For many travelers, a smartphone is the most useful, if not the only, electronic device they’ll carry. It can replace everything from flashlight to camera, guidebook to diary, and more.
It’ll also let you stay in touch with loved ones, book flights and accommodation, convert currency, and deal with many other of the inevitable tasks that crop up on vacation.
There’s a huge difference between devices, however, and price isn’t always a guide to quality. No matter how much you have to spend, though, it’s possible to get a good smartphone to make your trip much easier and more enjoyable.
These are the best smartphones for travelers to buy in 2021, broken down by price range. There’s also a separate section on phones with the best battery life, such an important aspect on long travel days.
Note: all prices are for the outright purchase of an unlocked phone. This ensures you can use local SIM cards around the world for inexpensive calls, text, and data.
Best Budget Smartphones for Travel
If you’re after a new smartphone for your travels but don’t have much to spend on it, don’t despair. Budget phones have become a lot better in recent years. You can now pick up a perfectly good device for under $300.
No longer are dim screens, slow processors, and awful cameras the only option, even when you’re on a budget. Sure, they aren’t up there with flagship devices costing three times as much, but for many travelers, they’re good enough.
Right now our top overall pick is the Motorola Moto G Stylus. To find out why, check out our guide to the best budget smartphones for travelers in 2021, which also includes devices from Samsung and BLU.
Best Mid-Range Smartphones for Travel
For us, a mid-range smartphone costs $300-600. By far the best value, however, lies towards the top end of the price range. For this kind of money, you get a significant step up from even the best of the budget range. Most travelers don’t need to spend any more.
For around $500, you can buy a phone that handles everything you throw at it and looks good while doing it. Attractive designs, bright, colorful screens, and high-end specifications aren’t hard to find at this price. That simply wasn’t the case even a few years ago.
To be worth considering, cameras need to take good photos, at least outdoors and preferably in more challenging conditions too. Storage space should be an absolute minimum of 32GB, and ideally more.
You need to be able to get a full day of moderate to heavy use for those long travel days away from charging points. Things like water resistance and dual-SIM support start to become less of a luxury and more of an expectation.
You’ll find devices that deliver all that (and often much more) in our guide to the best mid-range smartphones for travelers in 2021. For now, the best choice is the Google Pixel 4a, but it’s a tightly-knit bunch. Several devices could easily have taken the top spot, and we expect things to change again later in the year.
Best Smartphones with Long Battery Life
No matter how much they cost, there’s an area where most smartphones fall down: battery life. When you’ve still got several hours to go on an endless travel day, the last thing you need to see is the battery icon flashing on your phone.
As processors get faster, screens get bigger, and phones get thinner, finding a phone that lasts a full day of exploring remains a challenge. Fortunately, though, you do have a few options.
Whether you’re on a budget, need a seriously-rugged device that lasts forever, or want a premium phone that doesn’t compromise on anything including longevity, we’ve got you covered.
These are the best smartphones with great battery life in 2021, all of which will get you through even the lengthiest long-haul flight without breaking a sweat. Our top choice is the Motorola Moto G Power, due to the combination of a huge battery, decent specifications, fast charging, and a headphone jack.