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What's the best Android phone? We tested hundreds, here are our top 9
Choosing the best Android phone can seem overwhelming with so many choices, but ultimately it comes down to a few simple questions:
- How far can you stretch your budget?
- How important are cameras to you?
- Will you play games or run demanding mobile apps?
- What’s your preference when it comes to size and form factor? Smaller? Larger? Folding?
Once you know what’s important to you, the list narrows down considerably. If you’re not too familiar with smartphone tech, check out our detailed buyer’s guide for more info. If you’re feeling comfortable and confident, check out our top picks below. We’ve tested and reviewed hundreds of devices and picked out the best Android phones you can buy in 2023, starting with a device we think everyone will love.
The best Android phone for most people is the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus
For most people, we think the best Android phone you can buy is the Galaxy S23 Plus. In fact, it replaces last year’s Galaxy S22 Plus (which is still a great buy in 2023) at the top of our list. It’s not as flashy as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it gets nearly all the way there for significantly less money.
Design-wise, it’s very similar to its predecessor — and that’s a good thing. We found the flat, 6.6-inch AMOLED with perfectly symmetrical bezels to look even more elegant than the S23 Ultra in person. By comparison, we found it much more comfortable to hold than the S23 Ultra, and despite the large screen, it’s just below the two-hand threshold for most people. It also helps that the back of the phone is covered with a special glass texture that doesn’t feel like glass. It’s smooth, but repels oils and isn’t as slippery as glossy finishes on phones like the Pixel 7.
As expected from a Samsung flagship, the performance is absolutely stellar. There’s no Exynos model this time around, with Samsung teaming up with Qualcomm to create a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 “for Galaxy” chipset variant for each of the three phones that slightly overclocks the CPU and GPU. In our benchmarking tests, they did indeed perform slightly better than other Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones. Check out our full Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy deep dive for more, but suffice it to say that this is one of the fastest and most capable phones you can buy. It’s a considerable upgrade from last year’s Galaxy flagships, although we would have liked to have seen an SKU with 12GB of RAM, which is exclusive to the S23 Ultra this time around.
Battery life was also stellar in our testing, thanks in part to the slightly larger 4,700mAh cell. We found that it could easily handle a full day of heavy use, streaming video for hours and hours. With a few precautions, it even neared the two-day mark on some occasions. Charging tops off at 45W, which isn’t the fastest but should be enough for most people. We found that it charged from 0 to 100% in exactly an hour. It also supports wireless charging at 15W, but unless you buy Samsung’s wireless chargers, most will top off at 10W via Qi charging. Learn more about the best Galaxy S23 chargers in our guide.
If you want a premium smartphone that can do it all, the Galaxy S23 Plus is the one to get.
Although the Galaxy S23 Plus doesn’t quite match the Galaxy S23 Ultra in camera performance, it’s certainly a capable shooter. It has the same sensors as the previous model, and they still produce spectacular photos. Samsung’s processing really enhances photos in this case, and we found that all three lenses were useful, making this one of the best all-around camera phones you can buy. If you want to take things further, Samsung’s Expert Raw mode allows you to process photos manually. That said, it didn’t get the 200MP main shooter that the Galaxy S23 Ultra got this year, so low-light performance was noticeably worse in our testing.
In terms of software, Samsung’s One UI is one of the most fully-featured Android skins you can get. It has everything and the kitchen sink — almost to its detriment. We found far too many preinstalled apps during our testing, and although most can be uninstalled, many cannot. Despite this slight feature creep, there’s a lot you can do to make your phone look and work exactly as you want it to. It also has exceptional synergy with Samsung’s wearables like the Galaxy Watch 5, with some features being exclusive to Samsung phones.
Another big selling point is Samsung’s unbeatable software support, which now offers a full five years of security updates and four years of Android version updates. No Android brand can match that, not even Google itself. If you’re looking for a premium smartphone that can do it all without pushing past $1,000 MSRP, the Galaxy S23 Plus is the one to get.
What makes it stand out
- Versatile cameras: All three of the S23 Plus’ cameras are high performers, capable of snapping great pictures in a huge variety of situations.
