The 10 Best Android Phones of 2020

Not a fan of the iPhone? These Android phones don't disappoint

The best Android phones used to be a clear second place behind Apple's dominant offerings, the best iPhones. These days, however, the Android ecosystem has some clear advantages, particularly the open nature of its digital storefronts and the ease of modifying/jailbreaking them, and this greater sense of freedom no longer comes with any compromises concerning performance or quality. Check out our roundup for a look at the best unlocked Android phones if you specifically want a carrier agnostic handset.

So what should you look for when shopping Android phones? Display quality is huge, of course, so you'll probably want at least a full HD screen, and performance is key as well, so don't neglect the processor and RAM specs. Beyond that, camera, storage, and battery life are huge points of differentiation, and they can vary wildly across different models, even from the same manufacturer. Luckily, we've done the lion's share of the research for you, and rounded up the top phones regardless of your needs.

Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

What We Like
  • Excellent design

  • Brilliant screen

  • Great cameras

  • Amazing battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Handwriting conversion needs work

  • Live focus video needs work

  • Zoom-in Mic still seems like an unfinished novelty

At 6.8 inches, Samsung’s Note 10 Plus isn’t the most pocketable phone, but it’s a top-notch Android phone offering power and performance that make it well worth the bulk. It features one of the highest-resolution AMOLED screens you’ll find in a smartphone, at 3040x1440 pixels, and the screen stretches to the full edges of the phone, with only a small circular cutout for the front-facing camera. Thanks to its HDR10+ its considered by many to be the best display available in a smartphone right now.

A total of four cameras on the rear include a 6MP ultra-wide, a pair of 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lenses, plus a VGA Depth Vision Camera that’s used for augmented reality and measuring objects, and this array of cameras, combined with intelligent photography features and Samsung’s new Live Focus video means that you probably won’t be able to find a situation that the camera system can’t handle. Add to this a new S Pen for interacting with the device, plus all-day battery life—more than 31 hours on a single charge in our tests—and gaming performance to spare, and right now the Samsung Note 10+ is still the Android phone to beat.

"The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ is nearly everything you want an Android phone to be." — Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief

Best Features: Google Pixel 4

What We Like
  • Nice pocketable size

  • Excellent cameras

  • Night Sight

  • Gesture control

What We Don't Like
  • The screen feels cramped

  • Design is a bit bland

  • Headphone not included

For serious Android fans, Google’s Pixel phones have always been some of the best out there, since they offer a “pure Android” experience that ensures maximum compatibility and guarantee that you’ll always be able to apply the latest updates. This makes sense, of course, since Google makes both the software and the hardware in this case, letting it get the same home field advantage that’s otherwise exclusive domain of Apple’s iPhones. 

So naturally the Pixel 4 ships with Android 10 and it also offers the most robust support for Google Assistant that you’ll find on any smartphone, with the ability to call it up by voice or even simply by squeezing the phone, plus the ability to access just about any feature of the Pixel 4, from making calls to taking selfies, and it also gives Apple’s Face ID a run for its money by being the first Android phone to offer a truly secure face unlock feature that doesn’t rely on simple image recognition. 

Despite the fact that it still only sports a dual-lens camera system—a 16 MP 2X lens and a 12 MP wide—our testing demonstrates that the Pixel 4 continues to take some of the best photos of any smartphone, with amazing colours, clarity, and detail, thanks to the advanced computational photography features that Google has baked in, including a Night Sight mode that produces stunning results in low light conditions. 

"If you are an Android fan, this is an excellent, pure Android 10 experience with some of the best Google Assistant integration on the planet. The Google Pixel 4 raises the bar with true touch-free gesture control and sets a new standard for mobile astrophotography."Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief

Best 5G: Samsung S20 Plus

What We Like
  • Full mmWave 5G support

  • Quad-Lens Camera System

  • 120Hz AMOLED Display

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Real-world 5G coverage still spotty

There’s no doubt that the era of 5G is upon us, and if you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve with a future-proof smartphone that will support these upcoming new technologies, Samsung is pretty much the only game in town right now. Further, while all of the new Samsung S20 models now offer basic 5G capabilities, only the higher-end models support the ultra-fast mmWave 5G frequencies, making the S20 Plus the best choice if you want the best 5G performance possible.

