You can ensure your data remains safe through erasure.
One of the most powerful features added years ago to macOS and iOS was Find My iPhone—and iPad and Mac. The iCloud-connected service lets you track an accidentally misplaced item and potentially recover a stolen one. With the service active on a device, you can use Find My for macOS, iOS, or iPadOS or via iCloud.com to erase your computer, phone, or tablet or to queue an erasure signal for the next time the device is on the Internet. iPhones and iPads with a Secure Enclave and Macs with FileVault enabled simply delete the encryption keys for storage. This renders the data irretrievable. (It doesn’t affect your local or iCloud backups, so don’t worry.) On a Mac with a T2 Security Chip or M1 Apple silicon, disk encryption is always enabled even if FileVault isn’t, allowing Secure Enclave to destroy the disk encryption keys instantly even with FileVault disabled. Pre-Secure Enclave iPhones and iPads and Macs that predate the T2 Security chip and have FileVault disabled take longer to delete files, as each byte of data has to be overwritten. If you’re not sure whether your iPhone, iPad, or Intel Mac has a Secure Enclave, consult the list Apple provides here. You can determine if FileVault is enabled by going to the Security & Privacy preference pane’s FileVault tab.
How to erase a device
Apple warns you about the consequences when you’re about to erase your Mac remotely.
Apple’s tweaked the process slightly for its native apps but left iCloud.com virtually untouched for years. In macOS, iOS, or iPadOS, launch the Find My app. Tap the Devices tab and then tap your hardware. (If you have Family Sharing enabled, you can also see the devices of family members.) On an iPhone or iPad, tap Erase This Device and follow the prompts. On a Mac, right-click the device and select Erase This Device.
With iCloud.com, log in to your account and click the Find iPhone link—no “My” in there. Enter your iCloud password again if prompted. Click the All Devices menu and select your hardware:
For a Mac, click Erase Mac and follow prompts; you’ll note the text says it “may take up to a day to complete,” the worst-case example for a hard-drive-equipped Mac without FileVault enabled and neither a T2 nor M1 chip.
For an iPhone or iPad, just click Erase iPhone or Erase iPad.
If the device is connected to the internet via whatever method it has at its disposal—Wi-Fi, cellular, tethering, a…dial-up modem—erasure begins immediately after the Mac receives the signal relayed via Apple’s servers. In the cases noted above, the drive or flash storage almost instantly becomes irretrievable.
The erase command is queued by Apple, so if the device ever is briefly back on the internet, it erases itself. Once your device starts wiping its data, finding its location via Find My is no longer possible.
For devices that ne’er-do-wells have taken offline or put in a metal box, they may never return online to receive an erase command. But for iPhones, iPads, and Macs with a Secure Enclave, the stored data can’t be interacted with unless someone also obtained the password. (For a running Mac, there might be cracks that work, but it’s unlikely; if powered down and FileVault is enabled, effectively impossible.)
Find My lets you see all your devices and select among them for several purposes—including erasure.
It can be wiped, which securely removes your data—and then Activation Lock kicks, a part of Find My. (Macs have a few additional requirements.) Activation Lock prevents an erased device from being set up again without knowing the iCloud password associated with the account that turned on Find My on it.
Criminal groups have apparently figured out ways to bypass Activation Lock in at least some cases, but those methods still require erasing the device, so your data remains inaccessible.
A future of remote erasure?
I can imagine a future in which the Find My Network could be used to trigger erasure, too. Right now, the system is used entirely as a passive relay: an AirTag tracker and most Apple devices can broadcast their position over Bluetooth in a carefully encrypted manner. Nearby Macs, iPhones, and iPads with Find My Network enabled relay this data via Apple so you can get updates about location without the party relaying it knowing who you are or which device is transmitting.
But AirTags point the way to a potential two-way process. If Apple determines an AirTag has been traveling with you and you’re not the owner of it, you’re presented with a dialog on an iPhone or iPad that lets you play a sound. That command is passed via Bluetooth.
An iPhone that spots an unknown AirTag traveling with it over time can send a signal to prompt an action on the AirTag.
that preserves privacy and yet could be turned to device erasure, too. In Apple and Google’s joint notification system, your smartphone recorded all specially formatted Bluetooth signals around you and retained for those a period of time; this is quite similar to the signals emitted for the Find My Network by Apple devices.
If someone who had been near you receives a COVID diagnosis and enters a code into their smartphone provided by their healthcare provider, the encrypted Bluetooth IDs associated would then be uploaded to a database that all devices in your region or country regularly downloaded and compared to stored IDs.
Now, consider this: what if you could report your device as stolen and that you wanted it erased. That signal would then be distributed in encrypted form across all Apple hardware in your area or an expanded region. If any of those devices picked up an encrypted Bluetooth signal that matched, they could transmit a similarly encrypted erasure instruction. Thieves try to disable all the wireless on a device, but Bluetooth is often harder to block than Wi-Fi or cellular.
The safeguards around this would have to be strong, but it’s not far-fetched—just far-reaching!
If you’re concerned about recent reports of the Pegasus spyware reportedly installed by the Israeli NSO Group to hack journalists and world leaders, there’s a tool to check if it’s hidden on your iPhone. But you probably have nothing to worry about.
According to a report in the Washington Post in conjunction with nonprofit groups Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and several others, military-grade spyware developed by an Israeli firm was used to hack some 40 smartphones “belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
It’s extremely unlikely that your phone has been hacked using NSO software, but there is now a way to check your iPhone for Pegasus spyware – or, at least, some tell-tale signs.
However, if you are concerned, Amnesty International has released a tool designed to help you check.
The bad news, as TechCrunch explains, is that it’s not an entirely straightforward process.
The Mobile Verification Toolkit, or MVT, works on both iPhones and Android devices, but slightly differently. Amnesty said that more forensic traces were found on iPhones than Android devices, which makes it easier to detect on iPhones. MVT will let you take an entire iPhone backup (or a full system dump if you jailbreak your phone) and feed in for any indicators of compromise (IOCs) known to be used by NSO to deliver Pegasus, such as domain names used in NSO’s infrastructure that might be sent by text message or email. If you have an encrypted iPhone backup, you can also use MVT to decrypt your backup without having to make a whole new copy.
The toolkit works on the command line, so it’s not a refined and polished user experience and requires some basic knowledge of how to navigate the terminal. We got it working in about 10 minutes, plus the time to create a fresh backup of an iPhone, which you will want to do if you want to check up to the hour. To get the toolkit ready to scan your phone for signs of Pegasus, you’ll need to feed in Amnesty’s IOCs, which it has on its GitHub page. Any time the indicators of compromise file updates, download and use an up-to-date copy.
Once you set off the process, the toolkit scans your iPhone backup file for any evidence of compromise. The process took about a minute or two to run and spit out several files in a folder with the results of the scan. If the toolkit finds a possible compromise, it will say so in the outputted files.
There has been some misreporting of the spyware, suggesting that iPhones were somehow more vulnerable. The reality is that Amnesty focused its efforts on iPhones because the improved security they offer make it easier to detect when a phone has been compromised. It is possible to check Android phones, but with many more false negatives.
The phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers, according to the Post. NSO has denied the allegations.
There’s a good chance your iPhone isn’t on that list. While the legality of the operation may be in question, reports say the NSO seemingly targeted high-level politicians, government officials, and journalists in the operation and were only successful less than half the time. For example, Amnesty International examined 67 phones and found that “23 were successfully infected and 14 showed signs of attempted penetration.” Of those, nearly all were iPhones, according to the investigation.
