The Best Android Phones

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

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

The best Android phones should offer outstanding performance and features.

Flagship phones have powerful processors, tons of RAM, high resolution and high refresh displays, multiple rear cameras, 5G connectivity, and other features.

Mid-range and budget phones have increasingly incorporated some of these high-end features, with companies like Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, OnePlus, LG, and others offering a good combination of price and performance.

Best Value

Google Pixel 4a 5G

4.3
Pixel 4a 5G

Courtesy of Best Buy

What We Like
  • Stellar cameras

  • Smooth Android OS

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Great, big screen

  • 5G support

What We Don't Like
  • Generic looking design

  • No water resistance

  • Lacks mmWave 5G

The Google Pixel 4a 5G has specs similar to its more capable sibling, the Pixel 5. You get a 6.2-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 and a pixel density of 413ppi. It supports HDR, though not the newer HDR10+ standard, and doesn't have a high refresh screen.

Specs are solid, with a Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB RAM, and 128GB storage. The camera matches the quality of the Pixel 5, consisting of a 12.2MP primary sensor and a 16MP ultrawide, allowing it to take superb low-light shots with the Night Shift mode. It's capable of recording 4K at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps. Battery life lasts for a while with a 3,8885mAh cell. It also supports fast charging but not wireless charging or reverse wireless charging.

The selling point is that you get 5G connectivity without breaking the bank. It's not mmWave, but it should keep you connected at fast speeds.

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 2340x1080| Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G|  Camera: 12.2MP/16MP rear and 8MP front | Battery: 3,885mAH

Best 5G

Samsung Galaxy S21

4.2
Samsung Galaxy S21

Andrew Hayward / Lifewire

What We Like
  • Gorgeous 120Hz screen

  • Plenty of power

  • Excellent cameras

  • Distinctive design

What We Don't Like
  • Downgrades from S20

  • Battery life just OK

  • No microSD slot

  • Plastic backing

The Galaxy S21 sees Samsung scale things back after years of high-end handsets, including trimming down the screen resolution, removing the MicroSD slot for expandable storage, and replacing the back glass with plastic. The benefit is that the Galaxy S21 is cheaper than its predecessor, but it doesn’t have the same top-end allure.

All that said, it’s still a sleek, powerful, and capable Android flagship. It packs the most powerful Android chip on the market today with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888; the 120Hz screen is still a beauty, it supports the full spectrum of current 5G connectivity, and the cameras are stellar. Battery life is a bit underwhelming, however.

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 12MP/64MP/12MP | Battery: 4,000mAh

Best Budget

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

4.5
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Large 120Hz screen

  • Excellent cameras

  • Speedy performance

  • Beefy battery

  • 5G support

What We Don't Like
  • Under-powered charger included

  • No mmWave 5G in unlocked version

The Galaxy S20 FE is one of the best bangs for the buck you can get from Samsung, especially if you're looking for a 5G phone. The S20 FE has a sharp 2400 x 1080 display with 407ppi and a 120Hz refresh rate, giving you smooth motion for multimedia and games. It also supports HDR10+ for improved dynamic range and colors. Under the hood, the phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and has configurations of 128GB storage and 6GB RAM, 128GB storage and 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage and 8GB RAM.

According to our reviewer, the solid specs make it an excellent option for multitasking, demanding games, and general day-to-day browsing. Camera capabilities are reliable, consisting of a 12MP primary sensor, 8MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide sensor. It supports 4K recording at 60fps and comes with a sizable 4,500mAh battery. Fast charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging are all supported.

Screen Size: 6.5 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 | Camera: 12MP/8MP/12MP rear and 32MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

Best Google

Google Pixel 5

4.2
The Google Pixel 5 is our pick for best Android phone
What We Like
  • Brilliant cameras

  • Super speedy 5G

  • Smooth 90Hz screen

  • Incredible battery life

  • Android 11 OS

What We Don't Like
  • Skimps on power

  • Bland design

  • Iffy value proposition

The Pixel 5 is the flagship sibling to the larger, more affordable Pixel 4a 5G. It's also a 5G phone with a very similar set of features and hardware. The main improvements come from its IP68 water resistance, 90Hz refresh rate screen, and features like reverse wireless charging. In other regards, both phones are similar regarding specs and capabilities.

