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Best Android phones 2021: which Google-powered phone should you buy?

The best Android phones including OnePlus 9 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21
A selection of the best Android phones (Image credit: OnePlus, Samsung, Oppo)

Our list of the best Android phones is constantly changing, because there's a steady supply of excellent new Android handsets regularly released. There are no shortage of new options here with, for instance, the likes of the OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11, and Asus ROG Phone 5 all launching in recent times.

Before then, we saw the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra launch too. It doesn't stop there either with later in the year likely to bring with it the Sony Xperia 1 III, the Google Pixel 6, and many more.

Simply put, there's a huge number of great Android phones to choose from now, with more arriving all the time. Below, you’ll find our list of the best ones that are currently available.

In most cases these picks are flagship devices, but they come from a range of companies and at a range of prices, so there should be something for most people and budgets here. 

We might be expecting regular new additions throughout the year but the best phones on this list are likely to remain fantastic choices for a long time to come. Have no fear about missing out when you decide on a phone here.

Best Android phones 2021: which is for you?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

A top tier smartphone, and it takes our best crown

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Weight: 227g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100
RAM: 12GB / 16GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP
Front camera: 40MP
Reasons to buy
+The best camera zoom+Mesmerizing design
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive at any level-No microSD card slot

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s top, premium flagship for 2021, and what a phone it is. For the first time Samsung has offered S Pen support on an S-range handset here, meaning that you can optionally get the Galaxy Note range’s best feature.

But even without that, this is a stunning handset, with a brilliant quad-lens camera capable of 10x optical zoom. In fact, in our review we called it the best camera zoom on any readily available Android phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also looks great, with a smooth Gorilla Glass back that has a matte finish that looks better than the reflective Galaxy S20 range, while around the front there’s a curved edge-to-edge 6.8-inch screen.

And speaking of that screen, for the first time on a Samsung phone you get both a QHD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate at the same time. And being a high-end Samsung screen this is one of the best around.

There’s also oodles of power of course, and while obviously very expensive, this actually has a cheaper starting price than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra did at launch.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

2. OnePlus 9 Pro

A giant leap for OnePlus photography

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 197g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3216
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+The best OnePlus camera phone+Great power
Reasons to avoid
-High price-No microSD support

There was a time when OnePlus phones cut a few corners to achieve a lower price than rivals, but that’s no longer the case with the OnePlus 9 Pro. While it’s still slightly cheaper than most comparable handsets, it’s a top phone in every way.

As well as having a big, sharp and all-round high-quality 120Hz screen, top-end power from its Snapdragon 888 chipset, a big battery with fast charging whether wired or wireless (at 65W and 50W respectively), and a premium metal and glass build – with water resistance, it’s also by far the best OnePlus camera phone.

This is notable as it’s an area the company has previously struggled to compete in, but the OnePlus 9 Pro is the first fruit of a new partnership with Hasselblad, and the camera brand’s expertise shows.

All this high-end tech does mean the OnePlus 9 Pro is more expensive than the range used to be, and that’s the main point against it, but it’s hard to argue you’re not getting your money’s worth.

Read more: OnePlus 9 Pro review

Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung Galaxy S21

Not the best of the S series, but nevertheless great

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Weight: 169
Dimensions: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.2-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 4,000mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic, versatile camera+Cheaper than the Galaxy S20
Reasons to avoid
-No microSD support-Screen isn’t the best

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the most basic and affordable of the Galaxy S21 range, but it has a lot going for it beyond its relatively low price.

The triple-lens camera is highly versatile, including the three core lenses that we’d expect from a premium smartphone – namely a main one, a telephoto, and an ultra-wide. They all perform well too.

There’s also high-end power, solid battery life, and an AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. At 6.2 inches it’s also a lot more compact than the rest of the S21 range, so it’s ideal if you don’t want a massive phone.

