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The 9 Best Android Phones of 2021

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The RundownBest Overall:Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra at Amazon"Samsung's Galaxy Note smartphone series continues to dominate, especially with the latest release."Runner-Up, Best Overall:Google Pixel 4a 5G at Best Buy"For a 5G phone that won't break the bank, the Pixel 4a 5G offers excellent cameras and smooth software at a reasonable price."Best 5G:Samsung Galaxy S21 at Amazon"The phone to buy if you want to stay ahead of the curve with the best 5G performance possible."Best Battery Life:Motorola Moto G Power at Amazon"Massive 5,000mAh battery that will get you throughout the night and day and then some."Best Value:Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G at Amazon"The Galaxy S20 FE is a reasonably-priced alternative to more costly flagships like the S20+, while still offering solid performance and 5G connectivity."Best Google:Google Pixel 5 at Amazon"Google's new flagship phone comes with a great camera, 90Hz display, and clean Android software."Best Design:OnePlus 8 Pro at Amazon"The OnePlus 8 Pro features a whopping 6.78-inch display size, which serves up a 120Hz refresh rate"Best Mid-Range 5G:Samsung Galaxy A71 5G at Amazon"The A71 is a mid-range phone that won't hit your wallet hard while still giving you blazing fast 5G connectivity."Best Folding:Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G at Best Buy"The Z Fold2 5G is one of the most unique and attractive folding phones on the market for those who price is no object."in this articleExpandOur PicksAbout Our Trusted ExpertsFAQsAbout Our Trusted Experts

The best Android phones should offer great performance and features. The Android phone market makes up a huge chunk of the global smartphone market. Android phones cover the range from high-end flagships to more affordable mid-range and budget devices. Flagship phones have powerful processors, tons of RAM, high resolution and high refresh display, 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. Take a look at our roundup of the best budget smartphones under $300 for a good overview of your options that won't break the bank.

Here, read on to see the best Android phones to get.

Best Overall:Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra

Buy on AmazonBuy on B&H Photo VideoBuy on SamsungWhat We Like

Huge, stunning screen

Amazing cameras

Ample power

Productivity perks

Good battery life

What We Don't Like

Very expensive

Can be hard to handle

QHD+ or 120Hz, not both

Sluggish fingerprint scanner

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G Review

Samsung's Galaxy Note smartphone series continues to dominate, especially with the latest release. The Note 20 Ultra is an excellent flagship in many ways. It comes rocking a 6.9-inch Super AMOLED screen with a sharp 5x optical zoom camera as well as stylus support for taking notes and operating the camera remotely. The camera array is certainly the biggest draw, as it's somehow even improved over the Galaxy Note 10, which is impressive. 

Beyond that, it comes with a Snapdragon 865 Plus processor as well as 12GB RAM with a 4,500 mAh battery to tie everything together. It's not a cheap phone by any means, but it's certainly one that sets out to get the job done and ensures you only need one massively powerful phone to do it all. This is one of the best Samsung has to offer, and will consistently impress even beyond what it can do with its camera.

Screen Size: 6.9 inches | Resolution: 3088x1440| Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ | Camera: 108MP/12MP/12MP rear and 10MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

The 5 Best Samsung Phones of 2021

"The Note20 Ultra has a highly versatile shooting trio that delivers consistently excellent shots in all conditions. It's one of the best smartphone camera systems you'll find today."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Overall:Google Pixel 4a 5G

4.3 Buy on Best BuyBuy on Google.comWhat 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

Google Pixel 4a 5G Review

The Google Pixel 4a 5G has specs largely similar to its more capable sibling, the Pixel 5. You get a 6.2-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2340x1080 and a pxiel density of 413ppi. It supports HDR, though not the newer HDR10+ standard and it doesn't have a high refresh screen.

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

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

The 9 Best Google Phones

"At $499, you get a 5G-capable phone with a great screen, excellent cameras, and strong battery life, and enough processing power to get the job done."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best 5G:Samsung Galaxy S21

4.2 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat 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 on $800 phone

Samsung Galaxy S21 Review

The Galaxy S21 sees Samsung scale things back after years of truly 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 $200 cheaper than its predecessor, but ultimately it doesn't have the same kind of 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. There's a lot to like here for $800, but the larger and pricier Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra keep more of the familiar premium equation intact for those who desire it.

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

“It's a speedy handset that feels super responsive with all demands, from apps and games to media and multitasking, and the smooth 120Hz display only aids in that swift sensation.” — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Battery Life:Motorola Moto G Power

4.8 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Huge battery capacity

Great sound quality

Good display

What We Don't Like

Heavy and bulky

Camera app is slow

No NFC

Moto G Power Review

The Moto G Power is a budget phone with a big battery, big screen, and big sound. It's heavier than some of the competition, mostly because of the 5,000 mAh battery, but the trade-off is that you can go a really long time between charges.

The best thing about the Moto G Power is definitely the battery. Motorola claims three days between charges, and our expert reviewer found that claim to be true. The phone doesn't have wireless charging, and it's limited to 10-watt charging for fairly long charging times, but the battery life is remarkable.

The phone also looks and feels pretty upscale, with a big 6.4-inch full HD display that features a hole-punch camera instead of a big bezel or ugly teardrop. As an added bonus, it also has stereo Dolby speakers that sound really good for a phone in this price range.

If you're looking for a phone with a big battery in this price range, the Moto G Power is a great option. It lacks a handful of features that you may or may not miss, like NFC and wireless charging, but you have to leave some things behind at this price point.

