Best Android phones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Android phones you can buy in 2022.
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.
So what should you look for in a best Android phone?
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 like 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 our 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. There's also more room for on-screen gaming controls. Some of our best Android phones even support 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos which makes them perfect for consuming content on the move.
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.
- OS agnostic? Here are the best smartphones for music and movies
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 latest and best digital Swiss Army Knife.
The design has had a tiny, glass-toughening tweak, the battery 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.
Read the full Sony Xperia III review
The new Samsung Galaxy S21 is more of a refinement of its predecessor than a revamp. But its predecessor did bring plenty new to the party, including 5G and a 120Hz refresh rate, so the S21 already has a lot to work with. Its launch price is also lower than the S20's, which is unheard of in this day and age.
It doesn't support the S Pen stylus (you'll need the S21 Ultra for that), and the microSD card slot has been dropped. But there are improvements across the board, including a new processor and higher screen resolution.
The screen has a punchy colour palette, with a picture that's crisp and sharp. And the sound packs plenty of clarity and detail. Though it's beaten in terms of picture and sound by the Sony Xperia 1 II above.
Still, it's another fine effort from Samsung, with bags of features and top-notch cameras. It's maybe not worth an upgrade from the S20, but owners of older handsets looking for an all-new shiny device can’t go far wrong here.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy S21 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.
This Sony has a real focus on audio and video quality, which makes it right up our street. Setting it apart from the rest of the Android wannabes is its screen – not only is the 6.5in display 4K, it also has a 21:9 aspect ratio. This long, thin design makes it ideal for showing widescreen content in full screen.
It's a doozy of a display, and takes Android phone video performance to a new level. The picture matches the design of the phone: sleek, smooth, premium. You’ll enjoy pin sharp images, beautifully realistic and full of detail. Sony has no time for lurid colours and over-cooked contrast and instead simply peels back a previously invisible film, revealing an apparent extra layer of realism and insight compared with even the best Android smartphones.
Sony's TVs are some of the best in the business at handling motion, and so is this phone. Unusually for a high-end handset, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack, too. Tick. And the sound is typically Sony: agile, clear, rhythmical.
If you're serious about watching and listening on the move, the Xperia 1 III, at the top of this list, is the best Android choice around right now. It's not a huge upgrade over its predecessor here, though. So, this might be a good option if the price is significantly less.
Read the full Sony Xperia 1 II 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.
The S20 actually follows the Galaxy S10 – Samsung changed the naming convention to make it sound more modern. It looks familiar, feels familiar and has a largely predictable list of specifications and features. But considering the S10 was one of 2019's standout handsets, that's no bad thing.
Indeed, we're in the business of marginal gains here. The S20 might not have enough to justify an upgrade from an S10, but it is an absolutely stunning handset, and one of the best Android phones going.
Why? The screen is superb, being large, colourful and packed with detail while managing to look effortlessly natural at the same time. The audio performance is solid, especially when paired with a decent pair of headphones, and the battery life is very healthy indeed. The interface zips along, and 5G and a 120Hz screen refresh rate give it the edge over the S10.
Sometimes you just need to beat the competition, not blow them away, and the Galaxy S20 certainly does that.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy S20 review.
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has superior specs to the smaller Note 20. There's a bigger, higher resolution screen, a glass back as opposed to plastic, a better camera, an SD card slot, more RAM and a larger storage option. Of course, it costs more too.
But it's worth it. The chassis feels suitably premium for a Samsung flagship, and it's mighty hardwearing too. The S Pen has been upgraded, becoming faster and gaining some new Air Gesture features that let you control the phone without any physical contact with the screen. All very Yoda.
It has plenty of power in the photography department, too. Namely the same 108MP wide lens as seen on the S20 Ultra, along with a 12MP telephoto, with 5x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide. There's also a 10MP front camera with dual pixel autofocus.
The screen is detailed and bright, and sonically it delivers good detail, solid bass and natural, open treble. Music is entertaining and dynamic, with a level of fidelity worthy of a flagship phone. A fine buy.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.
Google's latest Pixel phone is a lot more wallet-friendly than the Pixel 4. A canny change of strategy in these cash-strapped times? Or an admission that Apple and Samsung have the high-end sewn up?
Either way, this is a very fine phone, and no mistakes about it. Despite its less impressive spec sheet, it still has 5G for super speedy internet speeds, a decent-sized battery and Qi-certified wireless charging. It also sees the return of the back-panel fingerprint scanner, which was sorely missing from the Pixel 4.
It's waterproof too, and has a superb camera.
The Pixel 5’s OLED screen renders reds deep and blacks true, with plenty in the way of clarity and cleanliness. That 90Hz rate steps up to keep things smooth, too. All in all, it’s pleasantly watchable – you could even say surprisingly so for the price.
The sound could do with more body, but that's one of the compromises made to make the phone more affordable.
Read the full Google Pixel 5 review.
The Moto G6 might be a budget phone on paper, but it doesn't perform like one. If you're familiar with Motorola's G-series handsets, that won't come as a surprise: they have always been great value for money, and the G6 continues that legacy.
So what's so good? It has all the features you would expect from a pricier handset, including a fingerprint scanner, a headphone jack and a USB-C port for charging the 3000mAh battery.
Inside is a Snapdragon 1.8GHz octa-core processor, which, combined with its Android operating system, keep this phone running pretty smoothly. It even has a pretty good picture and decent sound, considering the price.
Overall, this is an ideal choice for anyone wanting a cheap phone that does the basics well. It wasn't exactly pricey when it launched, so now, some years later, you can pick up an absolute bargain if you're prepared to look. And we would advise you do.
Read the full Motorola Moto G6 review.