Best Android Phones for Students Android Central 2020
Summer's over, school's back and — what's that, your kid needs a new smartphone? Of course they do. Well, whether you're looking for a cheap plastic phone with a great camera like the Pixel 3a or a super-powerful flagship with a stylus (and a price tag to match) like the Note 10, we've have the best phones for students in 2019 and beyond.
- Best Value Pick: Google Pixel 3a
- Best Big Phone: OnePlus 7 Pro
- Also awesome value: Nokia 7.1
- Best Compact Phone: Nokia 6.1
- Best Battery: Moto G7 Power
- Best with a Stylus: Samsung Galaxy Note 10
- Best Under $300: Moto G7
Best Overall: Google Pixel 3a
For a student, one of the most important aspects when buying a new phone is buying something that's reliable without being too expensive. Out of all the phones on the market right now, the one that strikes that balance the best is the Google Pixel 3a.
The Pixel 3a is the first mid-range phone Google's released since it ushered in its Pixel series in 2016, and it just might be one of the best mid-range smartphones we've seen in quite a while — the biggest reason for this being the Pixel 3a's camera.
Most mid-range phones have fine cameras, but the Pixel 3a captures photos that are just as good, if not better, than some flagships out there. Even with only one rear camera on a phone that costs $400, Google somehow managed to have this phone kick out genuinely stunning pictures.
Outside of the top-notch camera, the Pixel 3a also delivers a super clean build of Android 9 Pie, is first-in-line for guaranteed software updates through 2021, has a really gorgeous AMOLED display, and a Snapdragon 670 processor that's more than capable for every task you throw at it. Also included here is NFC for contactless payments with Google Pay and a 3.5mm headphone jack!
We do wish that the Pixel 3a came with expandable storage and had an official IP rating for dust/water resistance, but outside of those two little complaints, there's not much else to dislike. Google knocked it out of the park with this one.
- Incredible camera
- Clean software
- Guaranteed updates
- Colorful AMOLED display
- Snappy Snapdragon 670 processor
- No expandable storage
- Isn't officially water resistant
Best Value Pick
The best overall Android phone for students.
Thanks to its untouchable camera, excellent software, AMOLED display, and more, the Pixel 3a is the best phone for just about every student out there.
Best Big Phone: OnePlus 7 Pro
At the high-end for this list, we have the OnePlus 7 Pro. This is a flagship phone through and through, and while it is expensive, it's hundreds of dollars less compared to similar phones being sold by Samsung, Google, Apple, etc.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is built like a tank, featuring a hefty metal/glass design with one of the best displays we've ever seen on a phone. Not only is the Quad HD+ AMOLED display crisp and colorful, but the 90Hz refresh rate means that everything moves with an unparalleled level of smoothness. The 7 Pro also offers a Snapdragon 855 processor, up to 12GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB of storage.
On the software front, OnePlus's OxygenOS interface gets big points for being lightweight while offering nice customization options and useful features. OnePlus also has a solid track record for its update game, with the 7 Pro having already received numerous updates since its release in May.
Add that together with a 4,000 mAh battery, 30W fast charging, and a reliable in-screen fingerprint sensor, and the OnePlus 7 Pro has a lot going for it.
- AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate
- Incredibly fast performance
- 30W fast charging
- Reliable in-screen fingerprint sensor
- Big and heavy
Best Big Phone
The best premium Android phone for students.
For students that want a modern flagship, the OnePlus 7 Pro is the way to go. It's super-powerful, stylish, and has a reasonable price..
Also Awesome Value: Nokia 7.1
If you'd like to spend a little less than what Google's asking for the Pixel 3a while still getting a great all-around phone, our next recommendation would be the Nokia 7.1. Its camera is not as good as the Pixel 3a and its Snapdragon 636 processor can be a little inconsistent, but despite those two downsides, everything else about the Nokia 7.1 is a joy.
From a hardware standpoint, the Nokia 7.1 looks and feels incredible. Its metal/glass design is considerably more premium than the plastic construction of the Pixel 3a, and along with looking great, it also feels lovely in hand. Its LCD display also looks great with a sharp 2220x1080 resolution, but what really stands out here is the fact that it both plays native HDR10 content and can convert regular SDR videos into HDR in real-time. This results in all of your movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos looking brighter and more colorful than ever before.
The Nokia 7.1 continues to shine thanks to its long-lasting battery, expandable storage (up to 400GB with a microSD card), 3.5mm headphone jack, and an NFC chip that allows you to pay for things using your phone.
A lot of budget phones tend to get one software update if you're lucky, but that's not the case with the Nokia 7.1. Since it's part of the Android One program, it's guaranteed to receive software updates and security patches. Not only that, but Nokia has one of the best track records at the moment for updating its phones to the latest versions of Android.
- Premium glass/metal design
- Stunning HDR10 display
- Great battery life
- Expandable storage
- Guaranteed software updates
- The cameras are fine
- Choppy performance
Also awesome value
The best value Android phone for students.
The Nokia 7.1 is an insane value, offering a gorgeous HDR display, super premium design, expandable storage, and more at an incredible price.
Best Compact Phone: Nokia 6.1
For the past few years, smartphone manufacturers have been on a quest to make phones as big as possible. Huge displays are great for watching movies and playing games, but when it comes time to use your phone with one hand, that big screen can be a real nuisance.
That's where phones like the Nokia 6.1 come in handy.
The Nokia 6.1 has a screen that measures in at just 5.5-inches, and not only that, it uses the older 16:9 aspect ratio. This makes its screen wider and shorter than every other phone on this list, allowing you to more easily reach things at the top without having to perform wild thumb gymnastics.
