Best Android Phone To Buy In 2021
The Pixel 6 is a lot of phone for $599. As Googles first true flagship phone since 2019, the Pixel 6 gets many things right and is right up there with the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in camera quality, overall performance, and battery life. When you consider the fact the Pixel 6 is a good $200 less than its rivals, its simply the most value-packed flagship phone for Android fans this year. Sorry, OnePlus.
You can tell the Pixel 6 from the Pixel 6 Pro by its slightly smaller 6.4-inch, 1080p OLED flat display and bolder color choices like two-tone red or green . For a relatively big phone, the Pixel 6 is not too thick yet feels substantial. That said, its glossy body is super slippery, so youll need to budget for a third-party case .
At the heart of the Pixel 6 is Tensor, Googles first proprietary mobile processor that is on par with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip inside other Android flagships. Tensor allows the new Pixel to lean into Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to learn some new tricks. You can use the Magic Eraser to remove photo-bombers from your photos, take
its simply the most value packed flagship phone for Android fans this year.
photos that better reflect real skin tones, as well as use Google Assistant to handle automated calls for you. The Pixel 6 has 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of internal storage, and runs the latest Android 12 softwarewith Googles new Material You theming.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- Price: $1,299
- Buy: Samsung.com
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is now our pick for the best 5G smartphone. It includes the best display, best processor, big battery, and even the S Pen is here. For $1299, it is a really good phone, and youd expect that for that price.
With the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, youre getting a 6.9-inch QHD+ AMOLED display at 120Hz. As well as the Snapdragon 865+ chipset, 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There is a micro SD card slot for expanding storage as well. Samsung has also included a 4500mAh capacity battery on this one.
The cameras have been upgraded as well, with there being a 108-megapixel main sensor, capable of 50x zoom , and then 12-megapixel periscope telephoto and ultra wide cameras. Its a really great smartphone, especially for those that want the best of the best, and the S Pen.
The ASUS ROG Phone III isnt yet available to buy in the US, but it will be soon. So only the Chinese version is available without a warranty. So do keep that in mind here.
The ROG Phone III is by far the best gaming smartphone available. It kept that huge 6000mAh capacity battery, which will keep you gaming for hours. It also sports a 6.59-inch FHD+ display that has a 120Hz refresh rate. Its powered by the Snapdragon 865+ chipset, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There are models that go up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage as well.
User Experience: Elegance Vs Customization
People who want complete control to customize their phones will prefer Android thanks to its greater openness. That said, there are apps for customizing your iPhone too.
One downside of this openness is that each company that makes Android phones can customize them, sometimes replacing default Android apps with inferior tools developed by that company.
Apple, on the other hand, limits customization options on the iPhone. It recently added home screen widgets and now lets you change some default apps . What you give up in flexibility with an iPhone is balanced out by quality and attention to detail, a device that works and is well-integrated with other products.
Pick iPhone if you want a phone that works well, delivers a high-quality experience and is easy to use. On the other hand, if you value flexibility and choice enough to accept some potential issues, you’ll probably prefer Android.
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How We Test The Best Android Phones
T3 is one of the world’s foremost experts in terms of reviewing and rating phones, and when it comes round to testing the best Android phones we’ve got a very detailed, multi-step process to sort the pretenders from the champs.
The first step we undertake is reviewing the phone from a design and build quality point of view. Here we want to discover exactly what the phone offers physically, aesthetically and in terms of connectivity. We’re looking at general things like fit and finish here, too.
Next we’re specifically looking at the Android phone’s screen. We break the screen out as its own section as a phone’s screen is absolutely critical to its usage experience. We want to know what its size, resolution, panel type, coating, brightness and features are. If a handset delivers HDR10+, for example, we’ll find out.
Camera system is next, and once again this gets a lot of weight in T3’s testing as a person’s Android handset is also their primary camera in most circumstances. We’re looking at not just the quality and size of the phone’s camera lenses, but also the types delivered as well as what advanced sensors are on board, such as Time of Flight . In terms of camera we’re also looking at just how useable and versatile the camera system’s shooting software is, as too what shooting modes and options it delivers. Finally, we’re obviously judging a camera system’s quality by the images it takes, with us looking out for key scoring areas such as accuracy of color reproduction.
Google’s Best Smartphone With Its Own New Processor
Display: 6.7 inches LTPO OLED | CPU: Google Tensor with Titan M2 security coprocessor | RAM: 12GB | Internal Storage: 128/256/512GB | Rear cameras: 50MP rear f/1.85 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide , and 48MP telephoto with 4x optical | Front camera: 11.1MP f/2.2 | Weight: 210g | Dust/water resistance: IP68
Google’s Pixel 6 Pro is the best smartphone currently available from Google. The Pixel 6 has many of the same specifications, with one less camera on the back and a slightly smaller display. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro sport Google’s new Tensor processor.
