Android phones come in all sizes, shapes, and flavors of design. Whether you're looking for a big phone, a small phone, one that folds in half to save space (while still offering a big screen), or one of the many specialty categories we outline, there's a great Android phone for every person and budget.
At Android Central, our testing and review methods (opens in new tab) include making sure each phone lives up to the marketing, offers a good value for the money, can deliver a quality photo every time, and lasts long enough to make it through the day on a single charge. Sometimes, phones have a special attribute that we test separately — whether the latest gaming phone can deliver smooth framerates all the time, or how well foldable phones stand the test of time — and ensure that these results are considered in how we choose the best phones available.
There are many contenders for the best Android phones, but we think the Galaxy S22+ is the best option for most people. The phone has a great mix of sublime hardware backed by global 5G connectivity, a sleek design that allows it to stand out, and robust cameras that take fabulous photos in challenging lighting conditions.
But what makes the Galaxy S22+ and the rest of the S22 series stand out is the long-term software commitment. Samsung will deliver four platform updates and five years of security patches. That means that, while the phone launched with Android 12 out of the box, it has already been updated to Android 13 and is scheduled to receive updates all the way to Android 16. That even includes one year of security updates beyond that. Not even Google offers this many updates on its phones.
If you have a few more dollars to spend and want something even more impressive, the obvious choice is the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Although not labeled as a Note device, the S22 Ultra is the eventual successor Note 20 Ultra fans have been waiting for, featuring a near-identical design and the best camera on any Samsung phone. Best of all, you get an integrated S Pen that lets you write notes, doodle, and so much more.
Folks looking for a compact phone with few or no compromises have lots of choices in 2022, which is a breath of fresh air compared to previous years. The Galaxy S22 and Pixel 6a are two of the best smaller phones you can get in the U.S., and folks who live outside of the U.S. and want a small phone would be remiss if they ignored the Asus Zenfone 9. It's a compact phone with a blazing processor, huge battery, and a great camera, all things that aren't super common together in smaller phones.
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The Galaxy S22+ (opens in new tab) gives you everything you're looking for in a high-end Android phone in 2022. We found that the 6.6-inch AMOLED screen is the ideal size for browsing, streaming videos, or even playing games. Plus, you'll get HDR10+ playback on your favorite streaming services as well as powerful stereo sound, and we thought it looked beautiful in any light thanks to Samsung's ultra-bright AMOLED display.
The 120Hz refresh rate ensures day-to-day use is sublime, whether you're scrolling through social media or playing your favorite game. There's a reason we call this one of the best screens you'll find on any phone today.
The internal hardware has been refreshed for 2022, with the S22+ featuring Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. While the processor gets a bit hot, it's still plenty powerful and offers great new features and excellent battery life. The phone also includes IP68 dust and water resistance as well as 15W wireless charging and 5W reverse wireless charging as standard.
Samsung finally upgraded the charging capabilities to 45W — up from 25W on the Galaxy S21 series — but, surprisingly, the higher number doesn't mean it charges all that much faster. It sounds a bit strange but we found only a few minutes' difference in charging speeds when using a 25W vs 45W charger.
Then there are the cameras: The S22+ has a 50MP primary lens with OIS that takes outstanding shots in any lighting condition, and you also get a 12MP wide-angle lens and a 10MP zoom lens that goes up to 10x zoom without any loss in detail.
Samsung has delivered reliable cameras for a while now, and it fine-tuned its software and camera tuning algorithms for 2022, allowing the S22+ to outmatch its predecessors. It's amazing how much better Samsung's software gets with every passing year, and this year's quality is a substantial upgrade.
Speaking of software, Samsung is now the de facto leader for software updates thanks to its promise of four Android OS updates. The S22+ runs One UI 5 based on Android 13 — which it just got in November 2022 — getting you the latest Google additions here along with a suite of Samsung's own features.
Samsung has also guaranteed that the Galaxy S22+ will get upgraded to Android 14, 15, and 16 when those updates release, so you won't be left wanting for long-term updates.
