While it may seem that the iPhone is ubiquitous, Apple accounts for 23 percent of the global smartphone market. That means that when it comes to mobile, Google, and its operating system Android, reigns as king. This makes finding the best Android phones a little trickier than it needs to be.
The technical prowess of Android phones is unmatched, even in affordable models. And while these Google-powered devices offer far more freedom than the iOS competition, picking out the right one can still be challenging. We’ve compiled a list of the best Android phones to fit your special smartphone needs. From Samsung to OnePlus, this deep dive will illuminate what makes a great Android phone, and which premium options are worth the investment.
— Best Overall: Google Pixel 6 Pro
— Best Premium: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
— Best Battery Life: Moto G Power
— Best Value: OnePlus 9
— Best Budget: Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite
— Best Sustainable: Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Renewed)
— Best Premium Value: Xiaomi 12 Pro
How We Picked the Best Android Phones
As previously mentioned, the Android phone market is massive. If you’re not sure what kind of operating system any given smartphone has, you can bet it’s more than likely going to be an Android phone. The Android OS is as reliable as Google, so long as the manufacturer doesn’t cheap out on the phone tech. Here are a few things I looked for when picking the best Android phone.
Speed: Any modern smartphone is only as good as its operating speed. After all, a smartphone is more often than not a way to keep us connected when we’re out on the go. Applications and the internet browser should be quick, even when you have a fair amount of them open in the background. Pricier models even come with processors that can handle more complex apps and even console-quality games.
Graphics: It doesn’t matter what phone you’re looking at nowadays. Dollars to donuts, there’s a good chance the front of the phone will consist of a giant screen that’s usually borderless. Pretty as a bright and shiny screen may be at first glance, that doesn’t mean that it will always be easy on the eyes.
Nowadays, smartphones pride themselves on being complete multimedia devices, for surfing, streaming, and occasionally gaming. There’s a good chance that your Android phone is one of the screens you’re going to be staring at longer than others, so it shouldn’t hurt your eyes.
Camera: While phones in camera aren’t quite DSLR-quality yet, cameras are getting better, and perhaps more importantly, bigger. The Samsung Galaxy S21 contains two big cameras inside it, a 108MP f/1.8 main camera, and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide number. This allows for tons of freedom when it comes to snapping pictures on the go, especially for those who love to stunt on the haters for Instagram. And while rear cameras pack serious photo punch, even the front-facing camera on an Android phone should be at least halfway decent, for Google Duo calls and the occasional selfie.
Battery Life: Android phones are lauded for their processing power. But what good is all that power if the battery drains to nothing in a matter of hours? Some phones, like the Moto G Power flaunt a battery life so long it sounds fake (Three days?) Even the best phones will usually need to charge overnight. If an Android phone requires multiple charges a day, it may not be worth the hassle of buying it, let alone owning it.
Related: Energize with the best wireless chargers.
The Best Android Phones: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Google Pixel 6 Pro
Why It Made The Cut: Google Pixel 6 Pro is designed from the ground up to provide a seriously powerful smartphone at an excellent price.
— Weight: 7.4 ounces
— Dimensions: 6.5 (L) x 3 (W) x 0.4 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.7 inch LTPO OLED
— Refresh Rate: 120Hz
— Camera: 50MP primary, 12MP Ultra-Wide, 50MP Telephoto
— RAM: 12GB
— Storage: 128-512GB
— Professional camera system
— Advanced AI
— Gorgeous build-quality
— Less than stellar battery life
You’d think that Google would have the market cornered considering it programs the OS for Android phones. And while the Google Pixel line isn’t awful, it always lagged behind competitors like Samsung and Motorola in terms of specifications and build-quality. Google finally cracked the code with the Google Pixel 6 Pro.
The 6.7-inch LTPO OLED screen is one of the biggest on the market, being just barely smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The screen is also thicker than before, with twice as much scratch resistance to previous Pixel models. Performance is optimized whether you’re playing a game of Fortnight, watching YouTube, or looking to conserve battery. But the Google Pixel 6 Pro trulystands apart when you look at its camera. The primary, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses capture up to 150 percent more light which renders richer and more vivid colors, even at night. It makes a professional photographer out of the novice, with easy-to-use editing tools. The one downside is the battery life almost ensures you need to plug this in at least a couple of times a day. For a phone at this price point, it’s still an unbeatable value.
