If you’re an iPhone user, it’s a little easier to find the right phone when you’re looking to buy a new one. There are about five to choose from. (Phone cases, however, are a different story.) But Android fans have a much more daunting list of options, with phones in all shapes, sizes, and price tags on offer from manufacturers including Samsung, Sony, Google, LG, Lenovo, Motorola, and OnePlus.
To help you narrow down the options — and find the phone that’s right for you — we consulted seven different Android experts and aficionados. They shared their favorite phones, accounting for both price and ability. If you’re looking for a phone that takes great video or great pictures, or a phone that has a beautiful, smooth-scrolling screen (or one that does all three), we’ll help you find it. Here are the experts’ picks for the top Android phones available right now.
The best Android phone for most people
The OnePlus 9 Pro “is genuinely competitive with the best Android phones on the market — at least from a features and quality perspective,” says Dieter Bohn, our colleague and the executive editor at the Verge. It has a 6.7-inch screen “that goes from edge to edge in a body that’s narrow enough to make it just barely usable for me in one hand.” The battery is large enough to get through a full day and a half of “moderately heavy usage,” Bohn says, and when it’s time to recharge, thanks to OnePlus’s proprietary charging technology, it can go from dead to fully charged in 45 minutes. “The camera system is good, but it can’t quite match the quality you get from an iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra — both of which cost more than the OnePlus 9 Pro,” Bohn says.
The best (less-expensive) Android phone for most people
Will Verduzco, content marketing specialist for Swappa, prefers this older option from Samsung. “Although it’s a generation old, the S10 is nearly indistinguishable from the latest flagships thanks to its sleek, all-screen front face, versatile triple-rear camera with 2x optical zoom, and premium metal-and-glass build,” he says. You don’t get the 120Hz display (for smoother scrolling) or the Snapdragon 865 processor (for faster speeds) that you find on the latest Samsung Galaxy phones, but Verduzco doesn’t think you’ll miss them: “The 6.1-inch OLED on the S10 is still one of the sharpest and most vibrant screens you can find on any phone, and the 8-core Snapdragon 855 processor will muscle through even the most demanding games and apps for years to come.”
Note: Unless otherwise noted, the prices in this story are for unlocked phones, which can be brought to any carrier.
Best budget Android phone
If you’re looking for flagship performance at a lower price, Wesley Thurston, business development manager at Swappa, a site that buys and sells used phones, suggests the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. “My favorite feature about the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G is the fluid 120Hz display. Once you’ve used a phone with the buttery smooth transitions and scrolling of a high refresh-rate display, it’s nearly impossible to go back. I use it as a do-it-all workhorse for daily conference calls, emails, web browsing, photos, and gaming.”
The best Android phone for taking pictures
Until the Pixel 6 launches this fall, the 5 is still the top option for photos. The Pixel 5 is a flagship 5G smartphone that challenges phones at twice the price, according to Geoff Quattromani, host of the Technology Uncorked podcast. From a capability perspective, the Pixel 5 has rear cameras that capture vibrant images, and the night mode can see in the dark better than the human eye, Quattromani explains. “The large display is perfect for watching videos, gaming performance is excellent, the tight integration to Google services is seamless, and the battery life easily makes it through the day.” And it has 5G, in case you happen to live in one of the few places in the country with 5G service.
Note: Buying the Pixel 5 at Best Buy requires activation with either AT&T or Verizon.
The best (less-expensive) Android phone for taking pictures
Bohn writes that the 4A’s camera “can go head-to-head with smartphones that cost $1,500 or more,” thanks to Google’s image-processing software. The rest of the phone’s specs, he says, are passable: “It has a 5.8-inch screen, just enough RAM to keep apps from closing in the background, and a headphone jack. There’s no wireless charging, no fancy face unlock, and the body is made out of plastic instead of something more premium like glass.” But if you don’t need those things and are looking for a deal, the Pixel 4A is one of the best you’ll find.
Note: If you activate your phone with a carrier at purchase, the price at Best Buy drops to $300. The unlocked phone is also available at Amazon, where it’s currently out of stock. You can order it now and it will ship “soon,” according to Amazon’s estimates.
The best folding Android phone
Bohn calls the Galaxy Z Fold 2 the best folding phone of 2021. “Its main premise is this: It is sized like a normal smartphone that fits in your pocket, but it unfolds to reveal a tablet-sized 7.6-inch display on the inside,” he writes. The inside screen is large enough to make watching videos, browsing the web, playing games, and reading books a more immersive experience. There are compromises, of course. When folded, the phone is almost twice as thick as most smartphones. It also lacks any water or dust resistance and the inside screen can be temperamental “if you poke it too hard,” Bohn says. But it does perform well. The Z Fold 2 has a whopping 12GB of RAM, which Bohn says is “more than enough to run multiple apps at once without any of them closing.” Bohn also says the Z Fold 2 is plenty fast and has decent battery life. In his test, it lasted almost two days.
Additional reporting by Lance Whitney.
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