The 5 Best Android Phones – The New York Times

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We still think Google’s Pixel phones are the best choice for most Android users, but Samsung’s new Galaxy S22 and S22 Ultra are great premium options.
Android phones can vary widely in both price and experience, from just a couple hundred dollars to well over a thousand—and from unbelievably frustrating to unbelievably impressive. We spend hundreds of hours each year testing the latest Android smartphones, and we’ve concluded that the Google Pixel 6 is the best Android phone for most people. It offers outstanding software and camera performance, and it costs much less than other high-end models. It will also receive guaranteed software updates for longer than most Android phones.
The Pixel 6 offers the best version of Android, with guaranteed updates through fall 2026—plus the best Android camera we’ve ever tested, a custom Google processor, and excellent build quality for half as much as Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $600.
Key specifications:
Google’s Pixel smartphones have always offered the best software experience on Android, but the Pixel 6 is the first model with hardware worthy of the software. It has the best camera available on an Android phone save for the Pixel 6 Pro, and Google’s fast custom Tensor processor can hold its own against high-end chips in other phones. It also gets Google’s longest update guarantee yet: five years from release. At $600, it costs hundreds less than phones that won’t last as long or perform as well.
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The Pixel 6 Pro takes the amazing Pixel 6 and adds a bigger, better screen and a zoom camera—and it’s still cheaper than the competition.
You save $150 (19%)
Key specifications:
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is similar to the Pixel 6 but adds a larger OLED screen with a higher resolution and refresh rate, a bigger battery, and a camera with 4x optical zoom. These improvements bump the regular price up to $900, so the value isn’t quite as strong as with the Pixel 6. But the Pixel 6 Pro is a more capable phone, it still gives you the same excellent software plus five years of update support, and it’s still better than the best from Samsung, OnePlus, or Motorola.
For even less than the Pixel 6, the Pixel 5a offers the best version of Android, with guaranteed updates through August 2024—but it also means a slight step down in the performance, camera, and screen.
Key specifications:
Google’s Pixel 5a with 5G is priced $150 lower than the flagship Pixel 6, but it retains almost all of what you might expect from a high-end phone. The Pixel 5a has Google’s clean, fast version of Android 12, with three years of guaranteed updates. It also offers camera performance that’s better than what you can get from phones that may cost twice as much. However, the Pixel 5a with 5G isn’t quite as responsive as the Samsung Galaxy S22 or the Pixel 6. It also has no support for wireless charging or expandable storage, and its screen is not the smoother, high-refresh variety. It does, however, have a headphone jack.
A fast processor, a huge screen, class-leading cameras, and even a stylus make the Galaxy S22 Ultra the most full-featured Android phone available. But you should buy it only if it’s on sale.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,000.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is essentially a Galaxy Note by another name. It has the biggest, brightest screen of any smartphone in 2022, and the included S Pen can help you take notes, mark up documents, and create art in ways you can’t do on any other phone available. It has the best build quality of any Android phone, with a custom aluminum alloy frame that wraps around the edges, and the matte glass repels fingerprints. In addition, this Galaxy phone almost matches the Pixel 6 with its collection of four useful camera lenses, including a 10x “periscope” zoom lens. The primary drawback is this phone’s high regular price—for $300 less, the Pixel 6 Pro is better at most things. The S22 Ultra is ideal if you demand maximum versatility from your phone, but you should buy it only on sale—we recommend purchasing when it’s closer to $1,000, or if you have an older Samsung phone to trade in.
The Galaxy S22 has the same powerful processor as the S22 Ultra, but its compact frame and smaller display make it easier to use, even if you have only one hand free.
Most good Android phones are big and heavy, but the Samsung Galaxy S22 is petite enough for those with smaller hands. The 6.1-inch OLED display looks even better than the Pixel 6’s screen, and the build quality is every bit as good as that of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It’s built to last on the software side, too, with the same five-year update commitment as on Samsung’s other flagship phones. The S22 lacks the advanced camera array of the S22 Ultra, but it still shoots better photos than anything else that isn’t a Pixel. However, the smaller size means a smaller battery—the S22 will last a day, but only just.