Of course, there’s more to the S20 Plus than just 5G support. As Samsung’s newest flagship phone, it also features a stunning AMOLED Infinity display that stretches from edge to edge with a crisp 523 poi resolution, following in the footsteps of last year’s model to use only a simple and clean hole for the front selfie camera. The screen refresh rate also now ramps up to 120Hz, which promises a smoother gaming and scrolling experience. 

The S20 Plus also offers a quad-lens camera system, although the fourth camera is actually a VGA “time-of-flight” sensor that’s used for “bokeh” depth-of-field effects and augmented reality applications. 12MP ultra-wide and standard wide lens and a 64MP telephoto lens make up the other three cameras, arranged in a unique new design that offers better zoom performance. The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 octa-core CPU is also ensures that you’ll be able to take maximum advantage of the higher speeds that the mmWave 5G chipset can offer.

“Even if you don’t have 5G service in your area yet, the 5G technology is Samsung’s latest phones is ready for prime time, so you’ll be fully equipped for the future.” — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer

Best Phablet: Google Pixel 4 XL

What We Like
  • Excellent cameras

  • Night Sight

  • Gesture control

  • Solid battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Large top bezel

  • No expandable storage 

  • Headphones not included

Google’s Pixel phones make great choices for those who are heavily steeped in the Google ecosystem and want to stay on the bleeding-edge of Android releases, if you’re looking for a more “phablet” sized smartphone but still want to enjoy the full Google experience, the larger Google Pixel 4 XL is a great fit.

Sporting all of the same features as its smaller sibling, the Pixel 4 XL naturally includes the best support for Google Assistant that you’ll find anywhere, offering quick access to voice control features that not only let you look up information and send messages but even control almost every function on the smartphone itself. Google’s new gesture controls and face unlock feature are also here, and although sadly this necessitates a larger bezel at the top of the screen, meaning you won’t enjoy full edge-to-edge goodness, we think the tradeoff is worth it. 

Despite the larger size, however, Google hasn’t packed in any extra cameras here, so the Pixel 4 XL still only sports a dual-lens camera system, but the great photos it takes proves that it’s not about how big your camera system is, but rather what you do with it. In addition to the larger screen, however, the bigger size of the Pixel 4 XL also means it can pack in a more powerful 3,700 mAh battery, letting it run for almost two hours more on a single charge. 

Best Battery Life: Motorola Moto G7

What We Like
  • Excellent battery life

  • Very affordable

  • Solid Android 9.0 performance

What We Don't Like
  • Low-resolution screen

  • Camera delivers spotty results

  • Poor gaming performance

Thanks to its staggering 5,000 mAh battery cell the Moto G7 Power is the longest-running smartphone you can buy right now, and by a pretty huge margin—our testing showed that it will get you through over two days of typical use. Of course, that kind of battery life comes with more than a few tradeoffs, especially when it’s offered at such a wallet-friendly price. 

The G7 Power is a bit of a beast at almost half a pound, and Motorola has had to cut a few corners on features and performance too. For one, the battery recharges more slowly, even with the included “TurboPower” fast charger, and the CPU is clocked down a bit in order to make the most of the battery life—it’s totally fine for normal smartphone use, but it’s not going to be a good choice for serious mobile gamers. There’s also only a single rear 12 MP that we found a bit underwhelming. However, if it’s important for you to have a smartphone that is guaranteed to get you through the day no matter what, the Moto G7 Power is hard to beat. 

“Battery life is the Moto G7 Power's standout feature, allowing it to do something that the vast majority of smartphones cannot: last two full days without breaking a sweat.”Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Display: Samsung Galaxy S10e

What We Like
  • Beautiful AMOLED display

  • Dual-camera setup

  • Premium Snapdragon 855 processor

What We Don't Like
  • No QHD+ display

  • Awkward fingerprint sensor location

  • No 2x zoom camera

The Android smartphone marketplace has grown to monstrous proportions in the last few years, with top manufacturers expanding to new "budget" categories in response to Chinese manufacturers trying to provide flagship phones at non-flagship prices. The Samsung Galaxy S10e is perhaps the best example of one of those competing phones because it offers so many similar features found on the more expensive S10 and saves you a couple of hundred bucks. The first thing you notice is the 5.8-inch Infinity O display with its beautiful OLED performance and its sharp 2280 x 1080 resolution. It isn’t as sharp as the standard S10, but you do get that fancy hole punch cutout for the 10MP selfie camera.

