Best Android phones 2021: What should you buy?

Find the best Android phone for photographers, smart shoppers, and more.

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Android phone cheat sheet

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Choosing the best Android phone for you is a big decision. The Android universe is teeming with options, from super-expensive flagship phones to more affordable models that make a few calculated compromises, to models expressly designed for, say, great photography. 

Chances are that whichever phone you buy, you’ll keep it for at least two years. So we’ve made picks for the best Android phone in key categories. Check out our summary Cheat Sheet, or keep reading for details on each pick and the runners-up. At the bottom of this article, we link to all our recent Android phone reviews—in case you have your eye on a model that didn’t make our cut.

We also have a rundown of how our favorite Android phones stack up against the iPhone 11, for the iOS curious.  

Latest Android phone news

Here are the latest stories:

  • Google has announced that the Android 11 beta will be announced via a YouTube stream on June 3. Developers have been using the new OS since February, and while there aren’t many features worth writing about yet, Google is teasing “news, updates, and announcements on connectivity, controls, safety, security, productivity, accessibility, and a whole bunch of stuff we’re not ready to tell you about yet.”
Android 11 Google, modified by IDG Comm
  • The Google Pixel 4a is on the way, and it will reportedly bring a new screen size, faster processor, and new camera tricks. Rumors say it will have the same $399 price tag as well, which would make it an instant contender for the value buy of the year.

Best Android phone overall

You might think that we’ve forgotten to update this article, but nope, we still recommend the OnePlus 7T as the best phone of 2020—even though it released in 2019. While the newer OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro phones have better specs and 5G, they also bring much higher prices. That makes the $599 price tag of the 7T a downright steal, especially if you can grab it during a OnePlus sale, which could knock $100 off. With the Snapdragon 855+ processor, a 90Hz refresh rate, and a solid triple-camera system, the 7T has the best combination of specs, features, and good looks, even compared to newer phones with better specs. Read our full review.


Samsung’s S20 Ultra may be the most phone you can buy, but even if you have a thousand-plus dollars to spend, we’d still recommend buying a Galaxy S10+ instead. Sure it might have a slower processor, less RAM, and a slower display as compared to the S20, but Samsung’s S10+ is still a fantastic phone with more than enough performance for even the most die-hard Android users. And now it costs $150 less then it did when we recommended it last year. You might not technically be getting the best Galaxy phone, but for hundreds of dollars less, the S10+ is a no-brainer decision over the S20 Ultra. Read our full review.

Best Android phone for photographers

Yes, the Pixel 4 is the newest Google phone, but we have enough issues with it to recommend its predecessor for serious smartphone photographers. It might not have the dual camera that’s on the Pixel 4, but we can safely say you won’t miss it. Portraits and zoomed photos look just as good on the Pixel 3 as they do on the Pixel 4, and the experience is basically the same. Plus the Pixel 3 is cheaper, and you’ll get three years of free unlimited storage in Google Photos in original quality, a benefit Google took away with the Pixel 4. Add in Android 10, Live Caption, the Recorder app, and the new compact Assistant interface, and you’ve got the best parts of the Pixel 4 without the headaches. Read our full review.

Best Android phone for productivity

No matter what handset you’re upgrading from, the Note 10+ will be an improvement, likely a significant one. It’s not just the speed (though it’s basically the fastest phone ever made) or the display (which is pretty much flawless). From the bezels to the battery life, the Note 10+ is at the very top of its game, capping off Samsung’s strongest year in recent memory. Read our full review

Best bang-for-the-buck Android phone

When we first heard a cheaper Pixel was on the way, we didn’t really know what to make of it. But once it arrived, it made perfect sense: The Pixel 3a isn’t a cut-rate Pixel 3, it’s just a cheaper version of the same great phone. Android 10? Check. OLED display? Check. Great camera? That’s a big check. For $399 or $479, the Pixel 3a delivers simply stellar photography, not to mention the best experience you’re going to find in an Android phone this side of the Pixel 4. Read our full review.


There’s really no other competition in the value category than OnePlus. While the price of its phones have steadily ticked up along with its far-higher-priced peers, OnePlus has consistently delivered good-looking handsets with premium specs for hundreds of dollars less than the iPhones and Galaxies of the world. The 6T has one more thing going for it: T-Mobile support. It’s still missing wireless charging and IP-rated water resistance, and the camera lags behind those of top-tier handsets, but for the price, you simply can’t buy a better Android phone—especially if you can get it when it dips to $350. Read our full review.

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