The concept of a premium phone is a funny thing in India. What is a premium phone right? Is it an iPhone? But if an iPhone is a premium phone, then what about phones from OnePlus and Xiaomi that cost much less? The best premium phone of 2021 should be defined by its features and usability, instead of the price. India’s premium phone market isn’t the biggest in the world, but if you really come to think of it, we have some of the best premium smartphones you can get anywhere in the world today.
The year 2021 was somewhat tough for smartphone makers. On the one hand, the costs involved with premium smartphones are high, and they got higher because of rising shipping costs and other supply chain constraints companies faced due to the pandemic this year. But on the other hand, these phones have higher margins for companies, which means that from Folds and Flips to Ultra and iPhones, almost every big phone made it to the Indian shores. Here’s what the jury has handpicked to be the winners for the best premium phone of 2021 at the Indian Gadget Awards.
The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max was selected as the winner of the Best Premium Phone of 2021 award, while the runner up is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3.
Best Premium Phone of 2021 – Indian Gadget Awards 2021 Nominees
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
- Apple iPhone 13
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Vivo X70 Pro+
- OnePlus 9 Pro 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 5G
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Xiaomi’s Mi branded phones have never really been popular in the premium ranges, but 2021 really made it seem like all that could change. Xiaomi has made the Mi series a whole brand in itself, and it makes phones in all price ranges under this. To that end, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is like the flagship Mi smartphone that you can buy today.
A premium phone has to have the best of specs, which is perhaps why the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has a whopping 12GB of RAM and 256GB UFS 2.1 storage. It runs Android 11 out of the box with MIUI on top, and is powered by the flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset from Qualcomm. It also has a 6.81 inch QHD display with 120Hz refresh rate and a Super AMOLED panel, which means the colour fidelity is top notch and you get rich and vibrant scenes everywhere.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G keep reminding us why and how Samsung has maintained its spot at the top of India’s smartphone market. The company may not be the market leader anymore, but it’s still an authority in the premium flagship space.
To that end, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is perhaps the most feature rich smartphone on the market today. It has four cameras on the back led by a 108MP wide angle camera, a 10MP f/4.9 camera, another 10MP telephoto, and a second 12MP ultra wide angle camera. In addition, Samsung’s camera app is just a festival of features, with things that most phones don’t even consider offering. Yes, the Indian variant runs on the Exynos 2100 chipset, but it’s no slouch in terms of performance either. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s 12GB RAM and 256GB UFS 2.1 storage to boot.
Apple iPhone 13
The 2013 iPhones are perhaps the most incremental updates that Apple has ever produced, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re amongst the best premium smartphones you can buy today. To be sure, the iPhone 13 is expensive, but in the world of iPhone buyers it’s actually the ‘mid-ranged’ device. Why? Because phones like the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are significantly more expensive. The iPhone 13 is instead directed at people who want the goodness of Apple’s software and performance, without the features that make a ‘pro’ smartphone.
The iPhone 13 has a smaller notch on the front but a bigger overall display, with the same OLED panel that we saw on last year’s iPhone 12. The new A15 Bionic chipset is also amongst the most powerful smartphone chipsets today, while the primary camera has a larger sensor with sensor-shift stabilisation. It has a larger battery to boot, which will last a full work day for most users.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
And while we’re on the subject of iPhones, if the iPhone 13 doesn’t cut it for you, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is perhaps the phone you want. It has the largest display that you can get on an iPhone today, which is arguably the best display on a smartphone today. And the fact that the phone is bigger than other iPhones also means that it has a larger battery, which will last all day for pretty much anyone.
The device runs on the A15 Bionic chipset, like the iPhone 13, but the cameras are what makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max the real ‘Pro’ smartphone. It provides really clean and bright low light photos, a cinematic mode that will automatically change focus and add bokeh while shooting videos and more. It’s arguably the best camera you can get on a smartphone in India today. And Apple now provides the ProMotion feature too, which dynamically changes the display’s refresh rate from 0 to 120Hz as required by the app on the screen.
Vivo X70 Pro+
Like Xiaomi, Vivo is no longer a company that only plays in the affordable segments. The company has been making premium phones for a while now, and the X series has been setting the benchmark for cameras for a while now. The Vivo X70 Pro+ takes that legacy forward with its quad camera setup, led with a 50MP f/1.57 wide angle camera, a 48MP f/2.2 wide angle camera, a 12MP f/1.6 camera with 50mm focal length and an 8MP f/3.4 camera to boot.
Like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, the Vivo X70 Pro+ also runs on the Snapdragon 888 chipset, and it has 12GB RAM inside with 256GB storage. There’s a 6.78 inch QHD display with 120Hz refresh rate and IP68 waterproofing. You also get a 4500mAh battery with an USB Type C port and supports 5G connectivity with Bluetooth 5.1 and more.
OnePlus 9 Pro 5G
You can’t have a list of premium phones without a phone from the company that practically revolutionised this segment. OnePlus came into India at the high Rs 20,000 price tag and has since progressed to more premium price points, but the fact remains that the company is known for providing the best specs and features one can ask for at comparatively reduced price points. We’ve come a long way from the OnePlus One and its CyanogenMod operating system, but the OnePlus 9 Pro 5G is still keeping the legacy alive.
The OnePlus 9 Pro 5G has a 6.7 inch Fluid AMOLED display with four cameras on the back. These include a 48MP primary camera, a 50MP camera, and two other sensors with 8MP and 2MP resolution. The front camera sports 16MP resolution, and the phone runs on a 4500 mAh battery with OnePlus’ proprietary 65W Warp Charge technology. It runs on the Snapdragon 888 chipset to boot.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G
Should foldable smartphones be considered premium phones? Or should they have a segment of their own? That’s a question we wanted to answer this time, but given that these phones will someday be the only premium smartphones we buy, it probably makes sense to include them in premium smartphones.
Even more so because the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is the first foldable smartphone with a mainstream flagship-like pricing. The good thing with this one is that Samsung doesn’t deprive India of the Snapdragon chip either. Unlike the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G runs on the Snapdragon 888 chip here, just like anywhere else.
The foldable display is pretty great to look at too, and has the quintessential goodness of AMOLED screens. You also get decent battery life from this device, and for those who want phones that are easily pocketable, this is perhaps the only real option on the market today.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G
While the Galaxy Flip goes from a traditional smartphone to a nicely pocketable device, the Galaxy Fold goes from a traditional phone to a tablet. It goes from a narrow 6-ish inch display to a humongous 7.6 inch screen that can be a dream for those who watch a lot of movies and videos. If you travel a lot, this phone can do the job of a tablet while you’re on the aircraft. And it still has an AMOLED display, which means that you get top notch colours, and rich and vibrant playback.
Further, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G also runs on the Snapdragon 888 chip, and unlike the original Fold, it has a thinner form factor and a larger outside screen, that can help with more tasks.