Apple may have really kicked off the smartphone era, but Google-powered Android phones still dominate the market – especially outside the US.
That’s no surprise when you consider the range of different manufacturers producing Android handsets across a huge spread of prices, meaning there’s probably an Android out there to appeal to just about any taste.
Samsung is by far the biggest Android manufacturer in the global market, and US buyers will also be able to choose from Motorola, Sony, OnePlus, and of course Google’s own Pixel phones. Outside North America there’s even more competition from the big Chinese brands including Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and more.
That means there’s plenty of variety out there – far more than you get from the handful of iPhones released each year. Android users also have the option of novel form factors like the wave of new foldable phones hitting the market right now, led by Samsung.
Since Android is so open, it’s easy to move between brands, so just because you currently use a Samsung you shouldn’t feel the need to stick with it. Even if you’re currently an iPhone owner, it’s easier than ever to switch from iPhone to Android, so don’t let that put you off.
Here at Tech Advisor we independently test each phone thoroughly so we can bring you the very best options at any given moment. Clicking through to our in-depth reviews will help, as we have detailed benchmarks, test photography, and more. These are our ten favourites right now, but keep checking back as we update this list regularly.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t feel like an S22 at all – in fact this is more like a covert revival of Samsung’s once-loved Note brand, with a distinct design from its S22 siblings and a built-in slot to store the included S-Pen stylus.
The camera is one of the best in any phone, with a 108Mp main shooter backed up by an ultrawide and two telephoto lenses at different zoom levels – with the zoom performance particularly improved on previous models.
The expansive 6.8in LTPO AMOLED display delivers both high WQHD+ resolution and adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz, and with S-pen stylus support it comfortably fills the productivity niche of the former Note phones.
Pixel phones have always been about the camera, and the 7 Pro’s camera – while not quite our favourite right now – is absolutely fantastic, with versatility thanks to the inclusion of an ultrawide and a periscopic telephoto.
The bigger edge to the phone is Google’s software though. The 7 Pro runs the best version of Android around, with the clean simplicity of stock Android plus all of Google’s excellent Pixel-exclusive upgrades, now powered by the company’s second-gen in-house Tensor chip.
You’ll have to put up with slow charging (and buy your own charger to boot), and accept the fact that this is a big phone with a divisive design – you may well love it, but there are plenty out there who don’t. The regular Pixel 7 is a little smaller (and cheaper), but lacks that telephoto camera and has a slightly more basic display.
You may not have heard of Vivo before, but you should definitely be paying attention.
The company is a giant of the Chinese smartphone market, and is slowly expanding its international reach – which is a good thing, because it’s been an open secret for the last few years that Vivo probably makes the best cameras in any phone around.
The X80 Pro is no exception, with four phenomenal rear cameras. The 50Mp main lens is phenomenal, but it’s the 48Mp ultrawide that really blows away all the competition, and the two zoom lenses add extra options. The tech is really at its best in low light, with hands-down the best night mode available anywhere.
It’s a great phone elsewhere too, with a top-class display, fast charging, and excellent battery life. The main frustration is that the company’s Android skin is a little awkward, but if you care about the camera and can afford to spend this much, it’s hard to do better.
Samsung’s first few attempts at foldables were fun, but sometimes felt like novelties. With the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Korean tech giant has unequivocally got it right.
Core specs are top-tier throughout, with a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 in tow, and the 12Mp main camera is as capable as almost any around – though you may miss having a telephoto lens.
Even battery life is now impressive, comfortably lasting a full day’s use when its predecessors simply couldn’t. You’ll just have to be willing to take a chance that the folding screen will last as long as Samsung says.
If you want something bigger, the Z Fold 4 is pretty great too, but the higher price, dodgy under-display camera, and software quirks make it less of a home-run than its smaller sibling.
If you can’t afford the Pixel 7 Pro or 7, then Google has another option for you: the decidedly affordable Pixel 6a.
This mid-range phone packs a similar flagship Tensor chip to its bigger brothers, along with a familiar design. But it’s a much smaller phone, and made from plastic rather than glass.
There are downside, of course. The camera specs aren’t quite the same, though it still impresses. You’ll also get slower charging and only a 60Hz refresh rate on the display. If you can live with those downsides though, this is an excellent option for the price.
Some phones are great for what they do, others are great for how little they cost doing it.
The Motorola Edge 30 Ultra stands out because it offers the best of an Android flagship while costing a lot less than most of the competition. The 144Hz OLED display is pretty much unheard of outside gaming phones, the 125W charging is among the fastest around, and the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip is blisteringly fast. Oh, and the battery lasts for two full days, easy.
All that, and it costs just £749/€899, making it an absolute bargain. You’ll have to live with IP54 rather than IP68 water-resistance, and a camera that’s good but not quite great, but those feel like small concessions to make for a phone as good as this.
The Oppo Find X5 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in 10-bit 120Hz QHD+ panel is one of the best displays in any phone right now and Oppo backs it up with 80W wired and 50W wireless charging, a 5000mAh battery, and a top-tier camera that boasts 50Mp sensors on both the main and ultrawide lenses.