- Premium design: Samsung is the king of the Android world, and the S23 Plus pulls out (almost) all the stops.
- Flawless performance: Expect no stutters or slowdown — no matter what you throw at this phone.
- Gorgeous display: The flat screen is perfectly visible in extreme brightness and extreme darkness, handily beating the competition.
- Software support: Samsung’s unparalleled commitment to updates ensures four years of software updates and five years of security updates.
The best of the rest
While we think the Galaxy S23 Plus is the best Android phone for most people, there are plenty of other great options out there. If you’re looking for something a bit more niche, here are our picks for the best of the rest:
- Google Pixel 7: For a great Android phone on a tighter budget, the Pixel 7 is an incredible value. Instead of specs, it focuses on what makes smartphones great: cameras and fantastic software features.
- Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: The true successor to the Note 20 Ultra, the S23 Ultra is the most feature-packed and premium smartphone you can buy outside of foldable.
- ASUS ROG Phone 7: For mobile gamers, the ROG Phone 7 offers everything you could possibly need and then some, including hardware triggers and a robust ecosystem of accessories.
- Google Pixel 7 Pro: The Pixel 7 Pro is larger and has better cameras than the Pixel 7, while still remaining more affordable than the vast majority of flagship Android phones out there.
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: As far as foldables go, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the easiest to recommend. Its pocketable size and attractive design make it a great pick for most people, and after a few iterations of polish, there are now very few tradeoffs for the Flip’s clamshell-style foldable form factor.
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5: If you have money to burn, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the most premium device you can buy. It folds out into a tablet and supports an S Pen, making it a unique experience in the Android phone world.
- ASUS Zenfone 10: If you want a small Android flagship, the Zenfone 10 is the best by far. It’s ready for one-handed use and doesn’t make any compromises in terms of battery life or performance.
- Google Pixel 7a: Not everyone can afford to spend more than $800 on a phone, which is where this budget option comes in. It’s slightly cheaper than the Pixel 7, but it still offers nearly the same experience.
The best value Android phone is the Google Pixel 7
It should come as no surprise to see Google make the list of the best Android phones, but the Google Pixel 7 is in a really unique spot. It’s not quite as premium as the Galaxy S23 Plus above, but it hits all the key points while maintaining a price and value that’s unmatched by any other device. You won’t find a better phone for this price without dipping into Apple’s devices, and even then, there are some major tradeoffs. It took second place in our Editor’s Choice awards for 2022, only trailing its larger sibling, the Pixel 7 Pro.
The Pixel 7 launched with the second iteration of Google’s in-house Tensor chip, which we’re happy to report is another winner for the company. It’s focused on machine learning and image processing rather than raw power, but in our testing, we found it to perform just fine in daily tasks. We experienced no hiccups while scrolling or playing demanding games, but it did heat up quickly. That means that sustained performance and battery life take a hit.
Speaking of battery life, the Pixel 7 fared very well, and depending on your use, you might be able to hit two full days on a single charge. However, charging is painfully slow, taking an hour and 41 minutes to top off in our testing. We also noticed that the battery drains quickly while shooting pictures and video, especially using the new Cinematic mode. There’s also no charger in the box, which is, unfortunately, par for the course for new phone releases. Software is once again a huge plus, with a near-stock experience and tons of Pixel-exclusive features on offer. That list will only grow as time goes on.
Like all Pixel phones, the Pixel 7 places a special focus on photography while keeping things as simple as possible. After extensive testing, we’re convinced this is one of the best camera phones you can buy. Exposure, colors, and detail were all excellent in a wide range of scenarios, although very low-light photos were a bit grainy. There’s also no telephoto lens — you’ll need the Pixel 7 Pro for that.
Ultimately, the Pixel 7 isn’t a big change from the Pixel 6, but in this case, that’s a good thing. There are minor improvements and fixes throughout (the fingerprint sensor being a big one), and it retains the very attractive $599 price point. That makes it one of the cheapest options on our list of the best Android phones, and you’re not sacrificing a thing. If you want to get a similar experience for less, scroll down to learn more about the Google Pixel 7a.
