Smartphone test 2021: Samsung, iPhone, Xiaomi in comparison
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Smartphone test 2021: Samsung, iPhone, Xiaomi in comparison

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Which is the best smartphone on the market ? Difficult question because there are dozens of current Android and iPhone models. So that you don’t lose track of things, GIGA expert Biagio has mixed a unique cocktail of  smartphone test winners , important tips on buying a mobile phone and worthwhile phone recommendations in our mobile phone test . Salute!

Update from March 22nd, 2021:  We have updated the article for you and added the newly released Samsung Galaxy A32 5G.

When I am about to buy a new smartphone, I keep asking myself: Should it be an Phone  or should I buy an Android this time   And the way I feel, most of you are probably too. The good news is that both operating systems are now so mature that you can’t “make a mistake”.

When it comes to choosing the right cell phone model, it gets a bit more difficult. Buying a smartphone is nice, but who wants to dig through hundreds of data sheets to find the best mobile phone? But don’t worry: my colleagues and I have had countless current cell phone models in hand and put them through their paces. This results in a detailed and clear purchase advice for you  , so that you can make a quick decision about your new mobile phone .

The best smartphones in the GIGA comparison:

In the following table you will only find a selection of smartphones that we took into account in our test overview. In the various categories, we give alternative recommendations to the respective test winners – so it’s worth taking a look. In a separate article you will also find cell phones up to 300 euros .

GIGA savings tip Best all-rounder Best Android smartphone Best iPhone
product Xiaomi Poco X3 Google Pixel 4A 5G Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Price (approx.)  approx. 200 euros  approx. 450 euros  approx. 1200 euros  approx. 1200 euros
advantage 120 Hz display Great camera Top display & performance As swift as an arrow
disadvantage Stuttering when scrolling hardly any third-party accessories no micro SD slot 60 Hz display only
offer Amazon Otto Saturn Alternate
price comparison idealo idealo idealo idealo

GIGA savings tip: Xiaomi Poco X3

Xiaomi POCO X3

advantages

  • 120 Hz display
  • big display
  • good camera (daylight)
  • very good battery life
  • stereo speakers

disadvantage

  • 120 Hz not constant
  • LC display

For the first time, Poco was noticed as a Xiaomi sub-brand with the Pocophone F1 (test) in summer 2018, which convinced with high-end hardware at a low price.

The Poco X3 no longer wants to be a flagship alternative. Instead, Xiaomi brings functions from the middle and upper class into the budget area. It is the cheapest mobile phone on the market that has a 120 Hz display , HDR10 is also supported.

In terms of design, Xiaomi dispenses with the old-fashioned “water drop notch” and offers a punched-hole front camera, as we know it from Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note series, for example.

The large battery with a capacity of 5,160 mAh is easily enough for a whole day. The combination of Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G and 6 GB RAM ensures sufficient performance. The Poco X3 also copes with demanding tasks such as gaming without any problems. The current Call of Duty can be played smoothly on maximum settings. Thanks to the liquid cooling, the device does not get excessively warm.

Xiaomi made two decisions with the display that tarnish the overall impression a little. The Poco X3 has an LC display with IPS technology instead of an OLED screen. Just a few years ago it was more a question of taste, but nowadays LCDs are rarely used. The picture is poorer in contrast, the black levels are worse and overall the display lacks the optical “oomph” that we have become used to.

The second problem is the variable refresh rate . In games, the Poco x3 switches to 120 Hz. When scrolling through websites, the refresh rate can drop to 50 Hz – this happens automatically, users have no influence. Unfortunately, there are unpleasant micro stutters every now and then.

Interesting:
5G: Where is the LTE successor available? And how fast is it?

