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IT’S DIFFICULT TO FIND THE BEST ANDROID PHONE TO MEET YOUR NEEDS. It’s easy to be misled by a beautiful phone or a low price. Carriers will try to entice you with a discount or a 24-month payment plan, but do your research first. These are our top picks from the seemingly endless pool of phone options, including the Google Pixel 5A, which is also our top selection. Each of the phones we’ve chosen has its own set of benefits, which we’ve put out as honestly as we can based on our rigorous testing.

First, Some Advice

Buy Your Phone Unlocked

we recommend unlocked phones. When a phone is sold unlocked, it can be used on a variety of wireless carriers and networks. When you buy a phone from your wireless carrier directly, it’s usually on a payment plan, and it’s usually bound to that network. Carriers are required by law to unlock a phone upon request so that you can change networks, but it’s a pain. Pay full money for your phone, or make sure it states it’s unlocked on the box. If you think it’s too costly to buy entirely, it’s a good hint you should look for a less expensive model. Buy it directly from the manufacturer, or look into your carrier’s unlocking restrictions if you bought it on a payment plan.

Verizon advice: Buying an unlocked phone is a good idea, but even if you do the right thing, networks like Verizon will make you jump through hoops. If you enter your SIM card but still can’t get text messages or other services, contact customer support and request that “CDMA-Less roaming” be enabled.

Sub-6 GHz or 5 GHz millimetre wave? The current level of network connectivity, 5G, is now supported by the majority of new handsets. Don’t worry if the phone you’re considering doesn’t support 5G. 4G LTE isn’t going away anytime soon. You are not obligated to upgrade to a 5G phone or package. However, if you want to access 5G speeds, you’ll need a smartphone that supports it. There are two types of technology: sub-6 and millimetre wave (mmWave). The latter is usually reserved for flagship devices, although even then, not every expensive Android phone has it.In summary, mmWave allows you to access super-fast 5G speeds, however its range is limited and the regions where it can be found are few (think stadiums and airports, plus some spots in major cities). Sub-6G is far more common, and it’s the form of 5G you’ll encounter the most. It offers a larger range and quicker speeds than 4G LTE (but nowhere near as fast as mmWave). Coverage is still not as extensive as LTE. It’s wonderful if the phone you’re buying supports both (especially if you’re spending $700 or more), but sub-6 is perfectly good on its own.

Our Favorite phone

Google Pixel 5A

It is not necessary to spend more than $500 on a good phone. A good example is Google’s Pixel 5A. It boasts a vivid and sharp OLED 6.3-inch screen—better than the LCDs found on most phones this price—and a camera system that outperforms its competitors. It has a two-day battery life and features such as sub-6 5G connectivity, IP67 water resistance for protection against drops in the pool, and a headphone port.

The main 12-megapixel sensor and an ultrawide sensor are the same as on the Pixel 5 from 2020. You can get detailed and vivid low-light shots using Google’s Night Sight mode, and if you place the phone on a tripod and direct it at the sky, it can even capture the stars. The software is the best part of a Pixel. There are a slew of actually useful features, such as Call Screen, which screens calls from unknown numbers so you don’t have to answer a robocall and hang up as frequently. We’ve compiled a list of all the best features of owning a Pixel, including three years of OS and security updates. Downsides? There’s no fast refresh rate on the screen, and there’s no MicroSD card port.

Works on all three major US networks.

$499 AT GOOGLE

Best Camera Phone (and Best Value)

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are difficult to dislike. Both phones are among the greatest discounts on flagship phones, with superb performance, more than a full day of battery life, and attractive OLED panels with 90- and 120-Hz refresh rates, respectively. Wireless charging, strong 5G, and IP68 water resistance are just a few of the high-end features included. The biggest difference between the two is that the Pixel 6 Pro has a larger screen, with a 6.7-inch screen with curved edges instead of the ordinary Pixel 6’s 6.4-inch screen. In addition to the 50-megapixel main camera and 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, it boasts a 4X optical zoom camera. Those advantages aren’t worth the $300 premium which is why we like the base Pixel 6 the most.

