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2021 Smartphone Holiday Shopping Guide: Samsung, Apple, OnePlus, and more

It doesn't matter if you're looking to buy a device for a friend or family member, we have some of the best deals available for this holiday season!
By Roland Udvarlaki December 14, 2021, 6:00 am
2021 Smartphone Holiday Shopping Guide Source: Pocketnow

2021 was certainly an eventful year full of new technology and exciting gadgets. With the holiday season just around the corner, we have collected some of our favorite gadgets that we would happily recommend to friends and family, and of course, our readers. In this special holiday guide, we’ve collected some of the best smartphones that money can buy at a wide range of price tags.

If you are looking for our other carefully crafted guides, we have a collection of the best tablets, wearables and general technology products to help you shop faster, not to mention smarter. We found the best deals around to help you save more, so you can spend more time with your friends and loved ones during this holiday season.

Best Smartphones Under $400

Picking the best devices under $400 can be a lengthy and challenging task. We’ve done the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours looking up the best devices on a budget, and you can spend your time with your friends and family instead. The devices shown below are shown from lowest to highest, and we’ve highlighted why each device is worth considering.

At the end of this category, we’ve also put down our recommendation for the best device under $400, so if you want to make the process easier, rest assured, that device will handle all the jobs for you that you throw at it.

These are some of the best devices for those who need to connect to the internet, the elderly, and even children who are experiencing smartphones for the first time.

OnePlus Nord N100

OnePlus Nord N100 (4G)

OnePlus makes excellent flagship and affordable devices, and the Nord N100 offers a great overall experience. It has a 6.52-inch 90Hz display, and it’s excellent for those who want to watch videos and keep up with family and friends on social media.It also packs a long battery life thanks to the 5,000 mAh battery – which supports fast charging at 18W. If you're on a budget, this is a great affordable smartphone.

oneplus-nord-n200-5g-render

OnePlus Nord N200 5G

The OnePlus Nord N200 supports 5G for faster connectivity, unlike its N100 sibling. It also comes with a 6.49-inch 90Hz display that's excellent for smooth scrolling those cat images on Instagram. It has a decent camera for the price, and it has the same 5,000 mAh battery with 18W fast wired charging. This is perfect if you want a slightly faster device than the N100, especially if you don't want to spend too much.

OnePlus-Nord-N10-5G-update

OnePlus Nord N10 5G

The Nord N10 costs $60 more than the N200, and while the naming might be confusing, it offers a competitive experience among other affordable smartphones on the market. With its 6.49-inch display, 64MP rear camera, and 8MP ultrawide, you can capture much better photos, and it's also excellent for some gaming and light multitasking thanks to the 6GB of memory.

google pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a (4G) 128GB

The Pixel 4a has been on our list of best affordable smartphones for a while, and it's for a reason. The Pixel 4a has a flagship-level camera, and the performance is perfectly acceptable for light multitasking and some light gaming here and there. The 4G model always receives some heavy discounts, and we found a perfect deal for you.

Motorola One 5G Ace product box image

Motorola One 5G UW Ace

The difference between the Motorola one 5G UW Ace and standard Ace is minimal, and both come with the same specifications. They're excellent mid-ranger devices that offer a large 6.7-inch display with HDR10, have a microSD slot for easy storage expansion, a 48MP main, an 8MP ultrawide, and a 2MP macro camera to take shots close-up. Verizon is offering it for only $9.99/mo, and you get even get up to $300 when you trade-in, or you can buy it outright for 50% off at AT&T.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

The Galaxy S20 FE 5G is still one of the best devices in 2020, and in 2021. It comes with a large 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display and 120Hz, it has a flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset and 6/8GB of RAM options. It has one of the best camera systems for the price, and you can pick it up for only $10/mo at AT&T.

Our Recommendation Under $400

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

The S20 FE 5G is a great choice, but the A52 5G may be a better option as it's slightly more recent, and the deals are often better for this device. It has the same display, but a slightly slower Snapdragon 750G chipset, which is still very competitive and perfect for multitasking and gaming on-the-go. It also has a flagship-level camera system, similar to the Galaxy S21 Series. You can get up to $125 in trade-in credit from Samsung, or buy it at 50% off at AT&T.

Best Flagship Smartphones

Google Pixel 6 product box image Sorta Seafoam

Google Pixel 6

The Google Pixel 6 is an excellent flagship smartphone, powered by Google's own Tensor chipset. The Pixel 6 is also equipped with one of the best cameras in 2021, and it can capture some amazing photos and videos, both day and night. The battery life is also acceptable. It can last around a full workday for power users, or more than a day if you're a casual user who likes to multitask and keep up with friends. Verizon lets you save up to $700 with trade-in, and you can also get $1,000 plus when you switch.

Google Pixel 6 Pro stock

Google Pixel 6 Pro

The Pixel 6 Pro has most of the same internals as the Pixel 6, but it support 120Hz refresh rate for an even smoother scrolling experience, and it has a larger battery. The Pro also has an additional telephoto sensor to let you zoom in and capture images from far away. Verizon lets you save up to $800 with trade-in, and you can also get $1,000 plus when you switch.

Apple iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13 mini

The iPhone 13 mini finally offers a more usable battery life than the iPhone 12 mini, and it comes with minimal sacrifices. It has a relatively large 5.4-inch display compared to its size, and it has the latest and most powerful A15 Bionic chipset. It's perfect for those who want a compact and one-handed device. It has most of the same features as the iPhone 13, so rest assured you'll have a breathtaking camera. You can buy it for $0, and you can save up to $800 with trade-in at AT&T.