There are more options than ever for people who need a good Android phone but don’t want to spend a lot of money for it.
If you’re happy with your iPhone, an upgrade can wait. But if you need a new device, the iPhone 13 has a fantastic camera and better battery life than ever.
The Pixel 6 offers the best version of Android, with guaranteed updates through fall 2026—plus the best Android camera we’ve ever tested, a custom Google processor, and excellent build quality for half as much as Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $600.
The Pixel 6 Pro takes the amazing Pixel 6 and adds a bigger, better screen and a zoom camera—and it’s still cheaper than the competition.
You save $150 (19%)
For even less than the Pixel 6, the Pixel 5a offers the best version of Android, with guaranteed updates through August 2024—but it also means a slight step down in the performance, camera, and screen.
A fast processor, a huge screen, class-leading cameras, and even a stylus make the Galaxy S22 Ultra the most full-featured Android phone available. But you should buy it only if it’s on sale.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,000.
The Galaxy S22 has the same powerful processor as the S22 Ultra, but its compact frame and smaller display make it easier to use, even if you have only one hand free.
I’ve been testing Android phones for Wirecutter since 2015. I’ve also written more than a million words about Android phones, tablets, and software on websites such as Android Police, ExtremeTech, and Tested over the past decade. I’ve lived with dozens of Android phones during that time; I’ve used and reviewed more phones in the past year than most people will own in their entire lives.
We’ve tested dozens of Android phones over the past few years, and most suffer from poor software, sluggish performance, terrible design choices, or some combination of all three. Here are the criteria we use to decide which phones are worth buying:
If you’re happy with your current phone, don’t get a new one yet. On the other hand, if you use your phone constantly throughout the day and it isn’t serving you well anymore, buy a new one.
Another reason to consider an upgrade is if your current phone no longer receives software updates. All software has bugs that lead to security vulnerabilities, and if your phone isn’t getting updates, it isn’t getting fixes, either. Plus, without updates, the phone won’t be able to take advantage of apps that require features present only in the latest OS.
If you’re happy with your current phone, don’t get a new one yet.
If your phone is more than a year or two old and your biggest complaint is that the battery life sucks, consider replacing the battery before replacing the phone. Most recent phones use a sealed-in battery, but you can usually pay the manufacturer or a third-party service to replace it. Although that’s a hassle, it costs a lot less.
When it’s time to buy a new phone, we recommend choosing the best-rated, most recently released phone you can afford. We don’t recommend saving money by settling for whatever cheap phone your carrier offers. Those inexpensive phones often have some combination of substandard specs, poor build quality, a bad interface, and an outdated, crufty version of Android that will never see updates again. Chances are, you’d feel the difference in quality and usability every day, and because these cheap phones are often already a year or two old when you buy them, yours would be three or four years old by the time you pay it off—long past the last software update it would get. You’re almost always better off paying a bit more for a newer and better phone that you’ll enjoy using for at least two years. Among the major US carriers, that usually means paying somewhere between $20 and $40 per month for two years on a finance plan.
Another popular option is to buy an unlocked phone outright.1 For many of the best Android phones, however, that means paying $700 or more all at once (the Pixel 5a aside). If that’s too much for your budget, you can buy a great Android phone unlocked—which means it’ll work on any compatible carrier—for $200 to $300, or even less if you’re willing to sacrifice a few features. We cover those phones in a separate guide to the best budget Android phones.
The Pixel 6 offers the best version of Android, with guaranteed updates through fall 2026—plus the best Android camera we’ve ever tested, a custom Google processor, and excellent build quality for half as much as Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $600.
