The competition among the best Android phones is pretty fierce. But having plenty of choices is one of the best things about the Android market, as you can prioritize the features on a phone that matter most to you.
Those on a tight 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. For now, 5G remains a mostly premium feature, but more affordable 5G Android phones with faster download speeds are steadily arriving from the likes of Samsung, TCL and Motorola.
Read on to find the best Android phone for your needs and budget.
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 none other 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.
If you're on the hunt for a more premium Android experience, though, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is our new pick, though options like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra also impress. Just be prepared to part with more than $1,000 for these full-featured phones.
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
You might be surprised to find Google's midrange Pixel, the Pixel 4a, at the top of 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 newly-announced 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.
Be aware that Google has announced the Pixel 4a 5G, which starts at $499. It's a 5G version of the Pixel 4a that actually shares a lot of features with the flagship Pixel 5 device, such as two rear cameras and a faster processor. If you can wait for the Pixel 4a 5G's mid-November release, you may find it a better value.
Read our full Google Pixel 4a review
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.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.
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.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.
The OnePlus 8 Pro may seem like a departure from previous OnePlus handsets. After all, at $899, this is one of the most expensive phones OnePlus has ever made. But the OnePlus 8 Pro is the best flagship Android phone because it packs as many high-end features as possible for an incomparable value.
In the case of the OnePlus 8 Pro, those features include a 120Hz refresh rate for its 6.78-inch OLED screen and a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 CPU. The OnePlus 8 Pro is the first OnePlus device to support wireless charging, and in the grand tradition of OnePlus pushing the battery envelope, its wireless charging standard is actually faster than many wired options.
You won’t get the best camera phone with the OnePlus 8 Pro — the Galaxy S20 Plus' photography is a bit better across the board. However, the OnePlus 8 Pro's four rear lenses can produce some impressive shots that measure up respectably against industry leaders. And while that $899 price may be lofty by OnePlus’ standards, it’s still $100 less than the least expensive Galaxy S20 model, not to mention $300 less than the S20 Plus.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review.
The $999 Galaxy Note 20 is an interesting proposition. It's actually $200 cheaper than Samsung's Galaxy S20 Plus and $300 cheaper than the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and for that you lose a couple noteworthy features. The regular Note 20 has a 6.7-inch AMOLED display, but no 120Hz fast refresh rate. It has a triple-lens rear camera, but no 108MP main sensor or 5x folded optical zoom lens.
However, you still get a lot for what you'll spend on the Note 20, including a powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, Samsung's signature S Pen with new air gestures for navigation and very useful note-taking enhancements, cameras that still take fantastic pictures (even if they're a shade behind what the Note 20 Ultra can pull off) and support for wireless DeX projection to TVs and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate streaming. The Note 20 can really do it all, so long as you're willing to part with some buzzwordy features you may not necessarily need to begin with.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review.
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 5,000 mAh 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.
Read our full Moto G Power (2021) review.
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.
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.
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.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review.
When someone says that you can't get a good 5G phone for less than $400, show them the TCL 10 5G UW. This Verizon-exclusive is powered by a Snapdragon 765G chipset, so it matches the performance of phones that cost hundreds more. More impressively, TCL's phone lasts a long time on a charge, holding out for more than 11 hours on our battery test.
You will have to make some sacrifices for a low price tag. We found the screen a bit dim, though it does feature excellent colors. And the cameras on the TCL 10 5G won't threaten the best camera phones, though they produce pretty good shots for the price. The TCL 10 5G UW could face some competition when the OnePlus Nord N10 5G hits the U.S. with a low price of its own, but for now, TCL's handset is the cheap 5G phone to beat.
Read our full TCL 10 5G UW 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.