Screen Size: 6.4 inches | Resolution: 2300x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | Camera: 16MP/8MP/2MP rear and 16MP front | Battery: 5,000mAh

The 5 Best Motorola Phones of 2021

"I was actually able to get 3+ days of use out of this phone with my regular level of phone calls, texting, web browsing, and app usage."— , Product Tester

Best Value:Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

4.5 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on SamsungWhat 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

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G Review

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 2400x1080 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, 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 a great option for multitasking, demanding games, and general day-to-day browsing. Camera capabilities are solid, consisting of a 12MP main 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

"The 4,500mAh battery has a lot of power to fuel your everyday exploits, and I never came close to tapping it out in regular everyday usage."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Google:Google Pixel 5

4.1 Buy on AmazonBuy on Google.comWhat 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

Google Pixel 5 Review

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 awfully similar when it comes to specs and capabilities.

The Pixel 5 has a 6-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2340x1080 with a crisp 432ppi density. It's powered by a mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor, 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 camera performance. Our reviewer noted that the Night Sight feature results in turning a darkly-lit shot into a well-lit and eye-catching photo. The phone also record 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

"At $499, you get a 5G-capable phone with a great screen, excellent cameras, and strong battery life, and enough processing power to get the job done."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Design:OnePlus 8 Pro

Buy on AmazonBuy on Oneplus.comBuy on T-mobile.comWhat We Like

Amazing 6.67-inch high-res display

Three lens rear camera

Powerful processor

What We Don't Like

Potential battery drain when you use video enhancements

OnePlus has refreshed its flagship phone line with a new, affordable version of its popular line. The OnePlus 8 Pro features a whopping 6.78-inch display size, which serves up a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support, and QHD resolution. The camera situation is impressive as well, with a 16Mp front camera as well as a rear camera array of 48Mp + 48Mp + 5MP + 8 MP. In terms of longevity, the OnePlus 8 Pro includes a massive 4,510 mAh battery to keep you running for hours and hours. 

With the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 chipset powering everything, this phone can handle just about everything thrown at it, and it comes packing 5G support at that. It comes on board with one of the best phone screens currently on the market, and investing in one now means you'll be able to utilize 5G when it's available in your area as well. There's a lot going for this particular flagship, that's for sure, and while you'll certainly be paying for its niceties, it's worth it.

Screen Size: 6.78 inches | Resolution: 3168x1440 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 | Camera: 48MP/8MP/48MP/5MP rear and 16MP front | Battery: 4,510mAh

Best Mid-Range 5G:Samsung Galaxy A71 5G

4Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on SamsungWhat We Like

Extensive battery life

Big, beautiful screen

Smooth performance

5G support

What We Don't Like

No water resistance

Middling speaker

Unlocked doesn't work on Verizon 5G

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G Review

Samsung's Galaxy A71 5G sits below its Galaxy S flagship smartphone line as a slightly more modest alternative. While lacking some of the design flourishes of the pricier Galaxy models, the A71 5G still looks and feels pretty premium, and the large 6.7-inch OLED screen is a beauty. And even with a mid-range processor within, the Galaxy A71 5G runs smoothly the vast majority of the time, while the huge battery is built to withstand heavy usage.

The cameras are pretty solid overall, but not quite at the level of the rival Google Pixel 4a 5G, plus the Galaxy A71 5G has other mid-range deficiencies such as a mediocre speaker and no water resistance certification. Still, if you're looking to save a little cash on a large-screened 5G phone and don't like what Google's serving up, this is a very good option. Just note that the unlocked version doesn't work on any of Verizon's 5G spectrum, but there is a Verizon-centric version available for $50 more.

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 | Camera: 64MP/12MP/5MP/5MP rear and 32MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

The 9 Best Budget Smartphones for Under $300 in 2021

"The Galaxy A71 5G feels smooth and responsive the vast majority of the time, with only occasional hints of sluggishness here and there."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Folding:Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G

Buy on Best BuyBuy on SamsungBuy on VerizonWhat 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 interesting 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 2208x1768, a 373ppi density, and support for HDR10+ and a 120Hz refresh rate. 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.

The processor is the very 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 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

Final Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (view at Amazon) is the most powerful phone on this list no matter what you plan to do. Whether it's productivity, gaming, or general multimedia use, it won't let you down. For 5G connectivity without breaking the bank, we like the Google Pixel 4a 5G (view at Google). It has clean software, great camera capabilities, and solid specs.

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 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. 

Ajay Kumar is Tech Editor at Ach5. With a decade of experience in the consumer electronics industry, he's previously been published at PCMag where he reviewed hundreds of phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

FAQs

Which Android phone has the best camera? All of 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 zoomed-in shot. Other features include AI enhancements, with the Google Pixel series being particularly well optimized in the software and post-processing department, especially when it comes to low-lightshots. Be sure to take a look at our roundup of the best camera smartphones.

What is the best unlocked Android phone? Most of the 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 of the major carriers. 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 is downed by DISH and was previously owned by Sprint. The low-cost carrier supports all major smartphones on its network, including devices like 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. Take a look at our list of the best budget phones for a good overview of your options.

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 running Netflix, which steers clear of the camera hole.Ach5 / 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, the top of the line is the Snapdragon 865 chip, although some 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.

The new Google Pixel 4. Ach5 / 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. Ach5 / Lance Ulanoff

Brands/Manufacturers

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 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. 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.