The best Android phones to buy – The Verge

Tee Rasheed
22 Min Read

By Allison Johnson, a reviewer with 10 years of experience writing about consumer tech. She has a special interest in mobile photography and telecom. Previously, she worked at DPReview.
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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 much wider range of choices on Android. You want incredible camera zoom? A built-in stylus? A phone that runs a complete desktop environment when you plug it into a monitor? You can find it on Android. Heck, you can find all of that in a single device.
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 batch. 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 Samsung’s S24-series launch event is anything to go by, then it’s a safe bet that this year’s mobile tech buzzword will be AI. Generally speaking, AI has yet to really impress me on a phone. Google’s Pixel phones have some neat AI photo editing tricks, and Galaxy devices can translate a phone call for you in real time. These things are nothing to sneeze at! But just keep in mind that you’re always just a few taps away from AI-gone-wrong atrocities like Pillow Arm. Best not to put too much stock in any company’s AI claims just yet.
A great Android phone will go the distance. I look for signs that the hardware and software will keep up for many years to come, including a strong IP rating for dust and water resistance (IP68 is preferred), durable glass panels on the front and back, and a sturdy aluminum frame rather than plastic. A minimum of three years of Android OS version upgrades is preferred, along with a total of four or five years of security updates.
The best Android phones have plenty of resolution to cover their large display area, which means 1440p, ideally. A fast refresh rate of at least 120Hz is preferred — animations and scrolling look super smooth at that rate — and even better if it’s variable down to 1Hz to save on battery life.
Any phone can take a decent photo in good lighting, but the best phone cameras can handle low light and high-contrast scenes well, too. I look for optical (most common) or sensor-shift (rare) image stabilization, which helps compensate for hand shake and enable slower shutter speeds in low light to gather more light. A telephoto lens is great to have too, though high-res sensors are starting to offer better lossless crop modes that mimic short zoom lenses well.
Most phones on this list offer wireless charging, though not all do. Lack of wireless charging isn’t a complete deal-breaker, but it’s becoming an essential feature for a lot of people since it’s convenient for charging many different kinds of devices.
If you live in the US, I have some bad news about the Android market, 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.
Unlike years past, the Galaxy S24 Plus gets the same QHD resolution as the Ultra model. Otherwise, it offers a very similar experience to the base model, only it’s noticeably bigger at 6.7 inches. That makes it roomy enough for a bigger 4,900mAh battery with 45W fast charging, too.
Screen: 6.7-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.8 main with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,900mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
Samsung’s bigger flagship — but not the big big flagship — is once again the best Android phone for most people. The Galaxy S24 Plus is a crowd-pleaser if the crowds want a big screen, impressive cameras, and good battery life (I think they do).
Samsung makes a big deal about its AI features, which are like all AI features on phones right now: hit-and-miss. You can have the phone act as a real-time language translator on phone calls. It works well enough and could really come in handy in a pinch. But the generative AI photo edits? Still very much a work in progress.
Outside of software updates, you won’t find much new hardware here — and that’s fine. The updated Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset is powerful enough for just about anyone, the battery is a little bigger, and the screen gets a resolution bump this year for a crisper image. If these sound like minor updates, it’s because they are. But that’s okay when you’re already giving the people what they want.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the first in the series to use a titanium frame. It also includes an integrated S Pen and upgraded camera suite, along with the biggest display in the S24 line.
Screen: 6.8-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 / Cameras: 200-megapixel main with OIS, 50-megapixel 5x 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 S24 Ultra says it all in the name: Ultra. It has everything you could ask for in a phone — well, at least one that doesn’t fold in half. There’s a stylus, two telephoto cameras, a massive battery, and one of the best ding dang screens on any phone, anywhere.
So why am I a little underwhelmed? For starters, Samsung swapped last year’s 10x telephoto camera for a higher-resolution 5x camera that uses in-sensor crop to zoom to 10x. This is a sensible move, and photos at 10x look fine, if not as crisp as they did on the last model. It’s also pricier this time around, and it was already an expensive phone. It’s pretty darn heavy, too, and Samsung’s switch to titanium for the frame hasn’t made it any lighter.