There are a few downsides: You won't find a 3.5mm jack, microSD slot, or a bundled wall charger. But when you consider what you actually get here, Samsung has managed to create the best all-around flagship in the Galaxy S22+. If you're thinking of an upgrade, now is the time to switch.
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The Pixel 7 is all about refinement over the Pixel 6. It's not a radically different experience from the Pixel 6 and doesn't make sense to upgrade if you're already on a Pixel 6, but folks coming from older Pixels (or other phones) will find themselves incredibly happy with the experience.
As is the case with any Pixel phone, the camera shines through right away as the best feature. It's amazing what Google has been able to build over the years and you can expect world-class imaging in any light. Our reviewer, Derrek Lee, totally agrees with this and said as much in our Pixel 7 review (opens in new tab).
The Google Tensor G2 processor inside gives Google the ability to pull off some impressive AI processing on photos and videos, ensuring that faces aren't blurry when there's movement and scenes are bright and clear almost no matter what's going on.
Google took Face Unblur a step further this year and added the ability to unblur any photo, even ones taken with other phones or cameras. Touching up an old, blurry picture and making it look crisp and clear is priceless, even if the feature works better sometimes than others.
While Tensor G2 isn't as fast as the latest processors from Qualcomm, Google makes up for it with AI features that make the phone feel truly smart. Instant voice dictation is one of those things you didn't realize you needed, and call screening on a Pixel is better than any other phone on the market. We dare you to compare because we have and it's so hard going back to any other phone when Google blocks all that spam automatically.
The Pixel 7 ships with Android 13 and the Pixel experience, including great features like car crash detection, emergency alerts for things like earthquakes and other weather events, and a host of other brilliant features that you won't find on any other phone.
It's an incredible value that, once again, gets our award for best value flagship. Just make sure you pick up a great Pixel 7 case (opens in new tab) if scratches bother you. While that new shiny metal camera housing looks great on the phone, it scratches incredibly easily.
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In many ways, the Pixel 7 Pro is the phone the Pixel 6 Pro should have been. Google seems to have fixed most of the bugs, replaced the in-display fingerprint sensor with something that actually works, and added in new camera features that make even better use of those newer 50MP sensors in the phone.
Speaking of cameras, the Pixel 7 Pro's improved 30X photo zoom and 20X video zoom really shine through in everyday use. Google uses an impressive AI engine that combines images taken from multiple sensors at a time and fixes up those shots to make them clearer and cleaner than ever before. Yes, that means features like Face Unblur are even better than before.
Like the Pixel 7, the Pixel 7 Pro includes the new Photo Unblur feature which lets you "unblur" any older photos just like magic. It can be used on any old photo, including those photo album prints that need a little touch-up.
While the curved glass is still around — much to the chagrin of those who enjoy tempered glass screen protectors — Google applied a new display under that glass that gets nearly twice as bright as the Pixel 6 Pro. That's great for using the phone outdoors, even if maximum brightness can be a bit of a battery drain.
Google's new Tensor G2 processor also packs a number of great tricks up its sleeve, including great onboard AI processing features like instant voice dictation, automated call screening, and giving users the ability to use Google Assistant to answer calls for them. There's nothing like having Assistant answer a call for you, especially when you suspect it's a solicitor on the other end.
On the technical front, the Pixel 7 Pro has plenty of RAM and storage options, with options for up to 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Likewise, it's got a big old 5,000mAh battery that'll last all day and then some, and Google's battery optimization features ensure apps that try to drain your battery get put on lockdown with your permission.
Lastly, Google has refined the look of the Pixel 7 Pro this time around, swapping out the glass camera bar with a metal one. While this looks more elegant in person, the shiny metal scratches very easily. Make sure to get a great Pixel 7 Pro case (opens in new tab) to keep it protected!
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Asus has made great phones for years, but they often get overlooked by bigger brands like Samsung. In our Asus Zenfone 9 review (opens in new tab), Senior Editor Harish Jonnalagadda highlighted the fact that this is a flagship device with almost no compromises, all in a surprisingly small size.