But if you’re concerned, there’s a way to test whether your iPhone has been targeted. It’s not an easy test, mind you, but if you’re using a Mac or Linux PC and have backed up your iPhone using it, Amnesty International’s the Mobile Verification Toolkit will be able to detect whether your phone has the Pegasus spyware installed on it. The tool, which TechCrunch tested, works using the macOS Terminal app and searches your latest iPhone backup on your Mac, “is not a refined and polished user experience and requires some basic knowledge of how to navigate the terminal.” You’ll need to install libusb as well as Python 3 using Homebrew. (You can learn more about the installationhere.) TechCrunch says the check only takes “about a minute or two to run” once it’s been set up.
An explosive report from Amnesty International interpreted device logs to reveal the scope of targeted malware attacks in active use targeting Android and iPhone devices, since July 2014 and as recently as July 2021. Exploited devices can secretly transmit messages and photos stored on the phone, as well as record phone calls and secretly record from the microphone. The attack is sold by Israeli firm NSO Group as ‘Pegasus’.
Whilst the company claims to only sell the spyware software for legit counterterrorism purposes, the report indicates it has actually been used to target human rights activists, lawyers and journalists around the world (as many have long suspected).
Perhaps most alarming for iPhone users, the findings show that there are active exploits against iPhones running the latest iOS 14.6 software, including ones that take advantage of a zero-click vulnerability in iMessage that can install the spyware without any user interaction.
Over the last few years, the Pegasus software has adapted as Apple fixed security bugs with iOS. However, each time, NSO Group has been able to find alternative security bugs to use instead. The lengthy report details several different variants of Pegasus that have been used in the wild.
The records indicate that, in 2019, a bug in Apple Photos allowed malicious actors to gain control of an iPhone perhaps via the iCloud Photo Stream service. After the exploit installs itself, crash reporting is disabled likely to prevent Apple from discovering the exploit too quickly by looking at submitted crash report logs.
Also in 2019, Amnesty says that an iMessage zero-click 0-day was widely used. It appears the hackers create special iCloud accounts to help deliver the infections. In 2020, Amnesty found evidence to suggest that the Apple Music app was now being used as an attack vector.
And fast forwarding to the present day, Amnesty believes Pegasus spyware is currently being delivered using a zero-click iMessage exploit that works against iPhone and iPad devices running iOS 14.6. The exploit also appeared to successfully work against iPhones running iOS 14.3 and iOS 14.4.
Apple significantly rewrote the internal framework that handles iMessage payloads as part of iOS 14, with a new BlastDoor subsystem, however clearly that has not fazed the intruders. It remains unknown whether iOS 14.7 — which will be released to the public this week — or iOS 15 — currently in developer beta — are susceptible to the same zero-click exploit. Perhaps what’s more scary is the fact that NSO Group seems more than able to find and deploy new exploits as soon as Apple patches the current holes, as shown by the five year history of evolving attack vectors reported by Amnesty.
Windows are releasing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22000.71 to everyone in the Dev Channel!
Changes and Improvements
We’re introducing a new entertainment widget! The entertainment widget allows you to see new and featured movie titles available in the Microsoft Store. Selecting a movie will direct you to the Microsoft Store to see more information about that title. Just open widgets and click or tap on the “Add widgets” button and choose the entertainment widget. [UPDATE] The entertainment widget is available for Insiders in the following countries: US, UK, CA, DE, FR, AU, JP.
The new entertainment widget gives you quick access to featured moved titles in the Microsoft Store.
The new context menus and other right-click menus have been updated to use acrylic material.
The new Windows 11 context menus before acrylic and after.
We are testing the usability of a SplitButton for making new folders and files in the File Explorer command bar.
The Taskbar previews (when you mouse-over open apps on the Taskbar) have been updated to reflect the new visual design of Windows 11.
Taskbar previews with rounded corners!
We fixed an issue where if you drag app icons on the Taskbar to rearrange them, it was making the apps launch or minimize when you released the icon.
Using a long press with touch on an app icon in the Taskbar to open the jump list should now work.
After right-clicking the Start icon in the Taskbar, clicking somewhere else should now dismiss the menu more reliably.
Shift + Right-click on an app icon in the Taskbar will now bring up the window menu like it used to and not the jump list.
We’ve addressed an issue that was making your mouse move slowly when hovering over the Taskbar previews.
We’ve included the fix for an issue when using multiple Desktops where an app icon in the taskbar might give the appearance of multiple windows being open when that wasn’t the case on that Desktop.
When using the Amharic IME you should no longer see an unexpected X next to the IME icon in the taskbar.
The issue where if you click on the input indicator on the Taskbar and it would unexpectedly highlighted Quick Settings has been fixed.
When you hover over Task View, the preview flyout for your Desktops will no longer pop back up after using Esc to dismiss them.
We made a fix to address an issue where explorer.exe might crash after hovering over the Task View icon in the Taskbar.
We fixed an issue where the selected date in the calendar flyout was out of sync with the date in the Taskbar.
We made an update to address a scenario resulting in some Insiders not seeing the lunar calendar text in the calendar flyout when enabled in Settings.
This flight addressed an issue that could unexpectedly make the Taskbar background transparent.
Right-clicking the focus assist icon in the taskbar should now show a context menu.
The issue from the previous flight where icons in the taskbar corner were getting crushed against the top of the Taskbar has been addressed.
The tooltip for the location in use icon in the Taskbar should no longer appear blank sometimes.
We fixed an issue making Settings crash on launch periodically.
Using the volume mixer sliders in Sound Settings should be more responsive now, as well as the page responsiveness as a whole.
We fixed an issue resulting in Disk and Volumes Settings’ change size option being clipped.
There was a non-functional verify link under Backup Settings – this has been fixed.
The Power and Battery Settings page should no longer be reporting that battery saver is engaged in it’s not.
The Power and Battery Settings page should also now not crash when launched from Quick Settings.
We fixed a grammatical error in the Sign-in Settings text.
The “I forgot my PIN” link was unexpectedly missing in Sign-in Settings when a PIN was set up and has now been returned.
The issue where the Move option under Apps & Features in Settings wasn’t working reliably should be addressed in this build.
We’ve mitigated a problem where some of the colors in Settings weren’t updating after switching between dark and light mode, leaving unreadable text.
We’ve done some work to help improve the performance of Settings when switching between light and dark mode.
We addressed an issue where some of the elements of the Themes page in Settings would end up crowded together when the window size was small.
We resolved an issue where the Pen menu toggle under Taskbar Settings was not in sync with the actual state of the feature.
Changes made to “Dismiss notification after this amount of time” in Accessibility Settings should now persist.
Some of the icons you could enable in Taskbar Settings were erroneously labeled Windows Explorer even though that’s not what they were – this should now be fixed.
The Connect text in Quick Settings has been updated to say Cast.
Clicking the command bar button twice should now close any dropdown that appeared.
The new command bar should now appear when “Open folders in a separate process” is enabled under File Explorer Options > View.
This build addresses an issue where right clicking a file and selecting Open With > Choose another app might launch the file in the default app rather than opening the Open With dialog.
Fixed an issue the desktop and File Explorer context menu would stop launching.
We fixed an issue where the option to verify your account in Search wasn’t working.
Hovering over the Search icon on a secondary monitor will now show the flyout on the correct monitor.
Search should now work if you open Start and start typing after having gone to the apps list and back.
When using the Outlook client with a Microsoft account, Calendar, and To Do updates should sync faster down to the widgets.
