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There’s one clear perk that Android has over iOS and that’s variety when it comes to the phones you have to choose from. Apple has made the iPhone is the only game in town for iOS, but with Google’s operating system, there are dozens of choices out there from manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus and others. But that also means it can be difficult to decide which device is best for you when it comes time to upgrade, or if you want to switch from iPhone to Android in the new year. If you’re looking for a new phone and don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered with a selection of the best Android phones for every budget.
When it comes to picking our favorite Android phones, the main things we look for are pretty straightforward: good performance (both compute and AI), a nice display, solid design, sharp cameras, long battery life and a significant commitment to ongoing software support. For performance, not only do we look at benchmarks and other metrics, but we also evaluate phones based on responsiveness. Regardless of whether you’re reading, text messaging, scrolling through social media or playing a game, no one wants a gadget that feels sluggish.
When it comes to displays, we generally prefer OLED panels that can produce rich, saturated colors with at least 600 nits of brightness, though many of our top mid-range and high-end phones can hit 1,000 nits or more. And more recently, most of our favorite devices also support screens with fast refresh rates of 90Hz or 120Hz, which adds an extra level of smoothness and fluidity.
Now we will admit there is a bit of subjectivity when deciding which phones look the best, but there are other design aspects like dust and water resistance or screen durability that can make a big difference to long-term survival. It’s also important to consider things like support for wireless charging, power sharing (aka reverse wireless charging) and UWB connectivity, which can have an impact on how your phone interacts with your other devices.
Obviously, for photos we’re looking for sharp, colorful shots in both bright and low-light conditions. And we want video clips with high dynamic range, rich audio and smooth image stabilization. Extra cameras for ultra-wide and telephoto lenses are a plus. The best cameras should also include features like dedicated night modes, support for various video recording resolutions, and additional photo modes like timelapse, slow motion and more.
Battery and software
Finally, in terms of longevity, we’re looking for all-day battery life on devices that also delivered great results on our local video rundown test (at least 16 hours on a charge, but more is obviously better). Wireless charging capabilities have become almost ubiquitous over the past few years, and most of our top picks have this extra perk. Fast-charging is available on some Android phones, too. Finally, with people holding onto their phones longer than ever, we like to see companies commit to at least three years of software support, upgrades and regular security updates.
Thanks to the Tensor G3 chip, updated sensors and a host of new AI-powered features, the Google Pixel 8 and 8 Pro have even more to offer for both photography and everyday use. The new Magic Editor on Pixel phones makes it astonishingly easy to remove distracting objects from your pics, while the Audio Magic Eraser cuts down on annoying ambient sound in videos. And for all those group photos, Best Take ensures that everyone looks their best, even if they weren’t smiling during the first shot. On top of that, Google’s Call Screen has gotten smarter while Assistant features, like being able to summarize or real articles aloud make it easy to stay on top of news however you want. Add to that a more refined design, brighter displays, better battery life and improved performance, and Google’s latest flagship phones might be the most well-rounded Android phones on the market.
For anyone who just wants a flagship phone with big specs and none of the AI nonsense we’ve seen on recent Samsung and Google phones, the OnePlus 12 is exactly what you’re looking for. It has blazing performance thanks to its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, while its 5,400 mAh power cell delivered the best battery life we’ve seen on any handset to date. Its Hasselblad cameras are also surprisingly sharp even without a ton of help from machine learning. And while its IP65 rating for dust and water resistance isn’t quite as good as what you get on an iPhone or a Galaxy S24, it’s the highest we’ve seen on any OnePlus phone yet. But the best part is that with a starting price of $800, the OnePlus 12 costs $200 less than an equivalent S24+, and that’s before you factor in OnePlus’ deal that knocks another $100 off with the trade-in of any phone.
The $500 Pixel 7a delivers everything we look for in a great, affordable Android phone (if you have less money to spend, check out our best cheap phones guide). New features include a faster Tensor G2 chip, a smoother 90Hz display and for the first time on one of Google’s A-series phones: support for wireless charging. And with a refreshed design with IP67 water resistance, it looks and feels like the standard Pixel 7 but for $100 less. You also get great support thanks to five years of security updates and at least three years of software updates. The Pixel 7a's only shortcomings are rather small and include a lack of a dedicated zoom lens and no support for mmWave 5G (unless you purchase a slightly more expensive $550 model from Verizon).
For its latest super-premium phone, Samsung gave the S24 Ultra a more durable titanium frame, faster performance thanks to a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip and a much longer battery life. The company also tweaked its longest telephoto lens with a 5x optical zoom so it's more usable in a wider range of situations. But the biggest upgrade is a new full suite of AI tools, which includes the ability to proofread texts, edit images and transcribe recordings. And when you tack on the best display available on a phone today and a built-in stylus, you have a very compelling flagship handset. Unfortunately, starting at $1,300, the S24 Ultra is a bit too expensive to recommend to anyone without deep pockets.
Despite increased competition from the Pixel Fold, for people who want to maximize their mobile productivity, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is still the best big foldable phone on the market. On the latest model, not only has Samsung added two new gestures for launching into side-by-side multitasking or switching from a full screen to a windowed app, it has also increased the number of recent apps you can see on the taskbar from two to four. The Z Fold 5’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset also delivers faster performance than on the Pixel Fold, and even though this Samsung phone has a smaller power cell (4,400 mAh vs 4,800 mAh), it has better battery life, too. But the biggest change for this generation is Samsung’s new Flex Hinge, which allows the phone to close completely flat and makes it thinner to boot. Unfortunately, its camera system is largely unchanged from last year, and with prices starting at $1,800, the Z Fold 5 isn’t even remotely close to being affordable.
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