If you're looking for a new Android phone and you're shooting for the top, this is the place to start.
One of the strengths of the Android ecosystem is the diversity of smartphones to choose from. If you can't find a suitable Android phone to meet your needs and desires, then such a phone may not exist at all.
But while there's a lot of stuff to choose from, it can also be tough to find out what's the best one for you. And that's where we come in.
If you're looking for the very best Android phones available right now, then look no further.
New for May 2016: The HTC 10 makes its way onto our list, as does the Huawei P9, and the Samsung Galaxy S6 gets aged out.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
Samsung, much refined
- Fantastic design
- Excellent camera
- Gorgeous display
- Samsung software still an acquired taste
- A little bit slippery to hold
A couple months into their life, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge remain the best overall Android smartphone you can buy. Launched at Mobile World Congress, the two new Galaxy S phones are mostly the same save from some obvious features. The Edge is larger, has the curved display and has a larger battery inside. But that apart, mostly the same. Which means you'll get a great experience from either of them.
And make no mistake. While the Galaxy S7 hasn't shipped at the time of writing, it's already the phone to beat for 2016. Samsung has refined from the Galaxy S6 while actually listening to its customers. There's a bigger battery, resulting in a slightly thicker phone to accommodate it. Which is absolutely fine. The camera has been improved, the microSD card slot is back, all the while being wrapped in a similar, highly attractive package to last year's phones.
There are still questions we have over the Galaxy S7, ones which may ultimately result in it dropping further down this list. One of the biggest is the monthly security patches from Google. The Galaxy S7 should be up to date out of the box, but we're still not that sure on how Samsung is going to fare in pushing these out timely. And this stuff is important.
The best big phone you can buy. Period.
- Great build quality
- Excellent camera
- Pure Google software
- It's pretty big
- Lacks wireless charging
- A little bit slippery to hold
We've usually had to recommend a Nexus phone with a rather large caveat — and that's usually had to do with the camera. Not so with the Nexus 6P, manufactured by Huawei.
It's got a camera that doesn't make us want to carry around a second shooter, just in case. It's got the design and build quality that stands up against any other phone. And perhaps most important is that it's going to always be updated to the latest version of Android, and that goes for the monthly security updates, too.
This should be one of the first devices to be updated to Android N later this year. If that's a big thing for you, then this is the phone to get.
Welcome back, HTC
- Excellent design and build quality
- Above average camera quality
- Good mix of stock and Sense software
- Inconsistent battery
- Finicky camera app
- Boost+ app is a marketing gimmick
Welcome back, HTC. It's been a good long while since the Taiwanese manufacturer had a flagship smartphone that truly excited us. The HTC 10 certainly outdoes its predecessor — the M9 — and may well be the company's best phone since 2013's M7. We're looking at a solid (and damned near stunning) build quality, with lovely chamfered edges that contrast nicely with the milled aluminum. HTC has pared back its Sense user interface (but also soiled things a bit with its unnecessary "Boost+" app), giving us a nice mix of custom and stock.
Sound quality also is impressive in this phone, with 24-bit audio for those of you pumping things directly into your ear holes. And the on-phone speaker has changed things from a pair of front-facing stereo speakers to separate speakers for high and low sounds — with the result being an above-average smartphone speaker.
HTC also is selling the phone the right way in the U.S. — with a mix of carrier partnerships as well as direct sales, for an unlocked phone without extra carrier apps on board. It's tempting to call the HTC 10 a bit pricy at $699 retail, but we've already seen $100 discounts (before the phone even started shipping), and remember that you get a year's worth of "Uh Oh Protection" should you break the screen or suffer water damage.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
It's big, and it's spectacular.
- Gorgeous display
- Full-featured S Pen stylus
- High-quality camera
- More pricey than other offerings
- Slippery glass back
- Underwhelming speaker
Samsung did the big screen thing first with the Note line, and now in its fifth iteration the Note 5 is just average sized at 5.7 inches. In fact, Samsung has shrunk down the bezels around the Note 5 so much that it's actually smaller than the Note 4 even with the same screen size. It's got a beefy processor, an ample 4GB of RAM and a high-resolution QHD display. It's running Android 5.1 Lollipop, with an update to Android Marshmallow on the way eventually, and comes with a 3,000 mAh battery.
The addition of optical image stabilization (OIS) on the 16-megapixel camera makes it one of the better low-light shooters available. And Samsung Pay is an excellent contactless payment option. Plus, the Note 5 has Samsung's excellent pen input features, which nobody else has even bothered to attempt to replicate. It's that good.
Add all that up, and you've got a major contender. But it's lacking in the software update department and is still very expensive. On the other hand, it's also available.