What makes it stand out
- Value: Google priced the Pixel 7 very competitively, and the only phones that compete on price are other Pixel phones.
- Excellent photos: The Pixel 7 is a great point-and-shoot camera, mostly thanks to the continued focus on image processing.
- Software smarts: Clever Pixel features like Magic Eraser and AI call screening continue to grow and improve over time.
The best premium Android phone is the Galaxy S23 Ultra
The Pixel 7 might offer the best value, but if you want all the bells and whistles, we recommend the Galaxy S23 Ultra. It combines the best of the Galaxy S series with the best of the now-defunct Note series into the ultimate power user’s phone, though you certainly have to pay for it.
Starting with the physical aspects of the phone, the landmark feature here is the S Pen. It’s a big part of what made the Note series a power user’s dream, and it tucks away inside the body of the device for easy storage. We were also happy to discover that the S Pen has a grippy texture, making it easy to hold while navigating, writing, or doing anything else the stylus can do. Since it’s included in the phone, the end also matches your chosen colorway, giving it a nice, seamless look.
Make no mistake about it, this is a very large device. The dynamic AMOLED display is a whopping 6.8 inches, which for us was simply too large to use with one hand. If you’re coming from a smaller phone, the waterfall edges and sharp corners at the top and bottom of the device will take some getting used to. That said, Samsung has made the edges a bit flatter this time around, which we found to make it much more comfortable to hold. The screen itself, though, is gorgeous. It’s one of the brightest and sharpest screens we’ve ever tested, and changing the resolution or refresh rate is an easy way to eke out more battery life in a pinch. The refresh rate can shift all the way from 1Hz to 120Hz, which few other devices can match.
As far as performance goes, you can expect the Galaxy S23 Ultra to perform absolutely flawlessly in everyday use. As mentioned above, the custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset used in the S23 lineup is the best that’s currently out there, and when paired with the 12GB of RAM on the top-end model, this thing is a beast. It also sports an impressive connectivity suite, with support for all of the latest and greatest standards like Wi-Fi 6E, mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G, and ultra-wideband for things like Bluetooth trackers (such as Samsung’s own Galaxy SmartTags). The base model was also bumped up to 256GB of storage (with 8GB of RAM), although we’d still recommend getting the 512GB version with 12GB of RAM, which is more appropriate for a phone at this price.
While aesthetically the Galaxy S23 Ultra is nearly identical to the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the new model features a 200MP main sensor that uses Samsung’s Isocell HP2 sensor. Of course, final images are pixel-binned down to 12.5MP by default, but you still have the option to manually edit them in Expert Raw mode. In our testing, we consistently got great results out of the main shooter, which preserved excellent detail and performed much better in low-light scenarios. Samsung does still punch up the reds and greens a bit more than we like, but there’s no denying that this is the best camera phone you can currently buy. The other three sensors on the Galaxy S23 (10MP 3x, 10MP 10x, and 12MP wide-angle sensors), are identical to those found on its predecessors and still deliver fantastic results. The zoom performance is head and shoulders above anything else we’ve tested, although you probably won’t ever actually need or want 100x zoom in real life.
Ultimately, whether or not this phone is for you will likely depend on your budget. It starts at $1200, but what you’re getting is one of the absolute best Android phones on the market. Thankfully, this year the base model features 256GB of storage, but as mentioned above, we’d still recommend getting the 512GB/12GB version for the RAM boost. It’s slightly overkill for the amount of RAM you really need on a phone, but it will help future-proof the device just a little bit more.
What makes it stand out
- Impressive design: The S23 Ultra is one of the most feature-packed, premium devices on the market.
- Perfect performance: This phone pulls out all the stops, with custom silicon built just for Samsung.
- The best camera in the biz: A versatile four-camera setup provides the best shooting experience you’ll find in the mobile world.
The ROG Phone 7 is the best Android phone for gaming
Phones marketed at gamers have always had some glaring omissions or unusual design choices, but the ROG Phone 7 is a welcome exception. Not only is it the best gaming phone you can buy, but it also does away with most of the typical pitfalls of niche gaming devices.
