There are a huge number of Android handsets, so picking out the best Android phones can be tricky, but our guide is here to help, as we've highlighted the best of the best.
We've ranked our selection in order of preference, and included an overview and specs list for each, plus an at-a-glance look at their best and worst aspects, so you can more easily make a buying decision.
Don't just grab the number one entry, as another phone here might be better for you - consider what you need from a smartphone, and how much you want to spend. As these are the best models they also tend to be expensive, but there are sometimes exceptions.
So have a read through and you’re sure to find something that will catch your eye, but if not, it’s worth also checking out our best smartphone and best iPhone. You might also want 5G on your phone in 2021, so we've compiled the best 5G phones too.
Best Android phones 2021: which is for you?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s top, premium flagship for 2021, and what a phone it is. For the first time Samsung has offered S Pen support on an S-range handset here, meaning that you can optionally get the Galaxy Note range’s best feature.
But even without that, this is a stunning handset, with a brilliant quad-lens camera capable of 10x optical zoom. In fact, in our review we called it the best camera zoom on any readily available Android phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also looks great, with a smooth Gorilla Glass back that has a matte finish that looks better than the reflective Galaxy S20 range, while around the front there’s a curved edge-to-edge 6.8-inch screen.
And speaking of that screen, for the first time on a Samsung phone you get both a QHD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate at the same time. And being a high-end Samsung screen this is one of the best around.
There’s also oodles of power of course, and while obviously very expensive, this actually has a cheaper starting price than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra did at launch.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the most basic and affordable of the Galaxy S21 range, but it has a lot going for it beyond its relatively low price.
The triple-lens camera is highly versatile, including the three core lenses that we’d expect from a premium smartphone – namely a main one, a telephoto, and an ultra-wide. They all perform well too.
There’s also high-end power, solid battery life, and an AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. At 6.2 inches it’s also a lot more compact than the rest of the S21 range, so it’s ideal if you don’t want a massive phone.
And beyond being the most affordable of the range, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is actually a step down in price from its predecessor, so it’s a bit of a bargain – though to achieve that the screen resolution has been dropped to Full HD+, and the back of the phone is ‘Glasstic’ rather than actual glass.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 review
Samsung's super-premium Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was released last year but still holds up really well. With excellent specs, a great-looking screen, and special features for the S Pen stylus which comes included in the phone, the Note 20 Ultra gives you added versatile ways to use your device.
Sure it's expensive, and pretty huge, and doesn't actually have all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But those weaknesses are made up for with plenty of advantages.
This is a real top-end phone with top specs in every sector, so if your budget (and hand) can stretch for it, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra may really be one worth considering.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
The Xiaomi Mi 11 isn’t even the top of the Mi 11 range – that’s the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, but it’s still a top Android handset, benefitting from high-end power and a highly capable camera.
There’s a 108MP f/1.9 main lens and a 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide, both of which perform well, but the camera highlight is actually its 5MP telemacro snapper, which is far better than the macro cameras on most phones, and functions from further away from the subject.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 also has a great 6.81-inch 1440 x 3200 AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, and a battery that charges fast both wired and wireless.
The actual battery life wasn’t amazing in our tests, and we’d have liked to see a telephoto camera included, but otherwise the Xiaomi Mi 11 is a great flagship.
Read more: Xiaomi Mi 11 review
The Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus are – along with the Galaxy S20 Ultra – Samsung’s main 2020 flagship phones, so it’s no wonder they make this list.
While the S20 Plus has a slight specs edge, thanks to a larger 6.7-inch screen, a bigger 4,500mAh battery, a fourth camera lens (for depth-sensing) and optionally more storage, they’re largely very similar phones, so they’re fit to share the same spot.
Both have a highly capable camera array, with 12MP standard, 12MP ultra-wide, and 64MP telephoto sensors, and both also have top-end power, thanks to a Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 chipset (depending on where in the world you are) and up to 12GB of RAM.
They also both have a stunning 1440 x 3200 display with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.
The design is premium too, and they’re both packed full of features, like reverse wireless charging, 5G, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and water resistance. They might not quite be the very best anymore, but they’re not far off.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 review
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review
As a gaming phone, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is perhaps a bit more niche than most on this list, but it excels for gaming, and as such it’s also a pretty great all-round handset.
With a Snapdragon 888 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM its performance is truly top tier, and its 144Hz screen also excels, even if it’s not quite as sharp as some, at 1080 x 2448. The 6,000mAh battery is huge, lasts a long time, and charges at 65W, the speakers are great, and the phone has shoulder buttons, which help when controlling games.
As a gaming phone, its cameras understandably feel like a bit of an afterthought, and the Asus ROG Phone 5 also has the garish aesthetic that we’ve come to expect on gaming phones – and which will have as many haters as fans. But if you want a power-packed handset that excels for games and other media, while undercutting most conventional flagships, it’s a top choice.
Read more: Asus ROG Phone 5 review
How we tested
Every phone in this list has been put through a rigorous review in which we tested every aspect of it. That allows us to say with confidence which Android phones are the best, and how they compare to each other.
What should I look for when choosing an Android phone?
Screen size and resolution, battery life, power, camera performance and price tend to be the main things to consider when buying an Android phone. The best ones will excel in most or all areas - but often at a high price. And when it comes to the screen, bigger isn't always better. If you have small hands or want to use your phone one-handed, then you may want to consider something more compact.
Which Android phone brand is the best?
No one Android phone brand is definitively the best, but Samsung's flagships tend to be among the very best Android phones. However, Xiaomi, Oppo and others often bring out great phones too.
- Best smartphone: the top phones we've tested