The rear camera system is amazing, too, with a 16MP ultra-wide angle lens and a 12MP standard lens. It’s kind of astounding to see a phone with a dual-camera setup for this price point. The whole thing is powered by the premium Snapdragon 855 processor, which should give you lightning-fast speeds even if it starts at 6GB of RAM. You can get 128GB or 256GB of storage and throw a MicroSD in there to increase it by up to 512GB. Plus, with colors ranging from Prism Black to Flamingo Pink all the way to Canary Yellow (a color you’ll only find on the S10e), it really will match your style. Andrew tested the S10e for us and heaped praise on its gorgeous Infinity O display and reasonable price.

"If you’re craving the latest and greatest in smartphone technology but want to save a little scratch in the process, the Galaxy S10e is a very worthwhile alternative."Andrew Hayward, product tester

Best Design: OnePlus 7 Pro

What We Like
  • Amazing 6.67-inch high-res display

  • Motorized pop up camera

  • Three lens rear camera

What We Don't Like
  • Chassis colors are slightly flat

OnePlus has built a whole strategy around offering near-flagship phones for a price that is pretty affordable. For the 7 Pro, OnePlus has made a great phone for the price, which is why it wins our "best value" category. The most notable feature of the phone is its screen, the most prominent part of any smartphone. The 6.67-inch display sits at 3120x1440 pixels and it covers the whole front of the device without a notch because OnePlus has put the 16-megapixel front-facing camera into a motorized housing that pops up on-demand.

The rear camera system is comprised of three lenses, an ultra-wide lens at 16MP, a telephoto at 8MP, and a main camera with a whopping 48MP. The Fluid AMOLED display is named for its super-responsive 90Hz refresh rate, making this phone great for gaming. There’s a Snapdragon 855 processor and the option for 12GB of RAM running the whole thing, which bolsters the refresh rate with ultra-snappy performance. Plus, the 4,000 mAh battery can be Warp Charged in under half an hour. You can choose between 128 and 256GB of storage in three colors: gray, blue, or almond. Andrew tested the phone and was way into the crazy high refresh rate, beautiful screen built into the OnePlus 7 Pro.

"The OnePlus 7 Pro is one of the best, most powerful phones that you can buy today—and the best deal you'll find on a high-end handset." — Andrew Hayward, product tester

Best Camera: Samsung Galaxy S10+

What We Like
  • QHD+ display

  • Edge-to-edge glass

  • Awesome performance specs

What We Don't Like
  • Unreliable fingerprint sensor

With an impressive 6.4-inch QHD+ display, the Galaxy S10+ is in very close competition with the Pixel 3 XL as a premiere "phablet" phone. The device takes advantage of its available real-estate, with glass extending from edge to edge, for a 93.1% screen-to-body ratio. While the screen is a definite show-stopper, the camera setup is equally impressive. Equipped with five cameras and an average resolution of 12MP per lens, the Plus guarantees perfect, Instagram-worthy shots with every snap. Its main feature is the 16MP ultra-wide lens that comes with a 123-degree field of vision, allowing you to capture more in each frame. Fitting everyone into a group photo has never been so simple. Also, the phone’s additional telephoto and normal wide-angle lenses accommodate for tighter shots.

The S10+ features most of the same specs as its companion, the S10, but with some additional perks. It holds the same powerful, ultra-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, capable of reaching up to 2.0 Gbps. The Plus’s starting specs also include 8GB of RAM and a 128GB memory but can expand to 12GB RAM and 1TB of storage. Additionally, the device is compatible with wireless charging and offers the S10’s exclusive PowerShare feature, so you can share your battery with other Galaxy devices. 

Best Style: Sony Xperia XZ3

What We Like
  • Realistic, vibrant images

  • 4K video recording

  • Encased in Gorilla Glass 5

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly slippery chassis

Sony has defined itself as a force to be reckoned with thanks to its premium headphones and TVs, and with its new Xperia XZ3 — the brand's first Bravia OLED effort — its phones now fall into the category, too. The 6-inch 18:9 screen is the device’s most stunning feature, resulting in realism, vibrancy, and depth whether you’re streaming videos or playing your favorite game. To capture your own memories, the 13MP front-facing camera includes a background blur option and improved digital stabilization, and videos can be recorded in 4K HDR.

