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The best Android phones in 2021

Included in this guide:

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

The best Android phones comes in all shapes, sizes, and price points. Whether you're wanting to spend very little 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 $450 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.

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 5a, 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 5a. Its camera comes straight out of Google's premium Pixels, and its excellent display and quality design make it a steal for $449. It also has the added 5G benefit, too.  Stay tuned for our full reviews of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro now that those phones have been announced to find out if they rank among the best Android 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 3 is the best foldable phone Samsung has built yet, even if its $1,799 price makes it one of the priciest phones on this list.

The best Android phones you can buy today

the galaxy s21 ultra is the best android phone you can buy

(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 5a may be a better bargain, but the S21 Ultra leaves no premium feature unexplored (except the microSD card slot, RIP).

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 other 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: 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 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. 

the google pixel 5a is the best cheap android phone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Google Pixel 5a

The best Android experience under $500

Specifications
Display: 6.43-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
Android version: 11
CPU: Snapdragon 765G
RAM: 6GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No
Rear cameras: 12.2MP (f/1.7), 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
Front camera: 8MP (f/2.0)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:45
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cameras+Bright OLED display+128GB of storage
Reasons to avoid
-Older chipset-Limited to US and Japan

The Google Pixel 5a is one of the best Android phones because of its price, its cameras, and its software experience. Google really nailed it with the 5a, offering the biggest battery ever in a Pixel. The 5a is also quite larger than its predecessor, with a big and bright 6.43-inch OLED display.

While the $100 price hike over the Pixel 4a might sting a little, the Pixel 5a is nonetheless a solid phone for the money, coming in at $50 cheaper than last year’s Pixel 4a 5G. The Snapdragon 765G in the Pixel 5a is the same processor you’ll find in the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G and it helps the 5a power through any task you can throw at it. The 765G is, however, old at this point — it’s possible that Qualcomm either gave Google a good deal, or only had 765G chips to spare due to the chip shortage. 

The Pixel 4a last year was a great phone, but the 5a is even better. With stronger battery life, more horsepower, and a second ultrawide camera, the 5a is definitely the best Android phone under $500.

We'll soon review the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google's flagship phones which sport a new Tensor processor that promises more software-powered camera features and better voice-powered capabilities. We'll find out where those phones rank on this list very shortly.

Read our full Google Pixel 5a review.

the samsung galaxy note 20 ultra is still an amazing android phone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

A year old and still really good

Specifications
Display: 6.9-inch AMOLED (3088x1440)
Android version: 11 with Samsung One UI 3.1
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 (without going the foldable route). 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 one of the best displays on a phone we've ever seen, 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, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has officially replaced it. If you want a top-tier stylus experience in 2021, you'll need to spring for a Galaxy S21 Ultra or Fold 3.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.

the oneplus 9 is a powerful and affordable member of the best android phones

(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. And with the OnePlus 9T officially canceled, the OnePlus 9 is your best bet for an affordable OnePlus flagship.

Read our full OnePlus 9 review. 

the moto g power 2021 lasts longer than any of the best android phones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Moto G Power (2021)

The longest-lasting Android phone

Specifications
Display: 6.6-inch LCD (1600 x 720)
Android version: 11 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.

the galaxy s21 is a powerful device and one of the best android phones

(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 with One UI 3.1
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. 

Be sure to read our Google Pixel 5a vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 comparison if you're having trouble deciding between these two excellent and affordable phones.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

the asus rog phone 5 is the gaming champ for the best android phones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

8. 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.

The phone is 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.

the samsung galaxy a32 5g is the most affordable 5g option among the best android phones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

9. Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

Specifications
Display Size: 6.5-inch LCD (1600 x 720); 90Hz
Android version: 11 with OneUI 3.1
CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 720
RAM: 4GB
Storage / Expandable: 64GB / Yes
Rear camera: 68MP (f/1.8) main, 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 5MP (f/2.4) macro, 2MP (f/2.34) depth
Front camera: 13MP (f/2.2)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:39 (adaptive), 12:22 (60hz)
Reasons to buy
+Long-lasting battery+Inexpensive 5G device+Four years of security patches
Reasons to avoid
-Subpar performance-Middling display with so-so brightness

Phones that work with 5G networks no longer require four-figure outlays. Prices have dropped dramatically in the past year, and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is proof of that. For $279, you'll get a 5G-capable phone that's less expensive than even Google's affordable Pixel 5a.

You'll make some compromises for that lower price — the MediaTek Dimensity 720 that powers the phone isn't the most powerful chipset we've come across — but not as many sacrifices as you might think. For starters, the Galaxy A32 5G screen has a 90Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling. And its battery lasts a very long time, even when you have the faster rate enabled.

Samsung also promises four years of security patches so you can wring every last penny out of the Galaxy A32. That makes this Android phone an even better value.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review.

the samsung galaxy z fold is the most premium option in the best android phones

(Image credit: Future)

10. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

The best Android phone that's also foldable

Specifications
Display: 7.6-inch OLED (2208x1768) main; 6.2-inch OLED (2268 x 832) cover
Android Version: 11 with OneUI 3.1
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 256GB, 512GB / 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; 4MP (ƒ/1.8) under display
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 7:52 (60Hz); 6:35 (120Hz)
Reasons to buy
+More durable, water resistant design+Dual 120Hz displays+Improved multitasking
Reasons to avoid
-Still expensive-S Pen isn't included-Disappointing battery life

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best foldable phone Samsung has ever built, improving upon the Galaxy Z Fold 2 that came before it. Both displays on this new model now refresh at 120Hz for smoother scrolling, and Samsung has made the phone more durable overall. S Pen support brings added functionality, though the S Pen is an optional accessory that you'll have to pay extra to add.

Samsung's latest foldable takes a step back in terms of battery life, possibly because of that faster refresh rate, and the cameras haven't changed from last year's model. But there's a faster processor and better app support for the foldable screen. The debut price is $200 lower, too, at $1,799, though for a cheaper foldable phone, try Samsung's $999 Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 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 $450, 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. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the most fully-featured of these phones, but the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and its sub-$1,000 price make it the more appealing option.

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.

  • 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