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The best Android phones in 2021

best android phones: galaxy s21 ultra
(Image credit: Future)

The best Android phones fit practically every need and budget. Whether you're on not wanting to spent or you're looking to drop up to $2,000 on a phone, you have a lot to choose from. You have the power to prioritize what features matter most to you.

Those on a budget can get a good-enough Android phone for under $200. Step up to the $400 range, and the choices get considerably better, especially when it comes to camera quality. And you can get flagship-level performance starting at under $700, so long as you're willing to live without some bells and whistles and the finest photography.

The most premium Android flagship phones start at $799, offering the sharpest and brightest displays, the most advanced photography, and cutting edge features like reverse wireless charging and 120Hz screens. 5G has also come to more affordable options, like the Pixel 4a 5G, so it's nice to see more Android phones able to take advantage of faster download speeds. 

Read on to find the best Android phone for your needs and budget.

Editor's note: We crowned our picks in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for the phones category.

What are the best Android phones?

We’ve tested all of the most popular Android phones in all shapes, sizes and prices here at Tom’s Guide, and our current top pick is the Galaxy S21 Ultra from Samsung. It offers an incredible display, crazy powerful cameras, and a huge battery to power it all. Plus, it's the first Galaxy S phone to support the S Pen (sold separately). The OnePlus 9 Pro, another excellent premium Android phone, is a close second.

If you want the best camera for the lowest cost, look no further than Google's Pixel 4a. Its camera comes straight out of Google's premium Pixels, and its excellent display and quality design make it a steal for $350. The Pixel 4a 5G is our pick if you need a 5G phone from Google and still want some of the best mobile photography available.

Bargain hunters striving to spend the absolute least can find a very good option in the latest version of the Moto G Power, which lasts the whole day on a charge, but starts at just $199. On the other end of the price spectrum, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 costs $2,000, but finally delivers on the potential of foldable phones.

The best Android phones you can buy today

best android phones: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The best premium Android phone

Specifications
Display: 6.8-inch OLED (3200x1400; 10 to 120Hz)
Android version: 11
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 12GB, 16GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No
Rear camera: 108MP main (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, ƒ/2.4), 10MP telephoto (10x zoom, ƒ/4.9), laser AF sensor
Front camera: 40MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:25
Reasons to buy
+Dual telephoto lenses+Dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display+S Pen support
Reasons to avoid
-No charger in box-Lacks microSD card slot

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the Android phone to get, if you don’t mind spending more than $1,000 on your next handset. Even with its lofty price, though, the S21 Ultra still debuts for $200 less than last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, so you’re getting a lot of value. With the S21 Ultra, Samsung has packed an incredible amount of premium features into its newest flagship.

The 6.8-inch display on the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a dynamic refresh rate that automatically scales between 10Hz and 120Hz, depending on if the task you’re performing benefits from a faster refresh rate. You get two telephoto lenses that help you capture an amazing amount of detail when you zoom in, and other software-driven photo features help the S21 Ultra capture some great shots. And this is the first Galaxy S phone to offer S Pen support, making this a productivity booster.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers other attractive features, including a best-in-class Snapdragon 888 processor. The Pixel 4a may be a better bargain, but the S21 Ultra leaves no premium feature unexplored.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra won the award for the best phone design and two highly recommended awards.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.

best android phones: oneplus 9 pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. OnePlus 9 Pro

The best Android phone you can get

Specifications
Display: 6.7-inch AMOLED (3168 x 1440; 1-120 Hz)
Android version: 11
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB, 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 48MP wide (ƒ/1.8), 50MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2), 8MP telephoto with 3x optical (ƒ/2.4), 2MP monochrome
Front camera: 16MP (ƒ/2.4)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:40 (120Hz) / 10:38 (60Hz)
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design+Beautiful 120Hz display+Excellent performance+Crazy fast wired and wireless charging
Reasons to avoid
-Nightscape photos are inconsistent

The OnePlus 9 Pro is big, it’s beautiful, and it’s very powerful. It completely wowed us, from its gorgeous display to its battery life and charging. The OxygenOS software experience is top-notch, complete with plenty of tweaks and features to help you make the phone truly yours.

