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.
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.
Flagship 5g Silicon Drove Up Prices
Arguably the biggest reason why mid-range phones became important in 2020 was that flagship prices shot up this year. This is largely attributed to Qualcomms Snapdragon 865 series being significantly more expensive than the Snapdragon 855 chips used in 2019s high-end phones. Aside from the high cost of flagship silicon, 5G-related components such as mmWave antennas also contributed to the increased cost.
In the case of premium phones, 2020 saw some of these devices go from ~$1,000 to even greater heights. Samsung was one of these guilty players. The cheapest Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra retailed for $1,400 and $1,300, respectively. Meanwhile, the cheapest Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy Note 10 Plus variants started at $999 and $1,099, respectively.
Chipset pricing is widely thought to be the main reason behind flagship price hikes.
Unfortunately, even affordable flagships have seen a major price hike in 2020.
Xiaomi, for example, offered the Mi 10 series starting at 799 for the standard Mi 10. Meanwhile, the Mi 9 started at 449. Thats a massive price leap for a brand thats typically been associated with affordable high-end phones.
OnePlus is another OEM that has a reputation for more affordable high-end phones. However, it erased all doubts about its premium plans when it priced the OnePlus 8 Pro at $899. Last years OnePlus 7 Pro retailed for $669, making it cheaper than the $699 OnePlus 8 even.
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A Great Option For Clean Software Under $300
Nokia G50 5G
Nokia delivers the goods
The Nokia G50 5G shines as an excellent low-cost Android phone. It has three rear cameras, a headphone jack, and clean software.
- No 5G
- No official IP water-resistance rating
TCL has been at the helm of phones under the Alcatel and BlackBerry brands, but with the TCL 20S, the company is finally entering the Android space with a device under its own name. Surprisingly, it’s one of the most feature-rich cheap handsets you can buy right now.
Starting with its display, the TCL 20S offers a 6.67-inch FHD+ LCD panel with its NXTVISION screen technology offering true-to-life colors, great viewing angles, and support for HDR video content. If you want to use the display to showcase games, the Snapdragon 665 processor with 4GB of RAM offers more than enough horsepower to keep everything running smoothly.
Also offered are four rear cameras, including a 64MP primary camera, 8MP ultra-wide camera, 2MP macro camera, and 2MP depth camera. Actual image quality isn’t the very best we’ve ever seen, but the fact that you have so many sensors to work with allows for lots of shooting possibilities. Rounding out the feature list is a huge 5,000 mAh battery, USB-C charging, NFC for Google Pay, and it comes in two fabulous colors, North Star Blue and Miky Way black. Plus, you can use your 20S to charge another device thanks to its OTG reverse charging capability.
The Best Unlocked Phones You Can Buy Today
Reasons to avoid
Providing everything you could want for surprisingly little cash, the Google Pixel 5a replaces its Pixel 4a predecessor as our pick of the best unlocked phones. Even though it costs half as much as the typical flagship phone, the Pixel 5a’s 6.4-inch display and dual rear cameras can still keep up. It also boasts an IP67 water/dust resistance rating, important for keeping your device safe for as long as you own it.
There are a couple of limitations that are worth keeping in mind. First off, you can only buy this phone in the U.S. and Japan, so tough luck to U.K. readers who might have thought about picking this up. The other issue is a lack of computing muscle since the chip hasn’t been changed from the Pixel 4a 5G.
Nonetheless, you get a very capable camera phone in fact, its the best camera phone under $500. Though the Pixel 5a doesnt have flagship features like a high refresh rate display or a telephoto camera, its a great phone all around. But now the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are here, which offer top-tier experiences thanks to the new Tensor chips and improved camera hardware.
Reasons to avoid
While we think the Pro models are better all around, we picked the iPhone 13 as the best unlocked phone from the new lineup. It offers a compelling camera experience, much improved battery life, and all the things that made the iPhone 12 before it good.
Read our full iPhone 13 review.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Reasons to avoid
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The Upgrade Pixel Pick
- Moto G line isn’t known for swift software updates
- Lacks NFC
Year after year, Motorola stands out as one of the best companies to watch for delivering great budget Android phones. 2020 saw the Moto G Power release, and if you’re in the market for an affordable smartphone, it’s hard to do much better than this. Although there is a newer Moto G Power , its predecessor is still the better budget phone.