Key specifications:
Google’s Pixel phones have always had the best Android software, but the Pixel 6 is the first phone that has the hardware to match. It offers Google’s custom Tensor ARM chip, an excellent OLED screen, and the second-best smartphone camera we’ve ever tested (that crown goes to the more expensive Pixel 6 Pro). Android 12 on the Pixel 6 reaches almost iOS levels of polish, and it’ll receive security updates through late 2026, a year longer than even Samsung promises. You can find phones with longer battery life or more camera lenses, but they can’t approach the Pixel 6’s value. It costs $600 unlocked, and it supports all the 5G bands you’ll need for years.
The Pixel 6 is unlocked with support for all major carriers across 4G and 5G, but you should be sure to get only the unlocked version of the phone. Don’t buy directly from AT&T or Verizon. Both carriers sell the Pixel 6 directly, but it’s more expensive through them due to the inclusion of millimeter-wave 5G, which no one needs and you should not pay extra for.
The Pixel 6 and its larger sibling, the Pixel 6 Pro, are the first phones to launch with Google’s long-awaited Tensor processor. This custom chip is as fast as the best processor in any Android phone, but it also adds improved support for on-device machine learning. That means features like Google Assistant and live translations are faster and more reliable. Since the phone can handle more complex AI tasks, less of your data needs to spend time transiting to—and living on—Google’s servers. This Pixel also has more than enough graphical power to play the most advanced mobile games like Genshin Impact and Civilization 6.
Google released Android 12 earlier this year, and the Pixel 6 is the first phone to ship with the new software. Android 12 is the biggest change for the OS in years, offering customizable interface themes in the new Material You system, more stringent security, and a raft of smaller improvements. The version of Android that Google uses for Pixel phones doesn’t have as many gimmicks as you can find on a Samsung or OnePlus phone, but they all work and are easy to use. The Pixel 6 also has some exclusive features like Magic Eraser, which can remove errant people (and other obstructions) from your otherwise perfect photos.
If you want a phone that can make phone calls, the Pixel 6 is the best at that thanks to features like Call Screen, which checks that unknown callers aren’t scammers, Hold for Me, which waits through those interminable customer-service holds, and Direct My Call, which turns labyrinthian phone trees into a visible on-screen menu. This kind of thoughtfulness and refinement is rare on Android phones, and now that I’ve used these features, I’m disappointed whenever I need to place a call on another phone. Even the little things all get attention from Google, and the resulting software experience is smoother and just plain better compared with that of non-Google Android phones. The touch targets around buttons are more forgiving of poorly aimed taps, menu layouts are organized intuitively, and there’s functionally zero delay between your touching the screen and seeing the response.
Google promises better update support for the 2021 Pixel models than you’ll find on any other phone available. You have five years of monthly security patches, which will keep the Pixel 6 secure through at least fall 2026. Unfortunately, Google still promises only three years of OS updates. That means the Pixel 6 will get Android 13, 14, and 15. This is still the best update schedule you’ll find, but we were hoping for more.
A few of Google’s past Pixel phones have had underwhelming displays, but the Pixel 6 nails it. The 6.4-inch display stretches nearly edge to edge, with minimal borders, and animations and app movements are especially smooth. In contrast to the LCD you can find on most inexpensive phones, the OLED panel here offers better contrast with deeper blacks, and its 90 Hz refresh rate is what makes the on-screen motion look so smooth compared with 60 Hz displays. (The Google Pixel 6 Pro and the Samsung S22 Ultra have 120 Hz screens, and Motorola’s Edge has a 144 Hz display.) Although the Pixel 6 gets bright enough for outdoor use, Samsung’s latest phones are a bit easier to read in bright light. On the flip side, however, we love Google’s extra-dim feature, which makes the display less painfully bright in a dark room.
Google equipped the Pixel 6 with an entirely new camera setup housed in a brow bump across the back of the phone. You’ll find a 50-megapixel primary camera along with a 12-megapixel ultrawide. The color accuracy, speed, crispness, and reliability of the Pixel camera are unmatched right now. Almost every photo we’ve taken on the Pixel 6 has come out looking fantastic, and the camera app makes it easy for anyone to achieve the same quality. You don’t need tedious manual controls or post-capture editing here—the Pixel camera app lets you tweak exposure and color temperature live in the viewfinder, and no other phone can lock focus on your subject quite as well. Google has also improved image processing on the Pixel to more accurately show darker skin tones (video), which is a problem on other phones. The only missing piece is optical zoom, which is limited to the Pixel 6 Pro. But even without a telephoto zoom lens, digital zoom on the Pixel 6’s 50-megapixel primary camera works surprisingly well.
