From Apple to Samsung and OnePlus to Xiaomi, all major smartphone vendors brought new flagship offerings to India in 2021 to please customers looking for an upgrade. Some of the prominent options include the iPhone 13 series, the Samsung Galaxy S21 family, and the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, among others. A list of new budget options also entered the market this year to attract the masses. One of the common features that emerged this year — especially in India — was 5G connectivity. Smartphone vendors also opted for higher refresh rate displays and some privacy-focussed software tweaks.

On this week’s episode of Gadgets 360 podcast Orbital, host Akhil Arora speaks with a team of experts that includes Reviews Editor Jamshed Avari, Deputy Reviews Editor Roydon Cerejo, and Senior Reviewer Sheldon Pinto to talk about the best phones of 2021 in India. The team is also joined by Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst of market research and consulting firm techARC.

The year 2021 saw incremental updates in the smartphone market, with companies including Apple updating their flagships with slight changes. At the same time, there were players including Samsung that have brought upgrades to emerging form-factors such as foldables to make them more common among and useful for consumers.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to see supply-chain constraints that restricted smartphone companies including Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi from adding significant changes to their line-ups this year. That resulted in downgrades at some fronts and ended up bringing compromises for customers especially in budget segments.

As a result of the supply crunch to some extent, major companies also did not pay interest in upgrading their affordable smartphone models — especially the ones between the price bracket of Rs. 10,000–20,000. This has made last year’s options including the Redmi Note 10 Pro and Redmi Note 10 Pro Max remain valid picks for many customers.

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Some brands including Redmi, Poco, and Realme brought 5G phones to budget segments to persuade customers amid the supply-side issues. However, most of these models support the next-generation cellular network at the cost of some features or hardware components. It is also important to note that 5G is yet to be rolled out in India from the telcos side — with the Indian government yet to table a date for when it will auction 5G spectrum.

Companies including Google and Microsoft also brought models such as the Pixel 6 Pro and Surface Duo 2 to take on the likes of the iPhones and Galaxies of the world. But these new offerings did not enter the Indian market.

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Citing internal research, Kawoosa highlights that people are spending as much as 25 percent more than what they purchased previously to upgrade their phones in 2021. He also mentions that better specifications and experience is something that is driving consumers to buy new phones these days.

Some of the best phones of 2021 include the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini — given the value they offer for the prices we pay. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is also a promising option if budget isn’t constrained. Further, Samsung’s foldables — the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 — are amongst the standout options this year.

We also talk about what we can expect next year and what technologies are likely to become mainstream in the coming months.

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You can listen to all that and more by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.

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