The wide range of Android phones on the market is one of the platform's greatest strengths - there's something for everyone. However, with all the choices available, trying to find the best smartphone an be like looking for a needle in a haystack. To help you out, we've compiled a short list of the best Android phones you can buy, from low-end budget devices to expensive flagships.
Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+
Samsung still makes some of the best Android phones around. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are the company's latest mainstream flagships, released earlier this year. Both devices have a Snapdragon 845 processor (international models have an Exynos CPU), 64-256GB of internal storage, Samsung Pay, wireless charging, fantastic Samsung-made AMOLED screens, IP68 waterproofing, and headphone jacks. You can't take headphone jacks for granted these days.
The main difference between the two models, as you can probably guess, is the screen size. The smaller S9 has a 5.8-inch display, while the larger S9+ has a 6.2-inch screen (both are the same 2960x1440 resolution). The smaller S9 also has less RAM (4GB vs. 6GB), a smaller battery (3,000 mAh vs. 3,500mAh), and only one rear camera instead of two.
In our review of the two phones, David wrote, "The S9 and S9+ are damn good, and I’m giving them our Most Wanted award. They may not be revolutionary, but when you’re at the top of your game, you don’t need to rewrite the rules every year."
The only major downside to Samsung's phones is that you'll be waiting a long time for major Android updates. The Galaxy S8/S8+ in the United States didn't get Android 8.0 Oreo until six months after it was released by Google. Granted, Samsung's flavor of Android has dozens of features not found in the stock version.
The carrier-unlocked Galaxy S9 currently goes for around $670, and the S9+ is around $800 (depending on the retailer). The unlocked phones will work on both GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.) and CDMA (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) networks.
If you're looking for a good mid-range phone, the Nokia 6.1 is probably the way to go. This is one of the many Nokia-branded Android phones released by HMD Global, and this particular model was released a few months ago in the United States.
For just $270, you get a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS screen, Android 8.1 Oreo (with a Pie update on the way), a Snapdragon 630 processor with 3GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack. Again, you can't take headphone jacks for granted these days.
The main competition in this segment is the Moto G6, which has a slightly better camera and support for more carriers. However, the G6 has a slower processor and a slippery glass design. Motorola is also much slower with Android updates than Nokia/HMD - last year's Moto G5 is still waiting on an Oreo update in some parts of the world.
In our review, Jordan wrote, "The Nokia 6.1 gets a lot of things right. Not only are its specifications top-notch for the price point, but it's also an Android One device, which really helps to mitigate the update anxiety present in most budget phones (even Motorola's, sadly). It's well-built and gorgeous, too, sporting a very attractive industrial design with just the right amount of flair to make it unique."
The only major downside to the Nokia 6.1 is the carrier support. It only works on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile, so CDMA networks like Verizon and Sprint are out of the question.
Samsung Galaxy Note9
If you want a no-compromises smartphone with every imaginable feature, the Galaxy Note9 is for you. It has all the features of the Galaxy S9/S9+, but with beefier internals, a larger screen, and the S-Pen for stylus input. It has just about everything you could want in a smartphone, but that comes at a cost - around $1,000, to be exact.
The Note9 is powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor (or an Exynos chip outside North America), with 6GB RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. The display is a 6.4-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED panel. You also get an S-Pen stylus for writing notes, drawing on the screen, and accessing shortcuts. Finally, the 4,000mAh battery should easily last you an entire day.
Other hardware features include Samsung Pay, wireless charging, a microSD card slot, a headphone jack, IP68 water and dust resistance, and dual rear cameras. The phone ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, and a Pie update will likely come in 2019. As with Samsung's other phones, you'll be waiting a while for major Android updates.
In our review, David wrote, "By doubling up on storage and boosting the battery capacity, Samsung has taken what was an attractive proposition with the Galaxy S9+ and made it far harder to resist. Of course, the price you pay is... the price. A thousand dollars is a lot of money. But the Note9 is the best smartphone you can buy right now, because I think that for most people it represents the best all-around smartphone experience."