The Power name is a reference to the phone’s best feature battery life. With a 5,000 mAh battery crammed inside, you can easily get two or three days of use on a single charge. In a world where it’s the norm to throw your phone on the charger every single night, being able to go a few days without worrying about that is a dream come true.
The rest of the G Power’s hardware is just as good outside of the legendary battery life. The 6.4-inch Full HD display is easy on the eyes, performance is plenty fast thanks to the Snapdragon 665 processor and 4GB of RAM, and graphical performance in mobile games is impressive at this price range. The G Power also has a trio of solid cameras, which allow for a wide variety of different types of shots you can take with the phone. Image quality is also pretty good, considering how cheap the G Power is.
However, if neither of those two things bothers you, the Moto G Power is a wonderfully complete package that we think many people will be overly happy with.
What Are Your Best Mid
So what do you think? Is there a phone you’re looking forward to seeing this year? Personally there’s more I’m excited to see but most of us won’t be able to get our hands on here stateside, like certain phones from Xiaomi and everything Huawei, but that’s a whole other discussion for another video.
So now’s your chance, tell me which phones you want to see this year or which phones you think were the best of 2020 so far, do you agree or disagree with what I’ve laid out here? Let me know in the comments and let’s talk about it.
We don’t take it lightly that you’ve watched these videos. We appreciate you. So, thank you for watching this best Android phones of 2020 video, we’ll see you in the next one.
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Best Android Phones: Extra Information
The best Android phone for you isnt necessarily going to be the most expensive or advanced phone, although of course youll find lots of big-name flagship phones such as the best Samsung phones in our list. While flagships are great choices for many buyers weve also taken great care to include phones for every kind of Android user, and for every budget.
The Android market gets ever more competitive, and thats brilliant news for buyers: Android is the OS for many of the best cheap phones you can buy, many of the best compact phones and almost all of the best gaming phones too.
Android phones also completely dominate the best foldable phones market: right now interesting new models from Samsung, Huawei, Motorola and more are currently competing for the folding phone crown, unchallenged by Apple.
Let’s face it. Many, perhaps even most, of the best phones overall in 2021 are Android ones that deliver hardware and features as good as or better than any iPhone. So let’s discover which of the best Android phones in 2021 is the best phone for you.
Top 10 Best Android And Apple Phones For Under $600
We compare the best mid-range smartphones that you can buy now in 2021
2021 could very well be called the “year of the mid-range phone,” with solid options like the Oppo A74 5G, Motorola Edge 20 Fusion and Samsung A54 all proving capable of delivering features and functionality that exceed expectations.
And, while its true that they may not have all the bells and whistles of feature-packed phones like Samsungs Galaxy S21 Ultra, still some with their 48-megapixel cameras, 5000mAh batteries, and Full High-Definition AMOLED displays get pretty close. They also offer tremendous value for the budget-conscious shopper. Here is our list of the best smartphones money can buy in 2021 for $600 or under.
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Who Should Get This
Good smartphones have never been cheaper. For less than a quarter of the price of a flagship phone, you can get a phone that does almost as much, minus a few fancy features such as water resistance, wireless charging, or multiple camera modules. A cheap phone doesnt come with a quad-HD screen or a top-of-the-line processor, but you dont need those things to have a good experience.
Budget phones are excellent for someone getting their first smartphone, especially kids and teenagers, or for the terminally clumsy. If you lose or break a higher-end phone, especially one youre still paying your carrier for, you may have to shell out a lot to replace itoften $500 or more. If you dont have insurance, you can end up paying the balance on a phone you dont have anymore, plus the price of a new phone.
Budget devices are also usually GSM-unlocked, meaning you can use them on either AT& T or T-Mobile in the United States, as well as on most networks in the rest of the world. A few phones, such as the Moto G Power and Pixel 4a, also support CDMA networks like Verizon. More important, you can use unlocked phones on prepaid mobile virtual network operators . These low-cost carriers operate on national networks but tend to have more data-usage restrictions or calling limits. You can use one MVNO, and if a better deal comes along, you can just pop in a different SIM card and get on with your life.