Best Premium: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Why It Made The Cut: The Samsung S21 Ultra is unmatched in its speed, camera, and graphic capabilities, as long as you’re willing to make the investment.
— Weight: 2.8 pounds
— Dimensions: 2.97 (L) x 6.5 (W) x 0.35 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.8 inch AMOLED
— Refresh Rate: 120Hz
— Camera: Wide Angle: 108MP Laser AF, Telephoto 1: 10MP AF, Telephoto 2: 10MP AF, Ultra-Wide: 12MP AF
— RAM: 12-16GB
— Storage: 128-512GB
— The most gorgeous smartphone screen on the market
— Lightning fast processor
— High-quality cameras
— Astronomical price
— No SD card slot
The Samsung Galaxy line is synonymous with quality, and the S21 Ultra is the most premium option available. And while the price is so high it may have you glancing at the latest iPhone, the big upgrades in this not-so-little-marvel make it a worthy upgrade.
The first stark thing about the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is it’s massive screen. If it looks bigger and brighter, it’s because it is. The AMOLED screen offers serious display power, incredible color clarity, and adapts to any lighting environment so your eyes won’t suffer after prolonged viewing. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor redefines fast processing. Expect load times to become a thing of the past. While other smartphones lack one good camera, the Galaxy S21 packs four powerful cameras in the rear alone. A 108MP wide angle lens will work for most tasks, but the 12MP ultra wide lens and two telephoto lenses may make you hang up your DSLR. Despite all these features, the absence of an SD card slot is a near-criminal.
Best Battery Life: Moto G Power
Why It Made The Cut: While it may lack the technical luster of pricier models, it can run up to three days without needing to be plugged in.
— Weight: 7 ounces
— Dimensions: 6.6 (L) x 3 (W ) x 0.4 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.4 inch FHD+ Max Vision display
— Refresh Rate: 90Hz
— Camera: 16MP Rapid-Focus, 2MP Macro Vision, 8MP 118-degree ultra-wide angle
— RAM: 4GB
— Storage: 64GB
— Nearly endless battery life
— Surprising level of performance
— Durable and reliable
— Outdated graphical capabilities
No matter how much money you spend on an Android phone, there are going to be at least a few instances a week where you scramble for your charger as your device’s battery dips into the red. Motorola designed an entire Android phone to alleviate this anxiety with the Moto G Power.
Not only will this phone charge up and stay charged, but it will hold it for up to three days. That’s a stark difference against even the most premium models, which will last for a single day, in the best cases. For a phone that puts battery life above all else, its capabilities are still impressive. The Qualcomm 665 processor and 4GB of RAM is enough for quick app usage, and even a fair amount of gaming capabilities. Even the 16MP camera is way better than it needs to be. The place the Motorola lacks power is in its screen, which is not only 720p, but even looks pixelated from certain angles. As ancient as the visuals feel, it’s a sturdy and powerful workforce. And it’s so affordable that it may be prudent to invest in one to use in emergencies.
Best Value: OnePlus 9
Why It Made The Cut: A premium design, built-in Hasselblad mobile camera, and lightning fast charging capabilities make the OnePlus 9 worth the upgrade.
— Weight: 6.7 ounces
— Dimensions: 6.4 (L) x 2.9 (W) x 0.34 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.5 inch Fluid AMOLED
— Refresh Rate: 120Hz
— Camera: 48MP Main Camera, 50MP Ultra-Wide, 2MP Monochrome Camera
— RAM: 8GB
— Storage: 128GB
— Exclusive built-in Hasselblad camera
— Fast performance, never overheats
— Charges to full in as little as 15 minutes
— No telephoto lens
— Glossy shell attracts fingerprints like magnets
The OnePlus brand, for all its faults, has always put out pretty solid devices. While the brand itself doesn’t have the sheen of a Samsung Galaxy or a Google Pixel, the OnePlus 9 is one of the best Android phones for the money.
