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The best (and worst) smartphone designs of 2021

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

It’s hard to disagree with the idea that smartphone design has become radically less diverse in the last few years. After all, there are so many ways you can package the same set of hardware. Of course, except for foldable ones like the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

That said, there are still many great smartphone designs that have caught the attention of the year. I’m also a little disappointed with the few design options I’ll discuss later. So far, the best (and least stimulating) smartphone designs for 2021 are: Don’t forget to vote for your favorites with the votes below!

2021’s sexiest smartphone design

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro on a red leaf background

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

For years, the Pixel series has barely differentiated itself from the rest of the smartphone industry in terms of design. In fact, the last time I saw a unique looking Google smartphone was in 2015, before the Pixel brand existed. Thankfully, everything has changed with the Pixel 6 lineup this year. This is Google’s first mobile phone in years, without having to keep up with the rest of the industry.

read more: Pixel 6 Review

A poll conducted in October revealed that 90% of readers liked the design of the Pixel 6 series. It’s not difficult to understand why. Both Pixel 6 models feature a unique and stylish camera bar that spans the width of your smartphone. Overall, the design is reminiscent of the Nexus 6P. If that’s not enough, you can also get the Pixel 6 in a variety of fun and playful colors. The only complaint we’ve seen about cell phone design is that the camera lip tends to collect threads in the lower creases over time.

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Put the back of the Oppo Find X3 Pro phone in the drawer

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Oppo’s Find X series has always succeeded in opening up a special niche for itself. For example, last year’s Find X2 Pro was offered in two unique finishes: ceramic and vegan leather. This time, Oppo dropped exotic material in favor of a fairly typical glass bag. But still, I was impressed with the very unique camera bump design of Find X3 Pro.

read more: Our Oppo Find X3 Pro Review

Instead of choosing a boring rectangular cutout with sharp edges, Oppo went to the other extremes, highlighting the Find X3 Pro’s camera bumps with a unique, gently sloping design. The back is made up of a piece of glass that has been heated to ultra-high temperatures and carefully forged to the desired shape. The company said in a blog post that it experimented with 100 different manufacturing molds before deciding on the final design.

Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S21 device back 2

David Immel / Android Authority

Almost a year later, the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus are very fashionable devices, especially in the Phantom Violet color pictured above. The company knows that it won the gold medal here because most marketing and press materials use this colorway. The reason is easy to understand. Combining the two-tone look with the smooth transition of the frame to the camera bumps, the S21 looks more futuristic than practical.

read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 Review

Samsung downgraded the base S21 to a plastic back instead of glass, but the soft-touch finish retains the premium feel you’d expect from a flagship phone. Weighing only 171g, it is one of the lightweight devices on this list. It’s not officially known what the future Galaxy S22 series will look like, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the company has set fairly high standards.

Realm GT

Realme GT review lead image placed in the bag

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Remember the Oppo Find X2 Pro vegan leather bag? This year, Realme restarted the idea with Realme GT. This is a premium sub-flagship smartphone that will catch the eye of most people.

According to the company, the Realme GT Racing Yellow colorway was “inspired by the color of the dawn” and meant “the color of hope.” Thankfully, if you don’t see any similarities, there are other interpretations. The black bar, which runs the length of the phone, is very similar to the racing stripe of a sports car.

Synthetic leather finishes have functional advantages over glass and plastic. In our review, we praised the phone’s extraordinary grip and fingerprint resistance. Overall, Realme GT checks all the appropriate design boxes, especially if you don’t like the case.

Which 2021 smartphone design did you like the most?

669 votes


Smartphone design that didn’t impress us in 2021

Honor 50

Honor 50 backs lying on a tree stump

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Do you like clean smartphone design and easy-to-understand branding? Well, the Honor 50 special edition Honor Code colorway is definitely not for you. It’s difficult to understand and explain Honor’s design language, Walking ads It comes to my mind.

Needless to say, if you use this phone as a daily driver, get the (opaque) case as soon as possible. However, in Honor’s honor, it offers other colorways, even without the company’s brand across the back of the device.

Realme 8 Pro

Realme 8 Pro back panel

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Like the Honor 50, Realme 8 Pro isn’t as good as it gets in the subtleties. This time around, there’s a big brand slogan on the back of the device. According to Realme, the design is highly regarded by fans of the brand. We don’t doubt it, but certainly we can’t share its charm.

We asked as you told us: Most of you hate the huge branding behind the phone

Unfortunately, if you’re looking at Realme 8 Pro, there’s no way to abandon your brand. But if you can see it past that, the matte blue gradient looks pretty good — especially given the budget price tag.

Motorola Edge (2021)

Left rear profile with Motorola edge in hand

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Motorola debuted Edge and Edge Plus in 2020. This is the company’s flagship smartphone lineup for the first time in several years. Edge had all the design-related bells and whistles that became associated with its flagship smartphones. A slim metal frame and excellent material. Motorola has introduced a curved display and square corners to enhance its premium look.

However, this year, Motorola Edge has stopped looking for avatars whose flagship products are much more common. The company replaced the metal frame with polycarbonate, downgraded the stereo speakers to a monaural setup, and used Gorilla Glass 3 instead of the new standard to significantly reduce front glass protection.

read more: Motorola Edge (2021) Review

The 2021 Motorola Edge never has a bad or unpleasant design — but the phone is a noticeable setback compared to its predecessor and most competitors.

Apple iPhone 13

IPhone 13 Pro Review with Hands Showing Camera

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Almost everyone is familiar with the look and feel of the latest iPhones. Sure, the previous generation has a square design, and this year’s iPhone 13 has reduced the notch by 20%, but otherwise it’s almost unchanged. We had the same basic iPhone design for years at this point, and it’s a bit boring. That’s in contrast to the era of the iPhone 4, where Apple clearly had the best smartphone design in the industry.

Meanwhile, Android OEMs are making advances in ultrasonic in-display fingerprint readers, end-to-end screens, and even hidden selfie cameras. Overall, we’re finally ready to see something radically different from the 2022 iPhone.

Which 2021 smartphone design did you like the most?

494 votes

What do you think about our choice? Did you miss the design of your favorite smartphone? Please let us know in the comments below.

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