Starting with the gaming features, the big thing here is the inclusion of hardware shoulder buttons called Airtriggers. These reside where your pointer fingers rest while holding the device in landscape, providing a similar experience to using triggers on a console controller. We didn’t find them quite as satisfying to use as real triggers, though, because they don’t click down. Instead, they use an ultrasonic sensor with no moving parts. Thankfully, the phone does provide some haptic feedback, and the optional AeroActive Cooler 7 accessory features built-in triggers in addition to a fan, subwoofer, and passthrough headphone jack.
As a gaming device, you’d also expect power, and the ROG Phone 7 delivers. It features a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset but managed to eke out better performance than its competitors in our head-to-head benchmark tests. In fact, the ROG Phone 7 topped the charts, beating out more expensive devices like the Galaxy S23 Ultra. This is due to two things: improved heat dissipation and the “X-Mode” performance toggle in ASUS’ Armoury Crate software package. Needless to say, this phone flew threw demanding games like Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile, maintaining 60fps at the highest settings, even without the cooler attached.
How does the phone fare apart from gaming performance? Quite well. It has a bright, bespoke 165Hz AMOLED display with speedy touch sampling (720Hz) for the fastest response times possible. The build quality isn’t quite as premium as other phones in this price bracket, but we thought it still felt great in the hand, if a bit heavy. Aesthetics are decidedly “gamer,” but if your home PC is already RGB’d up, you’ll probably be into it.
Camera performance is just fine, but no one is buying this phone for the camera. Battery life, on the other hand, is stellar. We found that the beefy 6,000mAh cell could hit two days of regular use, or, since we know you’re wondering, roughly five hours of demanding gaming at max settings. Oh, and it also includes a powerful 65W charger in the box, which topped off the phone in about 41 minutes in our tests.
There are two versions of this phone: the ROG Phone 7 and the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate. Between the two, we recommend getting the standard version. The Ultimate model adds a few bells and whistles (like a neat, but not very useful screen on the back), but they have no real bearing on performance. You’re better off spending the money on accessories, although it’s worth noting that the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate includes the AeroActive Cooler 7 in the box.
What makes it stand out
- One for the gamers: With tip-top performance and built-in hardware triggers, this is the best gaming phone you can buy.
- Stellar battery life: A massive battery cell will keep this phone chugging for days (or several hours of intense gaming).
- Useful accessories: ASUS created an entire ecosystem of accessories for this phone, from controllers to coolers and more.
The best affordable Android flagship is the Pixel 7 Pro
We’ve already extolled the virtues of the standard Google Pixel 7 above, but now it’s time for the Pixel 7 Pro to get its time in the limelight. It doesn’t offer quite as much value as its smaller sibling, but it has a host of features that you won’t find on any other flagship in this price range. If you want a premium phone and don’t want a Samsung, we think the Pixel 7 Pro is the perfect alternative. In fact, it was voted by our readers as the hottest phone of 2022.
The main thing that makes the Pixel 7 Pro unique, apart from its sizable and gorgeous 6.7-inch display that nearly matches the Galaxy S23 Ultra, is the camera setup. The Pixel 7 Pro bested all of the other options in our 2022 blind camera test, earning the top spot from both readers and Android Authority staff. All of the advantages listed for the regular Pixel 7 still apply here — great detail, excellent color accuracy, and software features like Magic Eraser to further enhance photos in post.
However, the Pixel 7 Pro takes things to the next level with an upgraded ultrawide lens with autofocus and macro focus, plus an additional telephoto lens. This gives the Pixel 7 Pro even more versatility than its smaller cousin, and again results are phenomenal. If we had to nitpick, the only thing we didn’t like was the lack of manual controls, although those are pretty niche on smartphones, anyway.
The Pixel 7 Pro has the same Tensor G2 processor as the Pixel 7, and again it delivers. It won’t win any speed tests, but it more than gets the job done. Battery life is also great, easily lasting a day and a half in our testing. Charging speeds are again lacking, taking more than an hour and a half to reach full charge. Thankfully, Google’s Adaptive Charging mode lets you charge slowly overnight without damaging your battery. This worked well in our testing and should help preserve battery health in the long run.