The Xperia SZ3 features a Snapdragon 845 chipset paired with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and microSD support up to 512GB. The 3,330mAh battery is combined with wireless charging. Striking and sleek, the phone is water-resistant and encased in Gorilla Glass 5. It also has a physical camera button and includes an easily-removable SIM card/microS card tray. The Xperia intelligence engine can monitor your usage, displaying different apps — such as the weather, maps, Uber, or Spotify — depending on the time and your location.

Best Value: Google Pixel 3a

What We Like
  • Super compact

  • Low price

  • Great OLED screen

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly less capable CPU

Though it’s no doubt the best compact Android phone out there, bragging rights for Google Pixel 3a owners don’t stop there. You can also tell your friends more broadly that you own a high-end smartphone in general, with a price tag that would warrant less from competing brands. Even compared to the standard Google Pixel 3, the Pixel 3a is affordable, at half the price of its premium flagship older sibling.

And yet, despite its low price point, the Google Pixel 3a retains many of the same features. For instance, it still has a phenomenal camera, one that subverts the notion that you have to spend a lot of money to take photos above potato quality. Images captured on a Pixel 3a camera are virtually indistinguishable from the Pixel 3, even at night. Its 12.2 MP rear sensor and 8 MP selfie camera are the same as well. While it lacks the Pixel Visual Core processor of the flagship Pixel 3, the photos it takes are so good it makes us wonder why the Pixel 3 really needed the dedicated processor in the first place.

Since it’s a Google phone, you can expect the purest version of Android, no bloatware or extra "features" in sight. Later down the line, you’ll have first dibs on updates, too. Google hasn’t skimped on the design and specs here either which, for a sub-$500 smartphone, are respectable. The design is similar enough to the Pixel 3 that you’ll have a hard time telling them apart at a glance (although the body is made out of plastic rather than metal). The screen is OLED, and the Snapdragon 670 2.0 GHz CPU is plenty fast enough to hold its own. In the end, the few tradeoffs it makes to achieve its tasty pricing are well worth the compromise. Andrew's review of the Pixel 3a specifically calls out its great camera and top-notch Android 10 integration.

"The Pixel 3a is one of the best mid-range phones you can buy thanks to its excellent camera and appealing Android experience." — Andrew Hayward, product tester

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate Android phones based on design, performance, display and camera quality, functionality, and features. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases, including lightweight productivity like browsing and multitasking, to more intense tasks like gaming. We test optical quality for both stills and video in a variety of lighting and at varying distances from the subject. Our testers also consider each phone as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington has been testing and reviewing smartphones and smartphone accessories for over a decade, and has used every smartphone and mobile platform from the early Palm, Symbian, and Windows CE days to the modern era of Apple iPhones and the entire gamut of Android-based phones from the Google Nexus One to the latest Samsung devices.

Lance Ulanoff is a 30-plus year industry veteran and award-winning journalist who has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” Previously, Lance served as a columnist for Medium, Editor-in-Chief of Mashable, and Editor-in-Chief of PCMag.com.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. 

The Ultimate Android Smartphones Buying Guide

Choosing a new smartphone today isn’t as simple as deciding between Apple’s iPhones or an Android phone. If you select the latter, consider that the starting point: there’s an enormous amount of phones that run the Android operating system, and they vary in style, power, capabilities, manufacturer, and plenty more.

While that might seem daunting, it’s actually a very good thing. Competition has driven up quality and led to a very broad span of price ranges, with cheap entry-level handsets scaling all the way up to wallet-pummeling super-phones that have more top-end tech than anyone could ever need. If all you care about is making calls and sending texts, then you don’t need to spend a mint on a new smartphone. On the other hand, if you want DSLR-quality photos, an incredibly crisp display, and smooth 3D gaming, then you’ll have to pay for those benefits.

Doing just a little bit of research can pay big dividends. While all current Android phones provide the same kind of basic functionality, the little differences between them can significantly impact the way you use your phone on an everyday basis. Here’s a look at all of the key considerations to keep in mind while researching a new Android smartphone, as well as a list of the biggest Android manufacturers today.

