In the past, we had several smartphone operating systems, but now, we see phones running Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Android is clearly the dominant platform of choice -- with companies like Samsung, OnePlus, LG, Motorola, Google, TCL, Sony, and many others making hardware running Android.
Google's Pixel hardware typically runs a 'stock' version of the Android OS, while Samsung has OneUI, OnePlus has Oxygen OS on top of Android, and other companies tweak things to optimize the experience for its hardware.
Samsung's Galaxy S20 series is available from carriers, Samsung, and other retail partners. After spending a couple of months with the S20 Ultra 5G, it is clear the phone is built for business and captures the crown for the best 5G device available today.
The focus on the S20 line this year is universal 5G and improved camera experiences. The S20 Ultra 5G is the top-of-the-line device, but in my experience, the S20 Plus may be the best fit for the masses.
Samsung's S20 series is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, AMOLED 120Hz refresh rate displays ranging from 6.2 to 6.9 inches, 12GB RAM (with 16GB option), 128GB to 512GB storage options with a microSD for even more capacity, three rear cameras (the Ultra has unique camera specifications), IP68 rating, WiFi 6, and Bluetooth 5. Battery capacity ranges from 4,000 to 5,000mAh. The S20 does not support high band (mmWave) faster 5G networks so make sure you pick the device that will fit your network needs.
An argument can be made that the S20 series isn't the best smartphone available today, but in terms of 5G and the latest technology, the phones are tough to beat. The price makes them a bit tougher to justify, but when you realize how this tool is used constantly the price for the value is easier to comprehend.$1,250 at Best Buy $1,399 at Abt Electronics
The LG V60 ThinQ 5G is available now from T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and US Cellular. It's only available in the US from one of these wireless carriers, but it may appear as an unlocked model on Amazon in the future.
This latest LG V series device continues to focus on video creation with a triple rear camera system, 8K video recording, four microphones, ASMR and Voice Bokeh audio technology, and advanced camera software. It's also powered by a massive 5,000 mAh battery with a 1080p display so it is sure to help you capture hours of video content.
The LG V60 ThinQ 5G is composed of two pieces of Gorilla Glass 5 with a metal frame and is certified for shock resistance to MIL-STD 810G. LG's new phone has a 6.8-inch OLED panel, Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage with a microSD card, and 5G. A Dual Screen cover is included for the $900 price and gives you a large platform for serious productivity.
Along with 5G and a focus on video capture, the LG V60 continues LG's tradition of audio excellence with a 3.5mm audio port with quad DAC support and stereo speakers. It sounds great through the speakers, but the wired headphone experience is even better. It's one of the last phones remaining with a 3.5mm audio port so audiophiles are sure to be pleased.
LG also challenges the Samsung Galaxy Note line with extensive stylus support, which is not readily apparent since there is no option for an embedded stylus. Check out our full article on using a Bamboo Ink Stylus with the dual-screen LG V60 ThinQ.$900 at LG
OnePlus rolled out its new 2020 phones with the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, both compatible with 5G networks. T-Mobile will carry the OnePlus 8 while Verizon will also get a unique version with 5G mmWave support.
This latest OnePlus flagship offers extremely responsive performance with its 90Hz and 120Hz displays, fast UFS 3.0 internal storage, generous RAM, and the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor.
The phones are lovely with Interstellar Glow, Glacial Green, and other color options available. There are is a couple of different RAM and internal storage options for each phone. With the size and battery capacity differences between the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, we also find some differences in cameras, display refresh rate, and wireless charging functionality.$999 at OnePlus
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review CNET
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Star Wars Special Edition
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 sat on top of our 10 best smartphone list for much of the past year. While the headphone jack is gone, everything else has been improved on the 2019 version of the Galaxy Note. The Note 10 is now offered in two variants, with the presence of a microSD card slot, display size, and battery capacity being the prime differentiators.
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is an excellent enterprise smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, massive amounts of RAM, fast internal storage, microSD card expansion, capable rear quad-camera system, and much more.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 has a Link to the Windows button in the quick controls area along with support for the latest version of DeX. Extending it to an external monitor with Samsung DeX is quick and easy, while also providing a full functioning desktop experience. The additional capability to charge up other devices and gear, such as the Galaxy Buds, via wireless technology on the back of the Note 10 is convenient for road warriors.
Note 10, starting with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, starts at $949.99 while the Note 10 Plus with 12GB of RAM and 256GB internal storage starts at $1,099.99. There are also increased RAM and storage options for both devices, but the default base models offer ample RAM and storage for most users. The Note 10 Plus is available now from Samsung and all carriers. T-Mobile also just rolled out a 5G variant, priced at $1,299.99.$749 at Back Market $950 at Amazon $1,100 at Sprint
The Sony Xperia 1 II, spoken as the "one mark two", was recently announced by Sony and will be available this month for an MSRP of $1,200. It matches the latest flagship Android smartphones with 5G support, Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB internal storage with a microSD card slot, and Android 10.
The new Sony Xperia 1 II is focused on the media experience with a 3.5mm audio port, true front-facing stereo speakers, three rear cameras, and Sony gaming features. One rear camera has actual 3x optical zoom with a 70mm lens equivalent.
Sony is providing this phone for those looking to explore the camera experience with three camera applications and many elements from the Sony Alpha camera series included in the phone. It is not optimized for simply point and shoot with auto mode only, but is sure to please the imaging fan with advanced software and a dedicated camera shutter hardware button just where you need it to capture content.View Now at Sony
Samsung's current mass-market flagship is a winner in almost every respect, remaining a more affordable and pocketable option compared to the new Note 10 series. Prices have dropped over the past six months too so you can get this phone at a great price.