And beyond being the most affordable of the range, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is actually a step down in price from its predecessor, so it’s a bit of a bargain – though to achieve that the screen resolution has been dropped to Full HD+, and the back of the phone is ‘Glasstic’ rather than actual glass.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

An Ultra-sized phone

Specifications
Release date: August 2020
Weight: 208g
Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.9-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3088
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus / Exynos 990
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 128/256/512GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 108MP, 12MP, 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Useful S Pen features+Great-looking screen
Reasons to avoid
-Slow charging-Ultra-expensive

Samsung's latest super-premium Note smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, with advanced features, a great-looking screen, and special features for the S Pen stylus which comes included in the phone, that give you added versatile ways to use your device.

Sure it's expensive, and pretty huge, and doesn't actually have all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But those weaknesses are made up for with plenty of advantages that make it a top Android phone.

This is a real top-end phone with top specs in every sector, so if your budget (and hand) can stretch for it, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra may really be one worth considering.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

Xiaomi Mi 11

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

5. Xiaomi Mi 11

Xiaomi's 2021 flagship

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 196g
Dimensions: 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.6mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery: 4,600mAh
Rear camera: 108MP + 13MP + 5MP
Front camera: 20MP
Reasons to buy
+Great photography modes+Fast performance
Reasons to avoid
-Temperamental fingerprint scanner-Weak battery life

The Xiaomi Mi 11 isn’t even the top of the Mi 11 range – that’s the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, but it’s still a top Android phone, benefiting from high-end power and a highly capable camera.

There’s a 108MP f/1.9 main lens and a 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide, both of which perform well, but the camera highlight is actually its 5MP telemacro snapper, which is far better than the macro cameras on most phones, and functions from further away from the subject.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 also has a great 6.81-inch 1440 x 3200 AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, and a battery that charges fast both wired and wireless.

The actual battery life wasn’t amazing in our tests, and we’d have liked to see a telephoto camera included, but otherwise the Xiaomi Mi 11 is a great flagship.

Read more: Xiaomi Mi 11 review

Oppo Find X3 Pro

(Image credit: Oppo)

6. Oppo Find X3 Pro

A premium device for a premium price

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 193g
Dimensions: 163.6 x 74 x 8.3mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3216
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 50MP + 13MP + 50MP + 3MP
Front camera: 32MP
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic cameras+Good-looking display
Reasons to avoid
-Super-high price-No periscope camera

If not for its very high price the Oppo Find X3 Pro might rank even higher on this list, but as it stands this remains an excellent phone, even if it’s arguably not excellent value.

It has the basics that you’d expect from a top-end handset, including a big, high resolution, 120Hz screen, a top-end chipset, lots of RAM, a large battery that charges fast (at 65W wired or 30W wireless), water resistance, and a premium build, complete with a slightly more eye-catching camera block design than most.

Speaking of the camera, that’s a quad-lens one, with a 50MP f/1.8 main, 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 13MP f/2.4 telephoto (with 2x optical zoom), and 3MP f/3.0 macro.

That macro snapper might sound a bit throwaway, but in fact it’s what Oppo calls a ‘microlens’, designed for taking incredibly close-up photos that are more like a microscope image than a typical macro one. 

It’s a neat feature that you won’t find on other phones at the time of writing, and could be one of the main reasons to consider paying the high price this phone costs.

Read more: Oppo Find X3 Pro review

Realme GT

(Image credit: Realme)

7. Realme GT

The first Realme phone on this list

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 186g
Dimensions: 158.5 x 73.3 x 9.1mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.43-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+Distinctive design+Low price
Reasons to avoid
-Cameras are only okay-Software issues

Realme's first-ever phone in our ranking of the best Android phones is the Realme GT, a low-cost powerhouse with some incredibly impressive specs given the low price.

The phone boasts the powerful Snapdragon 888 chipset, 65W wired charging, and a Super AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The best part of the phone is its design, a fact you're probably already aware of since you scrolled down past the picture. With a vibrant faux-leather rear, broken up by a racing-stripe black streak, the phone is quite the eye-catcher.

While the phone doesn't have all the top specs other models on this list do, notably missing super-powerful cameras or super-high-resolution screens, its low price offsets that. If you don't want to pay the price of a super-powerful Android phone, this is a great alternative.