Along with the wonderful size, the Nokia 6.1 also gets points for its industrial aluminum design, expandable storage, and the inclusion of NFC despite such a low price tag. The biggest concern here is the Nokia 6.1's age seeing as how it was first released in early 2018, but thanks to it being part of the Android One program, you can still look forward to consistent software updates for another couple of years.
- Reliable performance
- Compact size
- Industrial design
- NFC for Google Pay
- Expandable storage up to 256GB
- Huge bezels
- Released in February 2018
Best Compact Phone
The best compact Android phone for students.
If you want an Android phone that's compact and easy to use in one hand, the Nokia 6.1 is the way to go.
Best Battery: Moto G7 Power
The life of a student can be incredibly demanding. From reading assigned chapters, researching and writing papers, and studying for tests, there's a lot to do. If you plan on doing any school work on your phone, you'll want to ensure it has a big battery so you can keep going without having to stop to charge it up every few hours.
With the Moto G7 Power, you're getting a phone with a massive 5,000 mAh battery. Motorola says that translates to around three days of regular use on just one charge, making the G7 Power an endurance champ. When the battery does eventually run out, recharge times are pretty fast thanks to Motorola's TurboPower charging system.
In addition to unmatched battery life, the Moto G7 Power follows through with a fast octa-core Snapdragon 632 processor, a 12-megapixel rear camera that can take those coveted portrait shots, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor hidden underneath the Motorola "M" logo. As if that wasn't good enough, Motorola also uses a special water-repellent nano-coating so you don't have to freak out if you get caught in a rainstorm with the phone.
Our biggest concern with the Moto G7 Power has to do with its software updates. It's running Android Pie out of the box, and while that's great, Motorola's infamous for being very slow with getting updates out — if at all. If that's a top priority for you, you're better off with the Pixel 3a or one of Nokia's phones.
- Up to three days of battery life
- Rear fingerprint sensor
- Water-repellent design
- Expandable storage
- Motorola's bad with software updates
- Base storage is only 32GB
The longest-lasting Android phone for students.
Is battery life your top concern? The Moto G7 Power has a massive 5,000 mAh battery that promises to deliver up to three days of use on just one charge.
Best with a Stylus: Samsung Galaxy Note 10
The Galaxy Note 9 was one of the best phones released last year, and the Galaxy Note 10 is an impressive successor. Note (hah!) that we're recommending the smaller Note 10 as it's easier to use in ne hand, which is something many students will value.
Despite being smaller than the gargantuan Note 10+, the Note 10 still has all the specs you'd want from a flagship phone, including a massive 6.3-inch display, a Snapdragon 855 processor, 8GB f RAM and 256GB of storage, along with a triple-camera setup and an huge 3500mAh battery.
Where things get exciting is when you factor in the Note 10's S Pen. The S Pen can be used for writing notes, drawing, and even used as a remote shutter button or clicker for a presentation. The S Pen is an excellent tool for anyone, but when you take it into the classroom, that's where its functionality shines.
- Fantastic Super AMOLED display
- Blazing fast Snapdragon 855 processor
- S Pen allows for a lot of functionality
- Big 3500 mAh battery
- IP68 dust/water resistance
Best with a Stylus
The best Android phone for students that want a stylus.
From taking notes in class to drawing something for your art lesson, the Galaxy Note 10 is a phone unlike anything else.
Best Under $300: Moto G7
Last but not least, we're going back to a phone that's better-suited for students on a tight budget. $300 used to not buy you much when it came to a quality Android phone, but in 2019, it gets you the Moto G7, which, if you ask us, is pretty darn great.
The front of the Moto G7 is home to a big 6.2-inch LCD screen with a crisp resolution of 2270x1080. It has a narrow 19:9 aspect ratio and a wonderfully small waterdrop notch that houses the phone's 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Snapdragon 632 processor is powerful enough for all of your everyday tasks, the 64GB of internal storage can be expanded with a microSD card, and a water-repellent coating keeps the phone safe from pesky rain.
If you're an Alexa fan, you'll be happy to hear that the Moto G7 comes with hands-free Alexa — allowing you to talk to the assistant with just your voice. Also, similar to the Moto G7 Power, the Moto G7 works on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon without any issues.
Once again, however, we have to raise concerns regarding the future of the Moto G7. It's doubtful that Motorola will push regular security patches or software updates to the phone, so make sure you keep that in mind before throwing your money down.
- Big display, small notch
- Hands-free Alexa
- Works on all U.S. carriers
- Dual rear cameras
- Motorola's software update track record
Best Under $300
The best Android phone for students under $300.
If you have just $300 to spend, the Moto G7 is one of your best options. It has a big and crisp display, snappy processor, and dual rear cameras.
Any of the phones on this list will serve a student well for this coming school season, but among all of them, we have to give our top recommendation to the Google Pixel 3a.
Google's first attempt at making a mid-range Pixel device turned out to be a smash hit. The Pixel 3a might have a plastic design and a slower processor compared to its more expensive siblings, but the incredible camera, super clean software, and a surprisingly great AMOLED display make this a phone that's genuinely enjoyable to use day in and day out.
Among all of that, though, another big reason the Pixel 3a stands out is because of its post-purchase support. Since this is a phone made by Google itself, it's first-in-line ahead of every other Android phone to receive essential security patches and exciting software updates the second they're released. That means you can hold onto the Pixel 3a for quite a few years and still get the best of what Android has to offer.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring Joe is Android Central's News Editor. He loves talking about all things tech, but smart wearables are what get him really excited (just ask the drawer of smartwatches in his office). He also likes coffee and goes to Starbucks far too often. Have a tip? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit him up on Twitter @JoeMaring1
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