Key Considerations

Every Android phone is an amalgamation of various components, features, and perks, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting as many of your must-haves as your budget will allow. Here’s what to look for:

Screen

Every Android phone has a screen, but some are much better than others—and some are much larger than others, too. What used to be considered a large phone or a “phablet” just a few years ago is on the more compact end of the scale today, as screens just keep getting bigger.

Today, a premium Android “flagship” phone will typically have a screen that is 6 inches or larger diagonally, such as the 6.2-inch display of the Samsung Galaxy S20 or the 6.55-inch screen of the OnePlus 7T. “Compact” smartphones aren’t usually much smaller than that: it’s rare to see a brand-name Android phone with a screen smaller than 5.5 inches today. That said, these phones are taller than in the past thanks to aspect ratios of 18:9 or even 20:9, so that helps phones avoid feeling overly wide in your hand. Even so, larger-screened phones can be difficult to control with one hand. If possible, get your hands on a phone before buying it.

Beyond size, your next biggest consideration is screen resolution. Higher is better: many phones opt for 1080p resolution, and the OnePlus 7T’s resolution of 1080x2400 means that there are nearly 2.6 million pixels crammed into that handheld display. That’s very crisp. Some pricier phones go even higher to 1440p (or Quad HD) resolution, while a couple even opt for 1920p (4K Ultra HD). On a screen that small, however, you’re unlikely to see much of an advantage to a 4K display. On the other end of the spectrum, however, some cheaper phones have lower-resolution 720p panels, where text and graphics tend to look fuzzier.

Some pricier phones offer increased screen refresh rates of 90Hz or 120Hz (60Hz is standard), which means that menus and animations look smoother, especially important for gaming. Also, phones with OLED or AMOLED displays tend to have bolder contrast and deeper black levels, while LCD panels typically don’t look quite as punchy. Additionally, some phones offer always-on screens, which means you’ll see details like time, battery life, and incoming notifications on an otherwise black screen when not in active use.

Samsung Galaxy Note10Plus
Samsung Galaxy Note10Plus running Netflix, which steers clear of the camera hole. Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Performance

While not always correct, it’s generally true that the more you spend on a new smartphone, the more processing power you’ll get. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors are used in most top phones these days, and the Snapdragon 800-series is typically what you’ll find in pricey flagship phones. Right now in 2020, the top of the line is the Snapdragon 865 chip, although some of 2019’s lingering phones use the Snapdragon 855 or slightly improved Snapdragon 855+.

Less-powerful mid-range phones use Snapdragon 600-series or 700-series chips, while budget phones are likely to use Snapdragon 400-series processors. Some makers use lower-powered MediaTek chips instead, and those are typically found in budget phones. Samsung’s own Exynos processors aren’t used much in North America, but a couple of its lower-priced phones run them, while Huawei uses its own in-house Kirin chips.

A powerful processor paired with a solid amount of RAM (usually 4GB or more) and a quality graphics processing unit (GPU) will typically result in a phone that feels snappy in everyday usage, can switch between multiple apps with ease, and can run visually impressive games without sluggishness. Every step down from flagship to mid-range and ultimately the budget range tends to result in slower-feeling phones that are less capable of running top games.

Cameras

As with processing power, you’ll typically get better cameras the more you spend on a phone. Flagship Android phones today often pack several cameras with varying capabilities.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has four back cameras: a 108-megapixel standard wide-angle camera, a 48-megapixel telephoto camera for zoomed-in shots, a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera that is pulled back for landscape and group shots, and a DepthVision sensor that captures distance data to improve the results. Between those four cameras, the Galaxy S20 Ultra can produce 10x hybrid optical zoom with clear results, and up to 100x “Super Resolution Zoom” that grabs much fuzzier, faraway shots.

That’s the extreme example, and it’s an incredibly expensive phone. Even so, most of today’s big flagship phones have two or three back cameras, and even mid-range phones give you between two and four back cameras. However, mid-range phones are less likely to deliver great results, and budget phones usually produce passable results at best. Google’s Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a phones are an interesting exception, however, as they essentially carry over the excellent single camera from the flagship Pixel 3 phones into a mid-range body.

Today’s Android phones all come with front-facing “selfie” cameras, as well, and sometimes more than one—you might get a wider-angle camera for group shots, as well. These cameras are sometimes in a little “notch” at the top of the screen or in a “punch-hole” camera cutout near the top, or perhaps just in the black strip of bezel above the screen. A couple of phones, such as the OnePlus 7 Pro, even have a motorized selfie camera that pops up from the top of the phone when you load the camera app.