At the end of the day, the Pixel 7 Pro is easily capable of standing toe-to-toe with the best from Apple and Samsung. The idiot-proof camera performs exactly as you’d want it to, and with a starting price of $899, it undercuts most flagship devices from the competition. The best alternative is the vanilla Pixel 7 listed above, which is almost as good and much less expensive.
What makes it stand out
- Versatile cameras: Google finally achieves a great camera trifecta, with improved resolutions and a telephoto lens to boot.
- Gorgeous screen: Pixel smartphones have favored smaller screens in recent years, but this one goes big. It’s speedy, bright, pixel-rich, and easily competes with the S23 Ultra.
- Software smarts: No other smartphone can boast the breadth of software features found on Pixel smartphones, and the gap will only grow with time.
The best foldable Android phone for most people is the Galaxy Z Flip 5
A few years ago, foldable devices were a very small niche, with far too many caveats to recommend to anyone but ambitious early adopters. Now, this budding category has matured, and for most people, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a killer Android phone to buy.
Granted, the latest model isn’t a huge change over what the company has put out in the past. It’s more of a refinement of what worked from the previous generation. Considering the Z Flip 4 was previously the best and most popular foldable on the market, that’s not a bad thing. The biggest change is the larger 3.4-inch cover screen (which Samsung calls a Flex Window), which is now just about large enough to type responses to text messages on. We found that this small change opened a world of possibilities in daily use.
But the real unique selling points here are the form factor and software. The 6.7-inch foldable AMOLED screen is speedy and bright, and it’s a bit less wide than traditional displays, which makes it easier to use with one hand. The crease is as visible as ever, but your eyes get used to it quickly, trust us. The build quality overall is better than ever, with a revamped hinge design that finally lays flat.
As mentioned above, the cover screen is more useful than ever, allowing you to check the time or notifications without opening the device, which helps save battery life and avoid distractions. The cover screen can also serve as a viewfinder when using the external cameras for selfies, and the resulting photos are much more impressive than the internal cameras.
The phone works pretty much like a normal phone when fully open, but when half open, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. The “Flex mode” panel enables unique features for certain apps like Chrome or Calendar. Our favorite integration is with the camera, which places the shutter button on the bottom half and the viewfinder on the top half. While holding it half open this turns the phone into a kind of camcorder, or on a table it turns the phone into a fun way to take group selfies. Apart from these special features, Samsung’s One UI software is among the best in the business, and its software updates truly are the best in the Android world, as mentioned above.
As you’d expect from a flagship Samsung phone, performance is stellar. The overclocked Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 2 processor is as capable a processor as you’ll find, despite the smaller form factor. Camera performance is also more than good enough for most, although it still isn’t on the same level as the same chipset in Samsung’s traditional flagships in the Galaxy S23 lineup.
At the end of the day, if you’ve ever considered trying a folding device, now is the time to pull the trigger. It’s stylish, performs great, and the clamshell design is just plain cool. It’s also quite affordable, costing less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. If you want to save a little money you can also opt for last year’s Galaxy Z Flip 4, which is remarkably similar, but with a smaller front screen. The closest non-Samsung competitor, the Motorola Razr Plus, falls just a bit short of the Z Flip 5, but it’s still a great buy for anyone looking to try a foldable Android phone.
What makes it stand out
- It flips: As the name suggests, the clamshell design saves a lot of space in your bag or pocket and enables unique features.
- Useful cover display: The main screen is speedy and bright, but the front screen is more useful than ever.
- Good battery life: It’s still not as good as a traditional flagship, but it has the best battery life we’ve ever seen on a small foldable.
The best Android phone for power users is the Galaxy Z Fold 5
While we still think the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the best foldable for most consumers, there is a strong case to be made for the Galaxy Z Fold 5. It’s not quite as convenient (or affordable) as its smaller sibling, but for power users, there’s a lot to like about Samsung’s book-style foldable. Much like the Z Flip 5, it refines a product that was already at the top of its field, providing an even better (and still unparalleled) experience. That said, it’s less of a change from last year’s model than the Z Flip 5, with the main difference being a slightly improved hinge that allows it to close flat.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the powerhouse of traditional phones, but the Z Fold 5 takes things up a notch by unfolding into a bright and sharp 7.6-inch screen. This tablet-like form factor adds a level of productivity you won’t find anywhere else, and combined with an S Pen (which unfortunately isn’t included in the box) and some software features unique to the form factor, this thing is a beast. It’s made for multitasking, and if you’re worried about the crease, don’t be. You’ll hardly notice it after a few days of use.
