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We spend hundreds of hours each year testing the latest Android smartphones, and we think the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are the best Android phones for most people. They have the best software and cameras you can get in an Android model, but they cost much less than high-end phones. They also receive guaranteed software updates for a longer period than any non-Pixel phone.
Google’s Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are cheaper versions of the flagship Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, respectively, but they retain almost all of what makes those phones so good. You get Google’s clean, fast version of Android 10 with three years of guaranteed updates. The camera performance is also identical to that of the more expensive Pixel phones, beating every other Android phone in that regard. However, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL aren’t quite as fast as the more expensive versions, they don’t offer wireless charging, and their plastic bodies aren’t water resistant. They do, however, have headphone jacks.
The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL run faster than the 3a and 3a XL and have better displays, and their camera performance is equally impressive. The build quality is also an improvement over the cheaper Pixels, with a matte-glass back, wireless charging, and water resistance (but no headphone jack). Like the 3a and 3a XL, these phones receive guaranteed monthly updates – in this case, until October 2021. These are better phones overall, but they more than Google’s budget Pixels.
Of Samsung’s three Galaxy S10 phones, the Samsung Galaxy S10e is the one most people should consider. It has all the most important features of the Galaxy S10 and S10+ for a much lower price – it’s the iPhone XR of Samsung’s world. It has every feature the flagship Pixel 3 has and then some, adding a microSD card slot, dual cameras, and a headphone jack; it can even wirelessly charge other devices. The S10e has Samsung’s latest OLED screen, but it’s not curved like the screens on the larger S10 and S10+. It’s also slightly shorter than the S10. That makes the S10e easier to hold, and its display is brighter and more vivid than the Pixel’s. The Pixel 3 and 3a still have the best camera by a wide margin, especially in challenging lighting conditions, but the S10e’s main camera is still above average. Samsung’s version of Android Pie isn’t as smooth or easy to use as what’s on the Pixel, and Samsung usually takes several months to release new Android updates.
Why you should trust us
I’ve been testing Android phones for Wirecutter for the past three years. I’ve also written more than a million words about Android phones, tablets, and software on websites such as Android Police, ExtremeTech and Tested over the past decade. I’ve lived with dozens of Android phones during that time; I’ve used and reviewed more phones in the past year than most people will own in their entire lives.
How we picked and tested
We’ve tested dozens of Android phones over the past few years, and most have poor software, sluggish performance, terrible design choices, or some combination of all three. Here are the criteria we use to decide which phones are worth buying:
- Performance: A great Android phone should feel snappy whether you’re playing a game or just swiping through the interface. Most flagship Android phones use similar processors, so performance differences are largely due to software.
- Software: A clunky version of Android can ruin the experience, and even the most powerful hardware won’t matter if the maker didn’t optimize the software well. Phones that have fewer manufacturer modifications run better and are easier to use. Your smartphone will also end up containing a lot of personal data, so security is important – a phone that ships with outdated software, doesn’t get security patches or has a documented history of security flaws is not a good purchase, no matter the price.
- Display: Most people spend several hours every day looking at their smartphone screen. It’s important that the screen remain sharp and easy to read, even outdoors.
- Camera: The best camera is the one you have with you. Having a good smartphone camera means you can take fantastic photos at a moment’s notice, but the difference between a top-tier phone camera and an average one can be huge. To get our recommendation, a smartphone needs to take better photos than other devices in its price range.
- Battery life: If a phone can’t last through a full day of heavy use, it’s not worth buying. Some phones offer multiday battery life, but that’s not a requirement for most people. If the phone lasts until bedtime, its battery life is good enough.
- Build quality: Android smartphones can cost a lot. A poorly constructed phone or one made with subpar materials could break before you even finish paying it off through a carrier. Phones should use high-quality materials such as aluminum, ceramic, and Gorilla Glass, and the device shouldn’t bend or creak under stress.
Should you upgrade?
