Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud OrangeSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

Best Android Phone Under $800 Android Central 2020

Once you step down from the absolute top end of the market, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the best Android phone you can buy for under $800. It's an exceptional phone that marries great hardware with a full spec sheet and excellent performance through its simple software. It draws on strengths from the history of other great Samsung Galaxy phones, giving you all the most important features for a much more competitive price.

Best Overall Android Phone Under $800: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Exynos reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

For a while now, OnePlus has owned this sub-premium flagship spot on most Android lists, but no longer. In 2020, Samsung hit OnePlus on its home turf with the Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition), an incredibly compelling combination of specs, price, and design that is nearly impossible to pass on. In fact, we liked the phone so much that we named it our best Android phone overall in late 2020.

So what exactly makes the Galaxy S20 FE such a great phone and such a bargain in this price bracket? It's the balance of features that Samsung decided to include from its flagship S20 line, even considering the necessary compromises that it had to make to bring the price down from the $1,000 realm.

With the Galaxy S20 FE, you get a flat 120Hz high refresh rate display, cameras that are nearly as good as the best Samsung offers (including 3x optical zoom), and all-day battery life. Now that Samsung has committed itself to a faster and longer software update schedule, you'll be sure to get three years of platform updates along with the security patches. Plus, the phone comes with a more-than-capable 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, IP68 water and dust resistance, and NFC and wireless charging.

So what's the (potential) downside? Not much. The build of materials may not be as fancy as the glass and metal on the premium flagships, but with the S20 FE, you get a plastic back that is remarkably durable and feels good in the hand. The S20 FE also comes in six fun colors, including Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Orange, Cloud Red, and Cloud White.

The S20 FE comes in just below our $800 cutoff at its retail price, but most outlets have it right now for at least a $100 discount, which makes a good deal a no-brainer. If you're looking for the best overall Android phone under $800, or at any price, this is it — right now.

Pros:

  • Flat screen with a high refresh rate
  • Three years of software updates
  • Good cameras with 3x optical zoom
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Color options limited in certain markets
  • Some may be turned off by the plastic body

Best Overall Android Phone Under $800

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

A great all-around phone that doesn't break the bank

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE brings over almost all of the important specs from the S20 and adds some fun colors to the mix.

Best Camera in an Android Phone Under $800: Google Pixel 5

Googel Pixel 5 VideoSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

Google based much of its marketing for the Pixel 5 on its camera, and rightfully so — this is the best smartphone camera you can get today. It's not as versatile as Samsung and Huawei's offerings because it still uses a sensor that is several years old at this point, but what it's able to do with that is amazing. It's incredibly consistent and can shoot in any situation. With the Pixel 5, Google switched from a secondary zoom shooter to a 16MP ultra-wide camera, which to us, makes all the difference in the world.

Camera aside, the Pixel 5 is a great phone overall. If the features and options found on a Samsung phone are overwhelming, you'll feel right at home here. Google doesn't include the same pile of features or customization options as Samsung, but the result is a software experience anyone can pick up in a couple of minutes and enjoy for months.

It also seems that Google addressed the single biggest issue with the Pixel 4 lineup here, and that's battery life. The 4,080mAH battery has shown no problems lasting a full day and then some. Google constructed this phone out of aluminum, with a bio-resin to hide and embed a charging coil, so this Pixel is more convenient than ever to charge. And thanks to a recent update, you can now reverse charge your Pixel Buds or other Qi devices when the Pixel is plugged in!

Pros:

  • Amazing camera quality
  • Beautifully subtle hardware design
  • Simple software to use
  • Much-improved battery life
  • Years of guaranteed updates

Cons:

  • Low max screen brightness
  • Oddly inconsistent software performance
  • Phone lacks Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Only available in one size

Best Camera in an Android Phone Under $800

Google Pixel 5

An amazing camera and clean software straight from Google.

Google's cameras lead the industry. Elsewhere, there's an unbelievably good software experience.

Best Features in an Android Phone Under $800: OnePlus 8T

OnePlus 8T reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

The OnePlus 8T continues the company's trend of releasing its flagship phones in mid-spring, followed by iterative updates in the fall. We were big fans of the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro from earlier in 2020, and while the 8 Pro is sticking around at the top of the lineup, the 8T is here to claim the value flagship mantle.

Until the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE was released, the OnePlus 8 sat firmly atop our list of the best Android phones you could buy, and while the 8T could certainly make a claim again for that top spot, we felt the Samsung was just that much more worthy this go-round. However, the 8T is still an incredible value in this price range, and many will likely opt for it over the S20 FE when they compare feature for feature.

So just what features are we referring to? For starters, OnePlus's Oxygen OS has long been favored by many over Samsung's One UI take on Android. While Oxygen OS 11 looks more like One UI 3.0 than ever before, many will still gravitate towards OnePlus's optimizations and customization options.

The 8T has a similarly stunning flat 120Hz AMOLED display and cameras that are on par with the S20 FE, but it lacks an official IP rating or wireless charging. What it does have over the S20 FE is much faster 65W wired charging and more premium glass construction. Ultimately the choice between the two phones will come down to your preference in software and hardware design, as well as whether you prefer faster wired or wireless charging.

Pros:

  • Excellent display
  • High-quality hardware
  • Powerful specs
  • Super-fast 65W wired charging

Cons:

  • Cameras are just OK
  • No official IP rating
  • No wireless charging

Best Features in an Android Phone Under $800

OnePlus 8T

If it's not broken

The 8T is an iterative update on the OnePlus 8, but that's okay because the 8 was our favorite Android phone for nearly a year.