The Qualcomm 888 processor makes the OnePlus 9 purr even when it’s running demanding apps and games. Not that you’d ever know it, considering that it’s built to remain cool even as you put it through the ringer. Better yet, even if you’re using it for hours and the battery drains, you can charge it back to full in as little as 15 minutes. These quality-of-life improvements alone make it a stellar choice, but what truly sets it apart is the built-in Hasselblad camera. Swedish camera titans Hasselblad worked with OnePlus to create stunning photography on a mobile device. It calibrates color to look more natural than ever to capture breathtaking natural scenes, detailed portraits, and everything in between. Despite this, it’s one of the few cameras in this price point without a dedicated telephoto lens. It also attracts fingerprints pretty easily, but that’s nothing a good case can’t alleviate.
Best Budget: Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite
Why It Made The Cut: This featherweight class Android phone packs plenty of features in a small package, and within reach of many budgets.
— Weight: 5.5 ounces
— Dimensions: 6.32 (L) x 2.98 (W) x 0.27 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.55 inch FHD+ AMOLED DotDisplay screen
— Refresh Rate: 60/90Hz
— Camera: 64MP Primary Camera, 8MP Ultra-Wide Camera, 5MP Telemacro Camera
— RAM: 6-8GB
— Storage: 64-128GB
— Elegant and sleek design
— Detailed AMOLED DotDisplay screen
— Sturdy and reliable performance
— Lackluster camera system
Are there Android phones that are less expensive than the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite? Absolutely. But for a few dollars more, this budget-friendly phone will stand close to even some of the most premium Android phone offerings.
At a mere 5.5 ounces, you may forget you’re even carrying a phone, if it wasn’t for that big 6.5-inch AMOLED screen. It’s easy on the eyes in more ways than one, as it adjusts to different light levels so you won’t strain your peepers, especially since there’s a good chance you’ll be looking at it for hours. The Xiaomi Mi Lite 11 can run video for up to 16 hours before needing to charge, making it a great go-to for on-the-go streaming. The Snapdragon 732 is not as powerful as the newer processors in the Qualcomm line, but it may be more than you need. While the camera system isn’t terrible, it’s not as good as it could be. The Ultra-Wide camera doesn’t stand up to the same quality found in Google Pixel Pro. It’s a fair trade off, as just about every other feature in this camera is pretty stellar. If you want an inexpensive Android device to play around with, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite offers tons of possibilities for fun.
Best Sustainable: Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Renewed)
Why It Made The Cut: When it comes to sustainability in Android phones in the states, buying a refurbished model is tech and eco smart.
— Weight: 6.6 ounces
— Dimensions: 6.2 (L) x 2.9 (W) x 0.3 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.2 inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED
— Refresh Rate: 60Hz
— Camera: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF, Dual Aperture 12MP
— RAM: 6GB
— Storage: 64GB
— Sustainable choice
— Extremely affordable
— Stellar tech specs
— Used products occasionally a gamble
With new phones coming out year after year, last years’ models often end up in landfills. Companies like Fairphone manufacture their phones sustainably, but they’re only available if you live in Europe. There is one avenue you can take that qualifies as sustainable: buying a refurbished phone like the Samsung Galaxy S9+.
“Lateral thinking with withered technology,” is a philosophy that Nintendo has used to become a multi-billion dollar gaming company. It basically means that you don’t need high end specs to have fun. And what is a smartphone but fun in your pocket? The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is three years old, but it still definitely holds up. A 12MP camera is good enough for most jobs, and even records in 4K. The Snapdragon: Adreno 630 packs a surprising amount of power and speed. This means it’s great for gaming and playing media. Yes, it’s been refurbished, but it’s also got a bit of a battery upgrade which exceeds its original battery life by 80 percent. Of course, it may come with a little wear and tear, but it’s nothing that a nice case can’t solve in many cases.
Best Premium Value: Xiaomi 12 Pro
Why It Made The Cut: It's a little less attractive than other premium Android offerings, but the specs on this under $1k phone are no joke.
— Weight: 7.3 ounces
— Dimensions: 6.44 (L) x 2.93 (W) x 0.32 (H) inches
— Screen: 6.73 inch WideQuad HD AMOLED DotDisplay
— Refresh Rate: Up to 480Hz
— Camera: Pro-grade 50MP triple camera array
— RAM: 8-12GB
— Storage: 256GB
— Great value for premium specs
— Charges super fast
— Brightest screen in the biz
— Hard to nab stateside, for now
Don't sleep on Xiaomi. The brand may not be as synonymous with smartphones as Samsung or Apple, but its new flagship model, Xiaomi 12 Pro, packs enough wallop to keep the competition on their toes.
