Android has always been the ideal operating system for those seeking personal independence. There are a plethora of excellent options from a variety of OEMs, but this can make it more difficult to choose the best Android phone.
We cannot guarantee that the choice will be simple. Each phone is unique, which is why we adore this operating system. Each manufacturer develops its own hardware and customizes Android, so it all comes down to what you value in a handset. Now, let’s take a look at our top Android smartphone picks for 2021.
Buying the best Android phone for your needs
The purchasing process becomes more difficult from here, but you’ve already taken a significant step by selecting an operating system. Because this page is devoted entirely to Android phones, you will not find the iPhone 13 or any other Apple product among our selections.
It’s now time to delve into the details of your new phone. There are a plethora of Android devices available, and you can refine your search using virtually any specification. Perhaps you want to begin with a 5G-capable chipset, or perhaps you require the largest battery available. Additionally, you’ll want to evaluate how much RAM and storage you require for your apps, videos, and more.
Another consideration is the device’s build quality. In 2021, many premium flagship products will be glass sandwiches – glass on the front and back with a metal frame holding everything together. You can save money by purchasing a plastic device, however, it will feel less robust in your hand. Additionally, there is the Google Pixel 5, which features an aluminum body coated in bioresin.
We’ve divided our recommendations into categories below to assist you in determining which phone is ideal for you. If you’re still not convinced by our top pick, we’ve included some honorable mentions to help you narrow your search.
The best Android phones
- The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best Android phone overall, with top-notch cameras, blistering internals, and S Pen support.
- The Asus ROG Phone 5 is our top gaming device thanks to its brilliant display, speedy refresh rate, and snappy processor.
- The OnePlus 9 Pro is a true killer flagship, and the dual-SIM functionality is only the tip of the iceberg.
- The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the best foldable phone you can buy, thanks to its solid price and tiny footprint.
- The Google Pixel 5a is an excellent way to get 5G speeds on a mid-range phone at just $449.99.
- The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is our battery king with a 5,000mAh cell and 67W wired or wireless charging.
- The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a great way to stay productive between the huge 6.9-inch display and refined S Pen.
- The Google Pixel 6 series still commands our camera respect, even if the sensors aren’t miles ahead anymore.
- The Sony Xperia 1 III is a creator’s dream, and it keeps the headphone jack alive on premium devices in 2021.
- The Poco F3 is among the most affordable phones on our list, and it packs an IR blaster for your remote control needs.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The best Android phone right now
Samsung’s premium nameplate was first established with the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020, but the successor takes power to a whole new level. Samsung addressed a number of the S20 Ultra’s shortcomings with the S21 Ultra and even managed to lower the S20 Ultra’s cost. Whatever way you slice it, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the undisputed king of Android.
It was one of the first flagships to emerge in the United States with a Snapdragon 888 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Additionally, you get one of the best, most balanced camera systems available on any phone, highlighted by a 108MP primary camera on the back and a 40MP selfie lens on the front. As if that weren’t enough, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of only a couple of phones on the market with a 10x optical zoom (the other being Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus).
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the priciest of this year’s Galaxy flagship crop, but it offers substantial advantages over the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus. Only the premium Galaxy S21 will include a WQHD+ display, while the more cheap Galaxy S21 will feature a “Glasstic” design.
Asus ROG Phone 5: The best Android gaming phone
In the previous several years, gaming phones have advanced by leaps and bounds. The ROG Phone 5 is the successor to last year’s ROG Phone 3, and it improves upon an already excellent gaming platform. It adheres to the tried-and-true adage “if it ain’t busted, don’t fix it,” and it pays off handsomely.
The Asus ROG Phone 5 features a large 6.78-inch AMOLED display with a fantastic 144Hz refresh rate, in addition to a slew of additional features that make it the greatest Android gaming phone on the market. Additionally, you get a Snapdragon 888 processor and up to 16GB of RAM for your money. If you’re looking for the finest that Asus has to offer, there’s always the ROG Phone 5 Pro or Ultimate – both of which include 512GB of storage and up to 18GB of RAM.
As good as the ROG Phone 5 is, it is not without flaws. While the battery capacity is a whopping 6,000mAh, there is no wireless charging available. You will also not receive an IP rating, and you may require Asus’ Aero Active fan to keep your gaming beast cool under load. Additionally, while the primary camera is quite good, the peripheral lenses leave something to be desired.