We addressed an issue where if you added multiple widgets quickly from the widgets settings, it could result in some of the widgets not being visible on the board.
We fixed a bug where widgets could all become stuck in a loading state (blank squares in the window).
The traffic widget should now follow the Windows mode (light or dark).
The title of the sports widget should no longer mismatch with the content of the widget.
This build addresses an issue where ALT + Tab was getting stuck open sometimes after you released the keys and had to be manually dismissed.
We made a fix for an issue where Narrator focus wasn’t ending up on the emoji panel after using the keyboard shortcut to open it.
Magnifier’s lens view has been updated so the lens now has rounded corners.
We found an issue that was noticeably impacting Start launch reliability for some Insiders, and have addressed it with this flight.
We’ve updated the “Most Used” text in the Start menu’s app list so it should no longer be getting clipped.
Using the semantic zoom in Start’s app list should no longer result in the list being pushed down and to the right off the edge of the window.
We fixed an issue where if you pressed WIN + Z you would need to press Tab before you could use the arrow key to navigate through the snap layouts.
We addressed an issue where an acrylic area could get left on the screen after repeatedly snapping and unsnapping a window with touch.
We’ve done some work to mitigate an unexpected flash when moving a snapped window with touch.
We made a change to help window borders have a little more contrast when “Show accent color on title bars and windows borders” was turned off.
[REMINDER] When upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 10 or when installing an update to Windows 11, some features may be deprecated or removed. See details here.
In some cases, you might be unable to enter text when using Search from Start or the Taskbar. If you experience the issue, press WIN + R on the keyboard to launch the Run dialog box, then close it.
Based on feedback, we are working on adding access keys to WIN + X so that you can do things like “WIN + X M” to launch Device Manager. Insiders may see this functionality in this build, however we are currently investigating an issue in which sometimes the option is unexpectedly unavailable.
There is an issue in this build where Explorer.exe will crash when the date and time button on the Taskbar is clicked to access new notifications with Focus Assist turned off. The workaround for this is to enable Focus assist to priority or alarms mode. Note that when focus assist is turned on, notification popups won’t appear, but they will be in the notification center when opened.
The Taskbar will sometimes flicker when switching input methods.
Taskbar previews may draw partially offscreen.
When launching the Settings app, a brief green flash may appear.
When using Quick Settings to modify Accessibility settings, the settings UI may not save the selected state.
The button to rename your PC doesn’t work in this build. If needed, this can be done using sysdm.cpl.
Settings will crash when clicking “Facial recognition (Windows Hello)” under Sign-in Settings if Windows Hello is already set up.
Reset this PC and Go back buttons in Settings > System > Recovery do not function. Reset and roll back can be accessed from the Windows Recovery Environment by selecting System > Recovery > Advanced startup, and pressing Restart now. Once in Windows Recovery, choose Troubleshoot.
Choose Reset this PC to perform a reset.
Choose Advanced options > Uninstall Updates > Uninstall latest feature update to perform a rollback.
Explorer.exe crashes in a loop for Insiders using the Turkish display language when battery charge is at 100%.
When right clicking the desktop or File Explorer, the resulting context menu and submenus may appear partially off screen.
Clicking a desktop icon or context menu entry may result in the wrong item being selected.
After clicking the Search icon on the Taskbar, the Search panel may not open. If this occurs, restart the “Windows Explorer” process, and open the search panel again.
When you hover your mouse over the Search icon on the Taskbar, recent searches may not be displayed. To work around the issue, restart your PC.
Search panel might appear as black and not display any content below the search box.
Widgets board may appear empty. To work around the issue, you can sign out and then sign back in again.
Launching links from the widgets board may not invoke apps to the foreground.
Widgets may be displayed in the wrong size on external monitors. If you encounter this, you can launch the widgets via touch or WIN + W shortcut on your actual PC display first and then launch on your secondary monitors.
The install button might not be functional yet in some limited scenarios.
Rating and reviews are not available for some apps.
Device Security is unexpectedly saying “Standard hardware security not supported” for Insiders with supported hardware.
“Automatic sample submission” is unexpectedly turned off when you restart your PC.
There is an issue where some Insiders may be missing some translations from their user experience for a small subset of languages running the latest Insider Preview builds. To confirm if you have been impacted, please visit this Answers forum postand follow the steps for remediation.
You can download the latest Windows Insider SDK at aka.ms/windowsinsidersdk. The Windows Insider SDK will be continuously flighting with corresponding Windows 11 Insider Preview builds, and the latest Windows Insider SDK for Build 22000.71 is now available.
Beginning with Windows Insider SDK version 22000.71 and the latest .NET 5 update, we have also added support for .NET 5 developers who want to target the Windows Insider SDK and access these new APIs. For more details on this support, refer to the Windows Insider SDK download page.
Important Insider Links
You can check out our Windows Insider Program documentation here, including a list of all the new features and updates released in builds so far. Are you not seeing any of the features listed for this build? Check your Windows Insider Settings to make sure you’re in the Dev Channel. Submit feedback here to let us know if things weren’t working the way you expected.
If you want a complete look at what build is in which Insider channel, head over to Flight Hub. Please note, there will be a slight delay between when a build is flighted and when Flight Hub is updated.
For the first time ever, Chinese company Xiaomi has taken the second place from Apple in the global smartphone shipments ranking during the second quarter of 2021. As shown by a Canalys research, smartphone shipments grew 12% last quarter as a result of the COVID-19 vaccination around the world.
While Samsung remains in first place, Apple lost the second place ranking in smartphone shipments to Xiaomi during Q2 2021. The Chinese company also had the most significant growth in the last quarter with an 83% increase in sales, while Samsung recorded a 15% increase and Apple only 1%.
In terms of market share, Samsung accounted for 19% of global smartphone sales in Q2 2021, while Xiaomi took 17% and Apple 14%. Oppo and Vivo vie for fourth and fifth place with 10% market share each.
According to the research, one of the main reasons for Xiaomi’s growth is the more than 300% increase in sales in Latin America, coupled with a 150% growth in Africa. Compared to Samsung and Apple devices, Xiaomi offers products that cost 40% and 75% cheaper, so they become more popular in emerging countries.
And as it grows, it evolves. It is now transforming its business model from challenger to incumbent, with initiatives such as channel partner consolidation and more careful management of older stock in the open market. It is still largely skewed toward the mass market, however, and compared with Samsung and Apple, its average selling price is around 40% and 75% cheaper respectively.
Even so, Apple is still in a good position. Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan recently raised their price targets for AAPL as they believe that the iPhone 13, which is expected to be introduced this fall, will keep up the strong sales of the iPhone 12. A recent research by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners shows that the iPhone 12 line accounted for 63% of US iPhone sales in the third quarter of 2021.
The folks at Funn Media are out with a new iPhone and Apple Watch app today that gives you a new way to view and analyze health and fitness data. Dubbed FitnessView, the app takes data from from your Apple Watch and the Apple Health app and makes it easy to drill down into more detail about that data, including trends, goals, heart rate graphs, and much more.
FitnessView app integrates with the Apple Watch Activity and Apple Health apps – it allows you to see your health & fitness data in a different way, by allowing you to drill down to more details in an easy and insightful way.
FitnessView takes data from the Apple Health app and Apple Watch, including active calories, stand hours, calories, workout time, heart rate, and more. When you first launched Fitness View, you’ll see a breakdown of all of your data, including details on that day’s goals, your recent workouts, and your Activity Rings for the day.
