Android phones aren’t getting any cheaper. In fact, they’re getting even more expensive with every release cycle. The mobile marketplace isn’t alone in this trend, but the right phone could last long enough to justify the ever-increasing cost. What’s the right one? Well, we can point you in the right direction. Here are the five best Android phones available right now.
OnePlus Nord N200
Starting in the budget category, the OnePlus Nord N200 offers a 1080p screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, a capable Snapdragon 480 chip, and impressive build quality. OnePlus is in the midst of developing a new Android platform shared with its parent company Oppo, but the Oxygen OS build that ships on the N200 is a known quantity, and it’s great. The Nord doesn’t have a ton of bloatware, and most of the customizations are useful.
It’s not the fastest phone, but it’s plenty fast for its $240 asking price. It’ll outperform most devices in this price range, and it even has 5G. Although, only T-Mobile has certified the Nord for its 5G network at this time. The unlocked Nord will still work on 4G with AT&T and Verizon, too. T-Mobile will also give you the phone free with a new line.
Google Pixel 5a
If you want a premium smartphone experience and don’t fancy spending a lot of money, the Pixel 5a should be your first choice. You won’t get the kitchen sink, but the Pixel is all-around competent. There are even some features, such as the camera, that compete with much more expensive phones. The 12MP shooter might not sound impressive on paper, but Google’s photo processing is second to none. The images you get from the 5a are stupendous in any lighting conditions. Plus, Google’s version of Android is clean, fast, and gets quick updates. While other devices are languishing on Android 11, the 5a will head into late 2021 with Android 12.
The Pixel 5a retails for $450, which is a good value for what it offers. The only drawbacks are you can only get it in one color (a sort of greenish-black), and there’s no in-display fingerprint sensor or high-refresh display. The minty power button is the only splash of color or distinctiveness on what is otherwise a very boring-looking device.
Google Pixel 6
After years of beating around the bush, Google is finally taking its flagship Pixel phones seriously. The Pixel 5a is great, but for only $150 more, you can get Google’s latest high-end phone. No more mediocre screens and small batteries—the Pixel 6 has the best that Google has to offer, including Android 12, the Google Tensor custom processor, and an all-new camera array (50MP primary and 12MP ultrawide) that takes incredible photos. It’s not as versatile as the S21 Ultra’s quad-camera setup, but you will get more photos you actually like out of the Pixel 6.
The Pixel 6 runs on the octa-core Google Tensor chip, 8GB of RAM, 128-256GB of storage, and a 4,612mAh battery. The 6.4-inch display is only 1080p, but it’s crisp, bright, and very smooth thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate. This is also Google’s first phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor, and while it’s not as fast as Samsung’s ultrasonic sensor, it’s a big step up from the cheaper rear-facing sensors used on the older Pixels. Google is only asking $599 for the Pixel 6, which makes phones like the base Galaxy S21 and Motorola Edge look like yesterday’s news. The only real drawback is availability. The Pixel6 is sold out everywhere, and it may be a few months before supply evens out.
Galaxy S21 Ultra
If even the Galaxy S21 isn’t enough for your discerning tastes, the S21 Ultra is like that phone on steroids. The S21 Ultra dunks on almost everything we’ve talked about so far with a fantastic quad-camera setup, featuring two different optical zoom levels and a 108MP primary camera. The only competition is the Pixel 6, which isn’t as good at shooting at long range. The S21 Ultra also sports the best screen you can get on a phone — 6.8 inches, 1440p, and 120Hz refresh rate. It also supports Samsung’s S Pen stylus, one of just a handful of devices that do so. It’s an enormous phone, though, tipping the scales at 229g and 165mm tall. By comparison, the S21 is only 151mm tall and 169g.
The S21 Ultra has the same software as the base model, which is better than Samsung’s version of Android used to be. It’s still not a match for the Pixel, though. The hardware pushes the price tag into the stratosphere. The retail cost is $1,200, but it often goes on-sale for a few hundred bucks off.
Galaxy Z Fold3
The Galaxy Z Fold3 is the Cadillac of smartphones: it’s large, expensive, and uncompromising. The external 6.2-inch display is a little narrow and hard to use, but open the Fold3 up and you have a 7.6-inch folding OLED. It’s basically a small tablet that folds up and fits in your pocket. The software has been optimized for the larger screen with enhanced multi-window support and a special UI mode for select apps. It’s not so large that unoptimized Android apps look comical, though.
The Fold3 is without a doubt the most capable Android phone you can buy, but you’ll have to pay handsomely to have this brick of a phone in your pocket. The $1,800 price tag makes this a non-starter for almost everyone buying a new phone, but you wait for it to go on-sale or have a phone to trade-in, the Fold3 can get close in price to the S21 Ultra. But the Pixel 6 is still the elephant in the room at just $600.
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