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Best of Android Awards 2019: The best phone of 2019 is...
It’s that time of the year again where we crown the best Android phone in 2019. There are plenty of contenders for the best Android handset each year, ranging from those offering bleeding-edge technology to the best value for money. 2019 is arguably the hardest year yet to pick a truly standout handset. There are plenty of worthy devices across a variety of price points. However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been able to crown a champion this year.
To do so, we’re rattling through the scientifically chosen best phone, our Editors’ Choice, and your Readers’ Choice. Today, we’re burrowing down into the depths of our testing suite to find out which smartphone is, scientifically speaking, the best all-rounder.
What’s this all about?
If you missed our coverage in previous years, Android Authority’s Best of Android separates our subjective preferences for brands and handsets by opting for a scientific approach to testing and scoring. We dig deep into the hardware of this year’s best smartphones, ranking them for display accuracy, battery life, camera quality, audio capabilities, and performance. This article walks through each of the device categories before announcing the final winner. We’ll also highlight a few interesting stats picked out from our data this year.
Before we begin, I want to make it clear just how close some of these categories have been this year: many phones landed within a few tenths of a percent of one another. Now more than ever, it’s very clear that smartphones are really, really good overall.
Best Android phone in 2019: Display
Display quality has come leaps and bounds this year, offering not just better-looking displays but also growing support for 90Hz and higher refresh rates. In fact, three out of our top four picks offer 90Hz displays for smooth scrolling. Although that’s not actually why these phones did the best, that all comes down to display accuracy.
As we noted earlier in the year, the Google Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, and the Oneplus 7T Pro finally offer Samsung some competition in terms of display quality. While the results were all very close (within 1% in our scoring), it’s the Google Pixel 4 that comes out just on top. The handset offers the most accurate color temperature and gamma results out of all of this year’s smartphones, making it a must-buy for on-the-go film and TV binging (as long as you keep a charger nearby). The Pixel 4 XL offers similarly excellent quality, but its panel doesn’t quite match its smaller sibling’s white balance accuracy or peak brightness for outdoor viewing.
Google finally pinches Samsung's crown for best display.
OnePlus deserves special mention this year for really upping its game in terms of display quality with the 7T Pro. Hence a top four rather than awarding two of the top three to Google. The regular OnePlus 7T and the OnePlus 7 also score pretty highly for display quality and are marked improvements on the previous generation.
Any of these four make for great-looking handsets, but it’s the Pixel 4 that wins the award for Best of Android display this year.
Best Android phone in 2019: Battery
Battery life is the cornerstone of a great smartphone but it’s an area that we’ve seen familiar flagship brands trip up in the past. As part of our test suite, we examine not only smartphone battery life but also the time it takes to charge back up. The best phone for battery life should not only last all day at least, but also charge back up in a short a time as possible.
The winner combines long battery life with the fastest recharge time.
With that in mind, the Realme X2 Pro stands out as a clear winner. Its huge 4,000mAh battery is more than enough for a full day of heavy use of apps, browsing, and video. Furthermore, the handset includes the industry’s fastest 50W SuperVOOC fast charging that really does take the phone from empty to full in a smidgen under 30 minutes. In that time, the likes of the Galaxy Note 10 haven’t even charged up halfway.
Second place goes to the Xiaomi Mi 9, which offers an exceptionally long battery life and a reasonably fast recharging time. Xiaomi’s aggressive optimizations in MIUI pay dividends for all day and even second-day use on a single charge. The handset also scores exceptionally well for video playback time, making it a great pick for binge-watching on long flights or road trips. Huawei is also well known for offering all-day battery life and its P30 Pro and Mate 30 Pro flagship handsets are no different. They’ll definitely get you through a full day of heavy use, coming in third and fourth place, respectively. The P30 Pro scores very well in our Wi-Fi and Video playback tests. Plus, with 40W SuperCharge on-board it ramps from empty to full charge in just under an hour.
And before you ask, yes the Pixel 4 really doesn’t score very well here. It’s 84th out of 125 phones we tested regarding the battery. It’s time to full charge is not miles ahead of the average either.
Best Android phone in 2019: Camera
2019 smartphones are virtually defined by their camera experience and the Google Pixel 4 series and Huawei Mate 30 Pro stand out as two of the very best. Once again, these company’s reputations translate into real-world results, but it’s the Pixel 4 and 4 XL that take the top spot this year.
The Pixel 4 is the most consistent shooter money can buy, but it has plenty of fun tricks too.
In our time with them, both of these cameras have proven incredibly capable shooters. Each with their own pros, cons, and capabilities. The Pixel 4 nudges ahead thanks to its intelligent application of computational photography. The Pixel 4 boasts the best HDR, bokeh portrait, and low light capabilities around, making it an incredibly versatile shooter. The simplicity of Google’s point and shoot software means that you’re guaranteed to get a great looking picture every time.