While it doesn't support many 5G U.S. networks — check our section below for our favorite small U.S. phone — it's perfect for most carriers Internationally.
The Zenfone 9 is a lovely little phone, with a design that was made for one-handed use. That doesn't just mean its size. It also means that Asus took the time to develop features that further help make this a one-handable phone, like a side-mounted power button that you can swipe up or down on to scroll the screen.
Inside is the powerful Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, a better processor than what you'll find in the Samsung Galaxy S22 in every measurement. With that comes better performance and far less heat output, and it also ensures that you'll be getting two-day battery life out of this tiny phone, too.
That, in addition to a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED display, great cameras, IP68 water and dust resistance, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and loud stereo sound make this the superb small phone we never thought we'd see again.
What will you be missing? Asus only promises two major Android updates — that's up to Android 14 — and the phone doesn't support wireless charging in order to ensure it was as light and small as possible. If those things aren't a big deal to you and you're in the market for a small phone, it's time to take a look at Asus.
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With the Galaxy S22 (opens in new tab), we thought that Samsung definitely delivered the best compact phone you'll find in the U.S. today. The Asus Zenfone 9 might be an even better compact phone, but its incompatibility with U.S. 5G networks obviously poses a problem for customers living in The States.
The S22 fills that void, and although it has a 6.1-inch screen, it is diminutive at just 146mm, a full 17.3mm shorter than the S22 Ultra. It is also light, making it a delight to hold and use.
While Samsung shrunk the size here, it didn't omit any features. The Galaxy S22 comes with a 120Hz AMOLED screen that's of the same caliber as the S22+ and Ultra, and it is powered by the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset.
You also get the same stellar cameras as the S22+, and the extras like IP68 rating and wireless charging are all intact. Unlike last year's S21 — which featured a plastic back — the S22 has a glass back including a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus+ at the front and back for extra scratch and drop protection.
Finally, the S22 will also get the same four guaranteed Android OS updates as its siblings. The only downside with the phone is the battery; the 3,700mAh battery manages to last a day, but only just — and when you need to charge it, you're looking at 25W wired charging.
But other than that, the S22 is a truly standout choice if you're in the market for a small phone in 2022 and are a U.S. customer and want great 5G connectivity.
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If you want the best Android phone that Samsung has to offer right now, you'll need to take a look at the Galaxy S22 Ultra (opens in new tab). The phone is particularly interesting if you're a Note fan; Samsung killed off the Note series in 2021, but with the S22 Ultra, it has essentially created the successor to the Note 20 Ultra.
Basically, the S22 Ultra eschews the design of its siblings and instead offers the boxier aesthetic of the Note 20 series. So if you're using a Note device at the moment, you'll feel right at home on the S22 Ultra. There is a new design at the back for the camera housing, but other than that, this phone looks and feels like a Note flagship in a Galaxy S moniker.
But the biggest addition is the integrated S Pen stylus. It's just as great as previous iterations, and we really loved how instantaneous it felt to write on this new display thanks to further deduced latency over previous Note phones.
Inside is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and a massive 6.8-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen that is an absolute joy to use. The 4,500mAh battery lasts over a day with ease, and there's 45W charging alongside 15W wireless and 5W reverse wireless charging.
And of course, the S22 Ultra packs a lot of camera tech, featuring a 108MP primary lens that is outstanding in any situation. While the sensor itself hasn't changed from last year, Samsung made a lot of noticeable tweaks to its algorithms, and the result is that you get much better photos. That includes both nighttime and zoom detail in our camera tests (opens in new tab).
Finally, the S22 Ultra will receive four Android OS updates and five years of security patches, making it a great option for long-term use. It's already received the Android 13 update and will see up to Android 16 in the coming years.
Samsung should have added 256GB of storage as standard here — considering the phone has 8GB of RAM out of the box (4GB less than S21 Ultra) — but other than that, the S22 Ultra is the obvious choice if you want the ultimate flagship.