Best Android Phone Under $800 with a Stylus: Galaxy Note 20

Galaxy Note 20 BronzeSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

2019 saw the Samsung Galaxy Note line split in two, with a Note 10 and Note 10+ — the primary difference between the two being size (we're not going to talk about the Note 10 Lite in this conversation). In 2020, Samsung kept the line bifurcated with the introduction of a super high-end Note 20 Ultra, and the more consumer-focused Note 20.

When it was first announced, many tech pundits panned the Note 20 as a slap in the face to the Note faithful because it charged a relatively high price that at first glance didn't appear to match the device's value. It had a regular 60Hz screen refresh rate and a body made of plastic — or "glasstic," as Samsung called it. It seemed like a step backward from the regular Note 10, while the Note 20 Ultra seemed to leapfrog the Note 10+.

After spending a few weeks with it, our own Hayato Huseman ended up falling in love with the Note 20. He came to value the size, construction, and feel of the device, as well as the gorgeous Mystic Bronze and Mystic Green color options. The fact that it also had a flat display, great camera performance, and solid battery life were all bonuses as well. And like Samsung's other top-tier devices, the Note 20 is promised three years of software and security update.

Pros:

  • Great flat display
  • Really good battery life
  • Three years of software updates
  • Impressive camera

Cons:

  • No high refresh screen
  • No Super Resolution Zoom

Best Android Phone Under $800 with a Stylus

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

This cheaper Note is really good

Samsung's smaller Note 20 is a great option for Note newbies and faithful alike. We just wish it had a high refresh screen.

Best 5G Value in an Android Phone Under $800: Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google Pixel 4a 5GSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

2020 has been a hectic and confusing year for us all, and that holds true for Google and its Pixel phone lineup as well. In 2019 we got the first A-series Pixels with the 3a and 3a XL, both of which were widely praised for bringing great software, cameras, and build quality to the more affordable segment. In August of 2020, we finally saw the first successor to the A-series in the Pixel 4a, which is arguably the best value in smartphones right now. We then saw the Pixel 5 (mentioned above), and last but not least, the Pixel 4a 5G.

This latter Pixel 4a brings three key points of distinction that separate it from its smaller counterpart: bigger and better battery life, a bigger screen, and of course, 5G capability. The Pixel 4a 5G is hands-down the best value 5G device in late 2020. It sports Google's clean implementation of Android, a fantastic camera, and a larger screen than either the base-model Pixel 4a or the more premium (but still affordable) Pixel 5.

The biggest downside with this phone has very little to do with the phone itself, but its price and place in the lineup. Sure, it doesn't have an official IP rating or wireless charging, but it does have a headphone jack and a better chipset than the 4a. What may dissuade potential buyers is how you can get a lot of what makes this phone great for $150 less with the Pixel 4a, and if you want or need those extra features, you can get them for just $100-$200 more with the Pixel 5. That puts the 4a 5G in a tough marketing position, but it doesn't take away from the fact that it's a great smartphone.

Pros:

  • Similarly great performance to Pixel 5
  • Same great cameras
  • Large and impressive display
  • Fantastic battery life

Cons:

  • No official IP rating
  • No wireless charging

Best 5G Value in an Android Phone Under $800

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Best affordable 5G smartphone

The Google Pixel 4a 5G is a fantastic smartphone with great cameras, a big screen, fantastic battery life, and 5G.

Best Overall Value in an Android Phone Under $800: TCL 10 Pro

TCL 10 ProSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

TCL is no stranger to making smartphones, having served for years as the manufacturer of Alcatel and Blackberry devices, but 2020 saw it take its first steps into the smartphone world with a handful of its own first-party devices. The best among these has proven to be the mid-range TCL 10 Pro.

The 10 Pro is a bit of a 'tweener in that it is priced just above our $400 tier and well below the $800 tier in which it now sits, but it can compete with many of the phones on this list in several key areas. For starters, TCL is known for its high-quality television displays and panels, and it brought that expertise to this smartphone in the form of its NXTVISION display, which is stunning. It's flat-out amazing that you can get such a beautiful screen at this price point.

In addition to the display, TCL packs useful software optimizations such as a side panel, similar to Samsung's active edge display, a customizable Smart Key with three presets, and fantastic all-day battery life. Plus, the phone has Samsung flagship-level styling and construction and comes in two beautiful colors, including a Forest Mist Green that I can't stop staring at. This device falls short of the others on this list in its middling cameras and the lack of any official IP rating. It also lacks wireless charging support and has an inconsistent in-display fingerprint sensor.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous design
  • Stunning NXTVISION display
  • Snappy software
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Customizable Smart Key

Cons:

  • No official IP rating
  • No wireless charging
  • Middling cameras

Best Overall Value in an Android Phone Under $800

TCL 10 Pro

Look out for TCL

The 10 Pro is a bold first step into the mid-range Android world for TCL, and we expect even greater things in the next generation.

Bottom line

If you have a budget that keeps you away from the highest-end phones, you can't go wrong with our top pick the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. It has a great, well-rounded combination of features and capabilities that's worthy of a higher price but comes in for much less. The amount of specs and quality materials you get for this money is immense — and it's even more of an amazing deal even compared to the S20 flagships.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE still has compromises, to be sure, including a plastic back and lower-quality cameras as compared to the premium Samsung flagships. However, at this price point, they don't detract from how lovely this phone is to use every day. The hardware has stepped up to the highest levels, and the huge 120Hz display is a real treat to look at. Its OneUI software continues to improve, plus, its performance is consistently perfect, and you can expect at least three years of software updates to keep it going.

This is a proper flagship phone — it just isn't priced like one.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Andrew Martonik has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012.

Daniel Bader is Managing Editor of Android Central. As he's writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there's a correlation.

Jeramy Johnson is proud to help Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

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