The best flagship yet from the Chinese manufacturer
- Excellent display
- Best Huawei software to date
- Excellent cameras
- Maybe has too many features
- Pricy, and not available globally
- User interface is still a little clunky
Ask any of us who've used the P9 what we think, and we'll quickly tell you that it's the least broken of Huawei's phones that we've used. And while that's accurate, it's not really fair. Huawei has made some really good (if not necessarily inspiring) hardware for some time now. It helped spread good fingerprint sensors to the whole of Android. It's had above-average cameras for a while now. The anchor dragging it down has always been its EMUI software — its iOS-inspired user interface.
That had as much to to with how EMUI was implemented as it did the fact that it's simply different than what most of us are used to. No app drawer. A different sort of notification drawer and quick-settings scheme. And in the process of changing all that, things were broken — particularly when Huawei's phones were sold outside China and Google's services were added back in. But when we say "least broken," that's exactly what we mean. Nearly all of the showstopping bugs we'd experienced before have been fixed. Even the still-niche Android Auto works out of the box — something we can't say for some of the major phones being sold in the U.S.
So with the P9 you get powerful 5.2-inch phone (with a 1080p display, which we're just fine with) that's filled with a ridiculous number of features. You could spend weeks finding new things to do with this thing. (That's both bad and good.) And the new Leica-powered cameras are excellent, if a little slow to launch.
The biggest problem for us at this point is availability, and price. You still can't get phones running Huawei's own Kirin processor in the United States. And elsewhere, the P9 is not cheap — starting at €599 (about $680 USD) for the 32GB storage (and 3GB RAM) option, and ramping up to €649 ($737 USD) for the 64GB/4GB option.
It's really good. Even we were surprised.
- BlackBerry's superb physical keyboard
- Excellent battery life
- Mostly stock Google interface
- Wireless charging not available in all models
- Weak front facing camera
- Slow to receive major updates
BlackBerry is a legend in the smartphone arena. The question is whether it's a relic. The Priv hopes to stave off that title, promising privacy and privilege — and it's certainly a privilege to use. This is the best physical keyboard ever seen on an Android phone to date — though it's been a long time since anyone's actually attempted one — with the rest of the hardware matching up to the rest of the smartphone elite.
Plus it's got a gorgeous high-resolution screen, excellent battery life, good camera and a mostly Google Android experience, enhanced in places with BlackBerry's own apps and services. And BlackBerry is among the best in pushing monthly security updates.
Lots of people wanted BlackBerry to do well with its first experiences on any Android phone this year.
Moto X Pure Edition (2015)
A larger yet predictable Moto X.
- Moto apps are still awesome
- Battery life is decent
- MotoMaker options are exceptional
- Camera performance is inconsistent
- Uncomfortable to use with one hand
- No wireless charging
The Moto X line keeps getting bigger and better, though depending on who you ask only one of those is a good thing. This generation saw Motorola switch from an AMOLED to LCD display, as well as a noticeable reduction in starting price.
The Moto X Pure Edition is also the first Moto X where there were almost no "new" software features, due largely to Motorola's decision to constantly update features through the Google Play Store.
Bigger, beefier but still really good
- 32-bit audio with DAC
- Fingerprint scanner
- Excellent camera with manual video mode
- LG's software still isn't great
- Launched with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- It's a really big phone
The LG V10 is a bigger, beefier LG G4 with more camera features, a Second Screen and two front-facing cameras for dual-angle selfies. And it's not a bad phone by any stretch of the imagination. But it's really big, and really beefy.
But once you get over the size, and LG's software quirks, you're left with a great experience. The camera is one of the best you'll find on an Android phone anywhere right now, and the DAC is superb to have if you're into great sounding audio. Besides the size, the biggest drawback is availability, with the V10 still not on sale in nearly as many places as the G4. But if you can get one, you're getting a lot for your money.
LGs latest comes with its friends.
- Modules add additional functionality
- Isn't large for the sake of being large
- Interesting camera with wide angle lens
- LG's software still splits opinions
- Module availability initially sketchy
- Questions over build quality
The LG G5 was the second big player to be announced at Mobile World Congress this February gone. While we'd still place the Galaxy S7 above it, there's still plenty to excite about the G5. Not least the quirky modularity of it, in that you can detach the chin portion of the phone and add in additional hardware features with relative ease. And additional cost, naturally.
So far we've seen extended batteries, a Bang & Olufsen audio module and a camera grip, but in theory, the sky's the limit. Initial availability is a little sketchy, but credit where it's due to LG for thinking outside the box.
What you also get in the G5 is a high-end phone in a not huge body, something we've come to enjoy from previous G series phones. The G5 does away with the rear volume buttons we've had around since the G2, moving them back to the sides. The power button remains on the rear, though, beneath the fingerprint scanner. You'll also notice two cameras, that's so the G5 can take proper wide angle shots without any additional help.