It also excels as a camera phone thanks to the new partnership with Hasselblad. The 48MP main shooter captures wonderful photos with natural color tones and excellent dynamic range. The 50MP ultrawide sensor is huge and captures just as much detail. It even has a freeform lens over top, helping to practically eliminate edge distortion in ultrawide shots. The 8MP telephoto lens has 3.3x optical zoom, 30x digital zoom, and OIS. Video is also a highlight, with support for up to 8K 30 FPS, 4K 120 FPS, DOL-HDR, and Nightscape for low-light footage.

You’ll want for nothing with the OnePlus 9 Pro (unless it's 5G on AT&T), even if it is the most expensive OnePlus phone to date at over $1,000. Rest assured that you’re getting a huge bang for your buck, especially when compared to the competition.

The OnePlus 9 Pro won the fastest charging phone award and three highly recommended awards.

Read our full OnePlus 9 Pro review. 

best android phones: pixel 4a

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Google Pixel 4a

One of the best Android phones is also one of the most affordable

Specifications
Display: 5.81-inch OLED (2340x1080)
Android version: 10
CPU: Snapdragon 730G
RAM: 6GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No
Rear camera: 12.2MP (ƒ/1.7)
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:55
Reasons to buy
+Best-in-class camera+Bright OLED display+128GB storage+Low price
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better

You might be surprised to find Google's mid-range Pixel, the Pixel 4a, at third on our list of the best Android phones. But at just $349, the Pixel 4a is a remarkably complete smartphone, the likes of which we've never before seen at this price.

For half the price of the Pixel 5, or a third of what Samsung and Apple charge for their top models, the Pixel 4a offers a flagship-caliber camera, good-enough performance, impeccable software, a pocketable, well-built design, 128GB of built-in storage and a dazzling and bright 5.8-inch OLED display.

If the 4a suffered from one shortcoming, it'd be battery life. But in all other respects, it's nearly perfect — and it even has a headphone jack. In previous years, you would have had to spend at least $500 on a device like this, but the Pixel 4a is an unmatched bargain among Android devices right now, and an even better deal than last year's already-excellent Pixel 3a. And if you're curious how it compares to its bigger brother, we have a Pixel 4a vs. Pixel 4a 5G face-off for you.

All of that said, we do want to point out that the Pixel 5a is coming quite soon, possibly as soon as August. Google hasn't set a firm date yet, but we've heard that the 5a will come out before the Pixel 6 lineup so that Google doesn't cannibalize itself. Rumors also suggest that the Pixel 5a could see some significant upgrades over the 4a, such as 5G (thanks to the Snapdragon 765G processor found in the Pixel 5), a larger screen, and a second ultrawide camera lens. We're also hoping for a bigger battery.

The Pixel 4a won a Tom's Guide award for the best phone value.

Read our full Google Pixel 4a review

Best Android phones: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The best premium Android phone

Specifications
Display: 6.9-inch AMOLED (3088x1440)
Android version: 10 with Samsung One UI 2.5
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM: 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / Yes
Rear camera: 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom (ƒ/3.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2)
Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:15
Reasons to buy
+Dynamic 6.9-inch 120Hz display+Smoother S Pen performance +Powerful 50x zoom camera and laser autofocus+Very good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra takes the crown as the best Android phone for those willing to pay an ultra-premium price. And that’s because this device is much more than a phone. It’s a powerful note-taking tool with lots of S Pen upgrades; it’s a pro-level camera with a 108MP sensor and 50x zoom; and it’s a mini game console with the ability to stream Xbox games.

