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Want the best Android phone right now? Our top picks for the new year

Shopping for a new Android phone? Let this be your definitive list of the best Android handsets from Samsung, Google, and others.

When it comes to smartphones, you really only have two options: Android or iOS. While Apple's iPhone continues to reign supreme on the sales side of things, Android remains superior for its customizability, variety, and innovative features.

To kickstart the year, the ZDNET team has rounded up the very best Android phones you can buy right now, including ones from Samsung, Google, OnePlus, Asus, and more.

Also: The best Samsung phones

Of course, there will be newer models on the horizon, like the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S23 series, so stick around to see where each brand's 2023 flagships land on ZDNET's Android phone tier list.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • High quality and capable quad-camera system
  • Best telephoto shooter available
  • Full integrated S Pen support
  • Incredible AMOLED display
Cons
  • Phone can be too big for some
  • Screen has curved edges
  • Charging speed can be faster
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 | Display Size: 6.8 inches | Storage Options: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Rear Cameras: 108MP main, 12MP ultra wide, 10MP 10x optical, 10MP 3x optical | Front Camera: 40MP | Colors: Green, Burgundy, Phantom White, Phantom Black | Size: 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm | Weight: 228g | Starting Price: $1,199

We're just weeks away from Samsung unveiling the new Galaxy S23 Series, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra is still one of the best overall smartphones today -- and the best that Samsung has to offer for camera performance. With the S Pen now being incorporated into the phone, the Note lives on in the S22 Ultra, turning the Ultra into the ultimate stylus-enabled smartphone.

If your job requires you to zoom into subjects from far away, or you're just not the best at scrambling through crowds to capture things in the frame, no other phone beats the S22 Ultra in terms of telephoto capability and, more importantly, quality. Zooming up to 30x provides high-quality images, but even beyond this zoom level, there are practical reasons to see the details of the subjects you are shooting.

Read the review: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Generally speaking, the S22 Ultra was arguably the most complete, do-it-all smartphone of 2022, with an ample amount of storage, RAM, and battery capacity to power it through. That's on top of the immersive 6.8-inch OLED panel that proves once again that Samsung is the king of displays.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • A smartphone that doubles as a tablet
  • Large 7.6-inch, 120Hz, OLED panel
  • S Pen support
  • Flex Mode features
Cons
  • Expensive at $1,799
  • Charging speed can be better
  • Form factor takes some getting used to
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 | Display Size: 6.2 (outer) and 7.6 inches (inner) | Storage Options: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Rear Cameras: 50MP main, 12MP ultra wide, 10MP telephoto | Front Camera: 10MP (outer) 4MP and (inner) | Colors: Graygreen, Beige, Burgundy, Phantom Black | Size: 155.1 x 67.1 x 14.2mm (folded) | Weight: 263g | Starting Price: $1,799 

Foldables are inching closer and closer to mainstream acceptance but that doesn't mean it's too early to hop on the innovation wagon. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the company's most polished 2-in-1 smartphone yet, and it's also the best one on the market. 

Read the review: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

With the latest model, you'll get up to 12GB of RAM, a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor powering the system, a flexible display that can expand from 6.2 inches to 7.6 inches, and all the software perks of Android 12L. Samsung has also made some improvements to its industrial design to create a more uniform, durable, and lightweight form factor.  

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Compact size is refreshing to use
  • Uncompromising build quality and performance
  • Bloatware-free software
  • 3.5mm headphone jack and charger included
Cons
  • Speakers come off as tinny
  • Only two years of OS updates
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 | Display Size: 5.9 inches | Storage Options: 128GB/256GB | Rear Cameras: 50MP main, 12MP ultra-wide | Front Camera: 12MP | Colors: Midnight Black, Moonlight White, Starry Blue, Sunset Red | Size: 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.1mm | Weight: 169g | Starting Price: $699 

Phones are getting faster and more powerful, but they're also taking up more space in our pockets. That's why the Asus Zenfone 9 shines in the sea of 2023 smartphones. The device has a relatively compact 5.9-inch display and weighs just 169 grams, but those dimensions don't hold it back from boasting flagship internals, like a 120Hz refresh rate, a capable Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, and 8GB of RAM.

