There are new phones arriving all the time, especially when it comes to the world of Android. Apple's iPhones will always be popular but handsets running Google's mobile OS provide you with a wealth of choice - and usually much better specs for the same price.

2021 has already brought along some phenomenal handsets, with the Galaxy S21 and Xiaomi Mi 11 among our favourites, and a phenomenal foldable in the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. Sadly it was a dud year for OnePlus flagships, with the OnePlus 9 series simply not good enough to crack our top 10 - though the mid-range Nord 2 did make the cut.

Here at Tech Advisor we independently test each phone thoroughly so we can bring you the very best options worth considering at any given moment. Here we rank the top ten but keep checking back as we update this list regularly.

Clicking through to our in-depth reviews will help, as we have detailed benchmarks, test photography and more for you to explore.

Best Android phones 2021

1

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra - Best Android phone

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Pros: Best camera around | Phenomenal display | Stylus support
  • Cons: Bulky | Expensive

After 2020's disappointing Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung has finally earned the name with a follow-up that delivers almost everything you could want from an Android flagship - admittedly at a price that only a few can afford, and in a form factor that will simply be too big for some.

The camera is now probably the best in any phone, with a 108Mp main shooter backed up by an ultrawide and two telephoto lenses at different zoom levels.

The expansive 6.8in display delivers both high WQHD+ resolution and adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz, and with new S-pen stylus support it comfortably fills the productivity niche of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra too.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

2

Oppo Find X3 Pro - Best display

Oppo Find X3 Pro
  • Pros: Best screen around | Versatile camera | Unique design
  • Cons: No periscope zoom | Expensive

The Oppo Find X3 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 65W wired and 30W wireless charging, a 4500mAh 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 Oppo instead includes a novel microlens camera capable of microscopic super-closeups. That's not the only oddity, as the design itself is utterly unique thanks to a seamlessly sloped camera module built right into the glass of the phone's body.

For pure performance the Find X3 Pro is also hard to beat, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 888 chip, 512GB storage and 12GB RAM. You just have to be willing to pay the price, as it doesn't come cheap.

Read our full Oppo Find X3 Pro review

3

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 - Best foldable

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G
  • Pros: Stunning design | Waterproof | Affordable (for a foldable)
  • Cons: Average camera | Limited battery life

Samsung's first few attempts at foldables were fun, but felt like novelties. With the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the Korean tech giant has unequivocally got it right.

A revamped design not only looks much better, but incorporates waterproofing and is more useful thanks to the larger cover display.

Core specs are solid throughout, with a Snapdragon 888 in tow, and the 12Mp main and ultrawide cameras are solid if not exceptional - though you may miss having a telephoto lens.

The big drawback is battery, with the Flip 3 only just lasting a full day's use. But if you can live with that, this is the first foldable that feels absolutely competitive at its price point.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review

4

Xiaomi Mi 11 - Best value flagship

Xiaomi Mi 11
  • Pros: Fast wired & wireless charging | Strong specs | Great value
  • Cons: No zoom camera | Big | MIUI software

The Xiaomi Mi 11 is a rock-solid performer thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, which comes paired with 8GB RAM and plenty of storage.

Throw in a WQHD+ 120Hz AMOLED display (quad-curved, no less), 108Mp rear camera, and 55W fast-charging paired with 50W wireless charging, and you can see that the Mi 11 won't be beaten for specs at its price.

There are minor downsides - you won't get an IP rating, there's no telephoto camera, and Xiaomi's MIUI software still has room for improvement. But if pure performance is what you're looking for, then look no further.

There's also the more expensive Mi 11 Ultra, which upgrades to faster charging and a more powerful camera, but with a massive trade-off: that camera is big and ugly, which is why we prefer the regular Mi 11.

Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 review

5

Samsung Galaxy S21 - Best all-rounder

Samsung Galaxy S21
  • Pros: Strong camera | Beautiful design | Compact size
  • Cons: Plastic body | Worse value than rivals

Don't think of the S21 as a poor man's S21 Ultra - Samsung has used its regular flagship to strike the same superb balancing act that it struck with last year's Galaxy S20 and updated the hardware.

As a result, you get some of the best performance found in an Android phone currently, a fresh new design, great battery life, the latest Android 11 (dressed in Samsung's own One UI 3.1, at launch) and integrated 5G - all in a compact form factor.

Best of all, all this comes in a more affordable package than its predecessor, though you can always pay a little more for the larger S21+ if you prefer.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review

6

OnePlus Nord 2 - Best mid-range

OnePlus Nord 2
  • Pros: Phenomenal value | Glass body | Fast charging
  • Cons: Only 90Hz display | No wireless charging

OnePlus's second proper Nord phone is a worthy follow-up, powered by a custom version of MediaTek's 5G-capable Dimensity 1200 chipset.

The Nord 2 also totes a 90Hz AMOLED display, a great primary 50Mp main camera, and nippy 65W 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.

