These are the best Android phones you can buy right now after our time testing plenty of the other options.
You’re here because you’re looking for the best Android phone of 2021. You’re probably a bit of an Android nut, and you’re not alone: after all, Android is the world’s most popular smartphone platform. If you’re not shackled to an iPhone – or one of the few still using a BlackBerry device – it’s the obvious (and only) choice.
The range of Android phones out there is enormous. That means you’re sure to find something to suit you perfectly – as long as you know what you’re looking for.
Here’s our guide to buying the right Android phone.
How to buy the best Android phone for you
When it comes to picking a new smartphone, there’s a multitude of features to consider. While aesthetics are important, you should certainly pay attention to features and performance. Most flagship phones (which tend to cost upwards of $1000) 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 won’t notice any difference between a 1080p or a 1440p 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 don’t 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?
These phones are all Android devices, but they can look and feel quite different. Certain manufacturers – notably Huawei, LG and Samsung – put their own customised “skin” on top of the OS, while the likes of Google and OnePlus use stock Android (or near-stock) to deliver a clean and crisp experience for their users. They’ll all run the same apps, though, so it’s mostly a case of personal preference.
What’s the best smartphone camera?
A decent camera is a great feature: it means you can always capture a moment without having carry around a dedicated camera, and share your snaps in a few taps. Most flagships have excellent built-in cameras, but this certainly isn’t something you can take for granted in a mid-range or budget phone. If photo quality matters to you, make sure you investigate the camera before investing.
What’s the best smartphone for battery life?
Smartphone battery life has improved over the years, but we’re still living in a world where a charge may only just get you through the day. Bigger phones tend to have better longevity, though – as they can pack in bigger batteries – and some budget phones also have the impressive stamina for their size and price. Do your research and, as a general rule, go for the highest-capacity battery you can find.
The best Android phones you can buy in 2021
Samsung Galaxy S20/S20 Plus: Best Android smartphone
Price: From $1089 | Buy now from Kogan
Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus flagships are absolutely sublime. It’s not often that we come away from writing a review with a list of positives as long as this, but Samsung’s best-ever handset well and truly hit the mark.
Aside from the obvious size differences – as well as a larger battery and extra ToF camera on the S20 Plus – both of these smartphones are essentially the same. Samsung’s latest big-screened beauties not only look the part, but they’re the fastest Android smartphones we’ve ever tested – surpassed only by the iPhone 11 – and the new cameras are absolutely sensational. We’re also especially fond of the new 120Hz screen, which is a first for Samsung.
If you’re after the very best that Android can muster, you simply can’t do any better than this.
Key specs – Processor: 2.73GHz Samsung Exynos 990; Screen: 6.2″, 3200 x 1440; Camera: 12MP, 64MP (zoom) and 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
Samsung Galaxy M31: Long battery life
Price: $399 l Buy now from Kogan
Google Pixel 4a: Best value pixel
Price: $579 l Buy now from Kogan
Google’s own-brand Android smartphone is a great showcase for the platform. In most regards, it’s on par with other companies’ flagships, but what sets the slightly cheaper Pixel 4a apart is the camera, which is simply in a class of its own. Although it has just a single lens, it’s capable of capturing absolutely stunning photos that put other cameras to shame.
The price is clearly the key part of the Pixel 4a’ appeal, too. At $579, the Pixel 4a undercuts the competition by a huge amount and especially the full-fat Pixel 4 (which uses the same camera). With the Pixel 4a, why spend more for not much extra?
Key specs – Processor: 2.2GHz Snapdragon 730G; Screen: 5.81″ 2340 x 1080; Camera: 12.2MP; Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
Xiaomi Mi Note 10: Flagship killer
Price: $659 l Buy now from Kogan
Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi might be relatively new to the UK, but its affordable smartphone offering is already achieving a lot of praise. The Mi Note 10 is perhaps its best offering yet, with flagship internals at a far more palatable price.
What’s most special about the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is that it’s filled with high-end internals and fancy features that we usually see on more expensive handsets. For only $659, the Mi Note 10 is filled with flagship features, including Qualcomm’s beefy Snapdragon 730G processor and a superb colour-accurate screen. The Mi Note 10’s 108-megapixel camera is equally sublime and its 23-hour battery life blew us away. Considering it costs almost half the price as most other flagships on this list, the Mi Note 10 is a tremendous choice.