Almost every other Android phone is outperformed by the camera system. Thanks to Google’s new Tensor chip, you can take detailed daytime photos and sharp low-light scenes, and video performance has greatly improved. This processor also enables a slew of smart features, including dramatically improved voice typing and automatic translation of messages received in a different language. These Pixels will get five years of security updates and three OS upgrades, allowing you to keep them for a longer period of time. What are some of my pet peeves? On bright days outside, the fingerprint sensor isn’t very precise, and the screen might be dim. Last year, I came into a few connectivity issues as well as other glitches, but they’ve since been fixed.

Works on all three major US networks.

$599 AT TARGET (PIXEL 6) 
$899 AT TARGET (PIXEL 6 PRO) 
$599 AT AMAZON (BOTH) 

Best Luxe Phones

Samsung Galaxy S22, S22+, S22 Ultra

Most people will be satisfied with the $599 Pixel 6, but if you want every aspect of your smartphone to be the finest it can be, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range is for you. There are three models: the S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra. All of them have 120-Hz screens that are extremely brilliant, stereo speakers that sound fantastic, and enough processing power to handle even the most demanding games. Each model grows in size, so get the 6.8-inch Ultra if you want a Big Phone. For the smallest screen, go with the 6.1-inch S22. The 6.6-inch S22+, on the other hand, might be a good compromise—you get a big screen and more than a day of battery life (with average use).The S22 and its lesser battery capacity lasted nearly a full day for me, but if you spend a lot of time on your phone, you may need to recharge it.

The S22 Ultra has all of the features you’d expect in a phone, including a very reliable triple-camera system, but it also has a 10X optical zoom camera—one of the only phones in the US with that capability—and a built-in S Pen stylus, exactly like the Galaxy Notes of old. That might be appealing if you draw a lot or sign dozens of documents every day (why not both?). In terms of software support, all S22 phones will receive four Android OS upgrades and five years of security patches, outperforming Google Pixel phones.

Works on all three major US networks.

$800 AT SAMSUNG (ALL MODELS) 
$800 AT AMAZON (ALL MODELS) 

Best Battery Life

Motorola Moto G Power (2021)

Do you want the longest battery life for the cheapest price? Motorola’s Moto G Power 2021 is the way to go. The 5,000mAh battery inside will allow you to go almost three days between charges. The screen has a reduced resolution and is dull outside, but it’s fine for watching videos, and owing to a new Night mode in the app, the cameras operate quite well in low light. It has enough processing power to run most programmes and games without difficulty. The feature set is completed by a headphone jack and a MicroSD card slot.

Here are the usual Motorola flaws: There is no NFC for contactless payments, and because to Motorola’s terrible software update approach, the Moto G Power 2021 will not be updated to the latest Android 12 version. There isn’t even a 5G network. If those factors don’t exceed your need for a low-cost, long-lasting phone, you won’t find anything better. It falls below $200 on a regular basis. If you’re considering the 2022 model, I strongly advise against it. It has a new processor, which seems noticeably slower than the 2021 model. The camera system is likewise a step backwards.

Works on all three major US networks.

$215 AT AMAZON
$200 AT BEST BUY

The Mid-Priced Option

Samsung S21 FE

The S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra, Samsung’s flagships for 2021, won’t be around for much longer. Stock is always changing, and even when it is, the prices are exorbitant. (It’s a horrible deal if the price is the same as or near to one of the new Galaxy S22 phones.) The Galaxy S21 Fan Edition (FE) fills that void. It has many of the same features as last year’s Galaxy S21, but it saves money by cutting a few shortcuts. Its MSRP is $700, but it’s already been reduced to $500 on Amazon. I recommend buying it only if it’s on sale for $550 or less—anything more, and you’d be better off picking up one of the devices above.