OnePlus has also recently launched the Nord CE 5G, which takes most of these great specs but wraps them in a plastic body - with a few other key downgrades elsewhere. Overall we prefer the Nord 2, but the CE 5G is well worth a look if you're on a tighter budget.

Read our full OnePlus Nord 2 review

7

Realme GT - Best flagship killer

Realme GT 5G
  • Pros: Flagship specs | Mid-range price | Yellow leather design
  • Cons: No wireless charging | Basic camera

The Realme GT offers a heck of a lot of phone for your money.

The Snapdragon 888 chipset is paired with the fastest RAM and storage around, with 65W wired charging and a 120Hz AMOLED display to seal the deal - all essentially flagship specs.

Of course, this isn't a flagship price, so there are omissions elsewhere - no wireless charging or waterproofing for starters, and while the main camera is solid there's only a basic ultrawide and no telephoto at all.

If performance is your priority then the value here is unbeatable however - and the fact that it's all wrapped in an amazing racing striped yellow vegan leather body certainly doesn't hurt either.

Check out the cheaper Realme GT Master Edition for something similar, but less powerful.

Read our full Realme GT 5G review

8

Google Pixel 5 - Best software support

Google Pixel 5
  • Pros: Pixel camera | Google's best software | Compact & comfortable
  • Cons: Under-powered processor | Bland design

Google's first 5G flagship walks a different path to its predecessors, showcasing Android 11 to the best of its abilities but also shedding the more experimental features of previous generations and opting for more conservative hardware at the same time.

Its clean design and user experience are supported by a set of superb - and now more feature-rich - cameras, as well as an incredibly compact design and battery life that's actually usable.

Read our full Google Pixel 5 review

9

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro - Best budget

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
  • Pros: Exceptional value | 108Mp camera | 120Hz display
  • Cons: No 5G | MIUI software

The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best phones you can buy at its price point, with Xiaomi delivering exceptional value for money.

Highlights here start with the stunning screen, offering AMOLED technology and a 120Hz refresh rate, and continue with an excellent set of cameras. The headline is a 108Mp whopper which is backed up by a reasonable ultra-wide and a surprisingly decent telemacro.

Core specs are decent, hinging on the Snapdragon 732G to ensure smooth performance. However, the Redmi Note 10 Pro doesn't support 5G, which might be a deal breaker.

MIUI is also a downside with its overly complex interface that's simply not as stylish or easy to use as many rivals - even if you can make it a lot better than default with some tweaking.

Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review

10

Vivo X60 Pro - Best design

Vivo X60 Pro
  • Pros: Beautiful design & finish | Slim & light | Gimbal camera
  • Cons: Older processor | No wireless charging

The Vivo X60 Pro is the only phone in the X60 series to launch in the UK and Europe, but it's probably the Goldilocks of the lot anyway.

It's two biggest strengths are its design and camera. At 7.6mm thick and 177g heavy, it's one of the thinnest and lightest phones you can find right now, despite still featuring a 6.56in display (120Hz AMOLED, for what it's worth). The frosted glass finish completes the effect, available in Shimmer Blue (pictured) or a more subdued black.

As for the camera, the 48Mp, f/1.5 gimbal-stabilised main camera is one of the best in any phone, especially in low light or for video. 13Mp wide-angle and 2x zoom lenses complete the set, and they're more than capable of holding their own too.

There's no waterproofing or wireless charging, and the display caps out at Full HD - but if you can overlook those drawbacks, this is an exceptional Android flagship.

Read our full Vivo X60 Pro review

Your buying guide for the best Android phones in 2021

While you only get to choose from a handful of Apple handsets, there's something for everyone when it comes to Android.

They come from a variety of different manufacturers - in all manner of shapes, sizes and colours - and each has unique selling points, whether it's a sleek, waterproof design, a huge display or an abundance of cameras. Sometimes, you can even find all of those attributes on one phone.

We've done our best to rank the phones in order, taking into account build, value, performance and features. However, make sure you get a phone that's right for your needs – it might not simply be the phone in the top spot.

Important specs to look for are:

  • Screen quality: resolution, refresh rate (ideally at least 90Hz), and whether it's LCD or OLED
  • Chipset: does it use the latest Snapdragon 888, a lower 7- or 6-series chip, or even something from rival MediaTek?
  • RAM: look for at least 8GB, but more is better
  • Storage: look for at least 128GB, and check if it's expandable or not
  • Camera: don't just check Mp count - look into the types of lenses available, the sizes of the sensor, and check photo samples in our reviews
  • Waterproofing: is there an official IP rating or not?
  • Battery & charging: will it require a daily charge, and how fast is the charging - both wired and potentially wireless
  • 5G: most phones now support 5G, but double-check to be sure
  • Software: not all Android skins are created equal - our favourites are stock Android and OnePlus's OxygenOS, but read reviews to get a sense of each operating system's strengths and weaknesses. Check the manufacturer's upgrade promise too, and which software version it ships with - Android 11 is the latest, with Android 12 coming later this year.

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