Best Android phones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Android phones you can buy in 2023.
Android is universal and often more affordable choice of the mobile phone world. It may not create the software-meets-hardware perfection of iOS but it's effective and even more full of features with every Google OTA update. It's also more open, allowing manufacturers to put their own spin on the operating system's look and feel, and that means Android phones can come in all shapes and sizes.
It's also a renowned platform for more experimental features when it comes to both hardware and software; think curved screens, under display fingerprint readers and totally customisable icons, widgets and skins.
How to choose the best Android smartphone for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
A headphone port can still be a deal-breaker for many. While most modern Android phones don't have one, some do, including high-end models such as the Sony Xperia 1 III. So make sure you check before you buy (it's often referred to as a 3.5mm jack). Otherwise, you might have to buy a dongle or a pair of the best wireless headphones.
Screen size is also a major consideration. Most of the best Android phones – like most of the best iPhones – are pretty big nowadays, so make sure you're happy with the bulk. The upside is that films and TV shows look much better on a big screen – it won't rival your local Odeon, but it makes for a much more immersive mobile viewing experience. Android phones are also pioneering high refresh rate displays for smoother scrolling and more responsive gaming – so, partnered with a bigger display for on screen controls, you can quickly have a decent on-the-go gaming set-up.
Some of the best Android phones even support 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos which makes them perfect for consuming content on the move. Paired with the super high spec 4K OLED displays that Sony is using in its Xperia range or the vivid AMOLED technology used by Samsung and OnePlus, your Android phone can pack a mighty punch when it comes to content consumption.
Finally it's worth noting that, historically, Android phones don't quite have the same life span that iPhones enjoy. Often, limited software updates come months after the initial launch of the new Android version, as each company has to adapt every new version to its skin and software quirks. This appears to be changing however, with many OEMs providing stripped back Android skins, and committing to at least two years of guaranteed updates.
We've rounded up the best Android phones available right here, with the focus squarely on picture and sound quality. So read on – you could be about to meet your next handset.
The Sony Xperia Mk IV continues the brand’s reinvigorated take on the smartphone, providing the tools to both create and consume content that verges on professional level. But with the daunting task of outshining its predecessors, both of which received five stars and a smartphone Product of the Year Award from us, has Sony done enough to keep the momentum going?
While it may look strikingly similar to the previous generations, the IV makes meaningful, if not mind blowing improvements on the Sony Xperia 1 III. Upgraded internals and features ensure smooth day-to-day use, and most importantly an awesome AV experience.
While it may not be the most inspirational generation jump we’ve ever seen, it's still a phone that ticks all the boxes to make it an ideal companion for small screen AV use. The Xperia 1 IV is an excellent enthusiast's choice for those looking to squeeze the best AV and music listening performance out of their smartphone.
Read the full Sony Xperia 1 IV review
While the Xperia 1 series (in top spot on this page) delivers a level of video and audio performance above that of other flagship Android phones, the Sony Xperia 5 range is smaller, cheaper and has similar specs, so what’s not to like?
Indeed, if you value music and video performance highly, you really should consider one of these latest Sony phones. It backs up its impressive AV performance with decent features elsewhere, too – 3.5mm headphone jack, 4000mAh battery, Android 10, and the combination of 12MP f/1.7 wide lens, 12MP f/2.4 telephoto lens and 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera lenses.
While the pricier sibling still edges this Xperia 5 II for 4K video performance and ultimate sound quality, the more compact and affordable Sony Xperia 5 II remains a terrific choice.
Read the full Sony Xperia 5 II review
Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra smartphone boasts so many headline-grabbing specs, it’s tough to know which one to lead with.
For example, it is categorically the most powerful Ultra to date thanks to the arrival of a 4nm processor, aka the fastest CPU on a Galaxy device yet, but to Samsung’s avid fan base the fact that it's the first S-series device to feature a built-in S Pen will probably garner more attention, since it effectively merges Samsung’s S line with the now-defunct Note series.
Then there's the "completely different", four-lens camera system that Samsung says delivers the best low-light photography and smoothest video of any phone yet. And that’s before we mention its Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+, on the front and back of the device, which Samsung says makes it 12 per cent stronger than its predecessor.
Of course, we're drawn to the 120Hz AMOLED display, which Samsung says can hit a whopping 1750 nits at peak brightness, as well as the built-in Dolby Atmos speakers.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
How do you improve on a What Hi-Fi? Award-winning flagship smartphone? By not messing with it too much. That's very much the approach for Sony's 2021 iteration of its digital Swiss Army Knife.
The design has had a tiny, glass-toughening tweak, the battery's been boosted, the 4K display now has a 120Hz refresh rate, and there’s an upgraded chipset and GPU. Photography fans will be pleased by the inclusion of a periscope lens too.
But crucially for us, Sony has eked out yet more performance from the Xperia 1 III screen and 3.5mm headphone jack which gives us even more reason to recommend it.