Past Pixel phones have had issues with battery life, but Google didn’t skimp on the battery in the Pixel 6. This handset will last a bit longer than the S22 Ultra—easily a day with plenty left over. The Pixel 6 is a bit thicker than some similarly sized smartphones because of that battery capacity, but it still looks stylish with a two-tone design and multiple color options—our review unit is a fun seafoam green color with lime accents. I’m not the biggest fan of the glossy, slippery finish on the glass back, but at least the matte aluminum frame adds some grip.
It’s hard to find negative things to say about the Google Pixel 6, especially considering the extremely competitive price. Most of the “missing” features are things we would not expect to see in a $600 phone anyway, but the Pixel 6 is already pushing boundaries. It would have been nice to see Google include an optical-zoom camera on this phone, even if it couldn’t match the 4x zoom of the camera on the Pixel 6 Pro.
Google’s accelerated charging speeds are also suspect. The Pixel 6 tops out at just 21 watts whether you get the official 30-watt charger (the phone doesn’t come with one) or use a high-wattage third-party plug. That’s still faster than the 18-watt speed of past Google devices, but it falls short of the results from phones like the S22 Ultra, which charges at 45 W. Google says this approach will extend the battery’s life.
The Pixel 6 features Google’s first-ever in-display fingerprint sensor. It uses optical technology similar to that of OnePlus phones, rather than the more expensive ultrasonic sensors in Samsung phones. As a result, the Pixel 6’s sensor is a bit on the slow side compared with that of the S22. Google has been working to improve that in software updates, though.
The Pixel 6 Pro takes the amazing Pixel 6 and adds a bigger, better screen and a zoom camera—and it’s still cheaper than the competition.
You save $150 (19%)
Key specifications:
Everything that makes the smaller Pixel 6 a great phone applies to the Google Pixel 6 Pro. It runs Google’s excellent version of Android 12, it will get the same lengthy update support, and it runs on Google’s new Tensor processor. The Pixel 6 Pro’s higher price buys you several key enhancements, including a larger, 6.7-inch OLED screen that’s both sharper and smoother, as well as an additional 4x optical zoom lens looking through the black camera visor on the back. That lens makes the Pixel 6 Pro the best camera phone we’ve ever tested. This phone also supports every 5G band you’ll need for the foreseeable future.
Like its smaller sibling, the Pixel 6 Pro skips the latest Qualcomm chip in favor of Google’s custom Tensor processor. The bigger phone is also blazingly responsive, taking full advantage of the 120 Hz refresh rate of the 1440p OLED screen to smoothly animate the display the instant you interact with it. The Tensor chip supports enhanced AI features, processing data locally so that some tasks, such as Google Assistant responses, are much faster than on other phones. Here, Google Assistant even works well in Android Auto, which is not the case on phones from Samsung, OnePlus, and others.
The Pixel 6 Pro has three camera sensors on the back instead of two: It has the same 50-megapixel primary camera and 12-megapixel ultrawide camera as on the Pixel 6 but adds a 48-megapixel 4x “periscope” zoom lens to capture more-distant subjects. Samsung offers a similar camera module on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though that phone features a more impressive 10x zoom. Nevertheless, 4x optical zoom on a Pixel combines with Google’s excellent image processing to produce great results. Even if you need to zoom a little past 4x, the Pixel 6 Pro retains detail in the processed image surprisingly well. You don’t have as many options in the camera app as on Samsung phones—Google doesn’t even offer a full-resolution mode on the 50-megapixel primary lens, as it outputs only 12.5-megapixel binned photos, whereas most other phones provide the option to switch to full resolution. Still, the Pixel 6 Pro takes the best photos of any phone we’ve tested.