Wirecutter’s philosophy on upgrading anything (as published in The New York Times, now our parent company) is that you should spend money on the things you use all the time and are important to you, and that you shouldn’t spend a lot on the rest.
If you’re happy with your current cell phone, don’t get a new one yet. The phones that will be available later will be better than the models available today. On the other hand, if you use your phone constantly throughout the day and your old one isn’t serving you well anymore, get a new one.
Another reason to consider an upgrade is if your current phone isn’t receiving software updates anymore. Without updates, your phone will get less secure over time – all software has bugs that lead to security vulnerabilities, and if your phone isn’t getting updates, it isn’t getting fixes, either. Plus, without updates, the phone won’t be able to take advantage of apps that require features present only in the latest OS.
If your phone is more than a year or two old and your biggest complaint is that the battery life sucks, consider replacing the battery before replacing the phone. Most recent phones use sealed-in batteries, but you can usually pay the manufacturer or a third-party service to replace the battery. Although that’s a hassle, it’s not as much a hassle as replacing the phone, and it costs a lot less. If such an option isn’t feasible for you, any of our picks should get you through a day without issues.
When it’s time to buy a new phone, we recommend getting the best-rated, most recently released phone you can afford. Inexpensive phones often have some combination of substandard specs, poor build quality, a bad interface, and an outdated, crufty version of Android that will never see updates again. Chances are, you’ll feel the difference in quality and usability every day. You’re almost always better off paying a bit more to get a newer and better phone that you’ll enjoy using for at least two years.
The best Android phones: Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL
The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL have a lot in common with the flagship Pixel 3 and 3 XL. They come in two sizes (5.6 and 6 inches, respectively), have a clean, fast build of Android with three years of guaranteed monthly updates (through May 2022 in the case of the two 3a models), and offer camera performance that surpasses what we’ve seen from any other phone we’ve tested. The 3a and 3a XL aren’t as fast as the more expensive Pixels or competing phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10e, they don’t have wireless charging, and the plastic body isn’t water resistant. However, they cost less than the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, and most people wouldn’t notice the handful of missing features.
The 3a and 3a XL ship with Google’s version of Android 10, which is streamlined and free of duplicate apps or clunky additions to the user interface. It also includes some features from the more expensive Pixel 3 such as Call Screen and Active Edge, the latter of which lets you launch Google Assistant by squeezing the phone. Google promises monthly security and Android version updates for the 3a through May 2022; that means, at a minimum, it’ll get Android 11 and 12 too. With other phones, you’re lucky to get two years of update support, and rollouts are often delayed.
Google equipped the Pixel 3a with the same 12.2-megapixel rear camera as it did the more-expensive Pixel 3, and that camera produces the best photos you can get from an Android phone. Google’s HDR+ captures impressive detail while also compensating for poor lighting. The AI-powered digital zoom is almost as good as the optical zoom on phones with dedicated telephoto lenses. There’s also Night Sight, which uses longer exposures to take impressive photos with very little light. The Pixel 3 and 3a XL lack the secondary wide-angle front-facing camera from the flagship Pixel models, so big group selfies are harder to take. Instead, the selfie cameras have a lesser, 8-megapixel sensor.
Both versions of the 3a use 1080p OLED displays, and they’re much nicer than the LCD screens you normally see on other phones in this price range. You should get whichever size is more comfortable for you to hold – the 3a XL is quite large, but it’s lighter than many big phones thanks to the plastic body. The 5.6-inch 3a is comfortable even for people with small hands, since its tall screen makes the phone narrower and easier to hold.
Google also gave these phones larger batteries than the flagship Pixel equivalents – 3,000 and 3,700 mAh for the 3a and 3a XL, versus 2,915 and 3,430 mAh for the 3 and 3 XL, respectively. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL still need nightly charging, but you’ll have more charge left when it’s time to plug in. The USB Type-C port supports 18 W fast charging, the same as the Pixel 3 and faster than the Galaxy S10e.