The sonic performance manages to deliver a little more punch and a little more detail compared to its predecessor. Bass notes sound a little tighter, meaning more control and agility, plus there's the kind of dynamics to rival any phone on the market and plenty of dedicated hi-res players too.
As well as a wired connection via the headphone jack, you can use Sony’s LDAC technology and support for Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos. It’s an all-round entertainer.
Read the full Sony Xperia III review
2020's Galaxy S20 line-up marked a thorough overhaul, bringing in 5G support and 120Hz refresh rate displays for the first time, plus significant camera upgrades. But for the S21 range, the gains are more marginal – the camera software has been enhanced, the design is arguably better and it packs the company’s most advanced processor yet.
Of the three-strong, 5G-supporting Galaxy S21 range, you’ll want to consider the two more premium models, the S21+ S21 Ultra, if you’re after a large screen or a top-spec camera (offered by the S21 Ultra). But the standard S21 variant here is solid for the money and offers an excellent balance between performance and value. It has a great camera, very nice screen and is as speedy and reliable to use as you'd expect.
Either of the Sony Xperias are better bets for those who place greater importance on music listening, so that’s one area we would hope Samsung advances for the next generation of Galaxy S phone. For now, though, the line’s reputation as one of the market’s best all-rounders remains intact.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.
A premium device at a premium price, Oppo’s Find X5 Pro smartphone boasts the flashy design and standout camera that we all now expect of flagship phones. Our primary concerns, though, are picture and sound quality, and here it’s a bit more of a mixed bag.
Still, those determined to avoid the usual high-end options and instead go for something out of the ordinary will find much to like here, particularly if they’re willing to spend some time in the settings menu.
Oppo’s Find X5 Pro is a solid device in most ways. It's packed with features, user friendly software and it provides an enjoyable, if not mind-blowing visual performance. However, it's marred by an audio experience that’s easily surpassed by the class leaders.
Still, if you’re determined to go with an outsider choice for your next phone and sound quality isn’t much of a priority, the Oppo Find X5 Pro is certainly worth a look.
Read the full Oppo Find X5 Pro review
Big, premium and considerably less expensive than other flagship phones, the OnePlus 10 Pro is every bit the standard-bearer you’d expect. OnePlus has made a name for itself as a purveyor of high-end smartphones at a price that more people can afford and this 6.7-inch, 5G Android mobile is no exception. Several hundred pounds/dollars cheaper than the rest of the top-end competition, it’s going to make a lot of buyers’ shortlists.
The good news is that, if you’re after an impressive spec sheet and all the mobile mod-cons, then you’re definitely fishing in the right stretch of the river. For us, though, it’s screen and sound that count most. So, if you need your pocket portable to be a top-notch player first, and all other things mobile a definite second, then this is the low-down you need.
Comparing this cut-price flagship phone to other top-end mobiles is a bit of a rough ride for the OnePlus 10 Pro. Even so, it stands up to the test in most departments. In terms of build quality, photography, user experience, battery life and most other features, it’s more or less right up there and all for a smaller outlay. And, while it can’t quite reach the same heights on the video front, what you get for the price difference is actually very comparable.
Listening to music, though, is where you’ll notice the biggest downgrade. The audio performance is just not in the same class as the best flagship phones, nor really quite good enough for the step-down in outlay either. It makes a perfectly passable listen but ‘passable’ doesn’t win you five stars.
Read the full OnePlus 10 Pro Review
A premium-build Android smartphone with the best technology and no trade-offs, all at a lower price than other flagship mobiles – that’s the promise of the OnePlus 9 Pro. It certainly looks to be the part: it's a 5G phone fitted with a big, bold 6.7in AMOLED display ready to whip up HDR video on the go. And its cameras were designed with help from Swedish photographic giant Hasselblad.
The screen has a high refresh rate (120Hz), which works a treat for games and sports. Like a TV, it also has preset modes like Vivid and Natural, but you can also tweak its settings to your own spec if you prefer.
You’ll struggle to find a mobile phone at this price, with this size screen, that can do HDR better. It does well with SDR content, too.
On the audio front, there’s no wanting for file format support, but its performance isn't as thrilling as we had hoped. It's a reasonable listen, but compared to the best devices in this field, it's some way behind sonically.
Still, as a package, it's less pricey than most flagships, yet boasts many of the same specs and a very similar performance. Definitely one of the phones of the year.
Read the full OnePlus 9 Pro review.
How we pick the best Android smartphones
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year, a number of which are smartphones from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google, OnePlus and Sony. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our in-house testing. This gives us complete control over the review process, ensuring consistency.
We spend time with the phones; we live with them, testing every feature and spec exhaustively, from screens to cameras, sound quality to battery life. We focus particularly on audio and video performance, so if you spend a lot of time listening to music or watching videos, you should read our reviews carefully before making that all-important buying decision.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid individual subjectivity.
Between them, the What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years' experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the products to feature in our Best Buys, such as this one. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy pages, you can rest assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.
Our pick of the best wireless headphones
And the best true wireless earbuds