There are new phones arriving all the time, especially when it comes to the world of Android. Apple’s iPhone might be popular but handsets running Google’s mobile OS provide you with a wealth of choice.
2020 brought along some amazing handsets, like the Galaxy S20 series, the OnePlus 8 Pro and Google’s Pixel 5. 2021 is shaping up to be a corker too (at least where phone releases are concerned), with offerings like the Galaxy S21 already out in the wild and the Xiaomi Mi 11 set to finally hit British shelves later this month – though we’ve already reviewed and ranked it here.
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
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. Samsung Galaxy S21 – Best all-rounder
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
3. Xiaomi Mi 11 – Best performance
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.
It’s not on sale in the UK just yet, but will launch here this month, so start saving.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 review
4. OnePlus Nord – Best value
OnePlus’s affordable phone is an absolute treasure, powered by Qualcomm’s solid mid-range 5G-capable chip, the Snapdragon 765G.
The Nord also totes a 90Hz AMOLED display, a great primary 48Mp camera and solid 30W 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.
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
5. Google Pixel 5 – Most compact
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
6. OnePlus 8 Pro – Best design
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company’s first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68 waterproof rating to make it a genuine contender with the likes of Samsung’s finest of 2020.
Understandably, the price has gone up accordingly, but even the base model – no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers.
The 8 Pro’s camera is the company’s best yet and while it still lags behind rivals, OnePlus’s imaging engineers have clearly worked hard to narrow the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Just bear in mind that the OnePlus 9 series is nearly here, so it may not be the best time to buy.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
7. Oppo Find X2 Pro – Best display
The Oppo Find X2 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 the fastest wired charging around at 65W and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses and up to a 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish green or orange vegan leather finishes might leave some struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro is still a force to be reckoned with: with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 chip, 512GB storage and 12GB RAM – you just have to be willing to pay the price, as it doesn’t come cheap.
As with the OnePlus, the Oppo Find X3 series is expected to launch in March, so factor that into your plans.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review
8. OnePlus 8T – Best for ease of use
Bigger numbers in all things except price renders the OnePlus 8T a great buy. It’s cheaper than the OnePlus 8’s original RRP and yet sports a smoother 120Hz refresh rate display and is the first of the company’s phone‘s to integrate blisteringly-fast 65W fast charging.
It was also one of the first phones outside of Google’s own Pixel 5 to boast the latest and greatest Android 11; in this instance, covered by OnePlus’ OxygenOS 11 user experience on top.
Read our full OnePlus 8T review
9. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip – Best foldable
The Galaxy Z Flip isn’t a perfect phone. It’s expensive, there are only two main camera lenses, and the fingerprint sensor sucks.
Price aside, these are minor quibbles, however, and even while this may not be the best phone we used in 2020, it’s still one of our favourites. With the Z Flip, Samsung has nailed the compact foldable form factor, and by comparison, every other 2020 flagship felt ungainly and oversized.
This phone looks great, offers solid performance and flagship features, and is just plain cool. Most people probably shouldn’t spend this much on a phone, but if you can afford to then nothing else right now can match the Z Flip.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review
10. Realme X50 Pro 5G – Best for fast-charging
Realme’s first 5G flagship (and second-ever flagship phone) is an impressively affordable device that doesn’t skimp on high-end specs and features.
The Realme X50 Pro forgoes aspects like IP water resistance and a thin body but in return sports the powerful Snapdragon 865 chipset, 5G, up to 12GB of RAM, fast UFS 3.0 storage and insane 65W ‘SuperDart’ fast charging; which delivers 60% charge in just 15 minutes and a full charge in only 35 (on-par with the Oppo Find X2 and X2 Pro, as well as the OnePlus 8T).
Best of all, the X50 Pro costs nearly half that of most top-tier Android flagships from 2020.
Read our full Realme X50 Pro review
The biggest phone we haven’t mentioned above (almost literally) is the Galaxy S21 Plus. It’s essentially the same as the regular S21 apart from its expanded screen size – and a bigger battery to come with it. Buy it if the S21 appeals, but you don’t want to settle for a smaller form factor.
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, 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 upcoming 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 high-end 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