The Android ecosystem is all about choice. While iPhone owners have a smaller pool of new devices to pick from when it’s time to upgrade, there’s a huge range of new Android phones every year. Some of them even fold in half! You want a built-in stylus? A flagship processor for less money? Maybe even — dare I say it — an unapologetically pink phone with matching earbuds? You’ve got options on Android.
On the flip side, all that choice can make for some hard decisions. Here’s where I’d like to help; I’ve tested a whole boatload of recent Android phones, and I think there are some real winners in the current crop. It’s all a matter of what you’re looking for, what you’re comfortable spending, and what your definition of a “reasonably sized phone” is. (I have my own, personally.)
If you live in the US, I have some bad news, though. For complicated reasons having to do with “capitalism” and “geopolitics,” we don’t get nearly as many of the options as you’ll find in Asia and Europe — brands like Huawei, Xiaomi, Honor, and Oppo just aren’t available here. I’ve limited this guide to the devices I’ve personally tested in depth; thus, it is a fairly US-centric set of recommendations.
With that in mind, it’s also worth acknowledging that most people in the US get their phones “for free” from their wireless carrier. If you can manage it, buying a phone unlocked will give you the most flexibility and freedom if you end up wanting to change carriers in the near future. Phone manufacturers also offer financing and trade-in deals to make payment more manageable. But if you’re happy with your carrier and the free phone on offer is the one you really want, by all means, take the free phone. Just make sure you understand the terms, especially if you need to change plans to cash in on the deal.
However you go about it, you have some fantastic options for your next Android phone purchase available right now.
Best Android phone overall
Screen: 6.6-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.8 main with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,700mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
Samsung’s Galaxy S series phones have been the go-to high-end Android phone for the past few years — particularly in the US — and there’s a good reason for that: they’re excellent devices. The Galaxy S23 Plus is a minor update to that winning formula, but that still makes it a winner. It neatly checks every item on the list of 2023 must-have flagship features: a lovely, large 6.6-inch screen, a capable camera system with a telephoto lens, robust weather resistance, and great battery life. At $999, it’s not cheap, but it’s also not the most expensive flagship phone you can buy.
It’s not surprising that the S23 Plus includes Qualcomm’s latest chipset: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. But what is surprising is that all versions of this phone sold across the globe use that Snapdragon processor — previously, some regions would get a Samsung-made Exynos chip. That’s great news because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is excellent, and it makes the S23 Plus sing. Day-to-day performance is top-notch, and battery stamina is much improved. There’s a larger 4,700mAh battery cell in the Plus this year, but the 8 Gen 2 is also well-tuned to conserve battery.
The 50-megapixel main camera, ultrawide, and 3x telephoto cameras that make up the S23 Plus’ imaging system aren’t showstoppers like the S23 Ultra, but they’re more than adequate for most situations. Occasionally, the S23 Plus takes stunning photos, particularly in its telephoto portrait mode. But it’s also prone to some heavy-handed processing that goes a little too hard on the HDR sometimes.
Samsung’s software isn’t our favorite, either. With a little work up front, you can uninstall or at least hide most of the proprietary apps and services Samsung insists on downloading, but it would be nice not to have to tango with Bixby in the first place. But on the bright side, Samsung offers one of the strongest software support policies from any Android device-maker, with four years of OS updates and five years of security updates promised. Even if the initial setup takes a little work to get right, at least you won’t have to do it all over again in a couple of years.
Best affordable flagship
Screen: 6.3-inch 1080p 90Hz OLED / Processor: Google Tensor G2 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.85 with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 10.8-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,355mAh / Charging: 30W wired, 20W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
Depending on how you look at it, the Google Pixel 7 can pass as either a budget-friendly flagship or a premium midrange phone. At $599, it’s a bit cheaper than Samsung’s S-series phones and also a bit more expensive than a midranger like the Galaxy A54. Its specs follow suit: you get the high-quality build and conveniences of a high-end device, like an IP68 rating and wireless charging, but you miss out on nice extras like a telephoto camera and a 120Hz screen. If those things aren’t super important to you, then the Pixel 7 is one heck of a good deal.
The Pixel 7 and its step-up 7 Pro sibling use Google’s latest custom chipset, Tensor G2. It delivers flagship-level performance, but it’s also part of the Pixel series’ special sauce of Google-exclusive features. They’re generally clever but sort of a mixed bag in terms of how helpful they actually are.
Clear Calling, which is exclusive to the Pixel 7 series, is like noise cancellation for phone calls that makes it easier to hear someone you’re talking to when they’re in a loud environment. Other features designed to make navigating phone trees and customer service calls less painful don’t work as well consistently. But they aren’t actively bad, and Google has proven committed to supporting its devices with updates and new features throughout their life spans.