Best all-rounder: Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Advantages:

  • compact and light
  • OLED display
  • Jack socket and stereo speakers
  • outstanding photos by day and night
  • 3 years of Android updates
  • good battery life
  • 5G

Disadvantage:

  • hardly any accessories from third-party manufacturers

Differences to the Google Pixel 5:

  • 6.2 instead of 6-inch screen
  • 60 Hz instead of 90 Hz display
  • no IP68 certification
  • no wireless charging

The field of candidates for the best smartphones for 2021 is wide, so choosing the price-performance winner was difficult. It is the balance of the device that convinced us in the test of the Pixel 4a 5G : “With the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5, Google is concentrating on the basic features that are really needed. I find that very pleasant. ”

Thanks to Google’s AI algorithm, the camera produces outstanding results day and night. On the software side, a “clean” Android 11 version is used. Third-party apps such as games or cleaners (“bloatware”) are not installed.

Another advantage: Pixel smartphones receive updates for a total of 3 years. That’s 1 year longer than most other Android manufacturers offer. Since Google is behind the development of Android, all Pixel models receive the latest update of the operating system first.

The Pixel 4a 5G is on par with the Pixel 5 in terms of performance , but costs around 200 euros less. You have to do without a 90 Hz display and wireless charging.

No current smartphone can beat the combination of a strong camera , good performance, many years of updates and 5G connectivity for the price of the Pixel 4a 5G.

The best Android smartphone: GIGA has decided

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The test winner in the Android warehouse

The Galaxy S21 Ultra (front) in full, black glory! (Image source: GIGA.de)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: 5G smartphone

Advantages:

  • 120 Hz full resolution display
  • Performance & workmanship at the top level
  • S-Pen support
  • Battery life
  • strong camera
  • Fast charging function
  • 5G

Disadvantage:

  • microSD slot is missing
  • 3.5 mm jack socket is missing
  • Power adapter and headphones are not included
  • Weight

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has, as expected, to the throne of Android smartphones for the still young 2021 is curved. And Samsung really showed some love to its flagship model this time around. The performance of the  Exynos 2100 processor is still below the performance of the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, but the difference in this generation is very small – so small that you shouldn’t notice it in everyday life. With a maximum of 16GB RAM , you are also well equipped for future updates over the next 3 years.

When it comes to the display, Samsung has surpassed itself with the Galaxy S21 Ultra and creates the balance between design and functionality. The rounded sides look good, but do not interfere with the operation. Finally, 120 Hertz are also possible when the full display resolution of 3,200 x 1,440 pixels is active.

The heart of the S21, the camera, has grown significantly compared to the previous top dog, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Images can now also be used at 100x zoom. The Galaxy S21 Ultra also masters day and night shots with flying colors. And the S-Pen, which was otherwise reserved for the Note series, is now also on board.

Does this make the Galaxy S21 Ultra the perfect smartphone? Nearly. Unfortunately, there is no longer a micro SD slot (huge ouch!). Also headphones and power supply (mini-ouch!). At the end of his extensive Galaxy S21 test, GIGA expert Peter still gave a clear purchase recommendation: “If you have no problems with the heavy weight, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is currently the best and most versatile Android smartphone on the market . ”

Special functions for Windows users:
Certain Samsung models, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, have exclusive advantages when connecting Windows 10 to the mobile phone . Then, for example, Android apps can be used on the desktop without having to take the mobile phone out of your pocket.

Inexpensive flagship alternative: OnePlus 8 Pro

OnePlus 8 Pro

Advantages:

  • very good workmanship and modern design
  • strong performance
  • Water and dust protection according to IP68
  • 6.8-inch OLED display, 120 Hertz refresh rate
  • wireless charging with up to 30 watts
  • Quad camera with 48 MP ultra wide angle

Disadvantage:

  • Memory cannot be expanded
  • Night shots not on a high-end level

If you don’t need the stylus of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and want to save a few hundred euros on top of that, you can use the OnePlus 8 Pro as an alternative . The flagship of the Chinese manufacturer from the first half of 20202 is at a top level and offers a good camera for daytime shots, a beautiful OLED display with 120 Hz and a strong performance.