Key specs – Processor: 2.2GHz Snapdragon 730G; Screen: 6.47″, 2340 x 1080; Camera: 108MP, 12MP (zoom), 5MP (zoom), 20MP (wide) and 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Perfection
Price: $1632 | Buy now from Kogan
The Galaxy Note is back and better than ever. Offering improved performance over last year’s Note 10, its name might be a bit of a mouthful but the Note 20 Ultra benefits from the biggest screen ever seen on a Samsung handset, a massive 108MP camera, improved S Pen and a handful of work-friendly improvements too.
It’s hideously expensive, but if you’re lucky enough to afford one, then you’ll be served by one of the finest Android smartphones ever released. For the rest of us, here’s hoping there’s a price reduction in the near future.
Key specs – Processor: Samsung Exynos 990; Screen: 6.9″, 3088 x 1440; Camera: 108MP, 12MP (zoom) and 12MP (wide); Storage: 256/512GB; Operating system: Android 10
OnePlus 8 : Another flagship killer
Price: $949 l Buy now from Kogan
Despite OnePlus’ shift in focus towards the flagship end of the spectrum in recent years, it still manages to offer cutthroat devices that are far cheaper than most other phones on the market. Its newest flagship-killing phone, the OnePlus 8, delivers the same value proposition of past handsets, and we actually prefer the cheaper variant this time around.
That’s mostly because it’s cheaper, but partly because of the few cutbacks in comparison to its “Pro” sibling. It still has a buttery-smooth 90Hz screen, is powered by Qualcomm’s most up-to-date Silicon, the Snapdragon 865, and comes with 5G support as standard. It also has a 48MP rear camera, complete with 16MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro modules. It might seem like a relatively low-key update at first, but the OnePlus 8 represents the very best of what a proper flagship-killing phone is capable of.
Key specs – Processor: 2.84GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 865; Screen: 6.55″, 2400 x 1080; Camera: 48MP, 16MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB or 256GB; Operating system: Android 10
Samsung Galaxy S10 lite: Excellent mid-tier option
Price: $782 l Buy now from Kogan
The Galaxy S10 Lite is an excellent choice for those that want similar flagship-like experiences without the sky-high price. Costing almost half the price of the Galaxy S20, don’t let its name fool you: the Galaxy S10 Lite launched in early 2020, and it holds up remarkably well under scrutiny. it’s good-looking, has an excellent screen, takes great pictures and performance (despite using the last-gen Snapdragon 855) is still among the best you can get.
It’s not the absolute pinnacle of Android achievements, but where it counts the Galaxy S10 Lite is an excellent choice for those that want the latest and greatest Samsung, but can’t stomach the asking prices.
Key specs – Processor: 2.84GHz Snapdragon 855; Screen: 6.7″, 2400 x 1080; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (wide), 12MP (wide) and 5MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9: Unmissable value
Price: $239 | Buy now from Kogan
Xiaomi makes another appearance on this list with the Redmi Note 9, a superb Android choice for the budget-conscious. Rather than scrimp on features like most cheap-end Android smartphones, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 is more formidable than most, with a MediaTek Helio G85 chipset and a solid suite of cameras for the price.
Sure, it isn’t as immediately dazzling as some of the other choices on this list, but when you consider that the Redmi Note 9 costs a mere fraction of the price of its latest flagship counterparts, there’s no way you can pass this one up.
Key specs – Processor: 2GHz MediaTek Helio G85; Screen: 6.53″, 2340 x 1080; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro) and 2MP (depth); Storage: 64GB, 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
Samsung Galaxy A51: More great value
Price: $599 | Buy now from Kogan
Despite what Samsung’s slick adverts would have you believe, your smartphone buying options aren’t limited to $1,000+ flagships. Yes, some expensive Samsung phones make this list, but if you’re after something with a softer impact on your wallet, then the Galaxy A51 is just the ticket.
The Galaxy A51 is a 6.5″ handset with swish looks and features that are more befitting of handsets that cost twice the price. It’s powered by one of Samsung’s homebrew Exynos chipsets (although this is closer to the mid-range than the S20’s processor), and it also has a 48MP camera with a 5MP macro unit and depth sensor. Big, powerful, and good-looking, Samsung’s Galaxy A51 is a no-brainer for the budget-conscious buyer.
Key specs – Processor: 2.3GHz Samsung Exynos 9611; Screen: 6.5″, 2400 x 1080; Camera: 48MP, 12MP (wide), 5MP (depth); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10