You can configure goals for every stat in the Settings tab of the app, including steps, calories, caffeine, and more. Here is where you can also configure settings for workouts, the home screen layout, dark and light mode, and activity settings.
In the Stats tab of the app, you can view details for each of your tracked metrics over the last day, week, month, and year. You can tap on each metric to view averages, trends, and insights over time. One of my favorite features of FitnessView is the Workouts tab, which shows all of your recent Apple Health workouts including detailed heart rate data through warmup, fat burn, cardio, and peak stages of the workout.
FitnessView also includes home screen widgets for your iPhone as well as Apple Watch complications for your watch face. This makes it easy to visualize your Activity and Health data from your iPhone home screen and Apple Watch face. You can also configure custom widgets for each metric and goal.
Bottom line: Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is a great overall package, delivering 5G, the latest hardware, and all the extras you could ask for in a 2021 flagship.
6.2-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
128 or 256GB
12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 64MP telephoto
25W wired, 15W wireless
151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm
Compact and lightweight design
Snapdragon 888 is a performance beast
120Hz AMOLED display
Very capable cameras
All-day battery life
Doesn’t have expandable storage
No MST for Samsung Pay
In 2021, Samsung has released a smaller and more affordable smartphone in the regular Galaxy S21. For shoppers that want a fully-fledged smartphone experience without completely breaking the bank, it’s well worth your consideration.
One of the best things the Galaxy S21 has going for it is the display. It’s a Full HD+ AMOLED panel, and when paired with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate, it is nothing short of excellent. It’s not quite as sharp as the Quad HD+ resolution found on the S21 Ultra, but the picture still looks really crisp thanks to a smaller 6.2-inch display size. Combine that smaller display with plastic construction, and the S21 ends up being a really comfortable phone to use thanks to its small size and lightweight design.
Another highlight is performance; the Galaxy S21 features the Snapdragon 888 and 8GB of RAM. No matter what tasks you throw at the phone, it’ll handle them with ease. There’s also a 4,000 mAh battery for all-day endurance, an IP68 dust/water resistance rating, and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage. The camera experience isn’t as jaw-dropping as what you’ll find with the S21 Ultra, though it is a bit better than the S20 FE. Once again, it’s a nice middle-ground between the two.
You get three guaranteed Android updates and four years of security patches on the software front, making the Galaxy S21 one of the best phones for long-term use. That said, the Galaxy S21 shares the same cons as the S21 Ultra, meaning there’s no expandable storage or MST for Samsung Pay. Those are two features you do get with the S20 FE, but the S21 still manages to stand out thanks to its improved cameras, faster performance, nicer design, and more pocketable form factor.
Bottom line: The S21 Ultra stands out as the phone to get if you don’t want to spare any expense. Everything from the display, performance, cameras, and more are among the very best you can get — just be prepared for it to cost you a pretty penny.
What Samsung achieved with the Galaxy S20 FE is nothing short of amazing, and for the vast majority of you reading this, it’s the phone you should probably buy. But if you’re itching for a device that has even more to offer and you’re OK spending more to get that kind of experience, you’ll want to turn your attention towards the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
This is Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship for 2021, and in virtually every regard, the premium nature of the S21 Ultra is easy to see. Starting first with the display, you’re treated to a massive 6.8-inch panel that’s capable of running a Quad HD+ resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate at the same time — something very few smartphones are capable of doing. This means you get razor-sharp text, buttery smooth animations, and the stunning colors of Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED screen technology.
Powering the S21 Ultra is the Snapdragon 888 chipset, paired with either 12 or 16GB of RAM. In real-world use, that means the Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the fastest phones money can buy. Keeping with the theme of high-end specs, other niceties include a 5,000 mAh battery, up to 512GB of storage, an IP68 water/dust resistance rating, and a larger in-screen fingerprint sensor that’s much faster and easier to use than the one found on the S20 FE.
As if that wasn’t enough, the tour de force of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is its camera system. The primary camera is a 108MP sensor that captures extremely detailed and colorful shots. The 8MP ultra-wide lens is a strong performer. The two telephoto cameras — featuring 3x and 10x zoom distances — allow for some of the very best zoom pictures we’ve ever seen.
There’s no denying the impressiveness of the S21 Ultra, but that’s not to say it’s without its faults. Samsung got rid of expandable storage and MST for Samsung Pay, two hallmark features of Galaxy phones before it. If you’re alright with losing out on those features, the Galaxy S21 Ultra experience is well well worth the price of admission.
Bottom line: The OnePlus 9 Pro delivers a gorgeous new design combined with top-notch internal hardware, cameras tuned by Hasselblad, and clean software. OnePlus finally has a phone that measures up to Android’s best, and the OnePlus 9 Pro is an affordable alternative to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is gunning straight for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The phone features the latest hardware you’ll find today, including the Snapdragon 888 chipset, along with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage modules, and a marquee addition this year is the cameras.
OnePlus always nailed the hardware, but it just couldn’t deliver cameras that held up to Samsung, Google, and Xiaomi. That has changed with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The device comes with an upgraded 48MP camera at the back that takes fantastic photos. OnePlus also partnered with German camera giant Hasselblad to deliver outstanding photos to capture every moment. The result: the OnePlus 9 Pro takes amazing shots in just about any lighting condition. There’s also a 50MP wide-angle lens that may just be the best on any phone today, and you get an 8MP module that offers 3x digital zoom.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the fastest phones you can buy today, and a new 120Hz AMOLED display joins the top-notch hardware. The phone uses an LTPO display to dynamically change the refresh all the way from 1Hz to 120Hz, allowing it to conserve battery life while delivering a smooth and fluid user experience in daily use.
You’ll also find clean software without any bloatware at all in the Android 11-based OxygenOS 11. The interface has plenty of customizability, and unlike Samsung’s One UI, you will not find any errant ads anywhere. The clean UI combined with a focus on performance and customization make OxygenOS the default choice for enthusiasts.
The phone doesn’t miss out in other areas either — you get IP68 dust and water resistance, 5G connectivity over both Sub-6 and mmWave, and dual-band GPS along with NFC. But a key highlight is around battery tech — the OnePlus 9 Pro offers 65W wired charging along with 50W wireless charging, with the phone taking just 29 minutes to fully charge using the bundled charger. OnePlus also recently announced that its flagship phones would begin receiving three major Android updates — up from the two promised previously.
While it’s exciting to see the gains in this area, the one downside is that battery life itself isn’t on par with other Android flagships. For example, the OnePlus 9 Pro barely manages to last a day with heavy use, so you may want to take the charger along if you’re heading out.
That said, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a great overall package that nails the fundamentals. So if you’re not sure about the Galaxy S21 Ultra and are looking for an alternative, you will love what the OnePlus 9 Pro has to offer.
Bottom line: There are many good smartphone deals out there, but none of them are as amazing as the Pixel 4a. From its flagship-grade cameras, reliable performance, all-day battery life, and long-term software support, no other phone gives you this much for so little.
5.81-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
Flagship camera on a budget phone
Easy to use in one hand
AMOLED display looks great
Three years of software support
The Pixel 4a is the best phone value available today, period. Google’s packed most of what makes the Pixel 4/5 series good into a smartphone that costs over 50% less. You also get a compact device that, despite its size, excels in the battery life department. Seriously, this phone lasts all day and then some.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the 4a is its camera, which is nearly on par with the Pixel 4 that preceded it. The main camera shoots exceptional photos in all lighting conditions, with Night Sight really showing its strength in poor lighting. Google even added Astrophotography mode this time around and improved the already impressive Portrait Mode. The front-facing camera is also tack-sharp and focuses more quickly than on the Pixel 3a from 2019. Both front and back, you’re getting flagship-level camera quality out of a phone that’s a fraction of the price. Google’s also improved the video quality on the 4a, thanks to an improved Snapdragon 730 chipset and 6GB of RAM standard.