On the back, the budget Pixel models have a fingerprint sensor that aligns perfectly with your finger when you pick up the phone, just like the Pixel 3. You’ll also find a headphone jack on the top, which is absent on the Pixel 3 and many other flagship phones.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Pixel 3a and 3a XL use Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processors, which aren’t as powerful as the Pixel 3’s Snapdragon 845 or the Galaxy S10e’s Snapdragon 855. Google’s streamlined software and careful optimization keep the Pixel 3a feeling responsive, but it’s not as fast as the Pixel 3 or Galaxy S10e, and it may feel sluggish sooner. You’re likely to notice it most when playing 3D games and installing apps. The storage, which is limited to 64 GB, isn’t as fast as the storage on more expensive phones. And like other Pixel phones, these models lack a microSD slot for expandable storage.
The OLED screen’s colours and brightness are good, but not top-of-the-line as on the screens for the Pixel 3 and Galaxy S10e, which are easier to use outdoors on a bright day. If it’s raining, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are also at a disadvantage, as their plastic bodies are not water resistant like most modern flagship phones. And unlike Google’s older plastic phones, such as the Nexus 5 and 6, they don’t support wireless charging.
With such a good camera, it’s sad that Google doesn’t offer unlimited original-quality backups through the Photos app for the 3a as it does for more expensive Pixel models. You get only unlimited backups with “high quality” compression on Google Photos, the same as on any other non-Pixel phone. Original-quality backups don’t consume your cloud storage space on other Pixel phones, but they do with the 3a.
Upgrade pick: Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL – two sizes of the same phone with 5.5-inch and 6.3-inch screens, respectively – have the newest, fastest version of Android, the best camera performance regardless of lighting conditions, and excellent displays. Google guarantees monthly updates on these phones until October 2021, which is much better than what you can expect from Samsung, LG, OnePlus or even Android One phones. The hardware and build quality are better than what you get from the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, but those phones have almost all the same features for a lower price. The Pixel 3 is still the way to go if you need features such as water resistance or wireless charging, or if you prefer the nicer look and feel of metal and glass.
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL both run Android 10, and Google’s 2018 Pixel phones are guaranteed to receive monthly security updates (as well as full system updates to new versions of Android) until fall 2021; in contrast, Samsung releases security updates only every two or three months, even on flagship phones like the S10e. That means the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will get Android Q, R, and S. Other flagship phones tend to receive one or two major updates at best, and cheap phones usually get zero to one.
Google’s version of Android also continues to be the best one available. Apps open quickly, and the interface is impressively smooth. Google does not load its phones down with apps and features you won’t use, and the custom Pixel software features are excellent: Call Screen, for example, lets you use the Google Assistant platform to answer calls and make sure they’re not spam before you get on the line, and Active Edge lets you launch Google Assistant by squeezing your phone.
The 2018 Pixel phones offer the best camera performance of any Android phone we’ve ever tested (aside from the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, which use the same camera), and in many cases it’s as good as or better than that of Apple’s iPhone XS. Both Pixel models have a single 12-megapixel camera on the back and dual 8-megapixel sensors (one regular and one wide-angle) on the front. The front and rear cameras take impressively sharp and accurate shots in any lighting conditions. Google’s HDR+ image processing brings out detail and maintains even exposure across the frame while lowering noise. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL also support “motion auto focus” on the main sensor, allowing you to tap on a person, pet, or anything else to lock focus as the subject moves around the frame. The feature works extremely well compared with similar functions on other phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10e. Google’s phones also have an AI-powered digital zoom that is almost as good as the optical zoom on phones with multiple rear cameras like the Galaxy S10+.
The Pixel 3 comes in two versions: The standard Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2160×1080; the Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch screen at 2960×1440. The 3 XL’s display also has a large notch (cutout) at the top of the screen for the front-facing cameras. DisplayMate tested the 3 XL and found that its colours were “visually indistinguishable from perfect”, though Samsung’s latest OLED displays on the Galaxy S10e and Note 10 are a bit brighter and more even and visually consistent in low light.