It sports a bright 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with a 120-Hz refresh rate and works smoothly. The battery is a little bigger than the standard S21’s, and it lasts a little longer than a full day. Although the cameras are different, you still get an ultrawide and telephoto zoom in addition to the main camera for a solid imaging system. This is a straightforward phone that ticks all the criteria. It also has outstanding software support, with four Android OS upgrades and five years of security patches guaranteed.

Works on all three major US networks.

$700 AT SAMSUNG
$652 AT AMAZON
$700 AT TARGET

Another Flagship Alternative

OnePlus 10 Pro

The latest flagship phone from OnePlus is decent, but not spectacular. It has a sleek design and powerful hardware, including a 120-Hz OLED screen with brilliant, responsive performance and some of the quickest wired and wireless charging in the US. Its camera system isn’t as good as the Pixel 6 or Samsung’s Galaxy S22, but you can capture some decent images with it, and owing to a relationship with Hasselblad, there are a few entertaining features. It’ll also get three OS upgrades and four years of security patches, though we’ll have to see if OnePlus can provide them as quickly as its competitors.

You should be aware that there is no millimeter-wave 5G here, only sub-6, which is unusual for a phone this expensive. The T-Mobile model also has an IP67 water-resistance designation, which the unlocked version does not—it should be alright when submerged in water, but it’s great to have the extra assurance.

Works on all major carriers (no 5G on AT&T).

$900 AT AMAZON
$899 AT ONEPLUS

Best Under $300

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

It’s difficult to find flaws with Samsung’s Galaxy A32 5G, which costs less than $300. The MediaTek chip inside provides consistent performance and sub-6 5G capability, the main camera is surprisingly good, and the battery life is two days. The screen is the weak link in the chain. It boasts a 90-Hz refresh rate, but it isn’t the sharpest, and it isn’t OLED like the Pixel 5A, so inky blacks and an always-on display aren’t available. However, under bright sunlight, it is still quite brilliant.

A MicroSD card slot, NFC for contactless payments, a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a headphone jack are all included. Samsung also offers two Android OS upgrades and four years of security patches, unlike most other low-cost phones. That, my friends, is what I call lifting the bar.

Works on all three major US networks

Another option is to go with the Moto G Stylus 2022 ($300 at Amazon) if Samsung’s phone is out of stock. It doesn’t support 5G, doesn’t have NFC for contactless payments, and will only get one OS update to Android 12. (but three years of security updates). Since its predecessor, performance has likewise deteriorated. Nonetheless, it runs most apps adequately and has a battery life of around two days. There’s also a stylus, although I didn’t find it really enjoyable to use.

$280 AT SAMSUNG

These Phones Fold Up

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and Flip3

A folding phone is unnecessary. But they’re entertaining! Samsung’s two foldable devices, the Galaxy Z Flip3 and Galaxy Z Fold3, are the first ones I’d recommend if you have the funds. They’re more durable than previously and are water-resistant to IPX8, so they can survive a swim, though you should still safeguard them with a case.

The Flip3 is a smartphone that offers a more traditional experience. Consider the phone in your hand right now, but imagine folding it in half. You get a large-screen phone that fits in your pocket like a stack of Post-It notes. How can you possibly despise something like that? It also won’t take up much space on the nightstand.

Multitasking is the name of the game with the Fold3. You can easily run numerous apps side by side without having to juggle them if you open it up like a book to display a 7.3-inch screen. Though the price is too much, it has actually enhanced the way I use my phone.

Works on all three major US networks.

$1,050 AT SAMSUNG (BOTH) 
$1,000 AT AMAZON (BOTH) 
$900 AT TARGET (FLIP 3) 

A Top Pick Outside the US

Oppo Find X5 Pro

For phone shoppers in the UK, EU, Asia, and beyond, Chinese manufacturers such as Oppo, Realme, Honor, and Xiaomi provide a wide selection of options. The Oppo Find X5 Pro is a smartphone that competes with the Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 series this year. The current model doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it keeps up with high-end competitors (particularly in terms of pricing, with a starting price of £1,049 or 1,299 euros). The black model (which is actually closer to silver than the Find X3 Pro) has the same design as the Find X3 Pro, except it now has a ceramic back instead of glass. It is incredibly reflective and attracts an excessive amount of fingerprints. The white version is more successful.