You’ll have to live without a periscopic zoom lens – the telephoto here is a measly 2x zoom – but results across all three rear lenses are exceptional. The design is unique too, thanks to a seamlessly sloped camera module built right into the ceramic of the phone’s body.
For pure performance, the Find X5 Pro is also hard to beat, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, 256GB storage and 12GB RAM. You just have to be willing to pay the price, as it doesn’t come cheap – though the regular
Find X5 is a great option that costs much less.
The Zenfone 9 is a full-force flagship in a small size, and with remarkably few compromises for it.
The 5.9in display makes this one of the smallest phones on the market, especially on the Android side, and comfortably the smallest with specs this strong.
The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and up to 16GB of RAM mark this as a serious performance phone, though cooling problems do leave that power slightly throttled. The 8+ Gen 1 is also partly to thank for the excellent battery life however, which puts other compact smartphones to shame.
The gimbal-stabilised main camera impresses, especially at night, though with a few visual glitches and issues in bright environments it’s clear Asus has some software tuning to do. Some may also miss the variety offered by rivals, especially the lack of a telephoto lens here.
Given the phone is so good, it’s frustrating that Asus is only promising two years of support, so this will only suit those who know they’re on a regular upgrade schedule. The overall experience is excellent though, with smart software and welcome touches like the IP68 rating and headphone jack.
OnePlus’s first T-branded Nord phone is a worthy follow-up, powered by MediaTek’s 5G-capable Dimensity 1300 chipset.
The Nord 2T also totes a 90Hz AMOLED display, a great primary 50Mp main camera, and nippy 80W fast charging.
Software-wise, the company’s OxygenOS user experience is also a major highlight – bringing responsive interactivity and a clean interface to the table that lends itself to the phone’s powerful, premium feel. The only downside is that the company only promises two Android version updates, and a third year of security fixes.
Don’t think of the S22 as a poor man’s S22 Ultra – Samsung has used its standard flagship model to strike a super balancing act of specs and features that comes with few flaws, all squeezed into a surprisingly compact build.
As a result, you get some of the best performance found in an Android phone currently, a glass-bodied design, and the latest Android 12 (dressed in Samsung’s own One UI 4.1, at launch) with a commitment to years of software support.
The battery life is a little weak, and some of the camera features will likely benefit from firmware fixes over time, but this remains an excellent example of an Android flagship.
The latest version of Android right now is Android 13, which launched in late 2022. However, it often takes some time for Android brands to update their phones, so many phones launched in 2022 will still be running Android 12.
Do all Android phones run the same software?
Yes and no. They all run Android of course, but there are variations within that. Every manufacturer tweaks Android to produce its own version – often called an ‘Android skin’.
For example Samsung phones run One UI, OnePlus phones are on OxygenOS, and Xiaomi phones run on MIUI. Phones that run software close to Google’s own are often described as running ‘stock’, but in truth even the Google Pixel phones run their own unique spin on the software. Each of these offers a unique aesthetic and a range of specific features, so you should always try and learn a little about a brand’s software before you commit to a phone.
It’s also important to remember that not every Android phone gets equal updates. Every manufacturer promises a different number of updates for their devices – usually separated into Android feature updates and security patches – and generally speaking more expensive phones are supported for longer than cheaper devices. At the time of writing, the best brands in this regard are Samsung and Google.
Which specs matter the most?
With more Android phones out there, there are also more specs to pick between. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about what matters most, so instead think about your priorities.
Do you care most about fast and smooth performance? Perhaps you prioritise longer battery life, or faster charging speeds? Maybe a capable camera is the main thing you look for?
Most Android phones will offer some combination of the above – and more – but there will always be certain specs where they compromise. Deciding on your priorities is the first step in picking a phone.
Are Android phones better than iPhones?
This argument has waged for over a decade, and it won’t end any time soon. For now, let’s just say that each has its advantages.
There’s more variety in Android phones, giving consumers a lot more choice – including unusual options like foldable phones or devices designed for gaming.
Certain hardware features also tend to be better on Android. The majority of modern Android phones charger faster – often a lot faster – than even the latest iPhones, and fast refresh rate displays have also become common. Look to the really top end and you’ll also find that by and large the best camera phones run Android, though Apple still has the edge when it comes to recording video.
On the other hand, Apple’s carefully controlled ecosystem means iPhones often have fewer bugs and inconsistencies than Android devices, and there’s a level of polish to both the software and hardware that few Android rivals match. Apple’s long-term software support also outstrips even the best of Android.
Why isn’t every Android phone available where I live?
This is a complicated question, and every manufacturer approaches it differently. If you live in Europe or Asia, you’ll likely find that most – albeit not all – Android phones launch where you live. Markets like Africa and South America get a slightly different selection, while in North America there are only very few brands, with almost none of the Chinese manufacturers.
Ultimately each manufacturer has to decide which markets will be profitable for them, which comes down to a combination of market sizes, local regulations, and the power that networks have – in the US, for example, it’s the strict control carriers exert that keeps most Chinese companies out.
Tech Advisor's Deputy Editor, Dom covers everything that runs on electricity, from phones and laptops to wearables, audio, gaming, smart home, and streaming - plus he's a regular fixture on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.