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As one of the big three US carriers, AT&T is responsible for providing wireless services to over 100 million people. Its 4G wireless services cover over two thirds of the population, enabling anything from staying connected with friends and family to watching TV on the go. AT&T's next-generation 5G network is growing steadily and now covers dozens of markets across the US.
Naturally, AT&T offers some of the best phones you can buy today: the newest iPhones, the latest Samsung Galaxy phones, and anything in between to fit any need and budget. But with dozens of great options available, picking becomes quite a challenge. So, which is the best AT&T phone to buy in 2021? Allow us to be your guide.
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Best AT&T cell phones, a summarized list:
- iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max – the best iPhones money can buy today, with top-notch cameras, Face ID, and industry-leading processing power
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – one of the best AT&T Android phones, with powerful camera zoom, big battery, and 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra – Snapdragon 865+ chip, S Pen and design that oozes class, a power user's dream
- Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ – the best Android phones for most people, with 5G and the latest Qualcomm processor
- iPhone 12 – the latest iPhone experience at a more reasonable price
- LG Velvet – LG's latest flagship comes with sleek design and 5G support at a very affordable price
- iPhone SE – the best budget iPhone
- Google Pixel 4a 5G – the best budget Android phone with flagship-grade camera performance
iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max in white
The new iPhone 12 Pro
models are a refinement of last years in almost every way. Besides the new design, they have new chips that are more powerful and energy-efficient, bringing them back to the performance peak. The biggest addition, however, is the 5G support. A bit late to the party, the iPhones can now also tap into AT&T's 5G network for extra-fast download and upload speeds. The base storage on the Pro models has been finally bumped to 128GB, so you can go for the cheapest Pro variants without regrets.
The camera system on the iPhone 12
Pro and 12 Pro Max has also been upgraded with new sensors and new features, with the Pro Max having a slightly different 2.5X zoom camera and sensor-shift optical image stabilization on the main sensor.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
If high-end specs and an impressive zoom camera are what you search for, the Galaxy S21 Ultra
is the best Android phone AT&T has to offer. It has the latest Snapdragon 888 chip and a huge OLED display with a variable refresh rate that can go down to as low as 10Hz and as high as 120Hz. The powerful camera system at the back stands out with its remarkable zooming abilities and 108MP of resolution. On top of that, the phone has a huge, 5000mAh battery for all-day action. The fingerprint reader is new, bigger and faster and the phone now even supports Samsung's S Pen. Unfortunately, you'll need to buy it separately and get a dedicated case for convenient carrying, so it's far from the elegant solution the Note 20 offers.
Despite all those upgrades, the Galaxy S21
Ultra costs less than its predecessor, "just" $1,200. Still, you're getting plenty of phone for that money.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
In the States, the Note 20 Ultra comes with the new Snapdragon 865+ chip, which puts it ahead of the S20 Ultra and other first-half-of-2020 flagships when it comes to performance but behind the Galaxy S21 family. The camera system is not as extreme as the one on the S21 Ultra, but it still makes some amazing photos, as you can see from our camera comparison
But what sets the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
apart is, of course, the integrated S Pen. This year it's improved for an even better drawing and writing experience. In order to fit the S Pen, however, the Note 20 Ultra sacrifices some battery capacity and comes with 500mAh smaller battery than that of the Galaxy S20
Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+
The Galaxy S21 and S21+ are the best AT&T Android phones for the majority of people. They don't have the Galaxy S21 Ultra's 108MP camera and extreme zooming abilities, but they do offer beautiful displays with 120Hz refresh rate and relatively large batteries. The design is also significantly improved and although there have been some changes to to fit the phones into their new price tags, the value they offer has increased drastically.
And if you're looking for something similar but even cheaper, the Galaxy S20 FE
is still a great offer.
This is the iPhone to buy if the idea of spending $1,000 for a new phone doesn't sit well with you. For less than $30/month, you get pretty much everything that the Pro models offer, including the OLED display, which finally makes an appearance on a non-Pro iPhone. The main difference is the omission of the Telephoto camera, which isn't ideal but you have to make some sacrifices if you want to save $200. Speaking of which, you're also getting only 64GB of storage, which in 2021 is even more egregious than it was last year. Getting 128GB will only set you back about $2 more per month, however, which isn't that bad.
LG finally got rid of its cumbersome naming scheme with the release of the elegant LG Velvet
. Marking a new direction for the company, the Velvet doesn't have the best Snapdragon chip available but also spares you the high sticker price that comes with it. Instead, LG bets on striking design and premium build to lure customers.
The phone does have the almost mandatory quad-camera setup and, of course, support for 5G. If you're staying away from Samsung phones and Pixels are just too basic-looking for you, the LG Velvet will be happy to nest in your palm.
iPhone SE (2020)
Apple isn't likely to release another SE model for a while, so last year's iPhone SE
remains the best budget option on Apple's side of the smartphone market. The A13 Bionic is powerful enough to keep the phone relevant for years. The small display and unimpressive battery life are some of the drawback this iPhone has but overall, you're getting plenty of bang for your buck.
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google's budget 5G phone is perhaps the company's best overall device of the year, if you're looking at value alone. It has the same chip and camera system as the pricier Pixel 5
, lacking some extra features like 90Hz refresh-rate and wireless charging
, which many users don't care about. What's most important about it is the Google Camera software it uses. Just like all the other Pixels, the camera of the Pixel 4a 5G
can compete head-to-head with phones that cost twice as much. As long as you don't get into extreme zoom levels, that is. But for everyday use, the Pixel 4a
5G offers great functionality.