- Very responsive display
- Quad DAC and excellent speakers
- Elite performance
- One hefty beast
- No IP rating
- Hot under heavy stress
OnePlus 9 Pro: The best dual-SIM Android phone
OnePlus spent years establishing a reputation as a flagship killer, but has finally crossed over to the dark side. The OnePlus 9 Pro is an absolutely stunning flagship device, yet it is not here to play games. It comes dangerously close to dethroning industry titans, and dual-SIM compatibility is an added plus.
The OnePlus 9 Pro’s upgraded rear camera array is the first thing you’ll notice. It is powered by Hasselblad, which gives the premium handset a real punch. Our own Eric Zeman went so far as to call the OnePlus 9 Pro the company’s best phone in years, despite the trade-offs. There is no microSD card compatibility, and the battery life should be improved, but these shortcomings do not detract from an otherwise excellent package.
The OnePlus 9 Pro (and the more cheap OnePlus 9), both of which feature 256GB of storage, are powered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset. When the 4,500mAh battery runs out, OnePlus’ Warp Charge 65T will have you back on the road in no time. The OnePlus 9 Pro comes with 50W wireless charging, while the OnePlus 9 only supports 15W charging.
If you want to use the Dual-SIM setup, you’ll need to purchase the international version, as OnePlus phones sold in the United States no longer support the feature. When you purchase the international model, you’ll notice that it features a twin Nano-SIM tray with dual standby support.
- Fast Warp Charging
- Improved Hasselblad cameras
- Solid software experience
- Hit or miss battery life
- Inconsistent 5G support
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: The best foldable Android phone
We’ve spent the majority of our time discussing strong and standard Android phones thus far, but it’s time for something unique. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the best foldable phone available right now.
When folded, it folds into a pocket-sized device, revealing a new 1.9-inch display on which you may manage notifications. When you open it, a 6.7-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate greets you. Samsung has not yet discovered a solution to make the middle seam invisible, although the latest generation Galaxy Z Flip 3 is water-resistant to an IPX8 classification. For the first time, you’ll also find a true flagship processor in the form of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 demonstrates that foldable are finally making inroads into the public. While it does cost $999, we believe it is a better value than the larger and significantly more expensive Galaxy Z Fold 3. Bear in mind that the battery is somewhat little for a 2021 smartphone, being just 3,300mAh.
Google Pixel 5a: Affordable 5G speeds
Let’s take a brief detour into the inexpensive end of Android, this time with the brand-new Pixel 5a. It shares many similarities with the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G that preceded it, and it certainly qualifies as the market’s best midrange device. The Pixel 5a looks fairly identical to both of the phones discussed above, but it comes with several useful improvements that make it superior to both.
To begin, the new Pixel 5a retains the headphone jack and is slightly larger than the Pixel 5. You get a 6.34-inch display, compared to Google’s flagship’s even 6-inch display. The Snapdragon 765G chip, on the other hand, is the same in both variants and is capable of handling the majority of daily chores. Google, on the other hand, is still committed to a 60Hz refresh rate, and Gorilla Glass 3 is not the most durable material available.
Google’s midrange 5G phone scores well in terms of battery life and compactness. You’ll receive Google’s largest-ever 4,680mAh battery, but no wireless charging. At $449, it’s difficult to find a more affordable smartphone than the Pixel 4a 5G.
- Excellent battery life
- Headphone jack
- IP67 rating is great to have
- No 90Hz display
- No wireless charging
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra: The best battery experience
The Xiaomi Mi 11 was the first Android phone to include the Snapdragon 888 processor, but the Mi 11 Ultra epitomizes what Xiaomi is capable of. It’s prohibitively costly, and it’s not the lightest phone on the market, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more remarkable overall battery configuration.
While the Asus ROG Phone 5 has a larger capacity, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery is no slouch. The charging capabilities, on the other hand, are what really seal the deal. You may either use the included cable charger or a wireless charger for up to 67W speeds.
While the battery is an excellent starting point, it is the rear camera that truly elevates the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra above its basic brother. While the camera bump is significant, the 50MP primary sensor and twin 48MP ultra-wide and periscope sensors provide incredible flexibility. They have a digital zoom of up to 120x and a small selfie preview display that allows you to photograph yourself in the greatest resolution possible.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: The productivity powerhouse
Due to the S Pen, Samsung’s Galaxy Note line has always been the ideal option for power users. The S Pen’s strong stylus is even more developed than before, and new Anywhere Actions enable you to use it independently of your phone. You may leave your pen and paper at home – we can’t think of a better place to take notes.