The Pixel 5 has a 6-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 with a crisp 432ppi density. A mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor powers it and has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This isn't as powerful as flagship phones from Samsung that come with the latest and greatest Snapdragon 865+ chipset, but Google's flavor of Android tends to be very clean and optimized, so you're unlikely to notice much slowdown.

The real standout is the camera performance. Our reviewer noted that the Night Sight feature turns a darkly-lit shot into a well-lit, eye-catching photo. The phone also records 4K at 60fps, has a great battery life, and supports full mmWave 5G.

Screen Size: 6.0 inches | Resolution: 2340x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G | Camera: 12.2MP/16MP rear and 8MP front | Battery: 4,080mAh

Best Design

OnePlus 9

4.2
OnePlus 9

OnePlus

What We Like
  • Incredibly fast charging

  • Gorgeous 120Hz screen

  • Speedy performance

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Basic, sub-6GHz 5G

What We Don't Like
  • Inconsistent cameras

  • No water resistance

  • Half the storage of the 8T

  • No mmWAve 5G

Arriving six months after its predecessor, the OnePlus 9 is the latest flagship offering from the Android maker. It delivers another powerhouse 5G handset that’s a little bit cheaper than some rivals yet also makes some compromises in the process. It has a large and gorgeous 120Hz screen and packs immense power thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, delivering silky-smooth performance for games and all other needs. The OnePlus 9 also has wickedly fast 65W wired charging, taking a phone from empty to full in about 30 minutes.

That’s the excellent stuff, and for the most part, the OnePlus 9 is excellent. However, the cameras struggle in off-peak lighting scenarios, and there’s no telephoto zoom lens. In testing, our reviewer had issues with being able to take consistent shots with the camera. There’s also no water resistance certification for the unlocked model, the internal storage tally has been halved from the OnePlus 8T, and it lacks faster mmWave 5G compatibility. It’s $70 less than the Samsung Galaxy S21; you might want to spend the extra cash for a more robust-feeling handset.

Screen Size: 6.55 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 48MP/50MP/2MP rear and 16MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

Best Folding

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G

Amazon

What We Like
  • Incredible, gorgeous folding display

  • Powerful processor

  • Great camera capabilities

  • Supports fast charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless

What We Don't Like
  • Battery seems like it could be bigger

  • No IP68 waterproofing

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G is one of the most exciting and unique new phones on the market. As a successor to the first Galaxy Fold, it builds on the design by improving the durability of the folding screen and packing in more powerful hardware. The phone consists of a folding AMOLED panel that measures 7.6 inches, making it about the same size as a small tablet when fully unfolded.

Each screen is gorgeous with a resolution of 2208 x 1768, a 373ppi density, support for HDR10+, and a 120Hz refresh rate. The content looks incredibly rich and smooth. When folded, you get a 6.23-inch cover display that you can use just like a regular phone.

It has the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor, and configurations include 12GB RAM/256GB storage and 12GB RAM/512GB storage. That's plenty of power for multimedia, productivity, and gaming. The camera array is no slouch either, consisting of a 12MP primary sensor, 12MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide sensor. The phone can record 4K at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps. The front has a pair of 10MP selfie cameras.

The 4,500mAh battery is sizable on paper, though the phone will likely suck a fair bit of juice when fully unfolded. It supports fast charging, fast wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging, but it isn't waterproof.

Screen Size: 6.23 inches and 7.6 inches | Resolution: 2260x816 and 2208x1768 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ | Camera: 12MP/12MP/12MP rear and 30MP front | Battery: 4,500 mAh


What to Look for in Android Smartphones


Doing just a little bit of research can pay big dividends. While all current Android phones provide the same basic functionality, the little differences between them can significantly impact how you use your phone every day.

Every Android phone is an amalgamation of various components, features, and perks, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re getting as many of your must-haves as your budget allows.

