When you’re shopping for a new Android phone, we have you covered. We test all kinds of Android smartphones at Digital Trends to find out exactly what they’re capable of and we love to compare them. We divided this list into six categories based on different budgets. For each one, we offer our top pick and any alternatives we think are worth mentioning.
If you’re waiting for a sale, take a look at our predictions for smartphone deals we expect to see on Prime Day 2020.
Best Android smartphones at a glance
Why you should buy this: It’s the best of all worlds, providing a beautiful large screen, good software, masses of features, and a strong camera.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to own a single, good-looking phone for productivity, gaming, video, and more niche features like digital art. The Note 20 Ultra has you covered.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra:
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra lives up to both its name and the legacy of the Note phones that came before it. As the biggest in the series yet it’s definitely an “ultra” phone, with a massive 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen, and a seriously heavy 208 gram weight. Get past the overall size of the phone, and you’ve got one of the most powerful and capable phones you can buy today.
It has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and 12GB of RAM, and a giant 4.500mAh battery that has enough energy for a at least a day of hard use, plus it has 5G connectivity too. The S Pen stylus defines the Note series and it’s better than ever here, with a low 9-millisecond response time and multiple uses, including note-taking, art, and even playing games and working as a remote shutter for the camera.
That oversize camera module on the back has a 108-megapixel main camera, a 12MP zoom camera, and a 12MP ultra-wide camera too, plus a new laser autofocus system. It can shoot 5x optical zoom photos, 8K resolution video, and you can have fun with Samsung’s Single Take mode too. The camera is one of Samsung’s best yet, and you’ll be happy with the results whatever the environment.
All this is before you look at the many additional features, from the Wireless DeX mode that links your phone with a monitor for a desktop-computer-like experience, to the absolutely stunning display, and wireless reverse charging to power up other gadgets on the move. It’s hard to want much more.
Downsides? Apart from the size, the biometric security systems frustrate, but that’s about all. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is expensive though and you’ll pay at least $1,299 to own one, but you really are getting the best Android phone available at the moment. Want an alternative? The Galaxy S20 Ultra is worth looking at, but you get more for your money with the Note 20 Ultra, and if you’re interested mostly in gaming, then the Asus ROG Phone 3 has similarly large amounts of power and ability.
Our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
Why you should buy this: The most complete, no-nonsense smartphone package available, at a still reasonable price.
Who it’s for: If you want the best current tech on your phone, but don’t want to spend more than $1,000.
Why we picked the OnePlus 8 Pro:
Yes, the OnePlus 8 Pro is more expensive than the OnePlus 7T Pro, and all OnePlus phones before it. There is a good reason for this — it has all the latest tech inside, and some features missing from past models. For example, the OnePlus 8 Pro is the first OnePlus phone to have an IP68 water resistance rating, and wireless charging too. OnePlus has also added 5G connectivity to both its new phones, which will keep them fresher for longer.
Outside these new features, the OnePlus 8 Pro excels with its screen. It has a 120Hz refresh rate for super smooth scrolling and gameplay, plus stunning colors, crisp whites, and superb contrast from the 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED panel. There’s masses of power from the Snapdragon 865 processor and up to 12GB of RAM, and rapid charging, too. The battery is an excellent performer, and two days is possible with moderate use before it needs plugging in.
The camera is unusual. The main 64-megapixel sensor is excellent. It comes with a wide-angle and a telephoto lens, plus an odd Color Filter lens. This strips away color from your photos for a very different look. Ignore this, and you are left with a highly capable camera, which we’d say is the best yet on a OnePlus phone. There are two versions available, and we’d recommend paying $1,000 for the 12GB/256GB model if you can, because it will last longer with the additional storage; but the $900 8GB/128GB model is otherwise identical.
