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The Best Smartphones Right Now – Flagships

There’s no denying that the smartphone has completely changed the way in which we live. Today’s world is much more connected—for better or worse—and the majority of content is viewed using a smartphone. Let’s take a look at three of the very best smartphones available in the early stages of 2022.

Google Pixel 6 Pro

Google re-enters the conversation in 2021 with the Pixel 6 Pro. Google has always produced solid phones, but the Pixel 6 Pro is it’s first real “flagship” phone for a couple of years. This time around the latest Pixel flagship features a 6.7-inch LTPO AMOLED display situated on a polished aluminum body, and these features are just the beginning for the Pixel 6 Pro. 

This iteration of Google’s flagship also runs on an all-new processor. The Tensor chip, a collaboration between Google and Samsung made specifically for the Pixel series phones represents a shift; trying to build a device-specific melding of software and hardware much in the way that Apple operates. With this Tensor chip, software and hardware optimization makes the stock Android 12 experience a marvel. 

Pixel phones have been known for being some of the best for content creators, with great cameras and software optimization that can take your pictures and videos to the next level. The Pixel 6 pro doesn’t disappoint here. It features three main cameras on an innovative shelf: a 50 MP wide angle lens with optical image stabilization (OIS), a 48 MP telephoto lens with OIS, and a fixed 12 MP ultrawide angle lens. 

The 5,003 mAh battery is rated at 84 hours and comes with an under-display fingerprint sensor, and features 23W fast-charging. Available in Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is available for $899 at the Google store and most wireless carriers.

Google Pixel 6 Pro
Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass Victus front and back
Display: 6.71-inch LTPO AMOLED; 1440 x 3120 (~512 ppi); 120 Hz
OS: Android 12
Chipset: Google Tensor
Memory: 12 GB RAM; 128, 256, 512 GB of onboard storage
Expandable Memory: None
Cameras: Rear – 50 MP 25mm; 48MP 104mm telephoto with 4x optical zoom; 12 MP 17mm. Front – 11.1 MP 20mm 
Sounds: Stereo speakers, no headphone jack
Battery (battery endurance rating): 5,003 mAh (84 hours)
Security: In-display fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: IP68 water and dust resistant
Other versions: Google Pixel 6

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple is back with another version of their popular iPhone, and to many users, it is the best one yet. Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max is the tippy top of the line Apple phone. Built on a stainless steel frame with Gorilla Glass front and back, the build quality of the newest flagship iPhone doesn’t disappoint. The 1284 x 2778 resolution, 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display is the best found on any Apple product.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max runs iOS 15.2 on Apple’s proprietary a15 Bionic chipset. With only six gigs of RAM, it has much less than many of the other top-rated phones, but Apple is always known for accelerated software optimization to get more out of less. 

The 13 Pro Max features three rear-facing cameras, including a 12MP wide angle lens with sensor-shift (a technology used in many high-end cameras that stabilizes the sensor rather than the lens), a 12 MP 77 telephoto lens with traditional OIS, and a 12 MP ultra wide angle lens. With the addition of sensor-shift technology and the software optimization through iOS 15.2, the 13 Pro Max is probably the best commercial phone for content creation available today.

Another place you see optimization is with the battery. Despite the 13 Pro Max having an average 4,352 mAh battery, it excels in keeping the device running for a long time. The 121 hour endurance rating of the device testifies to that. The 13 Pro Max also amps up their charging capabilities now supporting 27W fast-charging. The device eschews a fingerprint reader for Apple’s Face ID software for security, but does feature IP68 protection against dust and water. 

Available in Graphite, Gold, SIlver, and Sierra Blue, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is available for $1,099 from the Apple store and most wireless carriers.

iPhone 13 Pro Max
Body: Stainless Steel frame, Gorilla Glass front and back
Display: 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED; 1284 x 2778 (~458 ppi); 120 Hz
OS: iOS 15.2
Chipset: A15 Bionic
Memory: 6 GB RAM; 128, 256, 512 GB, 1 TB of onboard storage
Expandable Memory: None
Cameras: Rear – 12 MP 26 mm; 12 MP 77mm telephoto with 3x optical zoom; 12 MP 13mm; Front – 12 MP 23 mm
Sounds: Stereo speakers, no headphone jack
Battery (battery endurance rating): 4,352 mAh (121 hours)
Security: Face ID
Miscellaneous: IP68 water dust resistant
Other versions: iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 mini

Samsung Galaxy s21 Ultra

If you were to look back over the past decade in smartphones, you’d have to admit that Samsung has produced some of the very best devices available during that time (if you look past the exploding Galaxy Note 7 from a few years ago). Samsung has always been known for having industry-best specs and the Galaxy s21 Ultra is no different. Let’s start with the display:

The Galaxy s21 Ultra has a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 1,440 x 3,200 resolution. Built on an aluminum frame, the s21 Ultra features Gorilla Glass Victus front and back. As if these weren’t impressive enough, the device runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and comes with 12 GB or 16 GB of RAM depending on the model. The device is fueled by Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.1. Rumor has it that Samsung’s newest UI, One UI 4.0, that will run on Android 12 will be available soon.

The camera setup on the Galaxy s21 Ultra is as impressive as the rest of its hardware. It features four different camera experiences: a 108 MP wide angle lens with OIS, a 10 MP telephoto lens with 10x optical zoom with OIS, another 10 MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and OIS, and a 12 MP ultrawide lens. The front-facing camera is a whopping 40 MP. 

For security it comes with an in-display fingerprint sensor. A large 5,000 mAH battery clocks an endurance rating of 114 hours and features 25W fast-charging to boot. The s21 Ultra is IP68 water and dust resistant and comes with s-pen capabilities for the first time. Available in a number of matte finishes: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown, the Galaxy s21 Ultra starts at $1199.99 and can be purchased from Samsung or at one of the major carriers. 

Samsung Galaxy s21 Ultra 5G
Body:  Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass Victus front and back
Display: 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X; 1440 x 3200 (~515 ppi); 120 Hz
OS: Android 11; One UI 3.1
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Memory: 12 or 16 GB of RAM; 256 or 512 GB of storage
Expandable Memory: No
Cameras: Rear – 108 MP 24mm; 10 MP 240mm periscope telephoto; 10 MP 72mm telephoto; 12 MP 13mm; Front – 40 MP 26mm
Sounds: Stereo speakers
Battery (battery endurance rating): 5,000 mAh (114 hours)
Security: In-display fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: IP68 water and dust resistant; s-pen compatible
Other versions: Samsung Galaxy s21, Samsung Galaxy s21+, Samsung Galaxy FE

These three smartphones will be dominating the U.S. smartphone market until 2022’s devices are launched later this year. There are some other options that are on the market today that compare to these three devices. The OnePlus 9 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, and Sony’s Xperia PRO-I are all strong contenders for best phone of the year. 

 Check back next week when we look at some of the best value smartphones on the market right now.