Software

All Android phones run Android… obviously, right? While that’s true, there are different versions of Android. More importantly, each hardware manufacturer puts its own stamp on the operating system, and thus the interface may look or act a bit differently as a result. Again, it’s well worth getting hands-on with an Android phone before you buy it, just to make sure that you like the feel and flow of the customized interface.

Google’s Pixel phones run the purest and latest versions of Android, because Google is the primary developer of Android and its services are considered essential to the experience. Android 10 is the latest version of Android, although many current phones are still running the previous Android 9 Pie… or maybe even the outdated Android 8 Oreo. Each maker must release its own updates to its “skinned” version of Android, so it can take many months for an update to hit your phone after Google releases its new core version.

Battery life

Nearly any smartphone you buy today is equipped to give you a solid full day of uptime, from the moment you wake up to when you plug it back in at bedtime. Some phones will give you even more, such as the Motorola Moto G7 Power, which can reasonably give you two full days between charges. Not every phone lives up to its claims, however: for example, we found that Google’s Pixel 4 XL struggled to last a full day with all of its default features enabled.

Many top-end phones offer wireless charging capabilities in addition to wired charging, which means that you can put the glass back of the phone onto a wireless charging pad to top up the internal battery. It’s usually a slower process, but it’s also very convenient. Some phones also offer a feature called “reverse wireless charging,” which means you can put another wirelessly-chargeable phone on the back to share some of your battery life. Some accessories, such as wireless earbud cases, can also be charged on the back of these phones.

Note that removable batteries are extremely uncommon with today’s smartphones. One rare example that is available for purchase in North America is the budget-friendly Nokia 2.2.

Google Pixel 4
The new Google Pixel 4.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Storage

The amount of internal storage available in a phone determines how many apps and files you can carry around with you. Many higher-end phones start at around 128GB of internal storage, which is a pretty significant amount to play around with. There may be higher-capacity versions available for more money, such as 256GB or 512GB, if you plan on carrying a lot of local music or video files, or want to have a bunch of mobile games downloaded.

Less expensive phones may only come with 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, however, which limits how much data you can carry around. Luckily, many phones let you expand your storage with tiny microSD memory cards, which are pretty affordable and easy to come by. Some phones don’t allow external storage, however, such as OnePlus and Google Pixel phones.

Security

You’ll find a fingerprint sensor on nearly every Android smartphone today, but some of them aren’t immediately visible. Most are located on the back where your pointer finger would normally rest, but some are placed in the power button on the right side of the phone.

Some higher-end phones, however, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and OnePlus 7 Pro, put their fingerprint sensors within the screen itself. These aren’t always as speedy and reliable as the traditional sensors. Samsung’s ultrasonic sensors on its expensive Galaxy phones have been a bit spotty in recognizing your finger to unlock the phone, while the optical sensors seen in OnePlus phones, for example, are pretty swift.

Many phones also offer facial unlock capabilities, but if they have a standard 2D front-facing camera, then it’s not a very secure system—it could be easily fooled by an attacker. Google’s Pixel 4 phones, on the other hand, have iPhone-like 3D facial scanning hardware that is more precise and secure than regular 2D cameras. Some phones also offer an additional layer of security that allows you to remotely wipe the data off of them if they're lost or stolen.

Carrier

Not every phone is compatible with every mobile service, so if you’re buying a phone online or otherwise not directly from your phone carrier, ensure that it will work. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM technology for their service while Verizon and Sprint rely on CDMA technology. Some phones are “unlocked” and may be compatible with both cellular bands, while others are specific to certain carriers or bands.

Also, only certain phones are compatible with higher-speed 5G cellular service, which is still a pretty new feature. More and more phones will support 5G in the coming months as it gradually replaces 4G LTE as the cellular standard, and the carriers are constantly expanding their respective service maps so that you can access 5G speeds in more places.

Headphone port

A 3.5mm headphone port seems like a very standard feature, but more and more high-end phones have been omitting the feature in recent years—the Galaxy S20, Pixel 4, and OnePlus 7T all lack a headphone port. Your choice, then, is to either use Bluetooth wireless headphones or to use a USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle adapter, which may or may not come with your phone.