Google is one of the few companies making a (relatively) compact flagship phone: The 5.5-inch Pixel 3 is just as powerful as the larger Pixel 3 XL. (Samsung, with the S10e, is another.) Both Pixels have a Snapdragon 845 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. Both have battery life that’s at least as good as that of other high-end phones – they’ll easily last through a day of heavy usage or almost two days of light usage. Because the Pixel 3 XL’s larger size lets it hold a bigger battery, that model lasts a little longer on a charge, but the difference is minor. You should get the size that you find more comfortable to use.
Unlike past Pixel models, the 2018 versions have glass backs instead of aluminum. This design enables wireless charging, which hasn’t been available on Google phones since the Nexus 6 in 2014. The bottom three-quarters of the Gorilla Glass panel is etched to achieve a matte finish; it feels more grippy than smooth glass and hides fingerprints well, but it scratches more easily. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL have aluminum frames that add to the strength of the glass, and they’re both IP68-rated for dust and water resistance, which means they will keep working even after being fully submerged in 1.5 metres (about 5 feet) of water for half an hour. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are not.
The Pixel 3 lacks a headphone jack, which is becoming a common omission on flagship phones, though the Pixel 3a phones and the Samsung Galaxy S10e still have that. Instead of a 3.5 mm jack, the Pixel 3 comes with a USB-C–to–headphone adapter and a set of USB Type-C headphones that in our tests sounded much better than we expected for a bundled accessory. The Pixel 3 also doesn’t offer a microSD card slot as Samsung’s Galaxy S10 series does, so you should buy the 128 GB version (which adds to the already high cost of the phone) if you’re concerned that 64 GB won’t be enough.
And although the Pixel 3’s 18 W USB-C charger is slightly better than the 15 W one that ships with the Galaxy S10e, you need to buy Google’s expensive Pixel Stand if you want 10 W wireless charging. The Pixel 3 charges at only 5 W on standard Qi chargers, though Google says it will certify “Made for Google” 10 W chargers from third parties. Only two of those have come out so far, and they both cost too much and lack many features of the Pixel Stand.
The Pixel 3 XL offers more viewable space than the Pixel 3, but the 3 XL’s screen has a giant notch at the top to make room for the phone’s dual front-facing cameras. This design quirk is divisive – some people don’t mind it and others hate it. Functionally, the notch limits how many status and notification icons can appear in the status bar, which is annoying.
Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy S10e
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 family includes three phones: the S10, S10+, and S10e. They’re all good, but most people should consider the Samsung Galaxy S10e first because it has almost all the features of the larger phones with a lower price tag. It’s the iPhone XR of Samsung’s world: The S10 and S10+ are too expensive when you consider how good the cheaper model is. The S10e offers a brighter, more vibrant display than the Pixel 3 or 3a, and it has features the Pixels lack, such as a microSD card slot, the ability to wirelessly charge other devices, and a headphone jack (which the Pixel 3a has but the Pixel 3 does not). But although Samsung’s main camera sensor is good and there’s a secondary ultra-wide-angle camera, the Pixel 3 and 3a still have the best camera by a wide margin, especially in challenging lighting conditions. The S10e ships with Android Pie and Samsung’s One UI software overlay, which performs well but is cluttered with redundant apps. And configuring all the features takes time. Samsung is also much slower than Google to release new Android updates for its phones.
The Galaxy S10 comes in three screen sizes: 5.8 inches (S10e), 6.1 inches (S10), and 6.4 inches (S10+). Most people considering the S10 series will be happy with the S10e. The S10e doesn’t have a curved display or an in-screen fingerprint sensor, but that actually makes it easier to use. It has almost no bezel surrounding the screen, so it fits a 5.8-inch screen in a smaller body than the Pixel and its 5.5-inch display; a small circular cutout at the top accommodates the selfie camera. The display uses best-in-class OLED screen technology that’s brighter and more vivid than that of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. According to GSM Arena, the S10e’s screen is just as impressive as those on the more expensive S10 models.