Those who like to charge their mobile phone wirelessly will enjoy the OnePlus 8 Pro. Wireless charging is supported with a full 30 watts. However, the appropriate charging station must be purchased separately.

GIGA expert Kaan Gürayer finds many words of praise in the OnePlus 8 Pro test and sums up his experience with the device as follows: “Thanks to innovations such as wireless charging, IP certification, the 120 Hz display and, last but not least, the improved camera, OnePlus is now finally climbed into the Champions League of smartphone manufacturers.

Stiftung Warentest: The best cell phone is the iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro Max: The best iPhone with the most powerful camera

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Advantages:

  • noble design and high quality materials
  • IP68 certification
  • A14 Bionic Chip
  • 5G, WiFi 6, dual SIM
  • very good OLED display
  • good camera HDR function
  • LIDAR sensor for augmented reality and great selfies
  • best video function on the market
  • MagSafe has many uses

Disadvantage:

  • Display with only 60 Hz refresh rate
  • MagSafe accessories expensive

Differences to the iPhone 12 Pro:

  • larger display (6.7 vs. 6.1 inches)
  • better camera (stronger zoom, stabilization, sensor size)
  • Battery life (20 vs. 17 hours of video playback)

The iPhone 12 Pro Max combines old concepts with innovations. In terms of design, it is reminiscent of the iPhone 5 with its “angular” shape. The camera offers the best image stabilization, the strongest zoom and a larger sensor than all other iPhone 12 models. The larger sensor ensures better recordings in poor light conditions. 5G is on board all iPhone 12 models.

Overall, the technical deviations from the iPhone 12 Pro are hardly significant. The biggest difference lies in the size of the display and the battery. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch OLED screen . For comparison: the display of the iPhone 12 Pro is only 6.1 inches. When it comes to battery life, the Pro Max is slightly ahead.

Stiftung Warentest gave the iPhone 12 Pro Max the test winner with the grade “good” (1.7). The performance of the A14 Bionic installed in all 2020 iPhones is beyond reproach and is well above the CPU / GPU combinations from other manufacturers. The gigantic display was rated “very good” (0.9). We largely share this assessment, but the low refresh rate of 60 Hz is a clear drawback for a cell phone in this price range. Here, Samsung and OnePlus have the edge with their 120 Hz screens, which make a huge difference in the perceived speed.

If you don’t want a display in mini tablet format, you can use the iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 . If you are looking for a very compact iPhone, you can grab the new iPhone 12 Mini .

Apple MagSafe: what it can do and accessories?

All new iPhones in the 12 series have MagSafe , a magnetic ring that is integrated into the back of the smartphone. This means that various accessories such as charging plates or card cases adhere to the iPhone. Here are some examples of useful accessories:

A quick check of other top smartphones

100 euro class: Xiaomi Redmi 9

XIAOMI Redmi 9

5G, brute performance or outstanding cameras – not everyone needs them. Some are simply looking for a cheap smartphone for making calls, writing WhatsApp, social media and YouTube. The Xiaomi Redmi 9 does exactly these tasks without any problems.

With a MediaTek Helio G80 processor and 3 GB of RAM, the Xiaomi Redmi 9 is quite weak on paper. In use, however, the mobile phone does everyday tasks reliably and quickly. The sharp IPS display with a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels is striking for the price of just under 100 euros. The USB-C connection is also not a matter of course in this price range.

Thanks to the ample battery capacity of 5020 mAh, you can easily get through the day. With moderate use, two days are also possible.

The Xiaomi Redmi 9 is a functional smartphone at a very good price. No more and no less.

The cheapest 5G phone: Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

Samsung released a real blast with the new Galaxy A32 5G . It is currently the cheapest 5G smartphone on the market and is well-equipped. In addition to the latest mobile communications standard, the A32 5G scores with a huge 5,000 mAh battery and an equally huge display with a diagonal of 6.5 inches. This relies on IPS technology, which is quite atypical for Samsung, and therefore cannot keep up with the rich colors and outstanding black levels of AMOLEDs. But it is sufficiently bright and can still be read easily even in direct sunlight.