Apple iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13

The vanilla iPhone 13 has a smaller notch than the iPhone 12, and it has a better battery life, better camera on the back, and it's also faster. It has one of the best camera setups in 2021, and it's an overall very solid device for both existing and new iPhone users. AT&T will let you save up to $800 with an eligible trade-in, and you could ultimately purchase this flagship for $0.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro offers a few additional features compared to the slightly less expensive iPhone 13. If you need a few Pro features when taking images, a 120Hz refresh rate display, then the Pro is certainly worth the money, but for the majority of people out there, the standard 13 will be sufficient enough. AT&T will let you save up to $1,000 with an eligible trade-in, and you could ultimately purchase this 12 Pro for $0.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

If you want the latest and the greatest from Apple, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the one that offers the ultimate package. It has a massive and beautiful 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR 120Hz display, it runs the latest iOS 15 version, and has one of the best cameras on the market today. You can get it from AT&T for up to $1,000 off with an eligible trade-in, which can significantly bring down the price to a more affordable level.

Samsung-Galaxy-S21-5G-Phantom-White-

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Galaxy S21 is a fairly compact device, despite its large 6.2-inch AMOLED display with 120Hz. It comes with a powerful premium chipset and 8GB of RAM, and one of the best camera setups in 2021. It also has a 4,000 mAh battery that can last you an entire day on a single charge. Samsung didn't make many sacrifices, and it often receives huge price cuts that makes it one of the best high-end devices that you can pick up on the cheap – saving you money. Samsung is offering it from only $249.99 if you trade-in.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the ultimate flagship device in 2021. If you ever wanted a smartphone that simply has it all, then this is the one that ticks all the boxes. It has a Pro-grade camera setup, solid performance, long battery life, and even supports the S Pen. You can pick up the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the ultimate flagship of 2021, from only $599.99 if you trade-in.

galaxy-s21-plus-phantom-gold-product-shot

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

The Galaxy S21 Plus offers the same experience as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it has less of everything compared to the most premium Galaxy S flagship. It still provides one of the best Samsung experiences on a smartphone, and it is certainly a beast when it comes to photography and entertainment. You can grab the S21 Plus from only $449.99 if you trade-in.

Products worth mentioning

iPhone 12 red

Apple iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 is still one of the best flagships in 2021, and although it may be 1-year older than the iPhone 13, it has a beautiful display, one of the best camera setup, and a long battery life. The compact design also makes it easy to handle with one hand, and if you're in the Apple ecosystem, look no further – if you want to save some money. You can pick it up from AT&T for only $15/mo.

Best Foldable Smartphones

When it comes to foldable smartphones, Samsung is the only product that is easily available in the US. Xiaomi, Huawei, and a few more companies offer great foldable smartphones, but some of them come with high export fees, or have limited support when it comes to software. Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 devices, while the latter turned out to be a very successful product due to its affordable price tag, and unique design.

When it comes to the recommendation, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is far more affordable and pocketable than the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the latter offers more screen real estate, albeit, for a hefty price tag. Both devices can be purchased with huge discounts from Samsung, and the company always has great trade-in offers that can essentially offer you up to 50% discounts on the latest foldable flagships.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Cream product box image

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of the best and most affordable foldable flagships that you can get your hands on 2021, and it certainly turns some heads when you unflip the device in front of family and friends, and even some strangers. It has a great camera quality, and the outer-cover screen is 4x larger than on the previous flip, making it easier to take selfies and see notifications, or control music while on-the-go. You can buy it from only $399.99 from Samsung if you trade-in, which can save you loads on one of the most exciting devices from this year.

In case you want more customizability, Samsung is also offering the Bespoke Galaxy Z Flip 3 version. You can use the Bespoke Studio to customize each back panel on the Z Flip 3 to express your unique self. It's also a great way to customize a present if its for a family member or a friend. You can also get free Galaxy Buds2 and $100 off any device when you trade-in an eligible device.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 in Black Product box image

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is hands down one of the best foldable devices on the market today. If you want a premium experience and a solid experience with this new form factor, then this is it. It has an IPX8 certificate against water, it comes with a flagship chipset, and while you need to be more delicate handling this device, it's a lot of fun to use. The camera hardware provides a competitive experience to other flagship devices from Samsung, and the S Pen compatibility is an excellent addition to use the large display while its un-folded. You can pick it up from only $899.99 from Samsung if you use trade-in, and you can shave off hundreds of dollars on one of the most unique devices from 2021.


Our Recommendation

So, with all that said, what is the best device for you? It’s a tough one; there are a lot of great devices on this list. Some are better than others, and it all comes down to what you like, or what does the person who you buy it for likes. If your friend or family members is into the Apple ecosystem, it’s probably a good idea to stick with an iPhone to avoid the blue/green bubble situation.

If you’re gifting a device to children or elderly who aren’t used to using smartphones, it’s a great idea to buy an affordable device that meets their expectations and excels at them. The OnePlus Nord N100 and Nord N200 are excellent devices, and the Pixel 4a can also be a great option if you want a more compact smartphone.

If you’re buying a device for yourself or your significant other, it may be best to go for a flagship device, or a mid-ranger – depending on how much you need your device and what you use it for. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and iPhone 12 are perfect devices if you want a reliable and powerful handset that ticks all the boxes. The Google Pixel 6 and Galaxy S21 are also worth mentioning as they stand out due to their fantastic camera quality and outstanding overall performance. If you want to stand out, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is also worth considering, while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is absolutely the best decision buy for power users.

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