Curiously, it’s the cheaper mid-range and budget phones that typically still keep the classic headphone port intact. It’s the odd example of paying less and getting more in the phone world.

Unique form factors

Most smartphones have the familiar slate design with a large touch display, but recently we’ve seen more experimentation with foldable smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and new Motorola Razr are both modern smartphones that reimagine the classic flip-phone design, while the Samsung Galaxy Fold has a small outer screen and a tablet-sized 7.3in display on the inside. All of these phones are significantly more expensive than typical smartphones, so you’ll pay extra for an out-of-the-ordinary, experimental design.

Samsung Galaxy Note10+ and Note10
Samsung Galaxy Note10+ and Note10.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff


Brands/Manufacturers

Many different companies make Android-powered devices, but when it comes to quality smartphones in 2020, these are the brands you need to know:

Samsung: Samsung is the most popular Android maker in Western markets, and is well known for its Galaxy line of smartphones and suite of related apps. Currently, the Galaxy S20 is the company’s core flagship-level phone, with larger Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra variants available as well. The company also makes the Galaxy Note 10, which comes with a pop-out stylus. Samsung has mid-range phones, as well, such as the Galaxy A50, and makes experimental phones such as the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip.

Google: Google is the main company behind Android itself and is the maker of the various Pixel phones. As of this writing, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are the flagship-level phones, while last year’s Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are lower-priced alternatives made with plastic and less-powerful processors. Pixel phones provide the cleanest, pure Android experience available, while other makers tweak and “skin” their versions of Android.

OnePlus: OnePlus has emerged as a maker of “budget flagship” phones—that is, handsets that are as powerful as more expensive models but may trim down a couple of features or components to save hundreds of dollars. Currently, the OnePlus 7T is the company’s core phone, while the pricier OnePlus 7 Pro has a higher-resolution screen along with a motorized selfie camera that pops up from the top of the phone when needed.

Motorola: Motorola has been around for ages, but recently has focused almost entirely on budget and mid-range phones. Its Moto G phones are typically reliable low-priced phones, while the various Motorola One mid-range models have various styles and perks between them. Motorola has also made a handful of Moto Z phones with magnetic, snap-on accessories, and the new foldable Razr smartphone is a nostalgic throwback to its classic flip phone.

Sony: Sony’s phones of late have embraced super-tall 21:9 displays. The Xperia 1 (with a 4K-resolution screen) and slightly smaller Xperia 5 are pricey flagship phones, while the Xperia 10 is a budget-friendlier alternative.

LG: LG’s most recent phones have embraced various gimmicks to try to stand out, including the LG G8X ThinQ, which has a detachable second full-size screen, and the LG G8 ThinQ with its inconsistent “Air Motion” gestures. LG also makes budget-priced phones, including the stylus-packing LG Stylo 5.

Nokia: Once an exclusive maker of Windows Phones, Nokia now makes a variety of Android phones, most of which are budget and mid-range models. The Nokia 7.1, Nokia 6.1, and Nokia 4.2 are all included on our list of The Best Budget Smartphones for Under $300 in 2020. Nokia’s most recent flagship phone is the Nokia 9 PureView, which has five back cameras.

Huawei: Huawei makes high-end phones such as the P40 Pro and Mate 30 Pro, which have impressive multi-camera setups, along with budget handsets under its Honor brand. However, due to issues with the U.S. government, new Huawei phones can no longer have Google services and apps (including the Play Store for downloading apps), and they’re not widely available in the United States.

Conclusion

Any Android phone on the market can accomplish the basic tasks of placing calls, sending texts and emails, browsing the internet, and playing apps and games, but there’s a wide gulf in quality and capabilities between them.

The more expensive phones do typically pack in better screens, improved performance, and additional perks, but we don’t recommend throwing money at a lavish phone without doing some research, reading reviews, and ideally getting hands-on time to see if you like the feel and experience of using the phone.

For many users, a good-quality mid-range phone like a Google Pixel 3a, Samsung Galaxy A50, or Motorola Moto G7 may satisfy your needs. You’ll have to consider whether features like extra power, glossier screens, and enhanced camera capabilities are really worth spending extra for. Be sure to consult our ever-updated list of the best Android smartphones above, and keep an eye out for reviews of the latest and greatest.