Personal feelings about the zoom lens aside, the S24 Ultra is still basically peerless. Its much-touted AI features are fine, but if there’s one thing that makes it worth the upgrade, it’s the screen. Its anti-glare coating and boosted maximum brightness make it so comfortable to use outside it’s almost magic. That’s hardly a fancy new tech feature, but the Galaxy S24 Ultra is hardly any old phone.
The OnePlus 12 retails for $100 more than its predecessor, but it comes with upgraded Hasselblad cameras, improved water resistance, and wireless charging. Coupled with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and up to 16GB of RAM, it holds its own against the top smartphones of 2024.
Screen: 6.82-inch 1440p 120Hz LTPO OLED / Processor: Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Cameras: 50-megapixel f/1.6 main with OIS, 64-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 48-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide / Battery: 5400mAh / Charging: 80W wired, 50W wireless / Weather-resistance rating: IP65
After a few years and a little soul-searching, OnePlus is back to its roots. The OnePlus 12 is an excellent device with high-end performance with a competitive price: $799 for the base model with a hefty 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
For that price, you get a crisp 1440p 6.8-inch display, a top-tier Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, and a capable camera. It supports wireless charging, something that previous OnePlus flagships have skipped. Battery performance is fantastic, too — power users can get through a full day, and light users can stretch it to two.
What stands out about the OnePlus 12, though, might just be what’s not here: a bunch of AI features. Honestly? That’s kind of refreshing. Some of the AI features Google and Samsung are busy shipping right now are nice, but none of them feel essential. If you want to sit out this AI hype cycle but you still want a great phone, the OnePlus 12 might be the one.
The Pixel 8 Pro offers some solid upgrades over the standard Pixel 8, including a 5x telephoto lens, a bigger 6.7-inch screen, and the promise of more on-device AI capabilities in the near future.
Screen: 6.7-inch 1344p 120Hz LTPO OLED / Processor: Tensor G3 Cameras: 50-megapixel f/1.7 main with OIS, 48-megapixel 5x telephoto with OIS, 48-megapixel ultrawide / Battery: 5050mAh / Charging: 30W wired, 23W wireless with Pixel Stand 2 / Weather-resistance rating: IP68
Anyone who’s ever tried to photograph a young child understands what a phone camera is up against: an unpredictable (but adorable!) subject that won’t. Ever. Sit. Still. The Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro tackle this age-old problem with some new tech: AI. And unlike most recent AI features on smartphones, these tools really do come in handy.
Both phones include an AI editing tool that will let you choose the best expression for each person in your photo when you take a burst of images — especially handy if you want to get one with everyone looking at the camera. There’s AI to improve the audio in your videos, too, allowing you to minimize distracting background noises.
The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro have highly capable cameras in general, though only the pricier 8 Pro has a telephoto lens. It’s worth the upgrade if you’re a keen photographer. The 8 Pro also comes with a bigger screen and battery, which a lot of people will appreciate. The light and svelte Pixel 8, with its 6.2-inch screen, is a good choice for small-ish phone fans. Both phones use Google’s Tensor G3 chipset, though only the 8 Pro is able to run large language models on-device — that’ll be important in the future as AI tools (possibly?) become more useful.
Otherwise, the 8 and 8 Pro are good all-around devices — just know that Pixels are unfortunately susceptible to an unusual bug here and there. None of the review units I’ve tested have suffered from them, but they’re out there.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 looks a lot like its predecessor, but it now folds flat thanks to a new hinge with fewer moving parts. It maintains the 7.6-inch inner display and narrow 6.2-inch cover screen, but it now utilizes the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor found in Samsung’s Galaxy S23 phones.