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The OnePlus 10T (opens in new tab) is an interesting phone. Not only does it feature a stunning, unique textured back and a very comfortable overall design, but it trades out some trademark OnePlus features to achieve the need for speed. It's also the first OnePlus phone to support all carriers in the U.S. (opens in new tab), making it an easy recommendation no matter what carrier you prefer.
Before we delve in further, though, let's get the bad out of the way. There's no OnePlus alert slider here, so you'll have to use the volume rocker and software mute/vibrate buttons like every other phone. It's a bummer, but not a deal breaker.
Secondly, there's no wireless charging at all on the phone. That could be a make-or-break feature for some folks, but OnePlus says these two features were omitted for two big reasons: a new 360-degree antenna design, and an impressive new cooling engine inside.
The new antennas ensure the OnePlus 10T will achieve one of the strongest, fastest wireless signals of any phone you can buy today. Our testing showed that it even outpaced some Samsung phones in both speed, signal strength, and reliability, which is saying quite a bit.
But the star of the show is the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 (opens in new tab) inside, which outpaces the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that launched in the OnePlus 10 Pro (and most other Android flagships) earlier in 2022. But it's not just a faster processor. It's also a lot more power efficient and, as a result, a lot cooler.
That last part is further heightened by OnePlus' new cooling engine inside, which ensures the phone won't get blisteringly hot the way some other 2022 phones did. But staying cool isn't just important for your hands, it's also important for performance.
The OnePlus 10T plays all of your favorite mobile games — even graphically-intense ones like Diablo Immortal and Fortnite — without any kind of slowdown over time. That's a big deal considering how many phones this year have struggled with long-term performance when playing games like this.
OnePlus also ships the OnePlus 10T with a new GaN power brick that's capable of 125W charging in the US and 160W charging in many other countries. That means 15 minutes of charging will add 70% to the battery, ensuring that you can get through a full day of use with very little time on the charger. It's also got stellar battery life and lasts longer than a day, no matter what you do on it.
The upper-echelon OnePlus 10T might be $100 more, but it also includes 16GB of RAM, which is nigh unheard of in the mobile space. That means you can actually open up to 35 apps at a time before they start to reload. We made sure OnePlus's almost-outrageous claim held up in our review and can assure you that this is the best phone for power users who need to have the fastest device available.
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The Google Pixel 6a (opens in new tab) is the best phone value available today, period. Google's packed most of what makes the Pixel 6 series good into a smartphone that costs even less. The battery life isn't as impressive as last year's Pixel 5a, but the camera, design, and features will have you so impressed that you won't care.
As is the case with any Pixel, the camera is a first-class experience every time you tap that shutter button. It packs in most of the features we loved from the Pixel 6's camera — including Night Sight, Magic Eraser, Real Tone, and the ability to capture moving subjects with ease — yet still comes in at an impressive $450 price.
The primary camera shoots exceptional photos in all lighting conditions, with Night Sight showing its strength in poor lighting, and it boasts an ultra-wide shooter to help get everything in the frame.
On both the front and back, you're getting flagship-level camera quality out of a phone that's a fraction of the price. The 6a also boasts 5G, the best haptics in any Android phone on the market, and IP67 water resistance.
Impressively enough, it's got the same processor as the more expensive Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, so all of Google's great onboard AI-enhanced features are here. That includes favorites like call screening, live translation, instant voice typing, and plenty of other Google Assistant-powered features.
So what do you lose by spending a third of the price of a more traditional flagship? For starters, there's no wireless charging to be found here, and the display is only 60Hz. It's still a brilliant AMOLED panel that gets plenty bright outdoors, but it won't feel as buttery smooth as other phones that come with 90Hz or 120Hz displays.
It's also the first A-series phone from Google to ship without a 3.5mm headphone jack.
But those negatives are easily overlooked when the price is so good, especially when Google packed in such a great processor and camera experience. This one's got three years of software updates coming, along with four years of security updates, so you'll have a phone that feels fresh for years.
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After years of refinements and improvements, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 (opens in new tab) feels like the perfect foldable for most people. Like the previous year, the Flip 4 features subtle improvements over its predecessor, but those improvements add up to something more than the sum of its parts.
