Best Android phones 2024: Google-powered smartphones for all budgets

Sony Xperia 1 V
(Image credit: Future)

Best Android phones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Android phones you can buy in 2023.

If you want a phone with a  versatile, customisable and feature-heavy operating system, then these Google-based devices should be right up your street. Android phones also offer a lot more variety when it comes to manufacturer preference, as you'll find options from the likes of Sony, Samsung and Google on this list, all offering devices at affordable to premium price points.

Of course, we grade on picture and sound performance, so those that offer the best AV experience will reign supreme, which explains the abundance of Sony smartphones on this list. And if you've accidentally stumbled across this list in the pursuit of a new Apple device, then you might feel more at home with our list of the best iPhones

We understand that investing in a new phone is a big commitment, so we can assure you that each phone here has been thoroughly tested by our reviews team to ensure it's worthy of its place on this roundup.

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.

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 V

Sony's budget Xperia packs seriously impressive picture performance into an affordable handset (Image credit: Sony)
More portable budget AV brilliance from Sony

Specifications

Display size: 6.1 inches
Display technology: OLED
Storage: 128GB
Weight: 159g
OS: Android 13
Colours: black/white/sage green/lavender

Reasons to buy

+
Sharp and solid image
+
Dynamic and detailed headphone sound
+
Greatly improved speakers

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly underpowered
-
Vibration through handset

Sony’s series of Xperia devices is somewhat of an oddity in the smartphone world. Ten years ago this was far from the case: thanks to a stellar series of Xperia smartphones, Sony was a big player in the Android sector. That all fell apart in the late 2010s due to confusing branding and the company pumping out too many smartphones in short succession, and it's been attempting to regain that spark ever since. 

While we don’t see many Sony smartphone users in the wild, here at What Hi-FI? we’ve been consistently impressed by the relaunch of Xperia devices that began with the Xperia 1 in 2019. Sony has come a long way since then, now on its fifth generation of Xperia smartphones consisting of three models; the flagship Xperia 1, the mid-range Xperia 5 and the entry-level Xperia 10 – the one we’re here to talk about today. 

Last year’s Xperia 10 IV thoroughly impressed us, offering practically unmatched AV performance at the price. It even took home an Award for its stellar performance. Now a year on, we have the Xperia 10 V, a modest upgrade over last year’s model, but an upgrade nonetheless. Does it live up to its predecessor? And can it once again deliver portable music and movie excellence at a fraction of the price of its bigger and much more expensive sibling, the Xperia 1 V?

Sony has delivered yet another compelling budget Android phone with the Xperia 10 V. Its picture and sound performance are hard to believe when we take into account how little it costs and, while it may not offer cutting-edge internal specs and the camera is hardly class-leading, it's comfortably the best budget phone on the market for movies and music.

Read the full Sony Xperia 10 V review

Sony Xperia 1 V flagship 4K smartphone

(Image credit: Sony)
Sony’s flagship smartphone is still about as cinematic as a phone can be

Specifications

Screen size: 6.5 inches
Screen type: OLED
Screen resolution: 1644 x 3840 (643ppi)
Finishes: x3 (Black, Platinum, Khaki)
Operating system: Android 13
Storage: 256GB / 512GB
RAM: 12GB

Reasons to buy

+
Cinematic picture for a smartphone
+
New design looks and feels great
+
Wired and wireless audio compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Tall screen can be awkward at times
-
Expensive

The Sony Xperia 1 has long been our go-to recommendation if you want a flagship Android smartphone that prioritises the AV experience. Every generation since 2020 has earned five-star reviews from us, with the Mark II and III versions both bestowed with What Hi-fi? Awards. Thankfully, Sony has provided yet another top-notch Android smartphone for AV enthusiasts with the Mark V, which adds meaningful improvements over the Mark IV without raising the cost.

With upgrades to the build, features, picture and sound, Sony once again makes a case for its 4K flagship phone by providing yet another Xperia 1 that nails the core aspects that we look out for. The unique form factor still won’t appeal to everyone, and there are some Sony-specific software quirks, but they can easily be overlooked in favour of this phone’s performance. 