Read the review: Asus Zenfone 9

Rarely will you see a compact phone that's not compromising on aspects like battery life and performance, but the Asus Zenfone 9 is built differently -- and for the better. ZDNET reviewed the handset back in July and found its dual camera system dependable as well, with Asus opting for just two lenses: a 50MP wide and a 12MP ultra-wide, and not overloading the back cover with unnecessary camera parts.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 30x Super Res Zoom is ahead of the competition
  • Android 13 is buttery smooth
  • Timely updates and support for years
  • Software tricks unique to Pixel
Cons
  • Battery life and charging speed lag behind
  • Curved display makes it difficult to find a screen protector
  • Software experience can be too minimal
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor G2 | Display Size: 6.7 inches | Storage Options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear Cameras: 50MP main, 12MP ultra wide, 48MP telephoto | Front Camera: 10.8 MP | Colors: Obsidian, Snow, Hazel | Size: 162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9mm | Weight: 212g | Starting Price: $899 

The latest flagship Pixel from Google is also its most refined and capable one yet. The 6.7-inch model is now fitted with a more uniform glass-to-aluminum body and sees an updated Google Tensor G2 chip at the helm. With the new processor, the Pixel 7 Pro gets a boost in efficiency, performance, and a series of practical software features like Unblur and Guided Frame, along with last year's fan-favorite, Magic Eraser

Read the review: Google Pixel 7 Pro

In Pixel fashion, the triple camera array, paired with the company's computational chops, is what puts the 7 Pro ahead of the competition. From the natural-colored photo and video capture to the new 30x Super Res Zoom that can snap crisp and surprisingly detailed close-up shots, the flagship Pixel's camera system is more capable than ever before.

The $899 price tag, which undercuts Samsung and Apple's very best, is the cherry on top. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • The fastest wired charging on the US market
  • Bloatware-free software
  • Exceptional value at $649
  • Charger included in the box
Cons
  • Storage and RAM configuration is limited to 128GB/256GB in the US
  • OxygenOS software remains hit-or-miss
  • Mid-tier cameras
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 | Display Size: 6.7 inches | Storage Options: 128GB/256GB | Rear Cameras: 50MP main, 8MP ultra wide, 2MP macro | Front Camera: 16 MP | Colors: Moonstone Black and Jade Green | Size: 163 x 75.4 x 8.8mm | Weight: 204g | Starting Price: $649 

OnePlus has come a long way since its flagship-killing roots, and while it no longer churns out $300-$400 handsets to chip off Apple and Samsung's flagship market share, the latest device, the OnePlus 10T, is still a leader in one aspect: fast charging. 

The OnePlus 10T supports the company's SuperVOOC 125W technology, which allows the phone to go from 1% to 100% in less than 20 minutes. Seriously. That means gone are the days of plugging in your device right before bed or squeezing every last bit of free time to power it before work.

Read the review: OnePlus 10T

Charging aside, the 10T is still a formidable Android if you're eyeing a Google/Samsung alternative and don't want to pay more than $1,000. It comes with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor that proved its worth during our full review, and a triple camera array that's sufficient enough for day-to-day shots. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Exceptional value at $449
  • Timely software updates and support for years to come
  • Best camera system in its price range
Cons
  • Mid-range processor
  • Hardware can feel plasticky
  • Selfie camera is decent at best
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor | Display Size: 6.1 inches | Storage Options: 128GB | Rear Cameras: 12MP wide, 12MP ultra wide | Front Camera: 8MP | Colors: Sage, Chalk, Charcoal | Size: 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm | Weight: 178g | Starting Price: $449 

Google's Pixel 6a checks all the boxes of a competitive, mid-range smartphone. instead of focusing on premium-grade materials and flashy features, the Pixel 6a is just a simple, user-friendly device that makes you question if you've been paying too much for smartphones. 