The Pixel 6 Pro is a flagship competitor and starts at $899 for the 128GB model with the 512GB model priced at $1,099. You can purchase one in Stormy Black, Cloudy White, or Sorta Sunny with some limitations on storage capacity with the different color options.
The cameras are clearly the focus of the Pixel 6 Pro with Google’s amazing software, combined with leading hardware, to create arguably the best smartphone camera experience available today.
See the full review: .
In addition to the camera prowess, the phone is assured of receiving regular and timely software and firmware updates for years, similar to what Apple offers to iPhone owners. The phone is also powered by Android 12 with several optimizations for a personalized experience.
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How To Buy The Best Android Phone For You
When it comes to picking a new smartphone, theres a multitude of features to consider. While aesthetics are important, you should certainly pay attention to features and performance. Most flagship phones will be more than satisfactory in all areas, but cheaper devices may come with compromises. You can boil the key considerations down to five key questions
What’s the best smartphone display for me?
A high-resolution display is nice, but on a device this size, you probably wont notice any difference between a 1,080p or a 1,440p screen and 4K is completely pointless. What’s much more important is contrast and colour reproduction.
AMOLED displays always look fantastic, with perfect contrast and excellent sRGB coverage. Budget phones tend to opt for standard IPS LCD screens, usually at around 1080p or 720p, but that’s still fine if you dont plan to do a lot of photo editing or movie watching on your device.
How much storage do I need?
You’ll need space to store your apps, and you might want to keep photos and music on the device. That’s less of an issue than it used to be, though, as apps such as Google Photos and Google Music mean your personal media can live in the cloud. Internal storage sizes tend to start at the 64GB mark on flagships and around 8GB on budget devices. Many handsets let you use a microSD card to cheaply expand this.
What’s the best version of Android?
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The Cheapest Usable Phone: Samsung Galaxy A02s
The Samsung Galaxy A02s is the best phone available right now for those on a strict budget. For $110, the A02s has good software, acceptable performance, and four years of security update support . Even some flagship phones wont get updates for that long. While the Nord and Moto G Play feel more expensive than your average budget phone, the A02s feels like something that costs $100, with its thinner plastic shell and lack of fingerprint scanner. However, were happy to see a USB-C port instead of the older Micro-USB that so many ultra-budget phones still use.
Samsung equipped this phone with a 6.5-inch 720p LCD. Its sharp enough, but its not as good as the similar screen on the Moto G Play. The A02s LCD doesnt get as bright, and the viewing angles are narrower, meaning that it starts to appear washed out if youre not looking at it head-onboth of these things can make it hard to use outdoors. It also lacks an oil-resistant coating, making it more susceptible to fingerprints and smudges. The 1080p screens on the Nord and Pixel are better in every way, which youd expect from products that cost two to three times as much.
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Why You Should Trust Us
Over the past 10 years, Ive written more than a million words about Android phones, tablets, and software on sites such as Wirecutter, Android Police, ExtremeTech, and Tested. Ive also lived with dozens of different Android phones as my daily drivers during that time. I use and review more phones every year than most people will own in their entire lives.
One Of The Best Phones For Productivity
Display: 6.9 inches 120Hz Infinity-O AMOLED | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus | RAM: 12GB LPDDR5 | Internal Storage: 128GB storage | Rear cameras: 12MP rear f/3.0 telephoto, 108MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera, and 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera | Front camera: 10MP f/2.2 camera | Weight: 208g | Dust/water resistance: IP68
This category may be a bit debatable now that Samsung has added S Pen support to the S21 Ultra and Z Fold 3, but there is no silo for the S Pen in either phone. It’s an extra accessory for these devices, and the hassle of carrying one around makes it less convenient than the Note series. It’s not clear if we will see another Note from Samsung either.
Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 20 series last fall, and it is clear the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is one of the best smartphones for productivity and an easy recommendation for those who love the S Pen.
See the full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G review.
The Galaxy Note 20 devices bring everything we saw on the Galaxy S20 series along with some improvements in the cameras. Of course, the S Pen is a staple of the Note series, and with the Note 20, we see more Air Actions that are actually proving to be quite useful and reliable this year. While LG has solid support for stylus use, nothing beats the functionality and capability of the S Pen. It is also housed inside of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, making it easily accessible for use all day long.