So what do you lose by spending a third of the price of a more traditional flagship? Well, the Pixel 4a is made of plastic and lacks both water resistance and wireless charging, features you can take for granted at a higher price point. It also only comes in one size, a 5.8-inch variant, and one color, black. There are no storage size options, either: you get 128GB of internal memory, which should be plenty for most people, but a lack of microSD expansion may be a problem for the content collectors out there. Also, there’s no 5G support here.
All of these limitations shouldn’t impede your desire to buy the Pixel 4a, which proved to be one of the best smartphone surprises of 2020 — even if it did launch a few months late. Google’s latest budget phone is a winner, from the size to the performance to the battery life and camera quality.
Bottom line: They say that the best camera you have is the one you have with you, so make sure it’s the best it can be. Google’s Pixel 5 takes incredible photos in virtually any setting, and thanks to the company’s top-notch image processing, you don’t even have to be a pro photographer to get impressive shots.
6.0-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 90Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
12.2MP primary, 16MP ultra-wide
18W wired, 15W wireless, 5W reverse wireless
144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0mm
Among the best cameras on the market
Compact and comfortable to hold
90Hz AMOLED display
Great battery life
Three years of software updates
Might be too small for some users
The Pixel 5 is Google’s latest flagship smartphone that you can buy. Compared to past releases, it’s a huge departure. Rather than trying to have the absolute best specs possible, the Pixel 5 focuses on offering a great all-around user experience at a competitive price. And, in just about every regard, it succeeds.
First thing’s first, we have to talk about the Pixel 5’s camera performance. Simply put, if camera quality is a key priority for you, the Pixel 5 should be at the very top of your shopping list. The 12.2MP primary and 16MP ultra-wide cameras may not look all that impressive on paper, but combined with Google’s unmatched image processing, they kick out truly incredible results. The detail is sharp, colors are true-to-life, and the Pixel 5 handles low-light environments without a hitch. The best part? The Pixel 5 does all of this more reliably than any other smartphone.
Outside of killer cameras, the Pixel 5 has a bunch more to offer. We’re in love with its design, which is refreshingly compact and is made entirely out of aluminum. The paint job gives it an exceptional in-hand feel, and if you ask us. The Sorta Sage color is one of the best we’ve ever seen on a phone. Period.
Rounding out the Pixel 5 experience is a 90Hz AMOLED display, fast performance thanks to the Snapdragon 765G processor, and long-lasting battery life. For considerably less money than a lot of other flagships, the Pixel 5 is well worth your consideration.
Bottom line: Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE is a solid, affordable 5G phone that offers most of what makes Samsung flagships so good in a cheaper, colorful package.
6.5-inch OLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
12MP primary, 8MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide
15W wired, Qi wireless charging
161.6 x 71.1 x 9.3mm
Flat 120Hz display is terrific
All-day battery life
Promised three years of software updates
Impressive cameras with 3x optical zoom
Sturdy design with fun color options
Not every color option is available everywhere
Camera can be slow to load
Samsung clearly understands that this is a time for people to pare back their expenses because the Galaxy S20 FE is a value flagship that really doesn’t skimp. It’s based on the successful foundation of the Galaxy S20+, featuring a spacious 6.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display with a luxurious 120Hz refresh rate, a Snapdragon 865, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and an all-day 4,500mAh battery.
Of course, to hit its affordable price point, Samsung needed to make some sacrifices, so it traded the Galaxy S20 series’ back glass for colorful plastic — the FE is available in six delicious colors — and cut back on the quality of the triple-camera setup ever-so-slightly.
Still, the S20 FE has everything you’d expect in a high-end phone and performs just as well. We especially love the IP68 water resistance and wireless charging, two features rare in this price bracket. Plus, it shares the same primary camera sensor as the Galaxy S20 and S20+, ensuring beautiful results in good light and bad.
Samsung’s One UI 3.0 is also on-board, and the company’s promising three years of platform and security updates, ensuring that you’ll be getting the latest Android features well into the next decade.
Finally, Samsung includes sub-6Ghz 5G in all variants of the Galaxy S20 FE, and we found performance to be excellent on both AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 5G networks. If you want a Verizon version that supports mmWave, it’s also available for purchase.
Bottom line: The Moto G Power 2020 has reliable hardware combined with outstanding battery life and clean software. There are a few downsides — it’s limited to 10W charging and will only get one Android update, but you are getting a great entry-level package overall.
6.4-inch LCD, 2300×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
16MP primary, 8MP wide-angle, 2MP macro
159.9 x 75.8 x 9.6mm
At least two-day battery life
Large 1080p display
Will get only one Android update
Charging limited to 10W
If you’re in the market for an entry-level phone, the Moto G Power 2020 is still a great choice in 2021. Motorola has nailed the basics here, delivering a robust phone with all the features you’re looking for in a budget option.
The standout feature on the Moto G Power 2020 is the battery: featuring a large 5000mAh battery, the phone manages to last over two days without fail. The charging situation isn’t ideal, though; the Moto G Power 2020 has 10W wired charging, so you will want to plug in the device overnight.
The phone holds up pretty well in other areas too. You get a 6.4-inch 1080p LCD that’s decent enough in its own right, and the Snapdragon 665 is a reliable performer in normal use. The phone has stereo sound, a 3.5mm jack, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a microSD card slot. And as the phone is officially sold in the U.S., it works on all the major carriers.
In fact, it’s a better option than the Moto G Power 2021 in key areas — the 2021 model has fewer LTE bands, a lower-resolution 720p display, and a less powerful chipset. You’ll find positives on the software side as well, with Motorola offering a clean interface without any bloatware. The downside here is that the phone will get just one Android update — to Android 11 — and if you’re okay with that, the Moto G Power 2020 has plenty to offer in 2021.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a value flagship and want a phone with a gorgeous design, the latest hardware, stellar cameras, fast charging, and clean software, the OnePlus 9 is the obvious choice.
6.5-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
48MP primary, 50MP wide-angle, 2MP portrait
65W wired, 15W wireless
160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm
Sublime 120Hz AMOLED display
Clean software with no bloat
65W wired / 15W wireless charging
Three years of Android updates
Single-SIM in the U.S.
With the OnePlus 9, OnePlus sets its sights on the Galaxy S20 FE. The phone delivers on the same fundamentals as Samsung’s value flagship, offering the latest internal hardware, a 120Hz AMOLED display, reliable cameras, and many extras from the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The 120Hz AMOLED display on the OnePlus 9 is one of the best you’ll find in this particular category, and thanks to the Snapdragon 888 chipset, the phone handles anything you throw at it without breaking a sweat. You also get 5G connectivity over Sub-6, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, AptX HD audio codecs, and an excellent vibration motor.
The phone has the same 4500mAh battery as the OnePlus 9 Pro, and you get 65W wired charging. What’s new this generation is the addition of 15W Qi wireless charging. It may not be quite the same as the insane 50W wireless charging on the 9 Pro, but the upside is that the OnePlus 9 works with any Qi-enabled wireless charger available today. This particular feature is missing on the Indian and Chinese models, but you’ll find it on the OnePlus 9 variants sold in North America and Europe.
Coming to the software, OxygenOS 11 continues to set the standard in terms of customizability. The bloatware-free UI is a delight to use, and recently OnePlus announced that it would begin supporting its flagship phones with three years of Android platform updates.