Software really is the Pixel 7’s strength. It runs a clean version of Android, free of duplicate assistants and app stores (looking at you, Samsung) and will be supported well into the near future with three OS upgrades and five years of security patches. On the hardware front, you’ll have to live with a couple of concessions Google made to keep the price down. The 6.3-inch screen is just fine, but its 90Hz refresh rate is a bit slower than the super-smooth scrolling 120Hz screens on most phones at this price.
The Pixel 7 is also missing a telephoto rear camera, though the 2x crop mode from the 50-megapixel main sensor does an admirable impression of a true optical telephoto lens. The ultrawide camera is also a generation behind the Pixel 7 Pro’s. But outside of those few drawbacks, you don’t miss out on a whole lot by opting for the Pixel 7 rather than the 7 Pro — and you definitely get to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket.
Best phone with everything but the kitchen sink
Screen: 6.8-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy / Cameras: 200-megapixel main with OIS, 10-megapixel 10x telephoto with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s pricey, starting at $1,199, and thanks to a 6.8-inch screen, it’s huge. It’s also the most powerful Android phone you can buy in the US right now, with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, S Pen stylus support with a built-in silo for storage, and two — count ’em, two — telephoto cameras on the rear panel. It’s kind of hard to imagine what else Samsung could possibly stuff into this phone.
The screen at the center of this spec monster is a 6.8-inch OLED with a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz and 1440p resolution. It’s lovely, and the even better news is that it’s more battery-efficient than last year’s model. Between that and the new chipset, the S23 Ultra gets through a full day of heavy use with a little more wiggle room than its predecessor could.
The S23 Ultra’s camera system is a major reason to consider putting in the extra cash for this model rather than the S23 Plus. There’s nothing quite like it available on any other flagship phone: there’s both a 3x and 10x telephoto camera plus an ultrawide and, oh yeah, a 200-megapixel main camera.
The 200-megapixel thing is only partially a stunt — most of the time, you’ll be getting a 12-megapixel file from it, but the extra data from all those pixels seems to help the system come up with some fantastic images. It occasionally makes some weird judgments or turns the HDR up to 11, but it’s often very good and, here and there, is even capable of stunning “I can’t believe it’s not a ‘real’ camera” photos.
Our complaints about Samsung software stand, unfortunately, and its faults are even more glaring on a very pricey phone. Why the spammy clickbait links in the weather app? And who on earth wants push notifications from the Samsung Galaxy store? You don’t get that kind of thing on a Pixel phone. Still, there are enough impressive things about the S23 Ultra that it’s worth some minor software annoyances.
Best alternative to Google and Samsung
Screen: 6.7-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.8 main with OIS, 48-megapixel ultrawide, 32-megapixel 2x telephoto, 16-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 80W wired (100W outside of US) / Weather resistance: IP64
The US Android market is dominated by Samsung and Google (well, mostly Samsung). But we do have a few alternatives to those brands, and the OnePlus 11 5G is a standout for someone who wants a high-performing device for a bit less money. It uses the excellent Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, but at $699, it’s $300 cheaper than the S23 Ultra with a similar processor.
The OnePlus 11 has a couple of other things going for it, too, including a fantastic 6.7-inch 1440p display with a top 120Hz refresh rate. There’s also very fast wired charging with the included fast charger — up to 80W in the US, which will take its big 5,000mAh battery from empty to 100 percent in less than 30 minutes. It’s fast enough to make overnight charging optional.
On the downside, there are a couple of things missing here that you’ll find on most other phones at this price. The first is wireless charging, which may be a deal-breaker if you’re already invested in charging your phone that way. And the OnePlus 11 is only rated to IP64, not IP68 like virtually every other flagship. That means it’s resistant to splashes and spray but isn’t built to withstand full immersion in water for any length of time.
Those two missing features narrow the OnePlus 11’s appeal. If you’re not concerned about dropping your phone in a puddle (or toilet, or bathtub, or sink, or swimming pool) and you’d rather charge your phone quickly than on a wireless charging pad, then the 11 5G is a great way to get excellent performance and keep a little more cash in your wallet.
Best foldable phone
Screen: 7.6-inch 2176p 120Hz OLED inner screen, 6.2-inch 2316p 120Hz OLED cover screen / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.8 main with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 10-megapixel selfie (cover screen), four-megapixel under-display selfie (inner screen) / Battery: 4,400mAh / Charging: 25W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IPX8
There’s nothing quite like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 on the market, particularly in the US. The Z Fold 4 is Samsung’s tablet-style foldable — you’ve got a 6.2-inch cover screen on the outside for normal phone stuff, but on the inside, it unfolds to a huge 7.6-inch screen. It’s a level of versatility you won’t find on any traditional slab-style phone. It’s priced accordingly, too, at a steep $1,799 MSRP.