The big 6.73 WideQuad HD AMOLED Dot Display isn't just big, it's obscenely bright. And with a refresh rate that tops out at 480Hz, its primed and ready for hardcore gaming, along with the latest and greatest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. Quadspeakers that pump sound out of the bottom and top of the phone are loud enough to fill a small room, with pretty solid fidelity to match. Pro-grade 50MP triple camera array delivers on all manner of photos, from selfies to nature shots. Even low-light and night photos come in with previously unseen clarity for a smartphone camera. Not only does Xiaomi 12 Pro charge fast, it shows a live-readout percentage down to hundredth percent. Who knew an interactive charging mode was something anyone wanted until now? Eventually, Xiaomi phones become widely available stateside, but if you want this gorgeous phone, you'll need to import it.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Android Phone
This is perhaps the most crucial thing to consider when buying an Android Phone online. Many phones, especially when a massive discount is applied, will only work with certain cellular carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint among others. Luckily, retailers will tell you if a phone is unlocked, which allows you to use it across multiple different carriers at will. All you need to do is put in whatever SIM card your carrier provides. It doesn’t hurt to double check which carriers any given phone is compatible with before purchasing, especially if you already have a phone number you want to keep.
What do you need out of an Android phone? This is a question you should ask yourself before you decide to simply drop the big bucks on the fanciest available model. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra have a gorgeous built-in camera, but if you’ve got a solid DSLR it may not be worth splurging on it. Unless you plan on doing some serious gaming on them, you probably don’t need a top of the line processor. At this point, a new or newish Qualcomm Snapdragon line processor will be more than enough for folks who just want to surf, stream, and message.
Many new phones are made with AMOLED screens. It stands for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes, and it’s a style of OLED that’s made for smartphones. Anyone that owns an OLED device can tell you that the difference is rather stark. A wider array of colors display, and they come in even more vibrant than before. This translates to better resolution, and a better viewing experience overall. It’s why everything from TV screens to Nintendo Switch models have these big, bright screens. Once you experience the crisp color clarity, it’s hard to go back to a non-OLED screen.
One of the biggest selling points of an Android phone is that they provide so much freedom. You can front-load apps that aren’t on the Google Play store, customize your UI to look and feel the way you want it no matter the OS. The allure hit me last year when I turned a OnePlus phone into a portable retro gaming machine. I was able to play Metroid Prime in bed, which was worth the cost of admission alone.
Endless as the avenues for customization may be, I just had to go back to an iPhone after a couple of months. I’m a dedicated Macbook Pro and iPad user, and the way iOS devices talk with each other simply can’t be matched. Yes, Android phones often have better specs, and allow for far more in the realm of independence. Apple doesn’t make it easy to play with your tech the way Android devices do. Still, if you’re an Apple fanatic that works across multiple devices, it may be difficult to betray the brand.
Q: What is the fastest Android phone?
Q: How much does an Android phone cost?
How much does an Android phone cost? New Android phones run from a couple hundred to just over a thousand dollars. Our budget pick is the Xiaomi Mi Lite, and our premium pick is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Q: Which phone has the best battery?
The phone that has the best battery is easily the Moto G Power, which can run up to three days before it needs to be charged.
Q: What is the lifespan of an Android phone?
The lifespan of an Android phone is, on average and if taken care of, two to three years. The Europe-exclusive environmentally friendly Fairphone 5 is supported for up to five years.
Related: The best modems for speedy connections.
Final Thoughts on Android Phones
There’s a good chance that no matter what you’re looking to get out of an Android phone, there’s a model built just for you. For an unfathomable amount of battery life, the Moto G Power will dazzle and amaze, with up to three days of juice on a single charge. After countless tries, Google finally cracked the code with the Google Pixel 6 Pro, which is our overall favorite when it comes to performance, look, and perhaps most importantly, price. If you’ve got the cash to spare, the allure of the coveted Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra may be impossible to ignore. As far as Android phones go, it’s the epitome of excellence.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.