In general, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has lowered the performance threshold. It does not reinvent the phablet, but it does improve on prior versions’ core features. Samsung, as usual, nailed the hardware for their premium tablet. The large 6.9-inch display features a 120Hz refresh rate and an unmatched WQHD+ resolution. There is no Qualcomm hardware onboard – the Snapdragon 865 Plus was the best chipset available in late 2020.
Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of Samsung’s premium phablet is its price. It launched at $1,300, and the price has been rather stable in the months afterward. You can always go for the less expensive Galaxy Note 20, but you’ll have to make some other concessions, like the “Glasstic” build.
- Crisp camera results
- Refined S Pen
- Premium hardware
- Hot under pressure
- Average battery life
- Simply too big
Google Pixel 6: The best Android camera phone
Pixel devices have consistently ranked near the top of Android camera phones, and the Pixel 6 phones are no different. While other premium handsets may boast more lenses and megapixels, Google’s excellent camera software is what propels it to the top.
On the back of the Pixel 6, a primary 50MP lens is paired with a 12MP ultra-wide camera. The Pro model adds a 48MP telephoto lens. The normal Pixel’s front-facing sensor has an 8MP resolution, while the larger Pixel’s sensor has an 11.1MP resolution. Each of those shooters is not the greatest in its field, but that is part of what makes Google’s software so special. The Pixel 6 excels in image processing, producing a clean, natural output. Google Lens also has Google Translate skills in addition to robust identification capabilities, which can come in handy while traveling abroad.
Apart from the great camera, Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro offer a lot. Both devices include Google’s new Tensor processor, wireless charging, an IP certification, and the most recent version of Android.
- Premium and unique design
- Upgraded cameras
- Great display
- No telephoto camera on the smaller model
- Pokey fingerprint scanner
Sony Xperia 1 III: Keeping the headphone jack alive
At one point, almost every phone on the market included a headphone jack. Then Apple determined that they were unnecessary, and the rest of the world followed suit. Nowadays, the headphone jack is frequently reserved for low-cost or mid-range devices. Sony is one of the few OEMs defying that trend, with the flagship Xperia 1 III still sporting a headphone jack.
Apart from the headphone port, you also get a beautiful 21:9 display. It features a 4K display with a 120Hz refresh rate for fluid results. While the trio of 12MP rear cameras is not the greatest on the market, you can connect your Xperia 1 III to your Sony camera and use it as a quality monitor.
Once you start utilizing the pro-level camera functions, you’ll understand why Sony made this camera. It created a zoom lens “holy trinity” capable of covering the complete zoom range from wide to telephoto. Additionally, you can test out the Xperia 1 III’s burst mode at 20 frames per second, which is roughly comparable to that found on the Alpha A9 mirrorless camera.
Additionally, you receive all of the additional bells and whistles, such as expandable storage and wireless charging. The Sony Xperia 5 III is a more affordable version that retains practically all of the Xperia 1 III’s strengths.
- Great 4K, 21:9 display
- Improved camera experience
- IP68 water and dust rating
- Very expensive
- Not the fastest charging
- Too much pre-installed bloat
Poco F3: Serious value for your money
We’ve gone over several of the greatest Android phones available right now, but what if you’re looking for a phone that offers a lot for a small price? The Poco F3 is now our favorite phone with an IR blaster, and it’s difficult to match the hardware at this price point.
The Poco F3 is equipped with an excellent chipset and a stunning build quality, even if the software is missing.
The Poco F3 delivers a luxury glass design without breaking the bank at €349, which almost seems too good to be true. It features a Snapdragon 870 processor and a huge 6.67-inch AMOLED display, and it feels just as nice as it looks. What could possibly go wrong with up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage? To be honest, it is the software that could go wrong.
While Poco got the 4,520mAh battery exactly correct, it powers a software experience that has been flaky and ugly since launch. Perhaps Poco will address this issue with future software releases, but the manufacturer’s track record is not often stellar. If you’re a gamer or a power user on a daily basis, this is an excellent budget phone, as long as you can get over the software problems.
Picking the best phone apps and accessories
Now that you’ve determined which Android phones to purchase, it’s time to complete your setup. That involves factoring in the greatest apps and accessories. Several of our current favorites include the following:
Our comprehensive guide to every phone accessory you’ll ever need
The greatest charging accessories for smartphones
The finest Android applications available at the moment