The Pixel 6 Pro’s only hardware drawback compared with the Pixel 6 is arguably its size. Like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it may be ungainly even if you have large hands. It’s made of the same slippery glass as the smaller Pixel, and the metal has a smooth finish that makes it even harder to grasp, so you’ll probably want to put a case on this one.
Then there’s the price, which is $300 higher than that of the Pixel 6. Part of the blame for that rests with support for millimeter-wave 5G, which is included on the Pixel 6 Pro in the US. That’s a big jump in price—you still get your money’s worth with this phone, but the base-model Pixel 6 is a better deal if you don’t need the larger, upgraded display, the extra camera, and the additional 5G support that the Pixel 6 Pro offers.
For even less than the Pixel 6, the Pixel 5a offers the best version of Android, with guaranteed updates through August 2024—but it also means a slight step down in the performance, camera, and screen.
Key specifications:
The Google Pixel 5a with 5G comes with the same excellent Android software as the pricier Pixels do, but it costs just $450. Google’s version of Android doesn’t have any clutter or sponsored apps, and the Pixel 5a will receive guaranteed updates through summer 2024. Thanks to its dual-camera setup, it takes better photos than non-Pixels, with the exception of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and its enormous quad-camera system. The Pixel 5a lacks wireless charging, however, and its wired charging is slower than that of Samsung’s S22 series or the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The plastic-coated body is also drab and uninteresting, though a case will fix that.
The Pixel 5a is available from the Google Store, but it’s unlocked and should work out of the box on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The Pixel 5a also has good support for 5G frequencies currently in use. But it’s missing a few of the future-proofing 5G frequencies that you get on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The Pixel 5a also omits support for millimeter-wave 5G—but millimeter-wave technology’s availability and reliability is so poor, we don’t recommend seeking it out even if this phone did support it.
Most phone makers, whether they’re adding features and extra apps or merely adjusting the style and branding, customize the Android OS to some extent, almost always to the detriment of the phone’s performance. But Google’s phones avoid those problems and even add some benefits. The Android 11 operating system on the Pixel 5a includes exclusive features such as the on-device Google Assistant, which speeds things up by doing more voice processing on the phone rather than waiting for Google’s servers to do it. You can also have Google Assistant screen your calls for spam or wait on hold for you, and we’ve found that both features work extremely well. The Pixel 5a can even create captions for phone calls with Google’s Live Caption feature.
In addition to having software that’s great to use, the Pixel 5a should remain secure and up to date longer than most other Android phones. Google promises three years of updates, and those updates arrive quickly at the beginning of each month. You’ll also get new versions of Android soon after release, whereas other phones often make you wait months, if they receive a new version at all. Samsung, on its phones, offers one additional year of security updates (four total), but those updates take longer to arrive.
Google’s streamlined software and careful optimization keep the Pixel 5a feeling responsive, but the year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor isn’t as powerful or efficient as those of the Pixel 6 line or the S22 family, and you may notice that when you’re playing 3D games or loading clunky websites and apps. The Pixel 5a’s display is also slower to refresh in comparison—it supports just 60 Hz, while the screens of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are 90 Hz and 120 Hz, respectively. Those refresh rates make animations noticeably smoother on those phones.
The Pixel 5a has a 6.34-inch 1080p OLED screen, and it’s much nicer than the screens you usually see on phones around this price. It’s bright enough for outdoor use, and it offers excellent color accuracy. The 5a is not a small phone, but it has almost no bezel around its display, which keeps it a manageable size.