Overall, the OnePlus 9 is a solid contender to the Galaxy S20 FE. It has the latest hardware, great cameras, clean software, and fast charging, and for what it costs, you are getting a great overall value.
Bottom line: The ASUS ZenFone 8 is a bit of a departure from its predecessors, but it is the best smallest Android flagship you can buy right now. It has an excellent build, clean software, great cameras, 5G, and the powerful Snapdragon 888 SOC.
5.9-inch OLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide
148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm
Easy to use one-handed
Gorgeous screen with 120Hz refresh rate
3.5mm headphone jack
No wireless charging
No telephoto camera
If you’re one of those people who still pines for a smaller, flagship-level phone, then we have some good news for you. The ASUS ZenFone 8 delivers one of the best Android experiences that you can get in mid-2021 for much less than the competition. Plus, it’s one of the smallest Android flagships around.
Unlike the ZenFone 6 and 7 series and the ZenFone 8 Flip, the ZenFone 8 has done away with the flipping camera module in favor of a more traditional design. While this new (older) form factor makes the device more pocketable, ASUS was able to retain an excellent camera setup nonetheless. It also means that it is now IP68 water-resistant. The ZenFone 8 features a gorgeous AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and it even retains an old-school fan favorite with its 3.5mm headphone jack.
The ZenFone 8 has top-notch internal specs, too, including the powerful Snapdragon 888 processor, fast 20W wired charging, and one of the cleanest builds of Android we’ve seen this year. However, you miss out on wireless charging, and ASUS’s track record for updates has left us wanting in the past.
This is the perfect phone for someone who admires the size and capabilities of something like the Google Pixel 4a but who also wants a more premium and performant Android phone.
Bottom line: Folding phones are here, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best one we’ve seen yet. It’s basically a smartphone and tablet in one device, and while it is costly, it’s also the best attempt yet we’ve seen for this form factor.
6.23-inch AMOLED, 2260×816, 60Hz refresh rate
7.6-inch AMOLED, 2280×1768, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
12MP primary, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide
25W wired and 11W wireless
159.2 x 128.2 x 6.9mm (unfolded) and 159.2 x 68 x 16.8mm (folded)
Puts a mini-tablet in your pocket
Great cameras and battery
App compatibility issues
Just like any piece of technology, smartphones evolve and change as time goes on. We’ve seen screens get bigger, cameras get a lot more capable, and processors rival those found in computers. The next big thing for phones is the folding form factor, and so far, the best yet in this niche is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
The best way to think about the device is as a phone and tablet in one. When the Z Fold 2 is closed, you’re treated to a 6.23-inch AMOLED display that you can use for anything you’d like — checking email, scrolling through Twitter, watching YouTube videos, you name it. Should you find yourself wanting a larger canvas, however, all you need to do is open up the Z Fold 2 up. There, you’re treated to a larger 7.6-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a lot like having an iPad Mini that you can fold up and take with you wherever you want, and if you ask us, that’s pretty amazing.
As you might expect for a new technology like a folding phone, the Z Fold 2 does come with some unique dilemmas. For example, the Ultra-Thin Glass for the tablet display is prone to scratches more than traditional glass. The folding design raises questions about long-term durability, and not all apps are properly optimized for that larger display size. There’s also the matter of price, with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 costing more than two OnePlus 8 Pros.
This isn’t a phone that we recommend everyone go out and buy right now, but as far as folding phones go, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best we’ve seen to date. If you’re willing to spend the money and put up with those quirks, the Z Fold 2 has a lot to offer.
Bottom line: The Galaxy A52 5G gives you amazing hardware in the form of a 120Hz AMOLED screen and a Snapdragon 750G chipset with 5G connectivity. Although the design looks similar to the S21 series, you also get great cameras and all-day battery life, which is much more affordable.
If you want to switch to a 5G phone but don’t want to pay too much money, then the Galaxy A52 5G may just be the ideal option for you. Samsung has always delivered value packages with the Galaxy A series, and it is taking things to a whole new level in 2021.
The Galaxy A52 5G offers considerable upgrades over its predecessor; the 6.5-inch AMOLED panel now has a 120Hz refresh rate, giving you a level of immediacy during daily interactions that was missing in last year’s Galaxy A51. The internal hardware has also received a boost, and the Snapdragon 750G chipset is faster in almost every day-to-day scenario.
The camera has received some attention as well, with the A52 5G now offering a 64MP lens at the back. There’s even a MicroSD slot and a 3.5mm jack, two features you won’t find on the Galaxy S21 series. And thanks to a generous 4500mAh battery and 25W fast charging, you don’t have to worry about battery life.
Samsung added IP67 dust and water resistance to the Galaxy A52 5G, making it just that little more enticing. Oh, and there’s, of course, 5G connectivity here, so if you’re thinking of switching to a 5G plan this year and need a mid-range phone, the Galaxy A52 5G ticks all the right boxes.
Bottom line: The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is designed for gamers. It has an incredible build, a stunning 144Hz AMOLED display, and is paired with a massive 6,000mAh battery and 65W wired fast charging. There are also great accessories and extras to help you get the most out of your mobile gaming experience.
6.78-inch AMOLED, 2448×1080, 144Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64MP primary, 13MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro
172.8 x 77.2 x 10.2mm
Huge battery (6,000mAh)
144Hz refresh rate
3.5mm headphone jack
Gaming inspired design
Fast and fluid performance
This phone is BIG
No wireless charging
No water resistance
Gaming phones are definitely a niche category, but the folks who are interested in these devices really care how they perform. ASUS knows this subset extremely well and has been cranking out heavy-duty gaming phones for several years now. Its ROG line of phones complements its gaming PCs quite well, and there is undoubtedly a lot of crossover between owners of these computers and phones.
The latest in the vaunted ROG series is the ROG Phone 5. It boasts one of the largest capacity batteries we’ve seen (6,000mAh) for extended play sessions, as well as a brilliant AMOLED display with an high 144Hz refresh rate to make your content fly. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you don’t have to worry about audio latency, and it’s all powered by the latest and greatest Snapdragon 888 chipset.
There are several great accessories that you can purchase separately to help you get even more out of the experience, such as gamepads, coolers, and cases, but the phone looks great au naturale. The biggest drawbacks of the phone are that it doesn’t have wireless charging or an official IP rating, and it is quite a big and heavy device.
Bottom line: The Redmi Note 10 Pro takes things to a whole new level in the budget segment. The phone has a 120Hz AMOLED display, robust internal hardware, a 64MP camera that takes great photos in any lighting, and a gigantic 5020mAh battery with 33W fast charging. You can’t ask for much more in a budget phone.
Xiaomi knows how to deliver a value-focused package, and with the Redmi Note 10 Pro, it is setting a new standard for budget phones. The phone has features previously only seen on flagships, including a 120Hz AMOLED display that makes an immediate difference in day-to-day use.
The Snapdragon 732G delivers decent performance for most tasks, including intensive gaming. The phone also has generous memory and storage options, and you get a 3.5mm jack, microSD slot, NFC, and even an IR blaster that lets you control your TV or other AV gear. The phone also has IP53 dust and water resistance to withstand the occasional splash of water or be submerged in a pool without any issues.
The 5,020mAh battery on the Redmi Note 10 Pro easily delivers over a day’s worth of use as for battery. When you need to charge the phone, the bundled 33W charger ensures the battery is full in just over an hour. You won’t find wireless charging here, but honestly, the battery life is good that you don’t need to plug it in during the course of a day.