The Z Fold 4 is as durable as foldables come right now. It’s IPX8 rated, so it’s protected against full immersion in water. But that “X” means there’s no guarantee against dust intrusion, and despite Samsung’s best efforts to strengthen the device’s resistance to environmental factors, long-term durability is still a question mark. That’s probably a leap of faith most people won’t be able to take for a $1,800 phone.
The Z Fold 4 also runs up against another limitation on the software side: the Android tablet app ecosystem. Apps don’t always make great use of the big inner screen; they’re often just scaled-up phone apps, leaving a lot of unused blank space. Thankfully, Samsung’s UI offers plenty of support to arrange multiple windows for multitasking. It can take a little futzing, but you can make use of that big canvas by displaying multiple apps at once.
Uncertainty about how it will hold up in the long run, and the two-hands-on-ness required to make the most of it mean the Z Fold 4 is kind of a gadget person’s gadget. It’s a showcase of hardware innovation, and you can do things with it that slab-style phones can only dream of. If you’ve got the literal and figurative deep pockets for it, you’ll be well rewarded.
Best small Android phone
Screen: 5.9-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.9 main with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,300mAh / Charging: 30W wired / Weather resistance: IP68
The concept of a “small” phone is fluid. What we consider small now was gigantic only a handful of years ago, but right now, anything with a screen smaller than 6.1 inches fits the category. That’s especially true in the Android ecosystem, where big screens reign supreme. Compared to something like the S23 Ultra, the $699 Asus Zenfone 9 is downright tiny, with a 5.9-inch display. It’s also a delightful little device with excellent build quality and a thoughtful design. It’s your best bet for a “small” Android phone, though there are a couple of important disclaimers here.
The first is that it doesn’t work on Verizon’s network — not on 4G or 5G. That puts it out of contention immediately for a lot of people in the US. Asus also only promises two years of software updates, and we’re almost a year into its lifespan already since it came out in July 2022. There’s also no wireless charging, which stinks.
On the bright side, the Zenfone 9 is IP68 rated, so it should survive dunks and splashes just fine. It’s powered by a highly capable Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, and its main 50-megapixel rear camera uses gimbal-like stabilization for extremely smooth video footage. You’ll also find a rare headphone jack on the Zenfone 9, which is just thoughtful of Asus to include.
There are too many cons to broadly recommend the Zenfone 9, but if you’re on the right wireless network and none of its other shortcomings are deal-breakers, then this is a device that will absolutely delight small phone fans.
Other Android phones worth considering
There are many more great Android devices that weren’t covered here, and a few are worth calling out that didn’t quite make the cut for a recommendation. The Galaxy S23 Plus’ smaller sibling, the Galaxy S23, is a fantastic option if you want a somewhat smaller Android phone. Its 6.1-inch screen doesn’t put it in “small phone” territory, but it’s much more pocketable than the other two S23 models. Battery life has been improved this year on the S23, too, which was a weak point for the S22.
There’s also the Galaxy Z Flip 4, Samsung’s clamshell-style foldable. It offers a 6.7-inch inner screen that folds in half with a small 1.9-inch cover screen on the outside for heads-up info and notifications. It’s kind of like a regular phone with a smartwatch glued on the front. It’s not as versatile as the Z Fold 4, but it costs a much more reasonable $999. I have the same concerns about long-term durability as I do with the Z Fold, and the cover screen could be more useful. Still, it’s a lot of fun to use, and it folds down small enough to fit in your front jeans pocket.
If you’re all in on Google’s ecosystem, then the Pixel 7 Pro is a good (and somewhat obvious) step-up option. It doesn’t offer any essential upgrades compared to the Pixel 7 but does come with a good 5x telephoto camera. The screen is bigger — 6.7 inches compared to 6.3 — and it’s also a little nicer, with a faster 120Hz top refresh rate. But the Pixel 7 is priced so well, it’s kind of impossible not to recommend it, and most people will find everything they need in the base model.
There’s one more Pixel phone to consider: the Google Pixel 6A. It’s likely going to be replaced in the near future, and it’s a solidly midrange device with less robust weatherproofing, a previous-gen camera, and a middling display. Still, it’s well priced at $449 and often on sale these days, and if you don’t necessarily need a best-of-the-best Android phone, it’s a fantastic bargain for a great midtier device.