has revealed a phone that looks very similar to last year's Pixel 4a 5G, so you should expect a big phone and minimal upgrades beyond some spec bumps - though Google may yet surprise us.
Get the latest Pixel 5a rumours.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 2 - Q3 2021
It's all but a given that a second Galaxy Flip 2 is on the way - a proper sequel after the half-step upgrade of the Z Flip 5G - and we're expecting to see it some time in the second half of 2021.
While we had hoped it would launch alongside the S21 series in January, tipsters have suggested it's currently more likely delayed to late summer, so there's a bit longer to wait.
When it does arrive, expectations are for a larger outer display and a bigger battery, and almost certainly a jump to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.
Read the latest Galaxy Z Flip 2 news & rumours
Apple iPhone SE 2 or SE Plus - H2 2021
Apple's new iPhone SE went on sale back in April, but rumours since have pointed towards the launch of either a follow-up or a Plus model. If you're thinking that might be imminent, though, don't hold your breath; we could be waiting until the second half of 2021.
The long-rumoured SE Plus is not simply a larger version of the iPhone SE, mind you. Prolific Apple leakster Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the iPhone SE Plus will feature either a 5.5 or 6.1in display and, crucially, it’ll sport a “full-screen design” like that of the iPhone 11 range. It may also have Touch ID built into the power button.
Asus ZenFone 8 - Summer 2021
The ZenFone 7 launched last September, so it stands to reason that this year will see the ZenFone 8 follow suit.
Expect to see another flappy, flippy camera module - now a bit of a ZenFone trademark - but beyond that we're unsure what Asus has in mind for its flagship series.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 - Q3 2021
Samsung is widely expected to launch the next generation of its flagship foldable series in autumn 2021.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will pick up where the Fold 2 left off, but is rumoured to add in S Pen stylus support, and potentially an invisible under-display selfie camera inside the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE - Q3 2021
Much like the S20 was followed by the S20 FE, it's widely expected that the S21 will eventually be joined by the S21 FE - most likely around October if last year's release pattern is anything to go by.
Spec details are thin on the ground so far, and there's already disagreement - on whether it will have a 60Hz or 120Hz display, for example. Still, most agree the phone will have an AMOLED panel and the latest Exynos and Snapdragon chipsets.
Apple iPhone 13 - Q3 2021
As soon as one iPhone is out, it's time to look to the next, which means we're thinking about the iPhone 13 series already.
New iPhones usually launch in September, but the iPhone 12 was a bit later in October - either way we should see the iPhone 13 series in autumn 2021.
It's likely we'll see a range of four phones again, from a Mini up to a Pro Max, all powered by a new A15 Bionic processor.
Word is that the notch will still be there, but smaller, and we're hoping we'll finally see the display itself jump up to 120Hz. Storage is rumoured to go up to 1TB too, and we're keeping our fingers crossed for the return of Touch ID too, maybe even in an under-display sensor.
The more out-there rumour is that Apple might go entirely port-less now that it can lean on MagSafe charging, but we think that change is more likely to roll out for the iPhone 14 or beyond...
Read the latest iPhone 13 news
Google Pixel 6 - Q3 2021
Google normally releases a new Pixel flagship every autumn, so it stands to reason that the expected Pixel 6 will turn up some time in autumn 2021.
We don't know a lot about what to expect from the phone yet, but a jump to a 120Hz refresh rate sounds plausible, and it's also probably time for Google to upgrade its main camera sensor - unchanged for a few years now - to make sure it clings onto its photography crown.
Other leaks point to a device known as the Pixel XE, but it's not yet clear if this is a fake, a new phone, or simply a codename for the Pixel 6.
Google Pixel Foldable - Q4 2021
This is a bit of a wild card - but leaked internal documents suggest that Google may be working on a Pixel-branded foldable device to launch in late 2021.
Beyond the device's existence there haven't been many leaks with details of what sort of foldable device it will be, or what specs it will have, but we know a lot of people will be curious about a Google-branded folding phone with that Pixel camera.
LG Rollable - 2021
The second phone in LG's Explorer Project - following on from the flippy LG Wing - is the Rollable, expected to launch some time in 2021.
The key conceit is a flexible rolling display, which essentially allows the phone display to extend - you simply pull on one edge and your normal-size phone becomes a tablet.
We don't know any other specs at all yet, but keep an eye out for more.
Oppo X 2021 - 2021
The clue's in the name really, with the Oppo X 2021 expected to launch...well, some time in 2021.
This rollable phone from Oppo was first unveiled last year and seemed to be only a concept phone, but subsequent announcements from Oppo suggest that the phone might launch as a consumer product after all - though expect it to be ruinously expensive, with both a scrolling display and new wireless air charging tech built-in.
Read the latest Oppo X 2021 news.
Sony Xperia Compact - 2021
Here's an unexpected one: word on the street is that Sony is set to revive its Compact line with a new pint-sized Xperia phone some time in 2021.
We've already seen renders of the handset appear online, though tipsters still disagree on whether this will offer flagship specs or something more affordable.
Those renders do suggest a dual rear camera and a single 8Mp selfie camera, and the surprise move away from the slim 21:9 aspect ratio Sony has used in recent years for something a little more blocky.
Check out the latest Xperia Compact rumours.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE - 2021
Samsung is yet to confirm anything official, but we have pretty good reason to expect that a more affordable 'Fan Edition' of the Galaxy Z Fold is set to launch some time in 2021 - only we have no idea when.
One early leak pins the phone as costing $1,099, with a Snapdragon 865 chipset - last year's flagship - though curiously claims it will lack the 5G support that has so far been mandatory with that chip.
Others claim that the Fold FE will simply be the first-gen Fold, re-packaged at a lower price tag to reflect the older tech - that would mean the even older Snapdragon 855, but would explain how Samsung could hit a mainstream price point.
Read more Galaxy Z Fold FE rumours and news
Foldable iPhone - 2022/2023
A folding iPhone has been rumoured ever since the first foldable display tech existed pretty much, but thanks to leaks and rumours we have pretty good reason to believe Apple is at least working on a foldable iPhone - even if it's probably years away.
Apple is rarely the first to market with new tech, though given that Samsung has already released several iterations of its folding tech there's a risk Apple will look backwards if it doesn't follow suit until 2023 - though if it can perfect the tech in that time it may well be worth the wait.
Check out all the foldable iPhone rumours so far.