First off, there's nothing quite like snapping your phone closed when you're done with it. It sounds silly, but there's a certain psychological component to folding it up and putting it away.
The phone itself is more durable than ever, too, featuring an Armor Aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus+ on both halves of the back. Inside is a foldable glass that's 45% stronger than last year's phone, and a new pre-installed screen protector has been refined and features better adhesive than previous years, hopefully keeping protectors from peeling off over the lifetime of the phone.
Samsung has further enhanced its Bespoke Line (opens in new tab) for the Flip 4, giving folks more color options than ever. If you're really into having a phone that looks different from everyone else's, Bespoke is what you want.
Samsung packed in a 400mAh larger battery into the Flip 4 when compared to the Flip 3 and, to make things even better, is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor inside. That processor is not only faster than what's in the Galaxy S22 line, but it runs cooler and has much better battery life, meaning you'll likely never worry about having to charge your Flip 4 more than once per day.
Like last year, there is no telephoto lens, so zooming in beyond 2x in the camera app won't result in super amazing photos. The cover display is still small and limited in scope out of the box, but some free apps (opens in new tab) can be downloaded from the Google Play Store to increase its usability.
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Just like any piece of technology, smartphones evolve and change as time goes on. We've seen screens get bigger, cameras get a lot more capable, and processors rival those found in computers. The next big thing for phones is the folding form factor, and so far, the best yet in this niche is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (opens in new tab).
The best way to think about the device is as a phone and tablet in one. When the Z Fold 4 is closed, you're treated to a 6.2-inch 120Hz AMOLED display that you can use for anything you'd like — checking email, scrolling through Twitter, watching YouTube videos, you name it.
Samsung made the outer display wider this year by reducing the bezels and slimming down the hinge itself. For me, that means two-thumb typing is finally possible without accidentally tapping the wrong keys or false-swiping on the keyboard.
If you want a larger canvas, all you need to do is open up the Z Fold 4 up. There, you're treated to a larger 7.6-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and slightly wider aspect ratio than last year. It's a lot like having an iPad Mini that you can fold up and take with you wherever you want, and if you ask us, that's pretty amazing.
This year, Samsung also added a new taskbar on the bottom of the larger display, making it operate more like a tablet or laptop than ever before. That makes multitasking as easy as tapping and dragging an icon to perform split screen, or simply tapping an icon on the bar to open any app installed on your smartphone within 2 taps. Now that's multitasking at its best.
This version of the Z Fold series is the best yet, with an improved, slimmer hinge and a 45% stronger foldable display. It's still got the same IPX8 water resistance and S Pen support as last year, meaning you can draw or take notes on the interior screen for creative or productive work on the go.
There's still nowhere to stow the S Pen, though, so you'll need to get an S Pen-friendly case (opens in new tab) if you want to have it handy. Personally, I'd recommend either the official Samsung case or Spigen's Thin Fit P case, depending on where you want the S Pen to reside.
The Fold 4 isn't a phone for everyone thanks to its size and relatively strange form factor. But, for folks who want the very best Android has to offer — from performance to the same flagship cameras found in the Galaxy S22 Plus — the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the ultimate Android phone in every way. It's even got better battery life than last year and a faster processor than what's in the Galaxy S22 series.
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Samsung's Galaxy A series is the company's best-selling for a reason. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G (opens in new tab) deliver all the things you need in a new smartphone without adding in niceties that jack up the price. The inclusion of sub-6 5G means you'll be getting blazing wireless speeds anywhere you go, and a larger battery than last year made it possible for us to get a full day's worth of usage out of a single charge.
Samsung changed up the processor this year, swapping out the traditional Snapdragon chipset with its own Exynos 1280. This one runs faster in all areas, even if it's not a powerhouse for gaming.
Additionally, the 120Hz display makes the phone feel blazing-fast at all times, with super-smooth scrolling that'll make your old phone feel like it's from another century. You really have to use it to understand how much of a difference this makes. It's probably one of the best upgrades smartphones have ever received.