Although it’s not quite at the same level as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, camera performance was great in our Z Fold 5 review. It shares the same lenses as the Galaxy S23 Plus above, which makes it one of the most capable shooters you can buy. You won’t get the 200MP sensor found on the S23 Ultra, but the Expert Raw mode is more useful with the larger internal screen, since you can see and edit your photos more clearly. Plus, the fact that it’s foldable means that the external cameras can be used as selfie cameras with the device open. This resulted in much better photos in our testing, and unlocks the option to use the ultrawide camera for group selfies. It is a bit awkward to hold though.
Apart from that, it’s flagship performance across the board. We found that even with the larger screen, the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 2 for Galaxy gives the device all the power it needs. Unfortunately, battery life is just mediocre. It struggled to make it through a full day of heavy use on the 4,400mAh battery, and the fact that charging is limited to 25W (while the S23 Ultra hits 45W) adds insult to injury. You will, however, get better results by lowering the refresh rate on the internal screen or by relying more heavily on the external cover screen instead.
And now the worst part: this thing starts at $1,800. That price also doesn’t include an S Pen, which will run you an additional $50 or more. There’s also nowhere to stow the S Pen on the phone itself, so you’ll need a case for that too. Clearly, this is not the device for anyone on a budget, although you can save a bit by opting for the older Galaxy Z Fold 4, which is almost every bit as good as the newest model. There will be a slight gap between the screens when closed, but the software and productivity features are nearly identical.
What makes it stand out
- It folds: The unique design folds out into a be a bright, sharp 7.6-inch tablet panel with a near-square aspect ratio.
- Great cameras: The Z Fold 5 has cameras to match its flagship price, with a versatile set of top performing lenses.
- Marvelous multitasking: Thanks to unique Android 13 features and S Pen support, the Z Fold 5 is a multitasker’s dream device.
The best small Android phone is the ASUS Zenfone 10
Android phones have absolutely ballooned in size in the past five years, but if you’re looking for something that you can still use with one hand, we recommend the ASUS Zenfone 10. It sports a 5.9-inch AMOLED screen, which is smaller than even other compact smartphones like the standard Galaxy S23.
The device is slightly fatter than you might be used to, but this didn’t bother us a bit in our Zenfone 10 review. The extra bulk allows it to pack a larger 4,300mAh battery, which lasts more than a full day under moderate use. The included 30W charger can also top you off fairly quickly, and you have the option for 15W wireless charging, too.
As you would expect from a 2023 flagship, it sports a Qualcomm 8 Gen 2 SoC, and it flies through daily use. Our only complaint was in heat dissipation. Due to its smaller size, it isn’t able to get rid of all that excess heat while under stress, and the device can feel hot after intense gaming or app use. If that’s what your primary use case is, we recommend looking elsewhere, but for normal daily use, it’s a top-tier device.
It’s also worth mentioning that ASUS managed to include a headphone jack, despite the reduced size. The company also included one on the gaming-focused ROG Phone 7 listed above, and it seems that ASUS and Sony are among the few OEMs still committed to making phones with a headphone jack.
Camera performance was great in ideal lighting, and it performed well in low-light scenarios in our testing, too. We were impressed by the six-axis gimbal stabilizer system, which enables super-smooth video footage. That said, this isn’t one of the best camera phones you can buy, so if you want the absolute best, you’ll need to look to the Galaxy S23 or Pixel 7 lineups.
Overall, this is an excellent package for anyone looking for a compact device. It’s also more affordable than some of its flagship competitors, although ASUS isn’t quite as generous with updates. The company has only promised two years of Android version upgrades and four years of security updates.
What makes it stand out
- Compact design: This is the best small Android phone you can buy in 2023.
