Android has a phone for everyone, whether you want something big or little, entry-level or top-of-the-line. Unlike Apple, which has a strict release schedule, Google’s hardware partners release a seemingly continuous stream of new products all year. But therein lays the problem: how can you choose the best option when there are so many? We test and review practically every smartphone available on all major US carriers, which is fortunate for you.
While the reviews above may not include your preferred carrier, most of the phones on this list are unlocked and may be used with several US carriers. Read on to learn what to look for when purchasing an Android phone, as well as our top selections.
When to Buy a New Android Phone
With a new set of flagships seemingly arriving every month, the Android release cycle has become permanent. However, because most manufacturers want their products on store shelves before the holidays, now is an excellent time to buy. We’re convinced that we won’t see any major new flagships until 2022.
5G Android Phones
Almost every higher-end phone on the market today will support 5G. If you’re buying a lower-end device, don’t be too concerned about 5G; AT&T and Verizon’s current nationwide 5G systems don’t provide much of a performance boost over 4G, and even lower-end new T-Mobile Android phones are starting to include mid-band 5G, which is what gave T-Mobile the win in this year’s Fastest Mobile Networks tests.
Look for a phone with C-band in the future if you want the fastest network speeds (band n77). C-band networks, which will be available this year from AT&T and Verizon, offer multiple times the speed of 4G and low-band 5G systems. Although the number of phones with C-band connectivity is rapidly increasing, you should double-check that the phone you’re contemplating supports it. To make the procedure easier, we specify if a phone supports C-band in each of our reviews.
The phones on this list range in price from around $200 to well over $2,000. The Motorola Moto G Pure and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G are both fantastic value for money on the low end. At the extremely bottom end, carrier-branded phones (those that don’t carry the manufacturer’s name) are frequently subpar.
Because most phones sold in the United States are sold on monthly payment plans that spread the cost over 24 or 30 months, most phones cost $600 or more. However, there is a booming market for phones that cost $300 or less, which is primarily prepaid. For decent quality at a reasonable price, look at lower-end OnePlus phones or phones from Motorola and Nokia supplied by prepaid carriers.
The pandemic prompted phone manufacturers to reconsider the exorbitant flagship phone prices seen in early 2020. The Pixel 6 is a great example of a phone that delivers premium performance for a fraction of the price.
Many exclusive versions of sub-6GHz phones continue to be subjected to a “millimeter-wave tax” imposed by AT&T and Verizon’s millimeter-wave 5G systems; Verizon 5G-compatible phones are frequently $100 more expensive than 5G phones, while AT&T adds up to $130 to the price. When there is an exception, it’s usually because the carrier or manufacturer is subsidizing the phone invisibly.
See our stories on the best inexpensive phones, the best cheap phone plans, and nine methods for getting the best mobile phone price for additional information.
What Size Phone Is Right for You?
Over the previous few years, the designs and sizes of Android phones have changed dramatically. Many manufacturers have begun to make their phones taller and slimmer, resulting in models that can be held with one hand and have unusually large screens. In our article on how to measure phone displays now, we go into greater detail on the new form factors.
Android phones are available with screen sizes ranging from 3 inches (the Unihertz Jelly 2) to over 7 inches (the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3). However, with the new form factors, it’s critical to consider the phone’s width as well as the screen’s width. A phone that is tall and slim is much easier to handle than one that is wider.
Which Is the Best Android Version?
Android isn’t all made equal. For a long time, device manufacturers like Asus and Samsung have been bringing their own views to Android. If you want a truly Google experience, opt for a Pixel device; these are the developer models, and Google prioritizes software updates. The user interfaces of Motorola and OnePlus are similarly very clean, albeit they tend to add more hidden functions to Android.
The most recent version, Android 12, is growing more popular. Don’t buy a phone with an Android version of less than 10; the older the Android software version, the more likely it is to contain severe security problems. Also, see how many rounds of OS upgrades the manufacturer promises; for multi-year upgrades, Google and Samsung tend to lead the field.
Why No Oppo, Vivo, or Xiaomi?
Three of the world’s top five smartphone manufacturers do not sell phones in the United States, and we primarily serve Americans. It’s because Oppo and Vivo have handed over the US market to their brother company OnePlus. (Oppo and OnePlus are now effectively one company.) Xiaomi has already stated that its economic model, which is highly reliant on advertising revenue and subscription services, will not work in the United States. Sanctions that prevent Huawei from utilizing US components or software in its handsets have harmed the company, which was formerly near the top of the list.
Importing foreign phones for usage in the United States is not recommended because they frequently operate badly on US carrier networks. We couldn’t get the Oppo Find X5 Pro to connect to T-5G Mobile’s network when we tested it.
Should You Buy Through a Carrier or Unlocked?
Although carrier-sold phones still dominate the US market, buying your phone directly and unlocked allows you more flexibility to switch providers if you so desire.
Unlocked phones have no carrier bloatware and no monthly payment plan, allowing you to switch carriers or sell them on eBay whenever you choose. An unlocked phone is something you genuinely own. Every phone on this list can be purchased without the assistance of a carrier. However, the majority of consumers still purchase their phones from carriers, which provide a single point of contact for service and support as well as monthly payment plans that significantly reduce the upfront costs of phones.
You’ll also want to make sure that your carrier (especially if you’re using an MVNO) will support the phone and all of its capabilities on its network; numerous users have told us that their carrier won’t support their unlocked smartphone even though it’s network-compatible.
Keeping this in mind, selecting Android as your mobile operating system is only half of the struggle. If you’re still undecided, have a look at our list of the greatest phones, regardless of operating system.