The Galaxy S10e has a 12-megapixel main camera sensor featuring an adjustable aperture, which means the camera lens can physically adjust to let in more or less light. It can take impressively bright low-light shots and crisp outdoor images, so it has more range than other phone cameras. However, Samsung’s high dynamic range processing still doesn’t cope with dark and light areas in the same photo as effectively as the HDR of the Pixels, and the shutter speeds tend to be too long. This leads to blurriness when your subject is moving, even with the help of above-average optical stabilisation. The secondary 16-megapixel ultrawide camera is useful for capturing large groups of people, landscapes, and other expansive scenes, but it’s not enough for the S10e to beat the Pixel family in photo taking. Although the Galaxy S10e is one of the best phones for photography, the Pixel models take better pictures overall.
The metal and glass body of the Galaxy 10e is solid, and it curves in the right places to fit comfortably in the hand. The phone looks beautiful, but it picks up fingerprints as soon as you handle it. With all that glass, it’s also slippery and fragile. The Galaxy S10e is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance, which means it’ll keep working even after being fully submerged in 1.5 metres (about 5 feet) of water for half an hour. Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to the power button on the right edge of the S10e. It’s not as cutting-edge as the ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor Samsung uses in the S10 and S10+, but it is faster and more accurate, comparable to the Pixel’s rear-mounted sensor.
The Galaxy S10e is one of the first phones to ship with the Snapdragon 855 processor. The performance improvements are noticeable in comparison with last year’s Samsung flagships, putting the Galaxy S10e on almost equal footing with the Pixel. However, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL still feel more fluid and consistent in multitasking or installing apps; Google’s version of Android remains better optimized than the versions most phone makers ship.
The Galaxy S10e’s battery life is similar to what you can get from the Pixel 3 and 3a – the phone lasts through a day easily, but you will need to charge it every night. The Pixel 3 XL and 3a XL will offer a few more hours of screen time. Samsung includes a 15 W wired fast charger with the phone, but the wired charging speed is slower than what Google, LG, OnePlus, and other phone makers offer. You can buy a 9 W wireless fast charger, too, and unlike with the Pixel, you don’t need to buy a fast charger specifically designed to work with the S10e in order to get the highest wireless charging speed. The S10e even wirelessly charges other devices such as phones and earbuds through a feature called Wireless Power Share.
Samsung ships the Galaxy S10e with Android 9 Pie, one version older than the Android 10 that Google’s Pixel phones now run. However, it has Samsung’s One UI theme, which is better than Samsung’s older software but still not as attractive or easy to use as the Pixel version. Some of Samsung’s added features are useful, such as a systemwide night theme and gesture navigation that’s easier to adjust to than Google’s. But Samsung also bundles unnecessary apps, such as its own calendar, browser and keyboard, even though Google’s apps are better. Samsung’s home screen is also clunky compared with Google’s Pixel Launcher, and Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant is mediocre at best. You’re better off disabling Bixby and sticking to Google Assistant.
And although Samsung aims for monthly security updates as Google does for the Pixel, Samsung rarely manages that. You do get more updates than on most Android phones, but major feature updates take significantly longer to show up than they do on the Pixel 3. While the Pixel phones are already on Android 10, last year’s Galaxy S9 didn’t get the Pie update until early 2019, about four months after the Pixels, and we expect the S10 to get Android 10 in around the same time frame.
Also great: OnePlus 7 Pro
The OnePlus 7 Pro is more expensive than past OnePlus devices, but it’s the best choice if you want a huge phone. The massive 6.4-inch edge-to-edge OLED screen refreshes at 90 frames per second instead of the more typical 60, making scrolling and animations look much more fluid. There’s no notch interrupting the display because the OnePlus 7 Pro has a pop-up front-facing camera. The trio of rear cameras are capable, but not as good as the single camera on the Pixel or the main sensor on the Galaxy S10e. This phone also lacks typical flagship features like water resistance, wireless charging, and a headphone jack. Although OnePlus’s support has improved over the past year, you will wait longer for support replies and shipping than with Google or Samsung (or Apple). That might be a problem if the motorised front camera proves unreliable after a few months.