The Huawei Mate 30 Pro isn’t without its own strengths. As well as excellent low light and detail capture, the phone is a great choice if you desire the flexibility of long-range and wide-angle cameras. It’s still such a shame that customers outside of China can’t experience the Mate 30 Pro in its full glory, thanks to the lack of Google apps.
Best Android phone in 2019: Performance
You don’t have to look hard to find snappy smartphone performance these days, but the three most powerful handsets on the market this year are the Realme X2 Pro, the Asus ROG Phone 2, and the OnePlus 7T. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus powers all three of these devices, so it probably won’t be surprising to hear that there’s very little between these phones in terms of peak performance.
In fact, extending the list to a top 10 reveals very little deviation in terms of performance between the most powerful smartphones around. All of the top 10 fall within 97% of the peak performance of the Realme X2 Pro. In fact, you could extend this list to the top 20, which includes devices like the Mate 30 Pro, Pixel 4, and LG G8X, and still find that all devices fall within 95% of the leader. Note how the Snapdragon 855-powered OnePlus 7 scored just 1% behind the Snapdragon 855 Plus OnePlus 7T model across our benchmarking suite. In real-world terms, there’s very little to distinguish between the peak performance of most of 2019’s flagship smartphones.
Our top 20 flagships all fall with 95% of the best performer.
However, one area that we have been investigating in more detail recently is sustained performance. We don’t have complete results to bring you this year, but out of devices we have tested, the Asus ROG Phone 2 provides longer sustainable performance than the Realme X2 Pro. If you like anything longer than a short gaming session, the Asus ROG Phone 2’s cooling system, not to mention 120Hz display, makes it this year’s pick for gamers.
Best of Android: Audio
- Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro
- 20 other smartphones with excellent audio
This year’s testing reveals that audio is mostly a solved issue with Android smartphones. Whether you’re listening over wired or Bluetooth, there are a wide range of handsets to pick from that offer everything you need. As we had to pick a winner, the Redmi K20 Pro just about nudged itself to the top of the pack. The phone offers an excellent sounding headphone jack with minimal distortion, and supports the highest quality Bluetooth codecs around, including aptX HD and LDAC. It’s got a decent speaker set up to boot, making it impossible to overlook.
There are three other handsets that score in the top 99 percentile. These are the Redmi Note 7S, LG G8X, and the Realme X2 Pro. In the top 95 percentile, we have the affordable Xiaomi Mi A3, Realme XT, LG G8 ThinQ, Xiaomi Mi 9T, LG V50 ThinQ, Realme X, Sony Xperia 10, Vivo S1, Redmi Note 8 Pro, Google Pixel 3a XL, Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e, the LG V35, the Samsung Galaxy A50, and Samsung Galaxy A70. There are even more that clock in within 10% of the leader, which would make this list far too long.
21 smartphones we tested offer what we consider 'perceptually perfect' audio for headphones.
On the whole, the vast majority of 2019 smartphones are very good for audio. Flagship phones universally offer “perfect” playback quality over wired connections and plenty of Bluetooth options. However, Xiaomi, LG, and Samsung handsets consistently score the highest for audio quality and are therefore our recommended Android brands for audiophiles.
Best of Android: 2019’s winner
Winner: Realme X2 Pro
With all the data considered and weighed up, the Realme X2 Pro comes out as our pick for Best Android phones in 2019. There’s no one particular feature that sets this phone apart from the competition. It’s an incredibly close race this year. However, the Realme X2 Pro places consistently well in most tests and is right at the top of the pile in our audio, battery, and performance categories. Outside of our scoring, the phone also packs in a waterdrop notch, in-display fingerprint scanner, 90Hz display, and quad-camera setup, which have all been defining features of this year’s smartphone market.
In our review, we dubbed the Realme X2 Pro as the best phone the company has produced and probably the best value smartphone of the year. Based on our test results, this certainly appears to be the case and it’s a worthy winner of Best of Android 2019.
However, the Realme X2 Pro is virtually neck-and-neck with the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus on total points. Also remember that the S10 line has a worldwide release, so you’re easily going to find one on store shelves no matter where you are. The Xiaomi Mi 9 narrowly pips the Huawei Mate 30 Pro to the post for the bronze medal. It’s arguably the most consistent smartphone across all of our tests, only let down by a missing headphone jack that results in some noise when listening over the USB-C port.
To show just how close-run Best of Android is this year, I’ve compiled a complete graph of weighted scores for each category below.
2019 has shown that it's increasingly difficult to tell phones apart even with objective testing.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Best of Android 2019 is just how competitive and close a huge range of smartphones have become. We originally set out to objectively test smartphones to break away from the increasingly minimal subjective differences between smartphones. Just a couple years later, even objective testing doesn’t lead to a black and white picture about the very best smartphone money can buy.
Hopefully though, Best of Android 2019 has pointed you in the right direction for the best handset that matches what you desire in a smartphone — be that a top-quality display, bleeding-edge performance, the best possible battery life, or perhaps the very best camera. Stay tuned to our Best of Android coverage for our Editors’ picks, as well as the best Android phone in 2019 as voted by our readers.