This is still undoubtedly a phone for AV enthusiasts. But, if you are serious about taking your movies and music on the go, you will be hard-pressed to find a better alternative.

Read our full Sony Xperia 1 V review

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 5 V

(Image credit: Sony)
Sony’s final Mark V phone continues its trend of AV excellence

Specifications

Screen size: 6.1 inches
Screen type: OLED
Screen resolution: 1080 x 2520 (449 ppi)
Finishes: x 4 (Black, Platinum Silver, Blue)
Operating system: Android 13
Storage: 128GB
RAM: 8GB

Reasons to buy

+
Sharp and detailed image
+
Excellent contrast and depth
+
Natural and rich sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Speakers sound slightly lightweight

If you're confused by Sony's naming convention for its phones, we don't blame you. Xperia 5 is the model, and sits mid-way between the flagship Xperia 1 and budget Xperia 10. The 'V' part is the iteration, so this is the fifth variant of the Xperia 5. And it's the best yet.

Not that it likes to shout about it. Apart from the redesigned camera module, it's almost indistinguishable from the Xperia 5 IV, complete with 3.5mm headphone jack – a rarity nowadays. The screen is the same size and resolution as the cheaper Xperia 10 V, but has a higher refresh rate (120Hz) and Sony’s Creator Mode which brings the image closer to the creator's original vision. HDR comes courtesy of the HDR10 standard.

Sound features are also very similar to the other two models in the lineup, with front-facing stereo loudspeakers, hi-res wired audio and plenty of Bluetooth 5.3 audio codecs including A2DP, LE AudioaptX HD and aptX Adaptive, as well as immersive audio formats in the form of Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

While the screen is smaller than the 1 V's, it's still seriously impressive, with deep inky blacks and popping bright highlights. The only issue is that content not in the 21:9 aspect ratio gets hefty black pillars flanking the left and right of the picture. But the audio is also up there with the best on a mobile – you'll want to make use of that 3.5mm headphone port.

The Xperia 5 V is also cheaper than its predecessor, which is very welcome indeed. 

Read the full Sony Xperia 5 V review

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 1 IV

(Image credit: Future)
Still one of the best Android phones we've tested

Specifications

Screen: 6.5in OLED HDR 120Hz
Resolution: 1644 x 3840
Features: USB-C
Operating system: Android 12
Battery: 4500mAh
Dimensions: (hwd) 16.5 x 7 x 8cm
RAM: 12GB

Reasons to buy

+
Crisp and detailed picture
+
Improved speaker performance
+
Quality build

Reasons to avoid

-
Tall aspect ratio slightly awkward
-
Expensive

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 choice for those looking to squeeze the best AV and music listening performance out of their smartphone.

The Xperia 1 IV has seen some discounts now that the Mark V (as seen above) has gone on sale, so providing you can find a good price (we've seen it below £1000) then it might be worth weighing up how much the new features and build mean to you.

Read the full Sony Xperia 1 IV review

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in the hand

Not as epoch-making as its predecessor, but still a very fine phone indeed. (Image credit: Future)
Is this Galaxy as Ultra as its name suggests?

Specifications

Screen: 6.8in AMOLED
Resolution: 1440 x 3088 (500ppi)
Rear camera: 200MP + 10MP + 12MP + 10MP
Front camera: 12MP
Battery: 5000mAh
Dimensions (hwd) : 7.8 x 16.3 x 0.9cm
Weight: 233g

Reasons to buy

+
120Hz display
+
Next-generation camera
+
Fantastic build

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Minimal AV updates over last year
-
Tough competition

The S22 Ultra took over where the now-defunct Galaxy Note handset left off, with a massive OLED screen and support for the S Pen stylus. But its successor, though still mighty fine, doesn't move things along to anywhere near the same degree. 

It looks almost identical to its predecessor, and has a very similar screen. The main improvement is the new 200MP main camera, and it is brilliant, fusing top-notch performance with intuitive software, meaning even the most amateur of photographers can snap a quality image.

