Whether you’re looking for a large or small phone, a low-cost or high-end device, Android has something for everyone. Unlike Apple, which has a strict release schedule, Google’s hardware partners release a seemingly continuous stream of new products all year. But therein lays the problem: how can you choose the best option when there are so many? We test and review practically every smartphone available on all major US carriers, which is fortunate for you.
While the reviews above may not include your preferred carrier, most of the phones on this list are unlocked and may be used with several US carriers. Read on to learn what to look for when purchasing an Android phone, as well as our top selections.
When to Buy a New Android Phone
With a new set of flagships seemingly arriving every month, the Android release cycle has become permanent. However, because most manufacturers want their products on store shelves before the holidays, now is an excellent time to buy. We’re convinced that we won’t see any major new flagships until 2022.
5G Android Phones
Almost every higher-end phone on the market today will support 5G. If you’re buying a lower-end device, don’t be too concerned about 5G; AT&T and Verizon’s current nationwide 5G systems don’t provide much of a performance boost over 4G, and even lower-end new T-Mobile Android phones are starting to include mid-band 5G, which is what gave T-Mobile the win in this year’s Fastest Mobile Networks tests.
Look for a phone with C-band in the future if you want the fastest network speeds (band N77). C-band networks, which will mostly be available on Verizon and AT&T starting in late 2021 or early 2022, have the potential to give several times the speed of 4G and low-band 5G systems. The number of phones with C-band connectivity is rapidly increasing, so you should double-check that the phone you’re contemplating supports it. To make things easier, we list C-band support in all of our phone evaluations.
What Size Phone Is Right for You?
Over the previous few years, the designs and sizes of Android phones have changed dramatically. Many manufacturers have begun to make their phones taller and slimmer, resulting in models that can be held with one hand and have unusually large screens. In our article on how to measure phone displays now, we go into greater detail on the new form factors.
Android phones are available with screen sizes ranging from 3 inches (the Unihertz Jelly 2) to over 7 inches (the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3). However, with the new form factors, it’s critical to consider the phone’s width as well as the screen’s width. A phone that is tall and slim is much easier to handle than one that is wider.
Which Is the Best Android Version?
Android isn’t all made equal. For a long time, device manufacturers like Asus and Samsung have been bringing their own views to Android. If you want a truly Google experience, opt for a Pixel device; these are the developer models, and Google prioritizes software updates. The user interfaces of Motorola and OnePlus are similarly very clean, albeit they tend to add more hidden functions to Android.
The most recent version is Android 12, however only a few phones have it. Instead, Android 11 is currently available on the majority of new phones. Don’t buy a phone with Android version 10 or lower, as the older the Android software version, the more likely it is to contain severe security problems. Check how many rounds of OS upgrades the manufacturer guarantees; for multi-year upgrades, Google and Samsung tend to lead the field.
Why Not Oppo, Vivo, or Xiaomi?
Three of the world’s top five smartphone manufacturers do not sell phones in the United States, and we primarily serve Americans. It’s because Oppo and Vivo have handed over the US market to their brother company OnePlus. (Oppo and OnePlus are now effectively one company.) Xiaomi has already stated that its economic model, which is highly reliant on advertising revenue and subscription services, will not work in the United States. Sanctions that prevent Huawei from utilizing US components or software in its handsets have harmed the company, which was formerly near the top of the list.
Importing foreign phones for usage in the United States is not recommended because they frequently operate badly on US carrier networks.