I’m still testing it myself, but I can already say: For just under 250 euros you can get a perfect mobile phone for media consumption that lasts for a long time, offers a good camera for daytime shots and comes with Android 11 ex-factory.

The ” water drop notch “, which now looks a bit old-fashioned, can certainly be got over in view of the price and the features offered.

The cheap ones from Apple: iPhone SE 2 and iPhone 11

With the 2nd generation of the iPhone SE, Apple presented a smartphone in April 2020 that costs less than 500 euros and is state-of-the-art in terms of performance. The only “disadvantage”: From the outside, it looks like the iPhone 6 from 2015. That means thick display bezels and a tiny 4.7-inch display for today’s standards. If that doesn’t bother you, the “SE 2020” is a super-fast iPhone that will receive updates for many years to come.

The best phones: that’s how we chose

There are an incredible number of smartphones on the market right now. Our GIGA experts have tested many of them themselves. Since the tech landscape is changing so quickly, there are also worthwhile devices that we haven’t got our hands on yet. In addition to our own experience, we therefore also refer to the expert opinion of other publications. We usually fall back on the in-depth knowledge of Stiftung Warentest,  its American counterpart Trusted Reviews and other specialist magazines. From the sum of these sources, we can make the best mobile phone recommendations for our readers.

Buying a smartphone: what should I know?

Top 10 mobile phones: The currently most popular smartphones in Germany
Start the photo gallery(11 pictures)
Top 10 mobile phones: The currently most popular smartphones in Germany

Android versus iOS – which operating system is better?

Nowadays there is basically only the choice between Android and iOS (iPhone). In terms of functionality, both systems have largely become the same in recent years, but there are still important differences. With iOS 14  , iPhones now also have the option of placing widgets on the home screen. The picture-in-picture function for apps has also been added. The iPhone is now also more open, so you can set a new standard browser.

Despite the increased variety of models in the iPhone universe, Android still has a much larger selection of devices. If you like it very cheap, you have to use Android – unfortunately there is no iPhone for 100 euros. With the high price, you always have to take into account the support duration of the devices. Android has a maximum of 3 years of support, Apple usually gives its cell phones 5 years.

When deciding which devices to use otherwise, it is also important. iPhones harmonize very well with other Apple products such as the MacBook. Samsung is trying to achieve a similar interlocking with Windows 10 through a partnership with Microsoft, but this solution is not quite as elegant yet.

If you plan to use your smartphone for a long time and use other Apple devices, then an iPhone is probably the best choice for you. Features such as a 120 Hz display or 50x zoom are important to you or you just want to spend little money on your smartphone? Then use Android.

How much memory do you need for a cell phone?

Most smartphones are available with different memory sizes. How much you need depends on your personal usage behaviour. Very affordable Android smartphones start with 32 GB of memory. That is not a lot, but in most cases this memory can be expanded with a micro SD card.

Memory expansion is not possible with iPhones. So if you want to save a lot of media and apps locally, you have to take this into account when buying. For iPhones, we recommend a minimum memory of 128 GB . Especially if you want to use the device for many years.

Buy a smartphone with or without a contract?

If you want a new smartphone, you should take a look at your contract: How much longer will it run? Are the price and scope still up to date? A termination (often necessary no later than three months before the end of the term) and then an order for the tariff plus smartphone could make sense.

Every now and then there are offers so good that you don’t pay much more for the tariff plus smartphone over a 24-month term than for the hardware at other retailers alone. GIGA regularly points out such deals .

Buying a used smartphone – useful or not?

The best way to get a used smartphone is from a trustworthy dealer. With a private seller, the risk is higher that parts have already been replaced – for inferior ones. In addition, an exchange is excluded, while some dealers often give a guarantee for used products. If the device, including the batteries, is still in good shape, buying it can be worthwhile. At Amazon, the used products run in the warehouse deals area .

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