The Note 20 Ultra also boasts the best display on a phone yet, as its huge 6.9-inch OLED screen has a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate. So it’s smart enough to dial things up or down based on what's being displayed, which saves battery life. The 4,500 mAh battery lasts a long time on a charge, and you get quick 25-watt charging out of the box. Overall, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra more than lives up to its name. It is, however, getting a little long in the tooth, with rumors suggesting that the Galaxy Z Fold line will replace the Note family.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.

best android phones: oneplus 9

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. OnePlus 9

Yet another home run from OnePlus

Specifications
Display: 6.65-inch AMOLED (2400 x 1080; 120 Hz)
Android version: 11
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB, 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 48MP main (f/1.8); 50MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 2MP monochrome
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.4)
Battery life: 10:51 (120Hz); 10:53 (60Hz)
Reasons to buy
+Ridiculously fast charging+Top-performing Android phone+Better cameras than previous OnePlus models+Solid battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Some color inconsistencies remain with cameras

Though not quite as fancy as its Pro brother, the OnePlus 9 is still a fantastic phone, especially for the money. You get a flat 6.65-inch FHD+ 120 Hz display that looks amazing, the same 48MP wide and 50MP ultrawide cameras as the OnePlus 9 Pro, and the best processor you can get with an Android device, the Snapdragon 888.

Battery life is another major plus, with the OnePlus 9 lasting for 10 hours and 51 minutes in the Tom’s Guide battery test with the 120 Hz mode enabled. The cameras are much improved over the OnePlus 8T and other OnePlus phones, too, meaning that you can capture vivid scenes with more accurate colors and dynamic range. The lack of a telephoto lens is a bummer, though.

Best of all, the OnePlus 9 starts at $729 for the 8GB/128GB model. That’s a lot of phone for the money and it offers a real challenge to Samsung’s Android crown. But OnePlus' twice-yearly release schedule is coming due for the next entrant, the OnePlus 9T. That could appear in the October timeframe. And although rumors about the upcoming phone are a bit sparse right now, we'll probably hear a lot about it from OnePlus in the weeks leading up to the launch.

Read our full OnePlus 9 review. 

Best Android phones: Moto G Power (2021)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Moto G Power (2021)

The longest-lasting new Android phone

Specifications
Display: 6.6-inch LCD (1600x720)
Android version: 10 with My UX
CPU: Snapdragon 662
RAM: 3GB, 4GB
Storage / Expandable: 32GB, 64GB / Yes
Rear camera: 48MP (ƒ/1.7) main; 2MP (ƒ/2.4) macro; 2MP (ƒ/2.4) depth
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 14:04
Reasons to buy
+All-day battery life+Low price including a sub-$200 model+Attractive design for a budget phone
Reasons to avoid
-Only one Android software update-Ho-hum performance

In recent years, there’s been one phone to turn to when you want the absolute best battery life for an Android phone — the Moto G Power. The 2021 edition of this phone doesn’t make many changes from its predecessor, sticking with the 5,000mAh battery that sets the pace for other phones. The Moto G Power (2021) lasted more than 14 hours on our battery test, roughly 4 hours longer than the average smartphone.

Motorola has made one crucial change with the Moto G Power — its price. While you can still get a version of the phone with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage  for an attractive $249, if you can live with less RAM and storage, the price drops to $199. That’s an incredible price for a device that lasts all day and then some on a single charge.

The Moto G Power (2021) won a Tom's Guide award for the best phone battery life.

Read our full Moto G Power (2021) review.

best android phones: Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

7. Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung's low-cost flagship

Specifications
Display: 6.2-inch OLED (2400x1080; 48 to 120Hz)
Android version: 11
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 12MP main (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 64MP telephoto (ƒ/2.0) with 3x optical zoom
Front camera: 40MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:54
Reasons to buy
+Excellent dynamic 120Hz display+Powerful performance+Refined design
Reasons to avoid
-No charger or microSD card slot-Plastic back

If you’re enticed by some of the features Samsung has introduced in its Galaxy S21 lineup but put off by the thought of $1,000 phones, then the standard Galaxy S21 is the phone for you. You’ll enjoy the dynamic refresh rate, excellent cameras and Snapdragon 888 chipset found in other members of the S21 family, but at a low $799 starting price. That’s $200 less than last year’s Galaxy S20.