Although the Pixel 6 Pro offers the best overall photography experience on Android, the Pixel 5a is just a little worse in that regard. It has only a 12-megapixel primary lens and a 16-megapixel ultrawide lens, but Google’s amazing photo processing makes up for those older, lower-resolution sensors. Results from its AI-assisted digital zoom are almost as good as what you can get from phones with dedicated telephoto lenses, and in night-mode photography the Pixel 5a bests anything other than the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
In our tests, the Pixel 5a easily lasted two days on a single charge, even with heavy use. With light use, it might be able to survive for three days on one charge, and its power-saving mode can push it further. Google usually puts smaller batteries in its phones compared with other Android manufacturers, but the Pixel 5a’s battery has plenty of capacity at 4,680 mAh. That’s just shy of the battery capacity of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, but the Pixel 5a has no trouble besting Samsung’s flagship (as well as most other Android phones we’ve tested) in battery life. The USB Type-C port supports fast charging at 18 W, which is not the best charging speed you can get. (The S22 Ultra, which is more than twice as expensive, charges at up to 45 W.) But this is mainly a problem when your battery is low and you have just a few minutes to plug your phone in, not if you usually charge your phone overnight.
On the back, this budget Pixel model has a fingerprint sensor that most hands should be able to reach comfortably, but finding it by touch can be hard without a case to guide you. On the top of the phone, you’ll find a headphone jack, which is absent on the Pixel 6, the Samsung Galaxy S22, and many other flagship Android phones.
Although the Pixel 5a is comfortable to hold, the “bioresin” plastic coating comes in only a strange, greenish-black color (Google calls it “mostly black”). It shows oils from your skin, and it’s harder to clean than glass. Google says that it’s a plant-based polymer, but it felt to us like a cross between leather and cardboard. The internal aluminum body adds stiffness, but it also makes this phone heavier than the similarly sized Galaxy S22. We also worry how the Pixel 5a will hold up over time, as 2020’s Pixel 5 had a similar coating, which could chip if you dropped the phone.
A fast processor, a huge screen, class-leading cameras, and even a stylus make the Galaxy S22 Ultra the most full-featured Android phone available. But you should buy it only if it’s on sale.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,000.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best Android smartphone in Samsung’s lineup, and it’s your best bet if you’re looking for an ultra-premium, no-compromises Android experience. It has an OLED display that looks flawless in all lighting conditions, it feels better made than any other Android phone, it provides four different camera lenses that together give you more shooting options than even the Pixel 6 Pro does, and it has an integrated S Pen stylus like the old Note phones. However, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro take better photos most of the time. Plus, the S22 Ultra is far too large for comfortable one-handed use, and it usually carries a $1,200 price tag. Samsung does promise to keep this phone updated through 2027. We don’t think anyone should pay full price for the S22 Ultra, but it frequently goes on sale, and Samsung offers generous trade-in deals for older phones.
We like Google’s version of Android 12 more, but Samsung’s One UI version of Android largely avoids the useless clutter and goofs of more troublesome versions of the OS. The S22 Ultra has enough power to smooth over most of the rough edges that drag the software down on less-advanced phones. You’ll find many more preloaded features here than on Google’s Pixel phones, including the DeX desktop mode, stackable widgets, and enhanced Link to Windows functionality. If you want what the S22 line offers, great—you won’t have to install as many third-party apps. But if you don’t, it can be annoying and time-consuming to disable all the Samsung extras.
The included S Pen stylus slots into the phone body, connecting over Bluetooth for features like gestures (not very useful) and camera shutter controls (very useful).
Even taxing mobile games such as Fortnite and Genshin Impact run beautifully on the S22 Ultra’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. Samsung got into hot water for buffing the phone’s benchmark numbers, but it’s still one of the fastest Android devices in the world. The screen curves very slightly on the left and right edges, but the effect is less extreme compared with that of past phones. This design makes the S22 Ultra easier to hold, but it’s still a massive phone next to the entry-level S22 or the Pixel 6, and it’s even heavier than the similarly sized Pixel 6 Pro.
Samsung pushes OLED technology a bit further every year, and the S22 Ultra again has the best display we’ve ever seen on a phone (as it should, considering the price). An enormous 6.8-inch OLED screen with a 1440×3088 resolution, the display keeps text and images sharp and detailed even if you scrutinize it up close. It offers rich, even colors whether you’re in bed at night or outside in direct sunlight—the range is even greater than on the Pixel 6 Pro. It also has a 120 Hz refresh rate for smoother animations. Even with that gigantic display, the S22 Ultra’s battery lasts more than a day with a mix of messaging, gaming, and video; two days per charge is possible with lighter use. The S22 Ultra also has better cellular radio performance than the Pixel 6, which is important if you’re in an area with limited coverage.