- Great performance: Expect flagship performance, although heat can be an issue under extreme stress.
- All-day battery: Despite its size, the ASUS Zenfone 10 can easily last a full day of use.
The best affordable Android phone is the Pixel 7a
The mid-range Android phone market is a crowded space, but our favorite budget Android phone is the Google Pixel 7a. It shares many of the same benefits of the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro above, but at a slightly more affordable price. At 6.1 inches, it’s also much easier to use one-handed. It’s one of the smallest Android phones on our list, although there are smaller Android phones out there, like the Zenfone 10 above.
Most of the greatness of the Pixel 7a comes from the Tensor G2 chip, which is closer to flagship performance than most mid-rangers can muster. It has all the same exclusive software features as its pricier siblings, but unfortunately shares the same problem with heat dissipation. Still, it has more than enough power for everyday use, and you can look forward to future Pixel drops adding new features in the years to come.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the Pixel 7a (aside from Pixel UI, which remains one of our favorite near-stock Android experiences) is the camera. This year’s model finally dropped the dated 12MP main shooter in favor of a 64MP sensor, and we got some excellent shots for our Pixel 7a review. Details are better, and colors remain accurate with impressive natural bokeh. The ultrawide camera also got a slight boost, and it remains a fun way to get alternative shots. The Pixel 7a is a great point-and-shoot camera, but you can take things further with unique Pixel features like Night Sight, Magic Eraser, and more, which affordable devices from Samsung and Apple can’t match.
There are some concessions to be made to hit a lower price point, and those are primarily the plastic build and middling battery life. Using the default settings (which lower the refresh rate from 90Hz to 60Hz), we struggled to make it through a full day of moderate use before needing a top-off. The Pixel 7a is finally capable of wireless charging, but wired charging speeds are still pegged at 18W. It took us over two hours to charge to full in testing. In other words, you’ll want to take advantage of adaptive charging and leave this plugged in overnight.
Still, at $500, the value is certainly there. Average users will appreciate how easy the Pixel 7a is to pick up and use, as well as the smaller size. If you want to save a bit of money, the Pixel 6a is still available at a reduced price of $350, which is an even better deal if you don’t mind taking a slight hit to the details in your photos.
What makes it stand out
- Affordability: It isn’t quite a budget device, but for the price, you won’t find anything better.
- Camera performance: As expected from a Pixel device, this is the best camera phone in its price bracket.
- Software smarts: Google’s software magic trickles down to its cheaper devices as well, offering a unique perk.
While we’ve listed the best Android phones we’ve tested above, there are a few more options out there that might better suit your needs. Some are Europe-only, and others are just a bit too niche to earn a top spot on the list. Here are our honorable mentions:
- Galaxy S23 ($799 at Amazon): The standard S23 gets outclassed by its bigger siblings, but if you want a smaller Android phone, it’s still a great pick. It’s nearly as capable as the S23 Plus, but the big tradeoffs are battery life, charging speeds, and base storage.
- OPPO Find X5 Pro ($999 at Amazon): This is probably the most striking smartphone design we’ve ever seen, and it’s not just a pretty face. It’s got great cameras and battery life, but it’s not available in the US.
- Samsung Galaxy A54 5G ($449.99 at Samsung): The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is an all-around excellent mid-range device. It’s overshadowed by Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S series phones, but it’s a great pick for anyone on a budget.
- Nothing Phone 2 ($599.99 at Nothing): Nothing made some big improvements in its sophomore smartphone, and the Glyph on the back is still a big selling point. It’s also officially available in the US, making it a great device for anyone who wants a conversation starter.
- vivo X90 Pro ($885.83 at Amazon): The vivo X90 Pro is a good all-around alternative to phones from Samsung and Google, but it’s not available in the US and comes with excessive software bloat.
- Xiaomi 13 Pro (£1099.99 at Amazon): MIUI is still a bit heavy-handed, but the Xiaomi 13 Pro is a stellar smartphone from top to bottom. There is also the Xiaomi 13 Ultra for even more power, but neither phone is officially available in the US.