The camera on the Find X5 Pro is adaptable and performs a nice job in a variety of lighting circumstances, but it isn’t up to par in terms of quality (its biggest folly is inconsistency). Even at 5X zoom, you can get acceptable shots, and the portrait mode is very remarkable. The rest of this phone is all about speed, from the ultra-fast 80-watt fast-charging to the smooth performance provided by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8-gen 1 chip within. A high-resolution AMOLED display is paired with a fast 120-Hz variable refresh rate panel for added visual appeal.

£1,049 AT AMAZON UK
£1,049 AT OPPO

Honorable Mentions

Other Good Phones

Samsung Galaxy A53 for $450: Samsung’s newest A-series phone is an excellent alternative to the Pixel 5A, which isn’t widely accessible. The 6.5-inch screen is brighter (and smoother) than the Pixel, and it’ll get four OS updates and five years of security updates. Its performance is good—it does stutter a little when you have a lot of programmes open at once—but I was happy with it overall. Depending on usage, the battery can last more than a day, sometimes even two. Though the Pixel 5A maintains a significant lead, the camera system holds its own.

Motorola Edge+ for $900: Motorola’s new flagship phone has no right to be this expensive. Its cameras aren’t as good as the competition’s (it lacks a telephoto zoom option), its water resistance isn’t as good, and its 5G support isn’t as reliable. But it’s powerful, has a good screen and simple software, and lasts more than a day on a single charge. It’s a decent phone. I’d wait until the price drops to $600 or less if you really want it.

The OnePlus 9 costs $599, while the OnePlus 9 Pro costs $799. The OnePlus phones from last year are excellent deals, especially at these reduced prices. The cameras are reliable, and the rest of the hardware performs admirably. Neither phone, however, has a notable feature. Only two more Android OS upgrades (Android 12 was just released) and three years of security updates are included.

Sony Xperia 1 III ($1,200): Sony’s top-of-the-line Xperia is ideal for anyone who enjoys fiddling with the camera app’s settings or prefers taking images and movies in manual mode. Although the camera experience is enjoyable, it does not produce better results than some of our top picks. You do get top-notch performance, a stunning 4K OLED 120-Hz screen, powerful stereo speakers, wireless charging, and a headphone port! It’s simply prohibitively pricey. The 5G here is only sub-6, which should not be the case given the pricing (and AT&T doesn’t support 5G).

Asus Zenfone 8 for $700: If you’re looking for a compact but powerful Android phone, the Zenfone 8 is the phone to have. The 5.9-inch screen is small in comparison to other flagship phones—and this is a flagship, considering it runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset from last year. A 120-Hz AMOLED screen, a headphone port, and a full day of battery life are all included. However, it does not work on Verizon, and the camera system is only average.

Avoid These Phones

Half-Hearted Endorsements

Many of the phones we’ve previously suggested are on the cutting edge. Either they’re getting old (two years or more) or their internals are failing. We’re concerned that they won’t be supported beyond this year, or that the next Android upgrade will make them too slow. We’ve also included some newer phones to this list that we can’t recommend after testing.

LG phones should be avoided. The company’s mobile division has been shuttered (RIP), and while it promises to support current phones for a few years, purchasing one is dangerous, and there are better alternatives. The Pixel 5, Samsung Galaxy S20, OnePlus 8T, Nokia 5.3, and Moto G 2020 Series are also no longer recommended. They’re all usable, but the gadgets listed above are the best. The Moto G Power 2022 is likewise not recommended because it is far too slow. The Nokia G20, Nokia 8.3, Samsung Galaxy A51, and OnePlus Nord N200 are among the phones we’ve examined and don’t recommend.

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