Samsung also upgraded the camera sensors this year, so the results look better than ever, even if the on-paper specs look identical to the A52. It's exactly what happened with the company's foldable phones last year and it's amazing what software alone can improve. All in all, it delivers the best camera experience we've seen on a Samsung Galaxy A series yet.
The biggest downside is the loss of the 3.5mm jack, which was offset by Samsung adding an extra 500mAh to the battery. This one is always a bummer to see, but extra battery life is never something to complain about. Still, Samsung kept the microSD slot, which makes getting the less expensive 128GB phone model more palatable.
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The OnePlus Nord series has gotten better and better with each iteration, and the OnePlus Nord N20 5G feels like the proper return to an almost flagship-killer status. While it's not trying to be a "flagship killer" like other OnePlus phones have claimed, the sub-$290 price combined with the excellent specs make this feel much more like a budget flagship than a mid-tier phone.
Not only that but these specs at this price are basically unheard of. AMOLED on a sub-$300 phone is uncommon enough, but a powerful Snapdragon 695 processor and a 64MP camera that's actually good, as well? We couldn't believe how well all of it came together in a truly cohesive and impressive experience in our OnePlus Nord N20 review (opens in new tab).
Now that's not to say there aren't a few snags in the phone. The Nord N20 ships with Android 11, which is a big strange given that Android 12 had been available for over six months when the phone launched. Not only that but the Android 12 update is the only major OS update this phone is scheduled to receive. If it weren't for the spec-to-price ratio, this would have been a big ding for OnePlus. At least you'll get three years of security updates to make up for it.
We also had a few weird issues with the USB Type-C port on the phone and some problems with the messaging app that's preinstalled on the device. While it launched as a T-Mobile exclusive, it's now available unlocked in the US and works on both T-Mobile and AT&T's networks (as well as MVNOs that use those networks).
Samsung Galaxy A13 5G
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Samsung offers great phones at just about any price point, and the Galaxy A13 5G is no exception. Many U.S. carriers offer this phone for free or just a few dollars per month, so picking one up when you're on a very tight budget is practically a no-brainer.
As with any phone under $200, you shouldn't expect the world from the Galaxy A13 5G. While the processor is just fine for scrolling through social media, browsing the web, or chatting with friends, it's not going to do much for gaming. Sure, simple 2D games like Angry Birds are just fine but anything more graphically intense won't run very well (or at all).
The display is also a bit dim and it charges slowly compared to more expensive phones, but you won't have to worry about charging too much thanks to the huge battery inside. That, combined with the low-power processor means you'll have no trouble getting 2-days of battery life out of the A13 5G.
As the name suggests, it's also got 5G connectivity, so downloading apps or watching videos on the go should give you a great experience. It's also got microSD card support which helps negate the fact that it only ships with 64GB of internal storage.
Lastly, that 50MP camera will get you some pretty impressive pictures during the day, which isn't always expected at this price range. Low light photos leave a lot to be desired but at least there's a flash on the back to help make up for that.
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The OnePlus 10T might be the fastest "normal" phone you can buy right now, but the Redmagic 7S Pro (opens in new tab) is designed to blow everything out of the water with its special design and cooling engine. The styling is definitely aggressive and will turn some folks off, but if you're in it to win it, the Redmagic 7S Pro will deliver blisteringly-fast framerates at all times.
Nubia packed a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 inside alongside its own Nubia Red Core 1 gaming co-processor, all of which are cooled by an incredible 20,000 rpm RGB fan. Because this phone isn't held back by a passive cooling system, it can run a lot faster for a lot longer than any other phone you can buy. We found it to be the fastest phone we've ever tested, in fact.
The downside is that, because it's an active fan blowing air on the processor, the Redmagic 7S Pro isn't water or dust-resistant.
On the bright side, though, the design includes ultrasonic triggers on the side of the phone — which act like gaming controller triggers when holding the phone in landscape orientation — and can be customized along with the small display on the back. It's as flashy as they come, and super useful, too!