Samsung makes some sacrifices to get this lower price, starting with the materials it uses for the phone’s design. But that’s a small consideration when you get a phone this powerful for less than $800. With an excellent zoom lens aided by wonderful software additions, this is also a great phone to get if you want great photos and videos.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

Best Android phones: Pixel 4a 5G

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

8. Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google's best 5G phone

Specifications
Display: 6.2-inch OLED (2340x1080)
Android version: 11
CPU: Snapdragon 730G
RAM: 6GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No
Rear camera: 12MP main (ƒ/1.7 ); 16MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:12
Reasons to buy
+Terrific cameras+Big, colorful display+5G support for $499
Reasons to avoid
-Verizon version costs more-Subpar battery life

If you want a 5G phone from Google, you don't necessarily have to get the Pixel 5. All of that phone's best features — including 5G connectivity and some of the best performing cameras we've tested — can be found in the Pixel 4a 5G. And this phone costs $200 less than Google's flagship.

You give up some build quality and water resistance by opting for the cheaper 5G option, and the Pixel 4a 5G doesn't have a fast-refreshing screen. But it is the largest display among Google's recent releases, and the 6.2-inch OLED panel is plenty colorful.

It's the cameras that ultimately are the reason to pick up a Pixel, and the Pixel 4a 5G can match the Pixel 5 shot for shot. (Not surprising since they use the same hardware and support the same features.) The Pixel 4a 5G gives you an affordable way to get started with the 5G future.

Read our full Pixel 4a 5G review.

best android phones: asus rog phone 5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

9. Asus ROG Phone 5

The ultimate gaming smartphone

Specifications
Display Size: 6.78-inch AMOLED (2448 x 1080); 60 - 144Hz
Android version: 11 with ZenUI
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB, 12GB, 16GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 64MP ultrawide (f/1.8), 13MP ultrawide (f/2.4), 5MP macro (f/2.0)
Front camera: 24MP (f/2.45)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 12:23 (60Hz) / 10:53 (120Hz) / 10:27 (144Hz)
Reasons to buy
+Superb performance+Beautiful AMOLED display with 144Hz refresh rate+Excellent battery life+Powerful front-facing speakers
Reasons to avoid
-Disappointing night mode

Asus launched the latest version of its gaming phone, the ROG Phone 5, in March. It's a huge phone with an equally large 6,000 mAh battery, a 6.78-inch AMOLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate, incredible front-facing speakers, two USB-C ports, and a whole host of software goodies to make sure you have the ultimate mobile gaming experience.

With the ROG Phone 5, you get uncompromising power with up to 16GB of RAM and the best Android processor yet, the Snapdragon 888. Everything about this phone is designed for gaming, even right down to the SoC placement and the split battery for faster 65W charging. If you want more, there's the ROG Phone 5 Pro with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, or the limited edition ROG Phone 5 Ultimate with a whopping 18GB of RAM.

A US launch is happening later this year, but the phone will be limited to GSM networks and sub-6GHz 5G. Where the ROG Phone 5 falters is its camera performance, especially its night mode. You won't be amazed by the photos it takes, but we expect you want this phone for its gaming prowess. Rest assured, it delivers on that front.

The ROG Phone 5 won two highly recommended awards from Tom's Guide.

