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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 can 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 bang-for-your-buck options to high-end flagships.
OnePlus 7 Pro
The OnePlus 7 Pro is one of the best smartphones you can buy right now. It's incredibly fast, the build quality is great, the camera is good enough for most people, and the 90Hz screen makes animations and (supported) games buttery-smooth. The $670 starting price is almost too good to be true, considering that the OP7 Pro trades blows with $1,000+ phones from Samsung and Google.
The specifications include a Snapdragon 855, 6/8/12GB of RAM (depending on the model), 128 or 256GB of internal storage (depending on model), a massive 6.67-inch 90Hz 1440p AMOLED screen, a 4,000mAh battery, a 12MP main rear camera, and a 16MP pop-up front camera.
In our review, Ryne wrote, "Sure, I wish it had a headphone jack like the S10+ or better camera processing like the Pixel 3 XL, but those are phones that cost $900-$1000 unlocked. What OnePlus delivers here for $670 is insane. The brute strength of the Snapdragon 855, Oxygen OS' generally great software, the camera improvements, and the smoothness of the 90Hz screen all provide an incredible phone experience. Going back to the Pixel 3 XL or Galaxy S10+ for brief moments during this review was downright unpleasant. The OnePlus 7 Pro spoils other phones for you."
The OnePlus 7 Pro works on GSM carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, etc.) as well as Verizon. The model sold by T-Mobile has a few limitations compared to the unlocked model, like a lack of dual-SIM support and a more difficult process for unlocking the bootloader.
Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL
For the first time in years, Google is selling a budget Android smartphone — or rather, two of them. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are a return to Nexus-era pricing, with the smaller model costing $399 and the larger version set at $479. It doesn't have flagship-level hardware, but it's close enough to the Pixel 3 that most people wouldn't notice a difference (apart from the design).
Both phones have a Snapdragon 670 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, a headphone jack (can't take that for granted these days), NFC for Google Pay, a rear fingerprint scanner, a 12.2MP rear camera, and an 8MP front camera. The smaller model has a 5.6-inch screen and a 3,000mAh battery, while the XL has a 6-inch screen with a 3,700mAh battery.
In our review, David wrote, "While the photos you’ll take with the Pixel 3a will have you impressed from day one, I think getting those three years of OS updates - and just as fast as every other Pixel phone - will leave you feeling like you made the right call. Google gets a lot of flack for bugs on its smartphones - and not unjustifiably, at times - but while every Android phone has bugs and glitches, basically none of them are going to see the level of software support this one will - even proper “flagships.” It’s hard to put a dollar value on that, but Google has: half the price of our other phones. I think that makes the Pixel 3a and 3a XL a pretty good deal, and pretty much without compare in the sub-$500 price bracket."
The Pixel 3a and 3a XL work on pretty much every carrier, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Both models are available in three colors: Just Black, Clearly White, and 'Purple-ish'.
Samsung Galaxy Note10
Samsung's Note series isn't quite as unique as it once was, now that the only major difference between it and the S-series phones is the stylus, but that doesn't mean the latest model is bad. In fact, the Galaxy Note10 has nearly every feature you could want in a phone. Good camera? Check. Waterproof? Check. Fast processor with a big battery? Check and check. There's no headphone jack, though.
This year, Samsung has split the Note10 into a few different variants. There's a new smaller version, simply called the 'Note10,' which is close in size to the Galaxy S10. Then there's the larger Note10+, which increases the screen resolution to 1440p, bumps up the battery capacity, and adds a microSD card slot. Finally, there's the Note10+ 5G, which you probably shouldn't buy since 5G infrastructure isn't widespread yet (and the 5G version is very expensive).
In our review, David wrote, "If you find yourself still reaching for an S Pen in 2019, the Note10+ won't disappoint, in that the S Pen is still there. And that's a perfectly valid reason to buy the Note, but it's also the only real compelling reason that can stand on its own. If you don't find the stylus a major part of Samsung's value proposition, the Note10+ doesn't get a strong recommendation from me. Unless price is absolutely no object, there are better ways to spend your money."
The Note10 and Note10+ are available from just about every carrier in existence, but you can also buy them carrier-unlocked. Both phones will function on all carriers just fine, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
Samsung Galaxy S10e
Samsung took a page out of Apple's book this year, and introduced a cheaper flagship phone — the Galaxy S10e. It has most of the same functionality as Samsung's $900+ phones, including a Snapdragon 855 processor, a 12MP wide-angle camera, a 16MP wide-angle camera, IP68 water resistance, a headphone jack, and Samsung Pay.
There are some downgrades compared to the base Galaxy S10, but most people either won't notice them or won't care. The S10e uses a lower-resolution 2280x1080 screen, but it's still a gorgeous AMOLED panel with HDR support. There's also not a telephoto lens, and the S10e is physically smaller (with a 5.7-inch screen). A side fingerprint sensor is present, instead of the in-screen sensors on the S10/S10+, but it's much faster than the sensors on those phones.
In our review, David wrote, "The Galaxy S10e is probably the best Android phone for most people right now, and may well hold that title for the whole of 2019 at this rate. Given discounts are eventually likely, I'd say this phone will become a no-brainer the moment it drops to $650 or lower - I just can't see anyone matching the price to experience ratio on this phone, unless a big screen and huge battery are very important to you."
The Galaxy S10e will work on all major carriers worldwide. It's available in five colors: Canary Yellow (pictured above), Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Green, Prism Blue. The models linked below are carrier-unlocked.
Asus Zenfone 6
Perhaps the most surprising success story of this year was the Asus Zenfone 6. It's a direct competitor to OnePlus devices, offering flagship hardware at a price several hundred dollars below most flagship phones — just $499.
The exact hardware includes a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6-8GB of RAM, 64-256GB of storage (with microSD support), a 5,000mAh battery, a headphone jack (yay!), and an edge-to-edge 6.4" 1080p IPS screen. There's no cutout for the front-facing camera — instead, the rear camera flips around when needed.
In our review, Jordan wrote, "This all-screen beauty represents the greatest that 2019 has to offer, even sporting the absolute best version of ZenUI yet, a back-to-basics, "stock+" Android experience with Asus's own tweaks and modifications. All in all, this device blew me away and in my opinion, it gives OnePlus some much needed competition."
The only catch is that Asus is still struggling to keep the Zenfone 6 in stock in the United States. As of the time of writing, Amazon is completely sold out, and B&H Photo still says the item is coming soon. If you can snag it, the Zenfone 6 is a heck of a deal, though it won't work on CDMA networks like Verizon and Sprint (only GSM carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile).
If you live in a country where Xiaomi doesn't officially sell phones, like the U.S. and Canada, there aren't very many good budget devices right now. Motorola's phones are usually priced competitively, but the company's track record with updates is abysmal, especially on its cheaper models. If buying a flagship from last year isn't an option for you, HMD Global's Nokia-branded Android devices are the next-best thing.
The best budget Nokia phone at the moment is probably the Nokia 7.1. It has a large 1080p screen, a decent Snapdragon 636 processor, dual rear cameras, NFC for tap-to-pay (which is always missing on Motorola budget phones in the US), a fingerprint sensor, and a Type-C port for charging. There's also a headphone jack, thankfully.
When we originally wrote our review, the Nokia 7.1 suffered from software issues and performance slow-downs. Since then, the phone has received Android 9 Pie and a few bug fixes. The price has also dropped to $250, a discount of $100 from the original price. The only catch is that an updated model is coming out at the end of September, but there's no word on when it will be available outside of Europe.
The Nokia 7.1 is available carrier-unlocked in the United States, and it works on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, but not Sprint.