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.
2021 has already brought along some phenomenal handsets, with the Galaxy S21 and Xiaomi Mi 11 already among our favourites – though we were surprised that it’s a dud year for OnePlus, with the OnePlus 9 series simply not good enough to crack our top 10.
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. Oppo Find X3 Pro – Best design & display
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 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
4. 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.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 review
5. OnePlus Nord – Best mid-range
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
6. 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
7. 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 (especially since you can find it for less now), 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
8. ZTE Axon 30 Ultra – Best value flagship
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra came out of nowhere to be one of our favourite Android flagships so far this year.
The highlight is the rear camera setup, with delivers three 64Mp lenses (regular, wide, and 2x zoom) along with an 8Mp 5x periscopic lens – a setup no other phone at this price can really match.
Specs are strong elsewhere too, with a Snapdragon 888, 144Hz AMOLED display (so great for gaming), and 65W charging for the 4600mAh battery.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging or a water-resistance rating, and make do with the only-OK MyOS software – but if you can the Axon 30 Ultra delivers an awful lot of performance per pound.
Read our full ZTE Axon 30 Ultra review
9. Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro – Best budget
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. Asus ROG Phone 5 – Best for gaming
The Asus ROG Phone 5 undoubtedly offers one of the best mobile gaming experiences around, complete with built-in triggers, a gorgeous 144Hz AMOLED display with impressive touch response times, impressive audio chops and incredible power under the hood in the form of the Snapdragon 888 and up to 16GB of RAM.
However, while the large display means it’s great for gaming, some may find it too tall to use effectively one-handed, plus, at 238g, it’s much heavier than most flagships in 2021 – and it’s noticeable when you pick it up too.
It’s also very much a premium option compared to the likes of the Red Magic 6 and Black Shark 4 Pro, so be sure you’ll make the most of the niche gaming features if you’re looking to splash out on the ROG Phone 5 and its plethora of optional accessories.
Read our full Asus ROG Phone 5 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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