Samsung Note 20 Rumors
Samsung’s Note fans have a lot to look forward to this year. Rumors are that it may include faster storage than the S20, as well as faster RAM. We may see the S20’s camera system in the Note 20 as well as 5G, and a new display which is a 5G friendly, lower power consumption display, and even better handling of eye fatiguing blue light. And maybe the most important rumor of all, major upgrades to the S Pen. We’ll see.
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How We Test Unlocked Phones
Every smartphone Toms Guide evaluates is tested for days in real-world use cases and benchmarked with a gamut of performance-measuring apps. We use a light meter to ascertain display quality data, like brightness and color accuracy, and our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by streaming webpages over a 4G or 5G network.
We explore the software, test gaming performance and conduct live camera comparisons with rival handsets. We also factor in network compatibility, so you can be certain whether a device will be operational on your carrier before you buy. Each of these factors plays a part in our comprehensive verdict.
What Wont I Get From A Midrange Smartphone
The line between midrange phones and their upmarket cousins is blurring in interesting ways. However, there are a few things you generally won’t get in a sub-$500 device. Water and dust resistance are good examples: Many premium phones tout an IP68 rating, which means they’re sealed against dust, dirt and sand, and they can sit under a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. When it comes to midrange phones, though, the best you’re likely to see is the occasional water-repellent coating: Those can help phones survive the occasional splash or spill, but that’s it.
Ultra-fast 5G network support is off the table for midrange phones too, for now. That’s bound to change as 2020 presses on, thanks to new, less expensive 5G-compatible chipsets from companies like Qualcomm, Samsung and MediaTek. At the moment though, you’re not missing out on much.
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Pixel 3a & Pixel 3a Xl
Lets throw the Pixel 3A or 3A XL in the mix. If you’re talking camera quality, Pixel phones have been among the best, giving the iPhone and Samsung’s flagship phones a solid run for their money. There’s roughly an $80 difference between the two, so size really makes a difference here.
Like the OnePlus, you’re not gonna get wireless charging but what you do get is a very capable phone with long battery life and specs that do the job for someone who isn’t looking to spend a great deal of money. Currently you can pick up a Pixel 3A on Amazon for $300.
What Are The Best Android Phones
Weve tested all of the most popular Android phones in all shapes, sizes and prices here at Toms Guide, and our current top pick is the Galaxy S21 Ultra from Samsung. It offers an incredible display, crazy powerful cameras, and a huge battery to power it all. Plus, it’s the first Galaxy S phone to support the S Pen .
Of course, the new Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro offer some of the best Android camera experiences you can possibly get. But if you want the best camera for the lowest cost, look no further than Google’s Pixel 5a. Its cameras, display and quality design make it a steal for $449. It also has the added 5G benefit, too.
Bargain hunters striving to spend the absolute least can find a very good option in the latest version of the Moto G Power, which lasts the whole day on a charge, but starts at just $199. On the other end of the price spectrum, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best foldable phone Samsung has built yet, even if its $1,799 price makes it one of the priciest phones on this list.
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Which Is The Best Android Version
Not all Android is created equal. Device manufacturers such as Asus and Samsung have been applying their own visions to Android for some time now. If you want a pure Google experience, then you want to go for a Pixel device they’re the developer models where Google makes sure to deploy upgrades first. Motorola and OnePlus also have very clean user interfaces, though they tend to add more invisible features to Android.
Android 12 is the most recent version, but few phones have it. Instead, you’ll find Android 11 on most new phones right now. Don’t buy a phone that comes with Android 10 or below, as the older the Android software version is, the more likely it is to have serious security flaws. Also check how many rounds of OS upgrades the manufacturer promises Google and Samsung tend to lead the pack for multi-year upgrades.
Was The Year Of The Mid
2020 is drawing to a close, and its been marked by numerous trends in the smartphone space. We saw 5G become a reality for a ton of markets, high refresh rates trend down to budget phones , and quad camera systems become the norm.
Yet, 2020 can certainly be marked as the year when mid-range phones became better and more important than ever.
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