Screen: 7.6-inch 2176p 120Hz OLED inner screen, 6.2-inch 2316p 120Hz OLED cover screen / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 / 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
Samsung’s flagship foldable isn’t the only show in town anymore, but it’s still the best choice for most people looking for a folding phone. Its multitasking capabilities are second to none, and it’s lighter and easier to wield than Google’s Pixel Fold. The narrow dimensions of the cover display make it a little awkward to use for regular phone stuff, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff considering everything that the Fold 5 can do.
There are some important things to consider, though, starting with the $1800 price. That’s what the Pixel Fold costs, too, but it doesn’t matter how you look at it — that’s a lot to pay for a phone. The Fold 5 isn’t dust-resistant, either, so you’ll want to be somewhat careful with your investment.
The Fold 5 isn’t exactly teeming with technological improvements over last year’s model, either. There’s a new hinge that folds flat rather than with a gap between the two halves of the phone, and that’s about it. A couple of software updates that it offers will come to older Fold devices in the future, so there’s not much reason to rush out and trade in your Fold 4 for a Fold 5.
If you’re a devoted Pixel fan or averse to the Fold 5’s narrow form factor when closed, Google’s foldable might be a better choice. But for most people, the Galaxy Fold 5’s versatility and good recent track record for durability make it a better bet.
The Nothing Phone 2 embraces a certain retro-infused aesthetic that’s unlike anything else you’ll find on the market. It’s not certified to work on Verizon, and its rear-panel LED light strips are more stylish than functional, but it’s a good alternative to the big Android brands. Read our review.
Screen: 6.7-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.9 main with OIS, 50-megapixel ultrawide, 32-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,700mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP54
The Nothing Phone 2 doesn’t offer the very best value proposition in its upper-midrange category. But if it’s style you’re after and something a little flashy (well, a lot flashy), then the Phone 2 is an easy pick.
It offers a good 6.7-inch screen, great daily performance and battery life, and a capable camera system. But that’s the usual stuff — what’s unusual about the Phone 2 is its set of LED light strips on the back panel. They illuminate in combinations called “glyphs,” and you can set them to alert you to certain notifications. It’s neat but ultimately isn’t as helpful as the system’s customizable always-on display.
On the downside, the Phone 2 is only splash-resistant rather than fully resistant to water submersion like virtually all other phones over $500. It’s also not fully supported on Verizon’s network, which takes it out of contention for a lot of the US population.
If neither of the above is a deal-breaker, and the Phone 2’s styling appeals to you, then it’s an excellent choice. One thing’s for sure — it definitely stands out from the crowd.
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.
There’s the Galaxy Z Flip 5, Samsung’s clamshell-style foldable. It’s much more useful than its predecessors, thanks to a bigger 3.4-inch cover screen that allows you to type out texts and emails on a full QWERTY keyboard. It’s not as versatile as the Fold 5, but it also costs a much more reasonable $999. Another flip phone worth considering: the Motorola Razr Plus. It’s not as durable as the Flip 5, and its cover screen widgets aren’t as useful, but it runs full apps on the outer display more easily. And it’s just plain fun, gosh dang it.
On the other side of the foldable spectrum, the OnePlus Open is a welcome addition to the mix with the best screen format on a book-style folding phone. It’s thin and light, and the software includes some thoughtful approaches to multitasking — a crucial part of the folding phone experience. At $1,700, it’s just $100 shy of the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5 and misses a couple of key features that both of those other options include: wireless charging and an IPX8 rating. But if those omissions don’t bother you and the form factor appeals, it’s a lovely device to use.
There’s one more Pixel phone to consider: the Google Pixel 7A. It’s $499 and has the same Tensor G2 processor as the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. The 7A is definitely the best phone camera you can get for the money, and it comes with nice creature comforts not usually seen in budget devices, like wireless charging. It’s on the pricey side of the “budget” category, but it’s designed to go the distance.
Update March 18th, 2024, 6:15PM ET: Replaced the Google Pixel 8 with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus. Replaced the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. Added the Google Pixel 8 Pro and the OnePlus 12.
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