The display on the front is a liquid-smooth 120Hz AMOLED display with crisp 2400x1080 resolution, and it makes games look so darn good you simply won't believe your eyes.
Inside is a massive 5,000mAh battery — which is important since this phone has an active cooling fan — and can be bought with up to 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.
The cameras aren't as good as traditional phones in this category, but you're paying a premium here for that hardware and gaming-focused additions. In short, if you want a gaming phone that looks the part, the Redmagic 7S Pro is the one to get.
How to pick the best Android phone
Android phones have never been better than they are right now. So regardless of whether you can afford a flagship device or one of the best cheap Android phones, you can go out and buy a phone that you'll be thoroughly happy with. Out of every single phone on the market, however, we have to give our top recommendation for the best Android phone to the Samsung Galaxy S22+.
Samsung's latest flagship has all the essentials you want, including a brilliant 120Hz AMOLED screen, powerful cameras that take great photos in any lighting, fast charging, reliable internal hardware that holds up just fine for intense gaming sessions, and clean software with four guaranteed Android OS updates.
1. What size screen should I get?
When buying a new Android phone, you should consider many different things, and it all starts with the display. This is the component you interact with more than anything else, so you must get one that you'll enjoy using. Things like the resolution and refresh rate of a screen are worth talking about, but more so is the size.
Smartphones come in different shapes and sizes, and the biggest determining factor for that is the display. A 6.8-inch screen results in a much larger phone than one with a 5.8-inch one, and because of that, you need to know how big or small you're willing to go.
Take the Galaxy S22 Ultra, for example. Of the "normal" phones on this list — read: not foldable phones — the S22 Ultra has the largest display and, therefore, is a phenomenal canvas for watching movies, playing games, and browsing the web.
Basically, any content consumption looks better on a larger display because the more room you have, the bigger and easier it is to see your media. The downside to this, however, is that phones like the S22 Ultra can be somewhat unwieldy. Especially if you're someone with smaller hands, managing a phone like that can be a pain — sometimes literally!
A phone like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 solves this problem a bit by giving you an even larger display that can fold in half. When folded, it's much more pocket-friendly than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, even if it is a bit thick.
If you'd rather have a smaller-sized phone (opens in new tab), the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Asus Zenfone 9 are phenomenal choices depending on what form factor you want. These are substantially easier to manage and can be used with one hand, but you have less room for your movies and games on the flip side. It also means you can fit less content on the screen at one time, and if you're someone who likes to increase your font size, things are easier to read, which could result in you having to do a lot of scrolling.
And, of course, there are plenty of phones that fall somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. If you're really concerned about whether or not a phone will be too big or small, your best bet is to honestly go hands-on with it yourself at your local carrier store or Best Buy before making your purchase.
2. Are software updates important?
It's easy to compare displays, processors, and cameras, but something that's just as important to talk about is software updates. Android is constantly evolving and getting better, and unfortunately, only certain phones will have a few years of software support.
As it currently stands, Samsung is the best in the business when supporting its phones with long-term updates. Most of the Samsung phones mentioned in this list will get four guaranteed Android OS updates along with five years of security patches.
Google offers three Android OS updates and up to five years of security updates to the Pixels, and OnePlus, OPPO, Xiaomi, and Vivo are now guaranteeing three Android OS updates for their flagship phones.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you have companies like Motorola, Nokia, and sometimes OnePlus. The OnePlus N20 5G is only promised a single update to Android 12, for instance. Security patches are even worse, with Nokia failing to deliver these updates on time. Thankfully, companies like Motorola look to be upgrading these promises with the release of phones like the Motorola Edge (2022) (opens in new tab).
So, how important is it that your phone gets software updates? That ultimately depends on how much you care about new Android features. Google releases a new version of Android every year, and while these updates don't tend to be that drastic from year to year, they give your phone important features and security settings that help keep it running in tip-top shape for a long time.
It also ensures that your phone stays compatible with all the apps and games on the Play Store because as Android versions become too outdated, app developers eventually drop support.