Read our full ROG Phone 5 review.

best android phones: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

(Image credit: Future)

10. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The best Android phone that's also foldable

Specifications
Display: 7.6-inch OLED (2208x1768) main; 6.2-inch OLED (2260x816) cover
Android Version: 10 with OneUI 2.5
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM: 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 256GB / No
Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 12MP telephoto (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2) cover; 10MP (ƒ/2.2) main display
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:10
Reasons to buy
+Bigger cover display+Flex mode adds versatility+Improved multitasking+More durable design
Reasons to avoid
-Quite expensive

It didn’t look good for foldable phones at the outset, with the original Galaxy Fold offering a futuristic concept of mobile computing in a seriously flawed and damage-prone package. But then Samsung went back to the drawing board, refining its original design to produce the Galaxy Z Fold 2 — a device that rights its predecessors flaws, while adding some useful new features.

One of those useful additions is Flex Mode, which leverages the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s free-stop hinge to allow the device to stay in place at any position, while showing custom, split-screen controls for relevant apps, like video chatting software. But the Z Fold 2 nails the basics as well, thanks to a greatly-expanded exterior cover display that lacks the eyesore bezels on the original model, as well as a larger interior panel shrouded in Samsung’s Ultra-Thin Glass, making it more durable and pleasant to the touch.

All this innovation comes at a price of course — $1,999, to be precise. But then there’s no Android phone that can do what the Galaxy Z Fold 2 does, perched perfectly between phone and tablet.

We're just a short bit away from the launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 (and Z Flip 3). Rumors are heating up about the Z Fold 2's successor, including S Pen support, better glass, and an under-display selfie cam all at a supposedly lower price than the Fold 2 launched at.

Samsung has announced the next Unpacked event for August 11, with pre-orders for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 live now.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 won the best foldable phone award from Tom's Guide.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review.

How to choose the best Android phone for you

The first place to start when shopping for the best Android phone for you is your budget. And there are essentially a few tiers, The cheapest Android phones cost under $200 and offer mostly the basics for using apps, taking pictures and staying connected. 

As you move up to under $400, you'll find more compelling handsets, touting better processors, higher-grade materials and more camera lenses. Progress into the $700-and-up range, and the best phones offer flagship-caliber performance along with cutting-edge computational photography and special features.

The most premium Android phones offer foldable designs, but in general we don't feel like these types of devices are worth the splurge yet — save, perhaps, for the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, which rights the Galaxy Fold's design quirks and isn't egregiously expensive (for a foldable, anyway) at $1,380.

How we test smartphones

Every smartphone Tom’s Guide evaluates is tested for several days in real-world use cases and benchmarked with a gamut of performance-measuring apps. In terms of performance, we used Geekbench 5 to measure overall speed and 3DMark to measure graphics performance.

We also use our own video editing test in the Adobe Premiere Rush app to see how long it takes to transcode a clip, which we run on both Android phones and iPhone to compare performance.

We use a light meter to ascertain display quality data, like brightness and color accuracy, and our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by continuously loading live webpages over a 4G or 5G network. We set each phone to 150 nits of screen brightness and try to use T-Mobile's network each time in order to achieve comparable results across phones.

Lastly, we explore the software, test gaming performance and conduct live camera comparisons with rival handsets — and each of these factors play a part in our comprehensive verdict.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. It's hard to nail down one thing that Jordan is passionate about, since his attention span for a single given topic or activity doesn't last long. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter: @jccpalmer — his Instagram feed is mostly photos of his cat.

  • Drewtiger13
    admin said:
    Whether it’s a long-lasting battery you need or a headphone jack, there’s bound to be an Android phone that will satisfy your needs. Here are our favorites.

    The 10 Best Android Phones : Read more
    i'll say they should satisfy! has anyone else noticed that most of these phones have significantly more RAM than your average computer !?!?
    Reply
  • rgd1101
    Drewtiger13 said:
    significantly
    not that I see. one at 16, some at 12, 8. well you are looking at the "best" phone, not budget

    unless you getting cheap computer. 8 is min for daily stuff, 16 min for gaming
    Reply
  • Markyballer
    Hi, the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 4a 5G have different chipset . For this reason I would choose the 5g version and put it on 2nd place.
    Reply