As the end of the year approaches, new phones are on the minds of many between holiday discounts and buying gifts for family members. If you’re looking for the best Android smartphones available today, here are our top picks.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Best for most people

Samsung is the most popular brand in the Android market, and for good reason. The company’s smartphones get a lot right from performance to design. The standard Galaxy S20 series was far from affordable starting at $999 (despite being extremely good phones anyway), but the Galaxy S20 FE takes a different approach to deliver a starting price of just $699.

The Galaxy S20 FE has a 6.7-inch, 120Hz AMOLED display, a trio of cameras headlined by a 12MP shooter, and offers features like IP68 water resistance, wireless charging, and solid battery life with wireless charging. It also features the same Snapdragon 865 processor as Samsung’s $1,000+ phones, only paired with 6GB of RAM instead of 12GB. There’s also 5G support on all carriers.

The Galaxy S20 FE is just a tremendously good deal as we put forward in our review. The only potential negative for some people might be that this phone is plastic instead of glass, but that’s all down to personal preference. It also comes in a plethora of color options.

Google Pixel 5

Best for photos

If pictures are your biggest focus, there’s no better choice than Google’s Pixel 5. Here’s why.

Pixel 5 is not a true flagship smartphone, rather focusing on a “what you really need” approach. The Snapdragon 765 chipset has enough power for just about anyone, and paired with 8GB of RAM it delivers solid overall performance. Plus, Google’s software suite is fully available on this device, and you have 128GB of storage for all of your apps and media. There’s also a 4,080 mAh battery that easily powers this device and its 6-inch 1080p OLED display through over a day of use.

What really stands out here, though, is the camera and its software. There’s a 12MP standard camera and a 16MP ultrawide shooter. Both can capture stunning photos that, thanks to excellent software, provide the best overall shooting experience on any smartphone. There are also some great video features that you can learn more about in our review.

Finally, perhaps the biggest selling point of the Pixel 5 is that Google is offering free unlimited Photos storage on this phone for as long as you have it. That’s a massively valuable perk that no other phone will have.

Google Pixel 5 is available for $699 from the Google StoreAmazonB&H PhotoBest Buy, and most major carriers.

Google Pixel 4a

Best on a budget

In the same vein as the Pixel 5, Google’s Pixel 4a is also an excellent choice for its camera, battery life, and unlimited Photos storage. This phone, though, goes farther by offering simply the best Android experience in a $349 phone.

The Snapdragon 730 chipset inside of the Pixel 4a combined with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage delivers solid overall performance on Android 11. Plus, you’ll get guarenteed software support for at least three years, meaning some major Android updates and monthly security patches. That’s something no one else offers at this price point.

Rounding things out, the 5.8-inch display has slim bezels, wonderful colors, and blacks thanks to the OLED tech, and a size that feels comfortable in the hand. If you need a bigger phone, the Pixel 4a 5G jumps up to 6.2 inches while also upgrading the processor, adding 5G support, and throwing an ultrawide rear camera into the mix.

Google Pixel 4a is available for $349 from the Google Store, Amazon, B&H Photo, and Best Buy. The Pixel 4a 5G is also available from the Google Store, Amazon, B&H Photo, and Best Buy, and you’ll find both phones at major carriers, too.

OnePlus 8T/OnePlus 8 Pro

Best for gaming

If you’re buying a smartphone for performance or, more specifically, gaming, the OnePlus 8 series is the best choice. OnePlus smartphones have killer specs that rival any other Android flagship, but for a fraction of the price. The OnePlus 8T, for example, starts at $749 while delivering a 120Hz display, Snapdragon 865 processor, and a large OLED display.

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro both offer that same chip with up to 12GB of RAM, a minimum of 128GB of storage, and at least three cameras headlined by 48MP primary shooters. All three are currently running the latest Android OS, too, with Android 11.

Why are these phones so good for gaming? OxygenOS has a special “Fnatic Mode” that helps minimize interruptions and maximize performance. You’ll often find that OnePlus phones can handle gaming better than most. Plus, since this is Android, you can still access Fortnite that isn’t currently possible on iPhones.

Every OnePlus smartphone also includes timely major Android updates (quarterly security patches) as well as super-fast charging. The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro can charge at up to 30W while the 8T can hit a whopping 65W.

You can buy the OnePlus 8 from $699, the OnePlus 8T from $749, and the OnePlus 8 Pro from $899. The OnePlus 8 is also sold at Verizon and the 8T at T-Mobile.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Best for productivity

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra truly goes all out on the spec sheet. It offers up a massive 6.9-inch 120Hz 1440p AMOLED display. It’s huge, it’s bright, and it looks absolutely gorgeous in person. You can also use that display with the embedded S Pen, which now offers latency that’s indistinguishable from a real pen. Under the hood, the Snapdragon 865+ delivers 5G support and killer performance with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage alongside it. Wireless charging and a 4,500 mAh battery round out this powerhouse.

As far as cameras go, Samsung delivers a package that outshines its Galaxy S20 series, this time around offering a 108MP primary sensor helped by laser autofocus for crisp photos. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide shooter and a 12MP periscope zoom lens that helps to enable zoom up to 50x. Add on Samsung’s excellent video features, and this is truly one of the best camera systems on any Android smartphone right now, even rivaling the Google Pixel series.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is by far the best device on the market for productivity, and during the holidays you’re likely to find it on sale below its $1,299 price point. There’s also the standard Note 20, which is a bit smaller, has a few downgrades, and cuts $300 off the retail price.

You can buy Galaxy Note 20 Ultra from Samsung, B&H Photo, Amazon, Best Buy, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, among other retailers and carriers.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.


Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

You’re reading 9to5Google — experts who break news about Google and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Google on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Ben Schoon's favorite gear