The 64MP camera is also new, and it takes great photos in just about any lighting condition. This may just be one of the best cameras you’ll find for under $300, making the Redmi Note 10 Pro that much more enticing. Xiaomi has made a lot of changes on the software front as well. MIUI 12 comes with Android 11 out of the box, and the UI is cleaner than earlier iterations. You get more customization options than you’ll end up using, and there are genuinely useful features here.
Ultimately, the main drawback is that the phone isn’t available officially in the U.S. You can pick up the global version of the Redmi Note 10 Pro from Amazon, but you miss out on the warranty.
How to pick the best Android phone
Android phones have never been better than they are right now. So regardless of how much or little money you can spend, you can go out and buy a phone that you’ll be thoroughly happy with. Out of every single phone on the market in 2021, however, we have to give our top recommendation for the best Android phone to the Samsung Galaxy S21.
Samsung makes amazing phones every year, but you need to pay out the nose for the privilege of owning one more often than not. With the Galaxy S21, you get a top-tier Samsung experience for less than previous years, and that makes it a better overall value.
Compared to a more expensive Galaxy handset like the S21 Ultra, the standard S21 does an admirable job of holding its own. It has a 120Hz AMOLED screen, excellent performance, great battery life, and the same One UI software experience. Even wireless charging and an IP68 rating are here, and the only area it misses out on is the Quad HD+ display and a glass back.
There are plenty of other options on this list if something about the Galaxy S21 just isn’t clicking for you, but we think it’s easy to see why it has our highest recommendation at the end of the day.
1. What size screen should I get?
You should consider many different things when buying a new Android phone, and it all starts with the display. This is the component you interact with more than anything else, so you must get one that you’ll enjoy using. Things like the resolution and refresh rate of a screen are worth talking about, but more so is the size.
Smartphones come in different shapes and sizes, and the biggest determining factor for that is the display. A 6.8-inch screen results in a much larger phone than one with a 5.8-inch one, and because of that, you need to know how big or small you’re willing to go.
Take the Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example. It has the largest display on this list (outside of the Z Fold 2, but that’s different), and because the screen is so huge, it’s a phenomenal canvas for watching movies, playing games, and browsing the web. Basically, any kind of content consumption you do looks better on a larger display because the more room you have, the bigger and easier to see your media is. The downside to this, however, is that phones like the S21 Ultra can be rather unwieldy. Especially if you’re someone with smaller hands, managing a phone like that can be a pain in the butt.
Then there are smaller-sized phones, such as the Pixel 4a. It’s substantially easier to manage and can actually be used with one hand, but you have less room for your movies and games on the flip side. It also means you can fit less content on the screen at one time, and if you’re someone who likes to increase your font size, things are easier to read, which could result in you having to do a lot of scrolling.
And, of course, there are plenty of phones that fall somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. If you’re really concerned about whether or not a phone will be too big or small, your best bet is to honestly go hands-on with it yourself at your local carrier store or Best Buy before making your purchase.
2. Are software updates important?
It’s easy to compare displays, processors, and cameras, but something that’s just as important to talk about is software updates. Android is constantly evolving and getting better, and unfortunately, only certain phones are backed by a few years of software support.
As it currently stands, Google, Samsung, and OnePlus are the best in the business when supporting their phones with long-term updates. All of the Pixels, Galaxy devices, and OnePlus phones mentioned on this list are backed by three years of major OS updates from their initial release, which is by far the best support any Android phone maker has to offer. Google even goes a step further with three years of guaranteed monthly security patches, and while Samsung does the same for its flagships, it is now starting to follow suit for its mid-range devices.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you have a company like Motorola. Take the Motorola G Power, which is only promised to get a single update to Android 11. Security patches are even worse, with Motorola having a track record of falling multiple months behind on updates.
So, how important is it that your phone gets software updates? That ultimately depends on how much you care about new Android features. Google releases a new version of Android every year, and while these updates don’t tend to be that drastic from year to year, they give your phone important features and security settings that help keep it running in tip-top shape for a long time. It also ensures that your phone stays compatible with all the apps and games on the Play Store because as Android versions become too outdated, app developers eventually drop support.
A phone like the Motorola G Power won’t be unusable two years down the road just because it’s running Android 11 and not Android 13, but it’s also a bit disheartening to buy a product and know it’s backed by such a small window of post-purchase support. This divide in updates is something Android has been faced with for years, and while companies are gradually getting better in these regards, we still have plenty of room to grow.
3. How many cameras and megapixels do I really need?
Over the last couple of years, there’s been a trend going on with certain phone companies where they throw as many cameras onto their devices as possible. As it’s become more common for phones to ship with two, three, or even four cameras, there’s something of an expectation that phones have to have multiple camera sensors to be any good.
Spoiler alert — this isn’t true.
Let’s look at the OnePlus Nord 9, for example. It has a 48MP primary camera, 50MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP monochrome portrait camera. Compared to the single 12.2MP camera on the Pixel 4a, one would assume that the OnePlus 9 takes better photos, but that’s not always the case.
Having those extra camera sensors can be a lot of fun, but only if they’re high-quality. Far too often, we see companies throw in a bunch of extra cameras on their phones only to have these secondary lenses not be very good. The primary camera sensor is always the most important, so that’s the one you want to be concerned about the most.
On a similar note, more megapixels (referred to as MP) don’t always mean you’re getting a better camera. As mentioned above, the 48MP camera on the OnePlus 9 sometimes takes photos that aren’t as good as those taken from the 12.2MP camera found on the Pixel 4a. There are so many other factors that come into play with phone cameras, so don’t let the megapixel count be your only factor for judging them when you’re out shopping. Read reviews, look at camera samples, and you’ll have a much better understanding of what kind of camera you’re dealing with.
4. What size battery should I get?
Battery life isn’t the most fun thing to talk about with smartphones, but ultimately, it’s one of the most important components. Your phone can have the best display and processor around, but if it’s constantly dying throughout the day, what’s the point?
There are many different battery capacities for all of the phones on this list, and if you don’t regularly keep up with them, it can be difficult to know what a good size is and what isn’t. So, here’s a general rule of thumb. If you’re buying an Android phone in 2021, the ideal capacity is 4000mAh or larger. As phones move toward larger displays with faster refresh rates, more battery is needed to keep them powered throughout the day.
Of course, this can vary a bit depending on the type of phone you’re buying. The Pixel 4a, for example, only has a 3140mAh battery but can still get through a full day of use without a hitch. What gives? It has a small display by 2021 standards and only has a 60Hz refresh rate, resulting in substantially less power use.
These are factors you’ll need to consider when shopping for your phone, but generally, more mAh means more battery life.
5. What smaller features should I look out for?
Last but certainly not least, there are a few smaller features and specs that can be easy to overlook when doing your shopping — a prime example being NFC. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and it’s the chip in most phones that allows you to pay with your smartphone with Google Pay at grocery stores, restaurants, etc. Most of the phones on this list support NFC, but many cheaper Motorola phones often lack the feature. You may not care about Google Pay, but if you do, it’s worth double-checking that the phone you want to buy does, in fact, have NFC.
Another spec to check for is an IP68 rating. This is a seal of protection many phones have, and it ensures they’re protected from a certain amount of dust and water. If you happen to get caught outside in the rain or take your phone to the beach, an IP68 rating is nice peace of mind that your phone should survive just fine.