Last year's S9 Plus was a solid Android smartphone, but the S10 Plus improves upon that device with an ultra-wide camera, much longer battery life, better software with One UI, and the ability to wirelessly charge up other devices.
Samsung's S10 and S10 Plus have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Super AMOLED Infinity-O display, 8GB RAM (with 12GB option), 128GB to 1TB storage options with a microSD for even more capacity, five cameras, IP68 rating, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, ANT+, and a stunning design with gorgeous Prism color options.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus continues to have all of the excellent Galaxy Foundation aspects such as a high level of water resistance, fast wireless charging, a stunning Super AMOLED screen, expandable microSD storage, a 3.5mm headset jack, and much more. In addition, extending it to an external monitor with Samsung DeX is quick and easy, while also providing a full functioning desktop experience. The additional capability to charge up other devices and gear, such as the new Galaxy Buds, via wireless technology on the back of the S10 Plus is convenient for road warriors.
The Galaxy S10 Plus has now been available for six months, which means you can often find special offers from your preferred carrier. Amazon regularly has unlocked models at even more affordable pricing than Samsung or the carriers. The Galaxy S10 started at $899.99 while the S10 Plus started at $999.99 for the 8GB/128GB model. With the release of the S20 series, Samsung dropped the price $150 across the board on the S10 series.
Check out our Galaxy S10 Plus review (9.5/10).$431 at Back Market $420 at Amazon $1,000 at Sprint
If you want an Android phone that will always have the latest firmware and security updates, while also offering a fairly stock experience, then nothing beats the Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL. These two phones are the same except for the overall size and battery capacity.
The Google Pixel 4 XL has a large 6.3-inch 18:9 display, Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, 64GB, and 128GB integrated storage, dual rear 16MP and 12.2MP cameras, 8MP front-facing camera, IP68 dust and water resistance, a 3,700mAh battery, and dual front stereo speakers. The smaller Pixel 4 has a 5.7-inch display and a smaller 2,800mAh battery while the rest of the specs are the same as the XL model.
It's too bad we see storage start at just 64GB, especially with Google no longer providing a free unlimited full-resolution backup of your photos. Battery life is a concern for both the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, especially when compared to other flagships in this price range that will power you through at least a day of use.
In addition to the software being a focus for Google, the camera is another reason to buy the Pixel 4 or 4 XL over other better smartphone hardware. However, while others have phones with three or four rear cameras, Google added just one and went with telephoto over an ultra-wide-angle so the utility of the Pixel 4 cameras may not be as great as what you get on other smartphones in this list.
The smaller Pixel 4 starts at $799 while the Pixel 4 XL starts at $899 for the 64GB model. They are both powered by Android 10 and will receive OS upgrades for three years. Monthly Android security updates are the most important software support for the enterprise since major firmware updates tend to break things and be less stable immediately after release.$515 at Back Market $789 at Amazon $900 at Best Buy
8. TCL 10 Pro
- TCL 10 Pro review 9.4/10
TCL has been making smartphones for years, including the latest BlackBerry and Alcatel phones. With the TCL 10 series, we see the first TCL-branded phones launching for North American customers. After a month with the stunning Ember Gray TCL 10 Pro it is clear that TCL is offering a compelling choice for less than $500.
Lately, I've been testing the low-cost Apple iPhone SE and lowest priced 5G phone, the OnePlus 8, and the new TCL 10 Pro offers something in between these two at a $450 price. The design is lovely, the display is wonderful, and there are advanced camera features in this new phone.
It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 with Android 10, has a 6.47 inch AMOLED panel from TCL, 6GB of RAM, 128GB internal storage with a microSD card slot, four rear cameras, and a large 4,500 mAh battery to get you through more than a full, busy day.
Given that we focus on the display the majority of the time spent with a smartphone, you will not be disappointed by what TCL offers in the TCL 10 Pro. The cameras perform well, especially with the 64MP lens offering pixel binning to capture great detail.
Google launched a couple of mid-level phones that are much more affordable and still include Google's industry-leading camera solution. The Pixel 3A and 3A XL are the same phones with just the screen size and battery capacity being different from each other. An $80 price difference differentiates between the two sizes with the same color options also being available.
The Pixel 3A and 3A XL are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor with 5.6 or 6-inch OLED displays, 12MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, stereo speakers, and 3,000/3,700mAh battery options. This is targeted to the masses with limited internal storage and US carrier availability at Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, as well as unlocked directly from Google.
The smaller Pixel 3A is priced at just $399 while the Pixel 3A XL costs $479. The only option, other than size, is the color of the phone. Available colors include Just Black, Purple-ish, and Clearly White. They are both powered by Android 9.0 Pie and will receive OS upgrades for three years. Google's newest Assistant features are present along with some other Google software advances. Rumors indicate we may see a Pixel 4a variant in the first half of 2020.
ZDNet's Jason Cipriani awarded the Pixel 3A XL an 8.5/10 rating.$479 at Sprint $480 at Best Buy
- Moto G Power review CNET
Motorola launched two G series devices in 2020, including the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power. The Moto G Power is rated to provide three days of battery life with some folks seeing even more from the massive 5,000 mAh battery.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor with Android 10 powers this device. 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage with a microSD card slot, 6.4 inch LCD display, three rear cameras, and water repellent features are all available here for just $250.
This is the lowest priced phone in this list of Android phones but is definitely a phone to consider for a new smartphone user or someone who wants a phone to last for days. Motorola does a great job of providing a fairly stock Android experience with its own utilities that optimize the smartphone experience.$250 at Best Buy $250 at Best Buy $250 at Motorola