We recommend the OnePlus 7 Pro version which has 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage for its price. More expensive versions offer a completely unnecessary 12 GB of RAM, but you might want to upgrade for the expanded 256 GB of storage – the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t have a microSD card slot.
All versions of the OnePlus 7 Pro have the Snapdragon 855 processor, and this phone is even faster than the Galaxy S10e and Pixel 3. Apps open instantly, scrolling is perfectly smooth, and multitasking is lag-free. The 1440×3120, 90 Hz screen makes all the animations look very fluid compared with the 60 Hz screen on other phones. The screen isn’t quite as bright or colour-accurate as the Galaxy S10e OLED, but it is good enough for use outdoors in direct sunlight. The fingerprint reader under the display is about as fast as the fingerprint readers on the Pixel and Galaxy S10e, too. This model also has OnePlus’s trademark alert slider on the side of the phone, which changes your ringer mode instantly – a standard feature on iPhones, but virtually unheard of on Android for some reason.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy S10+, the other huge flagship phones, the OnePlus 7 Pro isn’t loaded with redundant apps or buggy features you’ll never use. The user interface is even smoother than the Pixel 3’s thanks to the 90 Hz screen, but it’s missing some useful features such as Google’s Call Screen and Samsung’s Secure Folder. Oxygen OS is still one of the best versions of Android, and OnePlus’s update support is among the best of any Android device maker outside of Google – OnePlus phones get at least two years of Android version updates and a third year of security updates, released every two months.
The 7 Pro has a 4,000 mAh battery, larger than the battery in the Galaxy S10e or in any version of the Pixel. The 90 Hz screen does draw more power, though, so the battery life is about the same; the OnePlus 7 Pro will last comfortably through a day, but you’d be hard-pressed to manage a second day without recharging. Luckily, the proprietary Warp Charge cable operates at 30 W, much faster than the charging for either the Pixel or the Galaxy S10. The phone also fast-charges at 15 W on USB-PD chargers.
You can find three cameras on the back of the OnePlus 7 Pro: a 48-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel 3x telephoto, and a 16-megapixel wide-angle. These are the best cameras OnePlus has ever put on a phone, but they’re not quite as good as Samsung’s cameras, and they fall far short of the standard Google set. The problem is most obvious in low-light conditions, but it’s nice to have both telephoto and wide-angle lenses (neither the Pixel nor the Galaxy S10e has both). The front-facing pop-up camera works well, but we have reservations about the mechanism. The ability to hide the camera saves this phone from having a notch at the top of the display, but the pop-up piece’s motor is a small moving part that could break before you’re ready for a phone upgrade.
The OnePlus 7 Pro feels solid, but it’s made from slippery glass, and you don’t get the benefit of wireless charging as with the Pixel 3 or Galaxy S10e. OnePlus does offer a handful of official cases that make the phone easier to grip, and they’re some of the best phone cases we’ve used – they fit perfectly and look great, although adding a case makes this already huge phone harder to hold.
OnePlus does not offer a water-resistance certification (more expensive phones are usually IP67-rated at least) or a microSD card slot with this model. The company says the 7 Pro should survive a splash (no promises), but you should not put that to the test. The phone also has no headphone jack, which is typical for high-end phones but disappointing nonetheless. What is surprising is that OnePlus didn’t even bother including a USB-to-headphone adapter in the box.
In general, we don’t recommend that you get an Android phone that is more than a year old or has already been replaced by newer models. An older phone might be cheaper, but the lower price usually isn’t enough to justify the shorter window of remaining software support. Most Android phones receive about two years of reliable software support; after that you’re lucky to have even one or two security updates per year.