Samsung no longer makes Galaxy Note phones, but the S22 Ultra is a Note in all but name. The included S Pen stylus slots into the phone body, connecting over Bluetooth for features like gestures (not very useful) and camera shutter controls (very useful). With the S22 Ultra’s 120 Hz screen, the S Pen feels especially smooth, on a par with a powered Bluetooth stylus such as the Apple Pencil. It’s great for taking notes, marking up documents, and drawing.
The S22 Ultra offers the most advanced camera hardware of any Android phone—even better than what you can get from the Pixel phones. It has a 108-megapixel primary sensor, a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and two 10-megapixel telephoto zoom lenses (3x and 10x). The folded “periscope” 10x sensor is especially impressive for a phone, allowing you to take photos that aren’t even possible on a Pixel. That said, Samsung’s photo processing still isn’t as pleasing as Google’s, and it produces less accurate colors and more motion blur. If you’re just pulling out your phone to take a quick snapshot, the Pixel 6 will best the S22 Ultra nine times out of 10. But if you’re shooting 4K or 8K video, taking burst shots, changing zoom levels, or using portrait mode, the S22 Ultra is more capable.
The Galaxy S22 has the same powerful processor as the S22 Ultra, but its compact frame and smaller display make it easier to use, even if you have only one hand free.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 offers most of the software features and the same powerful processor as in the S22 Ultra, in a much more manageable form. Other top-tier Android phones have enormous screens and hefty batteries to power them, which can be tough for people with smaller hands or those who prefer a device that they can use with one hand.
Like the Pixel 6, the S22 has a screen resolution of 1080p (lower than that of the Pixel 6 Pro and S22 Ultra), but the display is still very crisp, with better brightness than on the Pixel phones. The 6.1-inch diagonal measurement would have made this a huge phone in years past, but it’s one of the smallest today, as the bezels are symmetrical and narrow all the way around, making the S22 easier to hold in one hand than our other picks. We asked a few folks with smaller hands to compare this phone against the Pixel 6, and each one said the S22 was much more comfortable.
The S22 runs Android 12 with Samsung’s One UI interface. It looks the same as the software on the S22 Ultra and has most of the same features but omits support for the S Pen.
Although the S22 has a 50-megapixel primary camera just like the Pixel 6, its sensor is of a far lower resolution than the S22 Ultra’s 108-megapixel camera. And while Samsung’s camera app has more features and modes than Google’s app, making it great for people who like to experiment with mobile photography, the Pixel phones will take better snapshots almost every time. The S22 also has a 3x zoom (10 megapixels) and an ultrawide (12 megapixels). This is a more capable camera setup than on the Pixel 6, but it still falls far short of the four-camera array on the S22 Ultra.
Because this phone is so much smaller and lighter than the competition, it doesn’t have as much room inside for the battery: It has a 3,700 mAh cell, in contrast to the 5,000 mAh battery in the S22 Ultra and the 4,614 mAh battery in the Pixel 6. As a result, the S22 is a single-day phone. When you head to bed, the S22 needs to be on the charger, or it’ll be dead before you finish breakfast the next morning. This drawback is somewhat mitigated by the 30 W charging speed, which is faster than the Pixel 6’s 21 W peak.
We cover less expensive models in our guide to the best budget Android phones.
In general, we don’t recommend choosing an Android phone that is more than a year old or has already been replaced by newer models. An older phone might be cheaper, but the lower price usually isn’t enough to justify the shorter window of remaining software support. Most Android phones receive about two years’ worth of reliable software support; after that, you’re lucky to have even one or two security updates per year. However, Samsung and Google are pushing updates to three or four years, depending on the phone.
The Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a with 5G have been discontinued, but they might still be available at some retailers. These phones offer the same excellent camera performance as the Pixel 5a does, and they have guaranteed updates through summer 2023. The Pixel 4a’s 5.8-inch OLED display makes it a good option if you want the Pixel experience without the larger footprint of the 5a and don’t care about 5G, but the Pixel 4a with 5G is just a worse version of the 5a—that phone is worth buying only if you can find it on sale for far below the $500 retail price. The Pixel 4a was already a steal at $350, but you might spot a discount on it, particularly if you’re willing to purchase a refurbished model.
The OnePlus 10 Pro has the latest, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and a big, beautiful 1440p OLED screen, but the OnePlus version of Android 12 is clunky. It borrows quite a bit from the ColorOS software used on this phone in China, which means fewer features and a more confusing interface than we enjoyed on past OnePlus phones. For $900, the 10 Pro isn’t competitive with the Pixel 6 Pro, which is available at the same price.
The Motorola Edge+ 2022 represents Motorola’s latest attempt to return to the flagship-phone category, and we like this model’s 6.8-inch OLED with its ultra-fast 144 Hz refresh rate. The Edge+ is also a fast phone thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. However, in its cameras and Motorola’s software support commitment, this phone falls short of both Samsung and Google options. In addition, Motorola is asking $1,000 for this phone, even more than Google charges for the Pixel 6 Pro.
Samsung has stopped selling the original S21 family, but the Galaxy S21 FE offers similar hardware for slightly less. It has a large, 6.4-inch OLED screen, as well as the Snapdragon 888 processor that was in every flagship phone last year. However, the $700 asking price makes it only $100 less than the Galaxy S22, which runs faster, offers better build quality, and will receive updates more frequently. The Pixel 6, meanwhile, costs $100 less and provides a better software experience and camera performance.
The Asus ROG Phone 5 is a notably fast phone with gaming-oriented features such as built-in shoulder buttons, a side-mounted power port, and an ecosystem of snap-on accessories. With this phone’s high-refresh OLED display and software tools, the gaming performance is perfect. The software suffers from some bugs, however, and the device itself has a strong “gamer” aesthetic. The camera experience is also worse than that of the Pixel phones or the OnePlus 9. It costs about $1,000—not worth paying for unless you play Fortnite or PUBG Mobile for hours a day.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, with its 7.6-inch folding OLED panel (plus Samsung’s first under-display selfie camera), is undoubtedly the most capable Android phone in the world. You can run multiple apps side by side and multitask more efficiently than you can on any regular phone. However, its $1,800 price tag is far too steep for most people. It’s also huge and heavy, weighing 25% more than the Pixel 6.
Samsung’s other 2021 foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip3, is $1,000, and it’s compact, stylish, and as fast as last year’s Galaxy S21. You can even customize the body color with Samsung’s online tools. However, the camera setup isn’t as capable as on the S22 or Pixel 6, and foldables pose long-term reliability concerns.
LG announced last year that it would stop making Android phones following years of slumping sales. You can still find models such as the LG Velvet and the LG Wing for sale, but you should not purchase one. Although LG has made vague promises about updating some of its phones, it wasn’t very good at rolling out updates even before it decided to shut down its mobile division.
This article was edited by Arthur Gies and Mark Smirniotis.
Taylor Kerns, Google Pixel 6 review: You can’t go wrong, Android Police, November 26, 2021
Sam Rutherford, The Pixel 6 Is So Good, Why Buy Anything Else?, Gizmodo, October 25, 2021
Andrew Hoyle, Pixel 6 Pro review: Google’s flagship phone is a proper iPhone rival, CNET, November 12, 2021
Allison Johnson, Google Pixel 5A Review: Boring, but Better Than Ever, The Verge, August 17, 2021
Ryan Whitwam, Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: A mostly portable powerhouse, Android Police, February 25, 2022
Derrek Lee, Samsung Galaxy S22 review: The little smartphone that could, Android Central, April 20, 2022
Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2021, PCMag, August 24, 2021
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