Posted on: November 14, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

Whether you’re looking for a big or small phone, entry-level or top-of-the-line, Android offers options for everyone. And unlike Apple’s rigid release cycle, Google’s hardware partners unleash a seemingly endless stream of new devices year-round. But therein lies the problem: With so many options out there, how do you settle on the right one? Lucky for you, we test and review nearly every smartphone available on all the major US carriers.

Keep in mind that while the reviews above may not show your carrier of choice, most of the phones here are available for, or compatible with, multiple US carriers. Read on for what to look for when buying, as well as our top picks for Android phones.

When to Buy a New Android Phone

COVID-19 really upended the Android phone release cycle, and as a result there are a bunch of new models coming out right about now. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE just came out, and we’re seeing new Google and OnePlus phones this October as well. Our list doesn’t include the Google Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, the LG Wing, or the OnePlus 8T, because we hadn’t been able to review them as of this writing. That said, we should have reviews of all of those devices soon, and the next big burst of Android phones will come out around next March.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FEThe Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

5G Android Phones

5G in the US so far has been unimpressive. Our 26-city Fastest Mobile Networks tests showed that AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 5G networks are both relatively slow, and Verizon’s is very hard to find. So we’re pulling back on our recommendations about 5G right now; basically, you’re going to get it on higher-end phones no matter what, but you shouldn’t expect much from it.

The Best Android Phone Deals This Week*

*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains

The next chance for that to change comes next year. T-Mobile is increasing the bandwidth on its existing mid-band 5G system, which could improve the performance of existing 5G phones. Verizon and AT&T will be buying new 5G spectrum, which will probably require new phones that won’t be sold before next March at the earliest.

You can find our favorite 5G handsets in our list of the The Best 5G Phones.

Pricing Trends

This list has phones from under $200 to just about $2,000. On the low end, the Nokia 5.3 and Moto G Power are excellent values for not much money. One tip at the very low end: carrier-branded phones (which don’t mention the name of their manufacturer) often aren’t very good.

Most of the phones sold in the US cost $600 or more, because they’re sold on monthly payment plans that hide the cost over 24 or 30 months. But there’s also a thriving market, mostly prepaid, of phones costing $300 or less. Take a look at recent models in the Moto G series, phones by Nokia, or the ZTE models sold by prepaid carriers for decent quality at a low price.

The pandemic caused phone makers to reevaluate the sky-high flagship phone prices we saw earlier this year. The Galaxy S20 FE, the Pixel 5, and (we anticipate) the OnePlus 8T are all resetting the “flagship” phone price from $1,000 to $600-$700, a refreshing change in a tough economy.

Verizon’s millimeter-wave 5G system continues to exact a “millimeter wave tax” on its devices; Verizon 5G-compatible phones are often $50-$100 more expensive than 5G phones for the other two carriers; when there’s an exception, it’s usually because Verizon or the manufacturer is quietly subsidizing the phone.

For more, see our stories on The Best Cheap Phones, The Best Cheap Phone Plans, and 9 Tips to Get the Best Price on a Cell Phone.

What Size Phone Is Right for You?

There’s been a dramatic shift in Android phone shapes and sizes over the last few years. Many manufacturers have started to make their phones taller and narrower, resulting in one-hand-friendly models with improbably large screen sizes. We go into more detail on the new form factors in This Is How We Need to Measure Phone Screens Now.

You can find Android phones with stated screen sizes from 5.6 inches to well over 6-plus inches. With the new form factors, though, it’s very important to look at the width of the phone as well as the width of the screen. A tall, narrow phone can be much easier to handle than something wider.

Which Is the Best Android Version?

Not all Android is created equal. Device manufacturers like LG and Samsung have been applying their own visions to Android for some time now. If you want a pure Google experience, then you want to go for a Pixel device; they’re the developer models where Google makes sure to deploy upgrades first. Motorola and OnePlus also have very clean user interfaces, although they tend to add more invisible features to Android.

See How We Test Phones

Android 11 is the most current version, but it isn’t widely available yet. Most phones have Android 10. Don’t buy a phone which comes with Android 8 or below, as the older the Android software version gets, the more likely it is to have serious security flaws.

The Problem With Huawei

Huawei is the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker, and its products under the Huawei and Honor brands are often very high quality. But the US government has now essentially gone to war with Huawei, banning Google services from Huawei phones and banning Huawei phones from US shelves. We no longer recommend Huawei phones on our roundups, although we continue to review them to show other Americans what we’re missing.

Should You Buy Through a Carrier or Unlocked?

The US market is still dominated by carrier-sold phones, but buying your phone direct and unlocked gives you more freedom to switch carriers if you choose to do so.

Unlocked phones feature no carrier bloatware and no ongoing payment plan, so you can switch to another carrier or sell on eBay at will. It’s actually something you own. Every phone on this list can be bought direct, with no carrier involvement. But most people still buy their phones through carriers, which offer a single point for service and support, as well as monthly payment plans that dramatically lower the upfront prices of phones. Carriers also sometimes restrict Wi-Fi calling features to phones sold by their own stores.

With that in mind, choosing Android as your mobile operating system is only half the battle. If you’re still on the fence, check out our list of The Best Phones, regardless of OS.

Where To Buy