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Oneplus 10 Pro Review: Battery Life And Charging
The OnePlus 10 Pro wowed me with its battery life, both in our testing and in my usage. The phone held up incredibly well to long gaming sessions, plus some YouTube and Plex viewing along the way. More casual use like web browsing and social media will see the OnePlus 10 Pro go for a very long time.
When we test a phones battery life, we set the display brightness to 150 nits and then task the device to endlessly reload web pages over a cellular connection. We run this test a few times to get our average. The OnePlus 10 Pro fared well, joining the iPhone 13 Pro on our best phone battery life list.
|OnePlus 10 Pro||Galaxy S22 Ultra||iPhone 13 Pro|
The OnePlus 10 Pro handily beats the Galaxy S22 Ultra in our battery rundown tests, despite having the same 5,000 mAh battery capacity and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. We expect modern smartphones to hit at least 10 hours in this test, which the OnePlus 10 Pro easily exceeds. In its 120Hz mode, its almost to the iPhone 13 Pros impressive result, which is saying a lot.
Basically, the 65W charger allows the phone to recharge almost completely from empty in just 30 minutes. So even when you do manage to run the battery down, you can top off in mere minutes.
Battery Life: Consistent Improvement
Early iPhones needed to recharge their batteries every day. More recent models can go days without a charge, though new versions of the operating system tend to cut battery life until they’re optimized in later releases. Fortunately, there are ways to extend your iPhone’s battery life.
The battery situation is more complex with Android due to the large variety of hardware options. Some Android models have 7-inch screens and other features which burn through much more battery life. There are also ways to extend the battery life for Android.
But, thanks to the wide variety of Android models, some offer ultra-high capacity batteries. If you don’t mind the extra bulk and need a long-lasting battery, Android can deliver a device that works much longer than an iPhone on a single charge.
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Google Pixel 5a: Affordable 5g Speeds
Lets dip into the affordable side of Android for a while, this time with the brand-new Pixel 5a. Its similar in many ways to the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G that precedes it, and it easily slots in as the best midrange device on the market. The Pixel 5a looks nearly identical to both phones mentioned above, yet it packs some handy additions that can beat both.
For starters, the new Pixel 5a keeps a headphone jack right at home, and it measures larger than the Pixel 5. You get a 6.34-inch panel compared to the even 6-inch option on Googles flagship. The chip is the same on both models, though, and it handles most daily tasks with ease. However, Google is still committed to the 60Hz refresh rate, and Gorilla Glass 3 isnt the toughest material around.
Googles midrange 5G phone picks up some serious points for battery life and size. Youll get Googles largest-ever 4,680mAh cell but no wireless charging to get it back up to speed. At $449, its tough to track down a better value than the Pixel 4a 5G.
Gaming: A Mobile Powerhouse
The iPhone and iPod touch are the dominant players in the mobile video game market, with tens of thousands of great games and millions of players. The growth of the iPhone as a gaming platform has led some observers to say that Apple is the leading mobile game platform .
The tight integration of Apple’s hardware and software supports powerful gaming technologies using hardware and software that make its phones as fast as, or quicker than, some laptops.
The general expectation that Android apps should be free has led game developers interested in making money to develop for iPhone first and Android second. In fact, due to problems with developing with Android, some game companies have stopped creating games for it altogether.
While Android has its share of hit games, the iPhone has a clear advantage.
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The Ultimate Android Smartphones Buying Guide
Choosing a new smartphone today isnt as simple as deciding between Apples iPhones or an Android phone. If you select the latter, consider that the starting point: theres 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, its 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 dont 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 youll 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. Heres 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.
Oneplus 10 Pro Review: Verdict
The OnePlus 10 Pro impressed me from the minute I took it out of the box. From benchmarks to the cameras, this phone is incredibly good. And at $899, it might just be the best Android phone for the money, unless we end up with a base OnePlus 10 as has been rumored.
While I think the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pixel 6 Pro are stronger camera phones overall, the OnePlus 10 Pro cameras are not an afterthought. The OnePlus 9 Pro started to change OnePlus reputation for mediocre camera quality, and the 10 Pro continues that push. It seems the Hasselblad partnership is paying off.
The OnePlus 10 Pro receives an easy recommendation from me. Cameras, battery life, display, this phone does just about everything right. It might lack the S Pen, but I think it gives the Galaxy S22 Ultra some serious competition, all for $300 less. OnePlus did a great job this year, even better than 2021. The OnePlus 10 Pro is my new favorite Android phone.
Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom’s Guide, covering all things phone-related. He’s written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets.
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