The carrier-unlocked 128GB Galaxy Note9 currently goes for around $1,000, and the 512GB Note9 is around $1,249.99 (depending on the retailer). The unlocked phones will work on both GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.) and CDMA (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) networks.
Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL
In case you weren't aware of all the leaks, Google's next pair of flagship smartphones are coming soon. That being said, last year's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are a great pair of phones, particularly if quick software updates and camera performance are your top priorities. They're among the few phones on the market right now with Android 9 Pie.
Both phones are nearly identical in specifications - they both have Snapdragon 835 processors, with 4GB RAM and 64/128GB of internal storage. The smaller Pixel has a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen, while the Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch 1440p P-OLED display. The former has a 2,700mAh battery, and the latter has a 3,520mAh battery.
As previously mentioned, the Pixels really shine in two areas - photo quality and software updates. They're the first devices to receive new Android upgrades and monthly security fixes. The cameras on both phones are excellent, mostly thanks to Google's HDR+ technology and the optical image stabilization.
However, the Pixel 2 and 2XL are lacking in some areas, particularly in comparison to other phones on this list. Neither phone has a headphone jack or a microSD card slot. The Pixel 2 XL gained some negative press last year for its slightly-subpar screen panel, but the criticism is largely exaggerated.
In our full review of the two phones, Ryan wrote, "The Pixel 2 XL is the phone to get right now, provided you can live without a headphone jack. It has the best software, camera, and update prospects of any Android device. The regular Pixel 2 has all that too, but it's not as attractive with those big bezels. That's by no means a deal breaker, though. If you can't handle a 6-inch phone, the 5-inch Pixel 2 is the best you'll find in that size range."
The smaller Pixel 2 costs around $650, and the Pixel 2 XL goes for around $850. Both phones work on GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.) and CDMA (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) networks.
OnePlus phones aren't the fantastic value they once were, but they're still very good devices in their own right. For just $530, you get a Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB RAM, 64GB of storage, a large 6.3-inch 1080p screen, incredibly fast charging, and a headphone jack. There's also a $580 model with 128GB of storage and 8GB RAM.
The hardware is great on its own, minus the lack of water resistance, but OnePlus phones are perhaps best-known for their software. The company's custom flavor of Android, OxygenOS, has plenty of added features but is still extremely fast. Android 9 Pie just arrived on the OP6, making it one of the few phones on the market with that version.
The only major sore point of the OnePlus 6 is the camera, particularly when compared to similarly-priced phones. The smaller Pixel 2 is around $100 more than the OP6, but it has a vastly better camera. Carrier compatibility might also be an issue for some people, since the OnePlus 6 won't work on CDMA networks (like Verizon and Sprint). Also, keep in mind that a new model is on the horizon.
In our review, Ryan wrote, "In some places, buying a phone at full price is the norm. For those people, this is a very good value. If you count on payment plans and carrier deals for new phones, the OnePlus 6 is less attractive as it creeps up on $600."
If your budget is extremely tight, and buying a used device is out of the question, the Nokia 3.1 might be for you. It's one of the least-expensive phones that Nokia produces, at just $160, but it still has all the hallmarks of the company's phones - good build quality, stock Android, and up-to-date software.
The Nokia 3.1 has average specifications for a budget phone, including a MediaTek 6750 processor with 2GB RAM, a 5.2-inch 720p screen, 16GB of internal storage (with a microSD card slot), and a 2,990mAh battery. There's a model with 3GB RAM and 32GB of storage, but it's not available in the United States.
Since this is a lower-end device, Nokia had to cut corners somewhere. There's no fingerprint sensor, the camera is mediocre, and it won't work on CDMA networks (like Verizon and Sprint). Still, if you're on a compatible carrier, the Nokia 3.1 is a solid phone for the price. You can see our full review here.