OnePlus isn’t going to launch a “T” version of the Pro in 2020, so the 8 Pro will remain the company’s flagship device until 2021.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
Why you should buy this: It’s a Galaxy S20 at a lower price.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a compact phone with plenty of power from a big-name brand
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
When is a Galaxy S20 not a Galaxy S20? When it’s the Galaxy S20 FE, a slightly stripped back version of Samsung’s pretty flagship phone for 2020, with a different spec sheet and a lower price. The name is confusing, but the S20 FE is arguably even better than the standard $999 S20. For a start it’s $699 and comes in a choice of six different colors, and has the same overall design as the S20.
The 6.5-inch, 120Hz Super AMOLED screen is larger but has a lower resolution, while inside is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM. The module on the back contains three camera lenses — a 12-megapixel standard camera, an 8MP telephoto, and a 12MP ultra-wide. It’s not quite as high-spec as the more expensive Galaxy S20, but we liked the results.
The 4,500mAh battery has enough energy to last a day, there’s wireless charging and 25W wired fast charging, plus Samsung’s decent One UI 2.5 software over Android 10. The Galaxy S20 FE (FE stands for Fan Edition, by the way, as the phone was created using feedback from Samsung fans) is a high quality, well-specced smartphone from a desirable manufacturer at a sensible price.
What else? There are two new phones coming soon that are worth looking out for — the Google Pixel 5 and the OnePlus 8T. We know Google’s Pixel 5 will cost $699 and has another superb sounding camera, while the OnePlus 8T should delivery the usual ingredients — a high spec for a low price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review
Why you should buy this: A fantastic camera and excellent software all wrapped up in a low-cost package.
Who it’s for: Someone who wants a great all-round mobile experience without spending much.
Why we picked the Google Pixel 4a:
The Google Pixel 4a happily fits into our $400 category because it costs $349, plus there’s a new Pixel 4a 5G version coming very soon that adds 5G and an upgraded camera at $499, making the Pixel 4a family the best phones you can get for both these prices. While the design and materials are no-nonsense, the camera and software are anything but.
Google’s Pixel cameras are already well known for being strong performers and the Pixel 4a is no exception, but it’s not until you use it that you realize just how capable it really is. Night or day it takes fabulous photos, even though it only has a single camera lens, and it’s all down to Google’s software prowess.
This ability extends out from the camera and into the Android software generally. The Pixel 4a and forthcoming Pixel 4a 5G use Android 11 — which none other of the phones on this list have received yet — and will get fast updates to new versions for the next two years. The Pixel 4a’s software is clean, simple, pretty, and easy to use.
The only real disappointment is the screen, but it’s far from terrible, and its modest size helps boost the battery life to around two days with moderate use. For the price, the Pixel 4a is an incredible phone.
Read our full Google Pixel 4a review
Why you should buy this: It’s a solid choice if you don’t have much money to spend on a new phone.
Who it’s for: The budget-conscious buyer who still wants good software, future updates, and capable hardware.
Why we picked the Nokia 5.3:
If the $350 Google Pixel 4a is a little out of reach, you can still pick up a good Android phone for less money, and one with software to rival the Pixel too. Step forward the Nokia 5.3, which costs $199 and runs Google’s Android One software, which means it looks and operates like the Pixel 4a, and gets timely updates for the next two years as well. It’s scheduled to receive an update to Android 11 between now and the end of the year.
That already puts it out in front of the competition, and is before we come to the decent 6.55-inch screen to satisfy those who think the Pixel is a little small, and the low 185 gram weight too. Surprisingly it has four camera lenses on the back, and despite them not having the features of a more expensive phone, still take decent photos.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor and up to 6GB of RAM means the phone plays most games, and is fast enough for everyday use, while the 4,000mAh battery is good enough for two-days moderate use. The Nokia 5.3 is a trusty everyday companion for anyone who isn’t going to demand too much from their phone, and at $199 it’s great value.
Read our full Nokia 5.3 review
That is it for our list of the best Android phones. You may also want to check out our picks of the best smartphones and best cheap phones for more tempting Android phone recommendations.