A phone like the OnePlus N20 5G won't be unusable two years down the road just because it's running Android 12 and not Android 15, but it's also a bit disheartening to buy a product and know it's backed by such a small window of post-purchase support. This divide in updates is something Android has faced for years, and while manufacturers are gradually getting better in these regards, we still have plenty of room to grow.
3. How many cameras and megapixels do I really need?
Over the last couple of years, there's been a trend with certain phone companies to throw as many cameras onto their devices as possible. As it's become more common for phones to ship with two, three, or even four cameras, there's something of an expectation that phones have to have multiple camera sensors to be any good.
Spoiler alert — this isn't true.
Let's look at the Galaxy A53. It has a 64MP primary camera, 12MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, and a 5MP portrait camera. Compared to the smaller 12MP cameras on the Pixel 6a, one would assume that the A53 takes better photos, but that's not the case.
Having those extra camera sensors can be a lot of fun, but only if they're high-quality. Far too often, we see companies throw in a lot of extra cameras on their phones only to have these secondary lenses not be very good. But, of course, the primary camera sensor is always the most important, so that's the one you want to pay attention to the most.
On a similar note, higher megapixels (referred to as MP) don't always mean you're getting a better camera. As mentioned above, the 64MP camera on the A53 usually takes photos that aren't as good as those taken from the 12MP primary camera found on the Pixel 6a.
There are so many other factors that come into play with phone cameras, so don't let the megapixel count be your only factor for judging them when you're out shopping. Read reviews, look at camera samples, and you'll have a much better understanding of what kind of camera you're dealing with.
4. What size battery should I get?
Battery life isn't the most fun thing to talk about with smartphones, but ultimately, it's one of the most essential components. Your phone can have the best display and processor around, but if it's constantly dying throughout the day, what's the point?
There are many different battery capacities for all of the phones on this list, and if you don't regularly keep up with them, it can be challenging to know what a good size is and what isn't. So, here's a general rule of thumb. If you're buying an Android phone, the ideal capacity is 4,000mAh or larger. As phones move toward larger displays with faster refresh rates, more battery is needed to keep them powered throughout the day.
Of course, this can vary a bit depending on the type of phone you're buying. Phones with smaller screen sizes and lower display refresh rates can still get through a full day of use without a hitch because they generally draw less power than phones with more impressive specs.
These are factors you'll need to consider when shopping for your phone, but generally, more mAh means more battery life.
5. What smaller features should I look out for?
Last but certainly not least, there are a few smaller features and specs that can be easy to overlook when doing your shopping — a prime example being NFC. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and it's the chip in most phones that allows you to pay with your smartphone with Google Pay at grocery stores, restaurants, etc. Most of the phones on this list support NFC, but many cheaper Motorola and Nokia phones often lack the feature. You may not care about Google Pay, but if you do, it's worth double-checking that the phone you want to buy does have NFC.
Another spec to check for is an IP68 rating. This is a seal of protection many phones have, and it ensures they're protected from a certain amount of dust and water. So if you get caught outside in the rain or take your phone to the beach, an IP68 rating ensures that your phone should survive just fine.
Some phones lack this IP rating yet boast water resistance or have a coating that gives them some protection. Those devices are also probably fine to get splashed with water here and there, but you don't have that same guaranteed protection. The best-case scenario is to avoid getting your phone wet whenever possible, but if you happen to be around the water a lot, it's probably worth getting something with that IP68 protection.
We should also address a trend going through the smartphone space for a few years now — the death of the headphone jack. The vast majority of new phones coming out these days no longer have the port, but few holdouts continue to offer it. It's certainly nice to have if you're someone that primarily uses wired headphones or earbuds, but if you've moved on to the wireless bandwagon, it's not something you need to be all that concerned with.
We know that's a lot to take in, but once you understand the kind of phone you're looking for and the budget you have to work with, we hope this guide makes you feel better equipped to make the right decision. There are so many good phones out there, and we wouldn't recommend one on this list if we didn't think you'd be happy with it. Happy shopping, and enjoy your new phone!