Read the review: Google Pixel 6a

At $449, the Pixel 6a offers a useful dual 12MP camera system, with Google's Tensor chipset powering all that's within. That also means you'll be getting the same software tricks as flagship Pixels, like Magic Eraser and Live Translate. If you can live with a 6.1-inch display and are tight on budget, then the Pixel 6a is the budget Android to buy.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 6.67-inch OLED display ramps up to 144Hz
  • 4,650mAh battery
  • Magnetic pop-up trigger buttons are beneficial for gaming
Cons
  • Software experience can feel cluttered
  • May not support your carrier network
  • Hardware design can be too jarring
More Details

Tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 | Display Size: 6.67 inches | Storage Options: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Rear Cameras: 108MP main, 13MP ultra wide, 5MP macro | Front Camera: 16MP | Colors: Stellar Black, Nebula White | Size: 163.9 x 76.5 x 9.5mm | Weight: 220g | Starting Price: $799

If there's one area that Android completely dominates iOS in, it's gaming. Whether you game on existing mobile apps or take to the cloud for streaming, Android manufacturers have spent the past years forging a new category of gaming-tailored smartphones. If you want the best, check out the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro. It's not the most expensive gaming phone on the market, and it certainly doesn't need a big price tag to do the talking.

Read the review: Black Shark 5 Pro

To start, the phone can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM for high-graphics gaming and enhanced app management. Then, there's the external hardware like the 144Hz refresh rate display that makes gameplay look buttery smooth, the two side trigger buttons that can retract into the phone when not in use, and RGB designs etched throughout the body of the phone -- because Xiaomi wants you to game in style.

What is the best Android phone?

After weighing out the specs and reviewer-tested experiences, the best Android phone is currently the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. It's got a beautiful AMOLED display, a powerful CPU, and a state-of-the-art camera that covers all the bases and angles. Here's how the best of the best compare to each other:

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

$1,199

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

6.8 inches, 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

$1,799

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1

6.2 and 7.6 inches, 120Hz Flexible AMOLED

Asus Zenfone 9

$699

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

5.9 inches, 120Hz AMOLED

Google Pixel 7 Pro

$899

Google Tensor G2

6.7 inches, 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED

OnePlus 10T

$649

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1

6.7 inches, 120Hz AMOLED

Google Pixel 6a

$449

Google Tensor

6.1 inches, 60Hz OLED

Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro

$799

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

6.67 inches, 144Hz AMOLED

Which is the right Android phone for you?

All of these phones run the same base operating system, but the user interface ranges from stock Android to more elaborate options. So first, you need to figure out which fits your needs best.

Camera performance across the board is solid from just about every phone on the list, but some are better than others. If you plan to capture photos as your primary function, then you should look to Google, Samsung, or even OnePlus.

If you plan to spend $1,000 or more, then you may also want your phone to last for at least a couple of years. You should consider companies with a good track record of regular updates, notably Google and Samsung.

Choose this Android phone…

If you want…

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The overall best and for taking pictures

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

The best foldable phone

Asus Zenfone 9

A compact phone that doesn't compromise on performance

Google Pixel 7 Pro

A minimal software experience with Google-exclusive perks

OnePlus 10T

The fastest charging phone on the market

Google Pixel 6a

The best-value Android phone

Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro

The best gaming phone

How did we choose these smartphones?

The process to make our smartphone selections includes testing the phones for weeks, researching reviewer guides and manufacturer websites, talking with colleagues and other users who have hands-on experience with the smartphones, and then selecting the best from all of the available choices. 

Over the past year, we tested new Android phones from Google, Samsung, OnePlus, Sony, Motorola, and several others. 

Can I use eSIM on an Android phone?

While Apple's iPhone 14 made headlines for its eSIM integration, the digital service also works -- and has been for some time -- with Android devices, including the latest Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, and OnePlus smartphone. As always, it's best practice to consult with your local carrier before converting to eSIM. 

What is the best small Android phone?

While smartphones in general continue to scale up in size, there are still options aplenty if you're eyeing a compact, pocket-friendly handset. The Asus Zenfone 9, our top pick, only has a 5.9-inch display but comes equipped with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, up to 256GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM. During our testing, we found the small-but-mighty Android to perform above standards.

Are there alternative Android phones to consider?

Outside of this list of excellent options, here are worthy alternatives that will surely delight you.


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