Screen

Every Android phone has a screen, but some are much better than others—and some are much larger than others. What used to be considered a large phone or a “phablet” just a few years ago is on a more compact scale today, as screens 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. These phones are taller than in the past thanks to aspect ratios of 18:9 or even 20:9, which helps phones avoid feeling overly broad in your hand. Even so, larger-screened phones can be challenging to control with one hand. If possible, get your hands on a phone before buying it.

Beyond size, your next most significant consideration is screen resolution. Higher is better: many phones opt for 1080p resolution, and the OnePlus 7T’s 1080 x 2400 means 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 others even opt for 1920p (4K Ultra HD). On a small screen, 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), meaning menus and animations look smoother, which is 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 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, and the Snapdragon 800-series is typically what you’ll find in pricey flagship phones. The top-of-the-line is the Snapdragon 865 chip, although some lingering phones use the Snapdragon 855 or a 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, 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 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 outcomes and up to 100x “Super Resolution Zoom” that grabs much fuzzier, faraway shots.

That’s an extreme example, and it’s a costly 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 outstanding results, and budget phones usually produce good results at best.

Today’s Android phones all come with front-facing “selfie” cameras, and sometimes more than one—you might get a wider-angle camera for group shots, too. 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.

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 stamp on the operating system, and thus the interface may look or act a bit differently. Again, it’s well worth getting hands-on with an Android phone before you buy it, to ensure 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. Each maker must release 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 when you wake up to when you plug it back in at bedtime. Some phones will provide you with even more.

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 “reverse wireless charging feature,” 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 incredibly uncommon with today’s smartphones. One rare example available 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. Many higher-end phones start at about 128GB of internal storage, which is a 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 a bunch of mobile games downloaded.

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

Security

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

However, some higher-end phones put their fingerprint sensors within the screen. These aren't always as speedy and reliable as traditional sensors. Samsung's ultrasonic sensors on its expensive Galaxy phones have been a bit spotty in recognizing your finger to unlock the phone. In contrast, the optical sensors 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—an attacker could easily fool it. On the other hand, Google's Pixel 4 phones had 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 wipe the data off if lost or stolen remotely.

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 it will work. Some phones are “unlocked” and may be compatible with both cellular bands, while others are specific to particular 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 standard feature, but more and more high-end phones have been omitting it in recent years—the Galaxy S20, Pixel 4, and OnePlus 7T all lack a headphone port. Your choice, then, is to use Bluetooth wireless headphones or 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 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 7.3-inch display on the inside. 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

Android Smartphone Brands

Many different companies make Android-powered devices, but when it comes to quality smartphones, 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 S22 is the company’s core flagship-level phone. Samsung also has mid-range phones, such as the Galaxy A series, and makes experimental phones, such as the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip.

Google: Google is the company behind Android and is the maker of the various Pixel phones. 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—handsets that are as powerful as more expensive models but may trim down a couple of features or components to save hundreds of dollars.

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 multiple styles and perks between them. Motorola has also made a handful of Moto Z phones with magnetic, snap-on accessories, and the 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.

Huawei: Huawei makes high-end phones with impressive multi-camera setups and 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.

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.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer covering technology and video games since 2006. His expertise includes smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. 

FAQ
  • Which Android phone has the best camera?

    The top-tier Android phones from companies like Samsung, OnePlus, Motorola, Google, and LG have great cameras and usually boast multiple sensors for different purposes. You typically get a primary sensor, a depth sensor for bokeh shots, an ultrawide sensor, and a telephoto sensor for a zoomed-in image. Other features include AI enhancements, with the Google Pixel series being particularly well-optimized in the software and post-processing department, especially regarding low-light shots.

  • What is the best unlocked Android phone?

    Most smartphones on this list can be purchased unlocked, but you should also browse our list of the best unlocked Android phones. Phones like the latest Galaxy S20 and the Google Pixel 5 can work on any major carrier. They also support 5G connectivity, though you may need to get a Verizon version for the latter if you want to take advantage of mmWave.

  • What is the best Android phone for Boost Mobile?

    Boost Mobile supports all major smartphones on its network, including the Galaxy S20 FE, LG Stylo 6, and Moto G7 Play. The phones tend to be more mid-range and affordable, but that doesn't mean you have to compromise.

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