Some phones lack this IP rating yet boast water resistance or have a water-repellent coating. Those devices are also probably fine to get splashed with water here and there, but you don’t have that same guaranteed protection. The best-case scenario is to avoid getting your phone wet whenever possible, but if you happen to be around the water a lot, it’s probably worth getting something with that IP68 protection.
We should also address a trend that’s been going through the smartphone space for a few years now — the death of the headphone jack. The vast majority of new phones coming out these days no longer have the port, but few holdouts continue to offer it. It’s certainly nice to have if you’re someone that primarily uses wired headphones or earbuds, but if you’ve moved on to the wireless bandwagon, it’s not something you need to be all that concerned with.
In 2020, after a four-year wait, Apple finally updated the iPhone SE to… the iPhone SE 2020. Hanging on to the same name is a little confusing—Apple differentiates the new model when necessary by calling it the 2nd-generation iPhone SE, but most people either call it the iPhone SE (2020) or iPhone SE 2.
Whatever you call it, it’s not very likely to be updated in 2021. It’s also not very likely that Apple will wait another four years to update its most affordable iPhone. We currently expect the new iPhone SE (which may be called the iPhone SE (2022), iPhone SE (3rd-generation), or iPhone SE 3) to be released in the first half of 2022. Here’s a summary of all the latest rumors, leaks, and other information we’ve been able to gather about the next revision of Apple’s most affordable iPhone. All of this is subject to change until Apple officially announces it.
2022 iPhone SE: The latest rumors
In a note to investors seen by MacRumors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will position the 3rd-generation iPhone SE as the “cheapest 5G iPhone ever.” (Apple will undoubtedly not use the word “cheapest.”)
2022 iPhone SE: Design and display
Currently, the most reliable analysts expect the next iPhone SE to physically resemble the current model. That’s perhaps a little disappointing—the iPhone SE is based on the body of the iPhone 8, which is now discontinued. However, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple plans to move ahead with another SE model to feature the 4.7-inch LCD display, a Home button with Touch ID, and no Face ID. In other words, the next iPhone SE is once again rumored to be based on the iPhone 8’s shell, with select new components.
Apple is also said to be working on an updated version of the iPhone 11, which features a 6.1-inch LCD and Face ID. If this were to release in 2022, the iPhone 11 would be more than two years old, which fits in with Apple’s pattern of the iPhone SE using old iPhone bodies and screen technology with some new internal components. This potential phone may launch as the iPhone SE Plus that was originally rumored to release in the second half of 2021, but more recent rumors suggest a 2022 or 2023 release date.
2022 iPhone SE: 5G
The big selling point of the next iPhone SE is said to be that it is the most affordable 5G iPhone ever. The iPhone 12 mini is currently the least expensive 5G iPhone at $699, so you can expect the iPhone SE to cost less than that, though it may not retain the $399 price of the current iPhone SE.
It’s unknown if the iPhone SE will support mmWave 5G in addition to sub-6GHz frequencies. The iPhone 8’s body was never designed for antenna modules necessary for good mmWave reception, though it’s not clear to what degree that would be a problem, or if Apple could easily modify it.
2022 iPhone SE: Processor
Apple has historically outfitted the iPhone SE with the very latest Apple A-series processor; the one used in the most recent high-end iPhone models. That means a 3rd-generation iPhone SE launching in the spring of 2022 would have the same processor as the iPhone 13 launching later this year, which we expect to be the A15. That will make it fast, a great value, and eligible for iOS updates for a very long time, as was the case with the prior iPhone SE models. Apple’s cost-cutting comes from the body, display, cameras, and other such features (don’t expect MagSafe, for example).
2022 iPhone SE: Camera
When the iPhone SE 3 lands, it is expected to carry the same single 12MP wide-angle rear camera as the current model, along with a lone front-facing camera. The current model has a 7MP front-facing camera, which we would like to see upgraded to 12MP, but we’ve heard no rumors about it one way or the other.
Don’t expect huge improvements in camera quality from fancy new sensors, though. Apple is likely to tout the improved camera quality of the new iPhone SE, but it will come mostly from improved visual processing of the A15 relative to the A13 in the current 2nd-gen iPhone SE.
2022 iPhone SE: Price and release
We don’t know what the iPhone SE will cost, only that it should be less expensive than any other iPhone. The iPhone 12 mini currently retails for $699, and the iPhone SE for $399, each offering 64GB of storage. With the inclusion of 5G and the associated licensing costs, it’s quite possible that the iPhone SE gets a price hike to something like $449 or $499, but we don’t expect it to cost more than that.
Apple has released the last two iPhone SE models in the spring, and that tracks with the current rumors for the 3rd-generation model, which pegs it as coming in the first half of 2022. The rumored iPhone SE Plus, based on the iPhone 11 with Face ID, would definitely carry a price premium of at least $100 (placing it in the $499-599 range) and may be released in 2022 alongside the next iPhone SE, though some rumors say it may not be released until 2023.
App Clips were announced in 2020 as a feature of iOS 14, but this year Apple is expanding that feature with some enhancements. With iOS 15, developers will be able to integrate App Clips into websites as a full-screen card that will appear in Safari.
For those unfamiliar, an App Clip is a small part of an app that can be accessed without having to download the full version of that app. With this API, developers can provide a demonstration of what an app offers and even let users explore some options without having to install the app from the App Store.
Apple introduced App Clips with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 last year, and now they are getting even better with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. As demonstrated at one of the WWDC 2021 sessions, App Clips can now be fully integrated into websites.
Previously, developers could add a banner to show the user that the website has an App Clip available, but it was small and required more touches. Now the App Clip banner can be displayed full screen when you are browsing a website that offers this feature. This, of course, will require developers to update their websites with new code.
Apple is also making it easier for developers to test their App Clips locally and introducing new ways to discover App Clips through ARKit within apps. More details about what’s new in App Clips with iOS 15 can be found on the Apple Developer website.
Both iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will be available as a free update this fall. Users can install the beta versions by joining the Apple Beta Software Program.
If you’ve downloaded one of the following, you might want to check your account
Google has a lot of moving parts behind the scenes, trying to keep malware off of the Play Store. But with seven figures of apps posting and updating constantly, even it doesn’t have a perfect record. Such is the claim from a security researcher last week, which said they found ten apps with variations on a trojan horse program. The apps are fairly innocuous based on their title and description, but each is designed to scrape a user’s phone for Facebook login credentials.
Dr. Web Anti-Virus said that variations of the Trojan were detected in the following publicly available apps:
PIP Photo by developer Lillians — 5,000,000+ downloads
Processing Photo by developer chikumburahamilton — 500,000+ downloads
Rubbish Cleaner by developer SNT.rbcl — 100,000+ downloads
Horoscope Daily by developer HscopeDaily momo — 100,000+ downloads
Inwell Fitness by developer Reuben Germaine — 100,000+ downloads
App Lock Keep by developer Sheralaw Rence — 50,000+ downloads
Lockit Master by developer Enali mchicolo — 5000+ downloads=
Horoscope Pi by developer Talleyr Shauna — 1000+ downloads
App Lock Manager by developer Implummet col — 10+ downloads
The researchers alerted Google to their findings, and as of Monday morning, it looks like all the apps and developers have been removed from the Play Store. Even so, the Play Store’s basic metrics report that the apps were installed on approximately six million Android devices, on the low end. A similar app, “EditorPhotoPip,” had already been removed from the Play Store but was available on alternative download sites.
Dr. Web reports that all of the apps it found were fully functional for their advertised purpose, making them particularly effective as spyware. This serves as yet another lesson to keep your guard up, even when downloading “vetted” apps directly from Google.