- HONOR Magic 5 Pro ($1049.99 at Amazon): HONOR seriously stepped up its game with the Magic 5 Pro, and it can finally go toe-to-toe with Samsung and Apple. If you live in the UK or Europe, that is.
- Sony Xperia 1 IV ($1398 at Amazon): If you want hardware that spares no expense, the Xperia 1 IV is it. We really liked the device in our review, but it’s just too expensive to take one of the top spots. The Xperia 1 V ($1398 at Amazon) is a newer version, but the 1 IV is still a better value considering the fifth-generation phone starts at a whopping $1,400.
What we look for in the best Android phones
Here at Android Authority, we’ve reviewed hundreds of Android phones over the years, but you may have different criteria when selecting the device for you. Here’s a short list of things we consider during our time with each device so you can decide which ones are a priority.
Price and value
Smartphones are now regularly pushing $1,000 or more, but spending more won’t always get you a better device. We look at price in relation to what a phone and its competitors offer, both from a hardware and software perspective. Obviously, in this particular list, we’re looking at the cream of the Android crop so you’ll find mostly flagship devices, but we’ve got a separate list for the best budget Android devices, too.
When we talk about performance, we’re mostly talking about a phone’s processor or system on a chip (SoC). At this point, even mid-range devices are capable of great everyday performance, but the latest Qualcomm powerhouses are necessary for smooth scrolling on speedy, high-resolution screens or getting the best framerates in demanding games. Other options, like Google’s Tensor, focus on machine learning to unlock things like better photo processing and real-time translation. Another thing we consider is RAM. We recommend at least 6GB of RAM for the best experience, with gains falling off after 12GB.
For the best Android phones, we expect more than a single lens to provide more versatility in mobile photography. Megapixel counts play some role here in providing good detail, but nowadays, the biggest determining factor is software. Google has traditionally been the king of photo processing, but others like Samsung, Sony, and OPPO are also top performers. Check out our camera shootout for samples of the best of the best.
5G isn’t quite as ubiquitous as we’d like in 2023, but if you’re buying a new phone, we recommend devices with 5G to futureproof it as much as possible. It’s worth mentioning that there are a few flavors of 5G available: the speedy but short-range mmWave and the slightly-less-speedy sub-6GHz. Not all phones support mmWave, but unless you live in a major city in the US, odds are you don’t need it.
Most premium Android phones are made of some combination of glass and metal, but they vary in how much protection they provide. Gorilla Glass Victus is significantly more resistant than Gorilla Glass 5, for example, although you’ll probably want to slap a case on it regardless. You should also keep in mind that foldable devices are particularly prone to damage, especially in the vulnerable hinge mechanism.
What about iPhones?
You’ve just finished reading about the best Android phones, so we have an idea of where you stand in the iOS vs Android debate. However, nothing is ever set in stone. If you have an iPad or maybe a MacBook, you might decide that it’s best to stick with Apple’s ecosystem. On the other hand, you might be ready to break free and tap into more customization options. You’ll face different app selections on both platforms, but it’s all about your comfort level.
You’re in luck because we have a handy guide to help here too. There are some specific options for seniors with simplified menus, or we recommend a Samsung device for its Easy Mode feature. You can also load up a launcher like Big Launcher or Simple Launcher to make menus and dialers more approachable.
We talk an awful lot about RAM every time we mention a smartphone, but how much is enough? Luckily, we have yet another in-depth guide to help you out. If you’re only covering the bare basics, you might be able to get away with 4GB, but 8GB is more appropriate if you have eyes on multitasking. Some heavy-duty gamers might even want 12GB or 16GB just to keep up with anything and everything.
Yes! Well, some of them. Most recent flagships are worth buying, even up to a year or two after release. You can usually save a good amount of money at this point and still get good performance. At this point, we don’t recommend buying a 4G flagship, but most 5G flagships are still good to go.
This is a tricky one. If you’re eyeing a flagship device, you’ve probably seen the likes of the Snapdragon Plus 8 Gen 2, Dimensity 9000, and Exynos 2200 thrown around. Each comes with its own list of devices, but we’ve put them through the wringer for you. You can check out our comparison results and know that we put every phone through a series of tests to measure its performance under stress.