There are loads of smartphones out there on the market today, and we here at Android Authority endeavor to cover them all. But what about the phones we actually use every day as our daily drivers? After all, it’s one thing to review a phone and call it one of the best you can buy, but another thing entirely to use one as your primary device.
We did a Team AA daily driver poll back in 2018, as well as another one last year. With some great phones already released this year, we thought now is as good a time as any to do a 2021 edition of this poll to see how things have changed in the last twelve months.
21 Team AA members from around the world contributed to these results, while also giving their daily drivers a score out of 10 and letting us know what they liked/disliked about them.
What phones do Android Authority team members use? Let’s find out!
We’ve charted the results by phone model as well as by phone brand. We’ll go into the details further down this article, but you can check out the raw numbers below:
It’s a Samsung party up in here
Last year’s poll saw Samsung leading the pack by a very narrow margin over Google’s phones, but the South Korean manufacturer has extended this gap in 2021. Back in 2020, almost a quarter of all Team AA members were using a Samsung device as their daily driver, followed by 21% of members with a Google device. Now, a third of all members are using a Samsung phone.
Breaking it down by model, the Galaxy S20 (two) and Galaxy S10 Plus (two) were the only phones that had more than one Team AA member using them. Otherwise, no other phone model appeared twice in our poll.
Samsung owners generally praised the cameras, performance, battery life, and size (both big and small models). One standout complaint regarding Samsung phones came from social and SEO expert Luka Mlinar and his Exynos Samsung Galaxy S20:
“You would expect a €1,000+ phone to run COD Mobile without stuttering, and yet it doesn’t.”
Almost a quarter of polled Android Authority members (five) use a Google Pixel phone as their daily driver, and praise generally went towards the camera, phone size, and the software experience. Complaints were leveled against the Pixel 5‘s aging main camera sensor though, while Sam Moore — editor at our sister site SoundGuys — lamented the lack of an IP rating and wireless charging on the Pixel 4a.
Rounding out the top three brands was OnePlus, with four AA members reporting that they use a OnePlus device as their daily driver. Interestingly enough, it also earned the highest average rating among the top three manufacturers (8.75/10 versus 8.1/10 for Samsung and 8/10 for Google).
Deals Editor Matt Horne also gave his OnePlus 8 full marks — the only perfect score this time out. Matt said he liked everything about the phone, noting it was his first device with an in-display fingerprint sensor and that he also liked the design. But he acknowledged that the praise could also be due to his previous phones not being up to scratch.
Apple Authority strikes again
Believe it or not, but two members of our team use iPhones as daily drivers. Resident reviewer Eric Zeman and Audio Editor Lily Katz chose the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini, respectively.
Eric cited the camera, battery life, performance, and app selection for picking the iPhone. Meanwhile, Lily preferred the Mini model as she says she has small hands, carries a charger around, and doesn’t actively use her phone very often anyway.
The iPhone owners do have a few criticisms though, with Eric decrying the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s size, the notch, and the lack of a high refresh rate. Lily also criticized the iPhone 12 Mini for the lack of a 3.5mm port and camera lens flare.
Three outlier picks
Starting with Huawei, I’m still using the Mate 20 Pro as my daily driver. It’s still fast enough for my needs, the cameras are pretty versatile, I can get over a day out of the battery, and the fast charging is still pretty handy. However, it definitely feels like battery degradation has set in, and the lack of a high refresh rate screen and 4K at 60fps recording is a little disappointing when compared to more recent devices.
Meanwhile, Executive Editor Kris Carlon is going with a rather unusual pick in the LG Wing. He reckons the T-shaped phone is LG “at its quirky best”:
“It’s far from perfect but it’s one of the most interesting phones I’ve used in years. The use cases are definitely pretty niche but once you find the ones that work for you they feel oddly indispensable. It’s also a pretty solid ‘regular phone.'”
It’s not all good though, as Kris dislikes the Wing’s software. Nevertheless, he admits it was better than he first expected.
There was only one Xiaomi phone being used as a daily driver in this poll, and that’s Gary Sims’ Mi 9T Pro. He praised the performance, amount of storage (128GB), in-display fingerprint sensor, and MIUI updates. But he also had special praise for the battery, noting that he seldom went to bed with less than 50% juice. However, Gary did lament the front-facing camera as being too wide, saying it distorts selfies as a result.
- Only one Team AA member said they wouldn’t recommend their phone to readers, and that’s Managing Editor Ollie Cragg and his Pixel 4 XL. He hates the 64GB of fixed storage and called the phone’s battery atrocious. In the case of the latter, he said it barely gets him to 6PM right now. He still gave it a high rating of 8/10, though. That’s a complicated love-hate relationship right there.
- There was a large amount of carry-over from last year’s poll, with eight models seeing a return in 2021. These were the Google Pixel 4 XL, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, OnePlus 7, OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 7T Pro, and Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro.
- There’s only one Huawei phone on this list, compared to five members toting a Huawei device a year ago. The lack of Google Mobile Services suggests that many Team AA members are steering clear of the Chinese brand’s phones for now. I know I’d upgrade to a Mate 40 Pro in a heartbeat if it had Google support.
- This is our first daily drivers poll that features an all-OLED lineup, as the 2020 poll included LCD-toting phones like the Huawei P20, Huawei Mate 9, and older, cheaper iPhones. And with even mid-rangers getting high refresh rate OLED screens in 2021, we’re guessing this trend will continue next year.
- Just under 24% of our daily drivers offered 3.5mm ports. These were the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 4a, Mi 9T Pro, and Galaxy S10 Plus. That lines up with last year’s poll, for better or worse.
- Only one phone (Pixel 4 XL) packed a traditional forehead, while three offered a pop-up selfie camera. The rest have a notch or punch-hole cutout.
- The average battery size works out to 3,861mAh, with the iPhone 12 Mini and Google Pixel 4a bringing that average down big time.
- The oldest phone on the list is the Mate 20 Pro, released in late 2018. I think it’s time for me to get an upgrade…
- Only six phones out of the 21 picks (28.5%) were made by Chinese brands. Meanwhile, South Korean brands accounted for eight picks (38.1%), while US brands accounted for seven devices (33.3%).
- Oppo was ranked fifth for shipments in 2020, according to Counterpoint Research, but it’s missing completely in this year’s poll. It isn’t the only top 10 global player missing in this poll though, as Vivo (ranked sixth), Realme (seventh), and Lenovo/Motorola (eighth) were all absent.
Our next phones
We also asked the team if there were any announced or rumored phones they had their eyes on next, and by far the biggest option was “nothing.” Seven team members were happy enough with their current phones that they had no intention of upgrading anytime soon — up from five a year ago.
In terms of the most popular brand, five team members said they wanted to upgrade to a Samsung phone. Two Android Authority members said they wanted a 2021 Samsung foldable while three others wanted the Galaxy S21, Galaxy Note 21, and Galaxy S22. The second-most popular manufacturer was Google, as two team members were eyeing the Pixel 6 and one was considering the Pixel 5a.
We also saw two brands make the cut that didn’t appear in our daily driver poll, as Kris chose the Asus ROG Phone 5 and Ollie chose the Oppo Find X3 Pro. Finally, we also saw two picks that weren’t actually brand-specific, as newsletter editor Tristan Rayner simply wanted a Snapdragon 888-powered phone while accessories guru Ankit Banerjee is simply eyeing a phone with an under-display selfie camera.
What’s your daily driver right now? Do you have any likes or dislikes to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.