Read more: Realme GT review

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

(Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus

Still top Android phones

Specifications
Release date: March 2020
Weight: 163g/186g
Dimensions: 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm/161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.2-inch/6.7-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Snapdragon 865 / Exynos 990
RAM: 8GB/12GB
Storage: 128GB (S20) or 128GB/256GB/512GB (S20 Plus)
Battery: 4,000mAh/4500mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Great screen+Excellent cameras
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Iterative improvements

The Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus are – along with the Galaxy S20 Ultra – Samsung’s main 2020 flagship phones, so it’s no wonder they make this list.

While the S20 Plus has a slight specs edge, thanks to a larger 6.7-inch screen, a bigger 4,500mAh battery, a fourth camera lens (for depth-sensing) and optionally more storage, they’re largely very similar phones, so they’re fit to share the same spot.

Both have a highly capable camera array, with 12MP standard, 12MP ultra-wide, and 64MP telephoto sensors, and both also have top-end power, thanks to a Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 chipset (depending on where in the world you are) and up to 12GB of RAM.

They also both have a stunning 1440 x 3200 display with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. The design is premium too, and they’re both packed full of features, like reverse wireless charging, 5G, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and water resistance. They might not quite be the very best anymore, but they’re not far off.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 review

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: OnePlus)

9. OnePlus 9

A great-value option with no major drawbacks

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 192g
Dimensions: 160 x 74.2 x 8.7mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.55-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 50MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+Great specs for the cost+Good camera
Reasons to avoid
-No telephoto camera-Lack of flagship-material polish

The OnePlus 9 is a lesser phone than the OnePlus 9 Pro in a number of ways, but it’s also quite a bit cheaper, and arguably keeps the soul of its pricier sibling intact so it remains one of the best Android phones.

For one thing it retains the Hasselblad branding (and the camera expertise that goes with that), as well as having the same camera hardware as the OnePlus 9 Pro – minus that phone’s telephoto snapper.

The OnePlus 9 also has just as much power as the 9 Pro (or for that matter as pretty much any other early 2021 flagship), and while its screen is a step down it’s still great – it’s a 6.55-inch FHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The battery charges quickly (at 65W), plus there’s an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and a glass back – which even the Galaxy S21 doesn’t have. The OnePlus 9 does settle for a plastic frame, but that’s arguably less noticeable than a plastic rear, and you’re unlikely to feel short-changed by the phone.

Read more: OnePlus 9 review

Asus ROG Phone 5

(Image credit: Asus)

10. Asus ROG Phone 5

The best gaming phone that appeals to non-gamers too

Specifications
Release date: April 2021
Weight: 238g
Dimensions: 172.8 x 77.3 x 10.3mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.78-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2448
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12/16GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 6,000mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP + 5MP
Front camera: 24MP
Reasons to buy
+Remarkable performance+Great display and speakers
Reasons to avoid
-No telephoto camera-Large, heavy and dense

As a gaming phone, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is perhaps a bit more niche than most of the Android phones on this list, but it excels for gaming, and as such it’s also a pretty great all-round handset.

With a Snapdragon 888 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM its performance is truly top tier, and its 144Hz screen also excels, even if it’s not quite as sharp as some, at 1080 x 2448. The 6,000mAh battery is huge, lasts a long time, and charges at 65W, the speakers are great, and the phone has shoulder buttons, which help when controlling games.

As a gaming phone, its cameras understandably feel like a bit of an afterthought, and the Asus ROG Phone 5 also has the garish aesthetic that we’ve come to expect on gaming phones – and which will have as many haters as fans. But if you want a power-packed handset that excels for games and other media, while undercutting most conventional flagships, it’s a top choice.

Read more: Asus ROG Phone 5 review

James Peckham

James is Phones Editor for TechRadar and covers all the big announcements from the best manufacturers making mobile phones, tablets and wearables. Based in London, James is often testing out the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, VR headsets and - when he can be motivated to go outside - fitness bands. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest from the mobile world.