As mentioned above, the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ are fine phones that share nearly all of the features of the S10e, but they are taller and equipped with curved edge-to-edge screens measuring 6.1 inches and 6.4 inches diagonal, respectively. They also have in-screen fingerprint readers like that of the OnePlus 7 Pro rather than a fingerprint reader integrated into the power button like the S10e’s. They’re both great, but you have little reason to spend the extra money over the S10e and Galaxy Note 10, respectively.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ are feature-packed phones with the best OLED screens available right now, but the starting price is too high when most people will be just as happy with a Pixel or the Galaxy S10e. The Note 10+ is the better of the two Note phones, with a higher-resolution OLED and a microSD card slot, but it measures 6.8 inches diagonal – it’s an enormous, almost tablet-sized phone that might not even fit in your pocket. These are also the first Samsung phones to drop the headphone jack. The only reason to buy a Note 10 over a Pixel or the Galaxy S10e is if you cannot live without the S Pen stylus, and that describes very few people.
In a similar vein, Sony’s Xperia 1 is the best phone that company has made in years, with a vibrant 4K OLED screen and smooth performance. The super-tall 21:9 screen ratio makes split-screen multitasking easier, and you can watch movies without black bars. However, the device is so tall that apps can feel cramped, and all the buttons and the fingerprint sensor are awkwardly clustered on the right edge. Sony’s camera performance also falls short of what we’ve seen from Google, Samsung, and even OnePlus.
The Moto Z4 is the only phone in the past year to support the Moto Mod accessory system. Unlike past Z-series phones, this one is a midrange device (with a Snapdragon 675 processor and 4 GB of RAM) instead of a flagship phone. It’s not as fast as the OnePlus 7 Pro, the Galaxy S10, or even the Pixel 3a, and the in-display fingerprint sensor is sluggish. The Moto Z4 comes with a 360-degree camera Mod that you’ll probably never use.
The LG V40 ThinQ is not as good as the Pixel 3 XL or OnePlus 7 Pro for several reasons. The V40’s performance is not up to the Pixel’s, and its screen isn’t as nice or as smooth as the OnePlus 7 Pro’s. And despite the fact that LG put three camera sensors on the back of the V40, we’d take the Pixel’s fantastic single sensor any day.
The LG G8 ThinQ is the best phone LG has ever made, but it’s still far behind the Pixel 3 and Galaxy S10e. The 6.1-inch OLED is bright and vibrant, and we appreciate the true 3D face unlock on this phone. However, LG’s gimmicky hand unlock and touchless gestures barely work, and the rest of the software experience lags behind even Samsung’s at this point.
The Nokia 9 PureView is the most powerful phone HMD has released under the Nokia brand, but it’s ultimately disappointing. It looks good on paper with an AI-powered five-camera array, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and a Snapdragon 845 processor. Plus, the haptic feedback is almost as good as on the Pixel 3. The Nokia Android One version of Android is also fast and gets regular updates. The camera can take impressive photos, but processing a single photo can take as long as 20 seconds, and the rest of the phone slows to a crawl. On top of that, the in-screen fingerprint reader is abysmally slow and inaccurate.
The BlackBerry KEY2 is the only current-generation Android phone with a physical keyboard, but you pay for that with a smaller screen and a chunky overall design. The KEY2 also has a midrange Snapdragon 660 processor and middle-of-the-road camera performance, but the price is almost enough for you to buy a Pixel 3a XL. This phone isn’t worth the price unless having a physical keyboard is all you care about.
The HTC U12+ has high-end specs and camera performance that almost rivals Samsung’s, but everything else about this phone is a mess. The LCD screen suffers from extreme backlight bleed, and HTC’s Sense version of Android Oreo is dated and clunky. This phone doesn’t even have physical buttons – it has pressure-sensitive “nubs” where the power and volume buttons should be, and they work poorly. Simply turning on your phone should not be so frustrating.