The screen shows off movies in wonderful detail, while for audio, its speaker performance trumps most rival smartphones'. Though when listening through headphones, you will be better served elsewhere.

It's another great entrant in the Galaxy range, but just a shame it's not quite as giant a leap as its predecessor.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

Google Pixel 8 Pro held landscape in front of a plant

Google's latest flagship has upped its audio game significantly. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi? / Netflix, Our Planet)
Could this be Google’s best sounding smartphone yet?

Specifications

Screen: 6.7 inch OLED
Resolution: 1344 x 2992 (489ppi)
Rear camera: 50MP + 48MP + 48MP
Front camera: 10.5MP
Battery: 5050mAh
Dimensions (hwd): 16.3 x 7.7 x 0.9cm
Weight: 213g

Reasons to buy

+
Improved sound through headphones
+
Responsive UI experience
+
Upgraded design

Reasons to avoid

-
Pictures lacking in shadow detail
-
Colours are slightly overdone

When it comes to picture and sound quality, the Pixel 8 Pro doesn't outperform the likes of the iPhone 15 Pro Max or Sony Xperia 1 V, but it still has plenty to offer for quite a lot less than its rivals.

It's the best-looking Pixel phone yet, with a frosted matte glass effect replacing the Pixel 7 Pro's glossy rear glass panel. Not only does this look pretty cool, it also makes the device easier to hold and use one-handed, as well as masking fingerprints on the device.

Visually, it's very impressive, thanks to the Quad HD LTPO 120Hz OLED display, which varies the refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz depending on the content and results in scrolling that feels especially fluid. It supports HDR10+ (though not Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos), with images looking crisp and sharp. Shadow handling isn't quite up to the same standard, unfortunately, and it can be a little overenthusiastic with bright colours.

Sonically, it's a big step up on its forebears, sounding noticeably warmer and richer. There's more detail and definition, making tracks sound more textured. The timing could be a little snappier, but its speakers are quite good for a phone's, with plenty of oomph. It won't replace a Bluetooth speaker, but should you have to listen without one, it won't offend you.

Read the full Google Pixel 8 Pro review

Google Pixel 7a held in front of a table

The Pixel 7a actually outdoes the pricier Pixel 7 in some key areas... (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)
A very compelling budget Android in a crowded market.

Specifications

Screen: 6.1 inch OLED
Resolution: 1080 x 2400 (429ppi)
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP
Front camera: 13MP
Battery: 4300mAh
Dimensions (hwd): 15.2 x 7.3 x 0.9cm
Weight: 194g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent contrast
+
Punchy colours
+
Dynamic sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor dark details
-
Tough competition from Sony

The cut-price take on the standard Pixel 7 is a very good phone in its own right. It has the same processor as the Pixel 7, and the handset looks almost identical (though it is slightly smaller and lighter). It has a plastic back instead of the 7's glass, and the 6.1-inch OLED screen should suffice most people, though it is a little dim, even at maximum brightness.

Like the Pixel 7, there's no Dolby Atmos, but it also lacks the 7's Google Spatial Audio format. The 64MP camera is excellent, and a big step on from the 12MP snapper on the Pixel 6a. You even get wireless charging, though at 7W it's not very fast.

The 7a actually outdoes the Pixel 7 in terms of picture quality – there's a lot more depth than its pricier stablemate. Motion is smoother too, but it can't compete when it comes to dark scenes.

The 7a sounds better through headphones than the 7 too. If it's a budget Pixel you're after, this is the phone for you.

Read the full Google Pixel 7a 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.

MORE:

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Dan Sung

Dan is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and his job is with product reviews as well as news, feature and advice articles too. He works across both the hi-fi and AV parts of the site and magazine and has a particular interest in home cinema. Dan joined What Hi-Fi? in 2019 and has worked in tech journalism for over a decade, writing for Tech Digest, Pocket-lint, MSN Tech and Wareable as well as freelancing for T3, Metro and the Independent. Dan has a keen interest in playing and watching football. He has also written about it for the Observer and FourFourTwo and ghost authored John Toshack's autobiography, Toshack's Way.