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Best Android phones for students 2022

Pixel 5a
(Image credit: Android Central)

Summer's almost over, school will be back, and — what's that, your kid needs a new smartphone? Whether you're a high schooler's parent or a student getting ready to head back to college, having a trusty Android phone by your side can make life a lot easier. Here are some of our top recommendations, including the Google Pixel 5a as our best overall pick.

Head back to school with the best Android phone for students

Google Pixel 5a

(Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Google Pixel 5a

A near-perfect balance

Reasons to buy

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Incredible camera
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Clean software and guaranteed updates
+
IP67 rating and great battery
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Colorful OLED display
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Snappy SD 765G processor

Reasons to avoid

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No expandable storage
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Lacks mmWave

For a student, one of the most important aspects of buying a new phone is buying reliable something 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 5a.

The Pixel 5a is Google's mid-range successor to the popular Pixel 4a series. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, it is one of the best mid-range smartphones that money can buy, and two of the biggest reasons for that are the Pixel 5a's camera and battery life. Most mid-range phones have fine cameras, but the Pixel 5a captures photos that are just as good, if not better, than some flagships out there. Even with a humble dual camera setup on a phone that costs this little, Google somehow managed to have it kick out genuinely stunning pictures.

Outside of the top-notch camera, the Pixel 5a also delivers a super clean build of Android 11 out of the box that's upgradable to Android 12 Material You. Being a Pixel phone, it is first-in-line for guaranteed software updates until August 2024, has a gorgeous OLED display, and a Snapdragon 765G processor that's more than capable for every task you throw at it. Also included here is NFC for contactless payments with Google Pay, IP67 water resistance, and a 3.5mm headphone jack!

We wish that the Pixel 5a came with expandable storage and had an mmWave model, but there's not much else to dislike outside of those two little complaints. Of course, the design got very stale at this point, but you can always slap on a snazzy Pixel 5a case to fix that. Google knocked it out of the park with this one.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

A wonderful surprise

Reasons to buy

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Crisp 120Hz Super AMOLED display
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Fast enough for most tasks
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Large 5,500mAh battery
+
Good cameras
+
5G support

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for gaming
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Display isn't so bright outdoors

One of the more underrated smartphones currently available is the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G. Samsung is most well-known in the U.S. for its top-of-the-line flagship offerings such as the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Bigwigs aside, Samsung is also a very capable maker of Android phones that don't carry exorbitant price tags. The Galaxy A53 5G is one such device packing a ton of features and specs at a surprisingly low price.

Seeing as how Samsung is known for its displays, one of the best parts about the A32 5G is its vivid Super AMOLED screen. You get a 6.5-inch display with slim bezels and a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate that is a joy to the eye. We do wish it was just as bright outdoors, though. Students who love to capture their memorable moments will be very happy with the quad-camera setup on the phone. With the right lighting, the 64MP main sensor can shoot some marvelous photos.

Under the hood is a Samsung Exynos 1280 processor and 6GB of RAM, which translates to great performance for most tasks. You might face a teeny bit of lag while gaming, but the overall user experience is quite good. We're also fans of the 128GB of internal storage, IP67 waterproof rating, 5,000mAh battery, 25W fast charging, and the in-display fingerprint scanner. Not to mention, the Galaxy A53 5G colorways include some fun pastel shades.

POCO M4 Pro 5G

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

POCO M4 Pro 5G

Lots of value, lots of juice

Reasons to buy

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Show-stopping 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging
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Consistent and reliable daily performance
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90Hz LCD display looks great
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5G enabled
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Very affordably priced
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3.5mm audio jack

Reasons to avoid

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Slow update roll-out
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Comes with bloatware
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Not compatible with all U.S. carriers

If you're after a reliable Android handset that has enough endurance to get you through your schoolwork, take a look at the POCO M4 Pro 5G. Xiaomi phones are always home to some of the best values the market has to offer, and the POCO-branded M4 Pro 5G is no exception. Its bright and fun-loving design communicates what you should expect in terms of use as well.

The big draw to the POCO M4 Pro 5G is its mind-boggling 5,000mAh battery, which can last for almost two days on a single charge. This affordable Xiaomi phone could prove to be a lifesaver for especially hectic weeks at campus. When you do need to refuel, you do so with a handy PD USB-C charger coupled with 33W fast charging. The 4GB/6GB/8GB RAM and 64GB/128GB/256GB memory options are more than agreeable, and the Dimensity 810 chipset delivers reliable performance.

Other specs for the phone are just as solid, including its 6.6-inch 1080p Full HD+ 90Hz display, two rear cameras, a side-mounted fingerprint reader, an audio port, and stereo speakers. If you grab yourself a POCO M4 Pro 5G, do be prepared to deal with a lot of bloatware out of the box. Of course you can always uninstall it right off the bat, but there's also the slight problem of slow updates and CDMA carrier compatibility in the US.

OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

OnePlus 9

A premium experience through and through

Reasons to buy

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Incredible design
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AMOLED 120Hz display looks outstanding
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Buttery smooth performance
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Software experience is top-notch
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65W wired charging
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15W Qi wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

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Lost some of its enthusiast-focused charm
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Lacks expandable storage

We understand that most students aren't looking to spend a tremendous amount of money when buying a phone, but if you want something that offers a high-end experience, the OnePlus 9 fits the bill perfectly. Now that it's an older release, it has become unbelievably cheap. You'll really appreciate the value considering it has all of the makings of an Android flagship while costing considerably less than similar handsets from the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Hardware-wise, the OnePlus 9 has a lot going for it. The design/build quality is outstanding, and the display is one of the best ones on the market — as you'd expect from any first-rate OnePlus phone. The phone is outfitted with a 6.55-inch AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, and it looks sublime. Other highlights include the three rear cameras, Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a beefy 4,500mAh battery that supports blazing-fast Warp Charge 65T wired charging as well as 15W Qi wireless charging.

Making all of this that much better is the OnePlus 9's software, which is OnePlus's custom OxygenOS interface. You can upgrade to Android 12 right out of the box. OxygenOS 12 may not be as charming as the OG skin it once was, but it still features a super clean design, lots of extra customization options, and features like a Reading Mode and Gaming Mode that you don't find in stock Android.

Nokia G20

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Nokia G20

Spend a little, get a lot

Reasons to buy

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Large 5,050mAh battery
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Impressive specs for sub-$200 price
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Quad camera setup
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Expandable storage
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NFC for Google Pay
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There's a headphone jack!
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2 years of major platform updates

Reasons to avoid

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Display isn't very great
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No fast charging to go with the big battery
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Mediatek Helio G35 delivers slow performance

Most students don't have a lot of disposable income, meaning that expensive phones are typically off the table. There are plenty of options on this list that we'd deem very affordable, but if you're trying to spend as little as possible while still getting a good user experience, we think the Nokia G20 is the best in this regard.

The phone looks a lot better than any other sub-$200 Android phone, featuring a modern design, sturdy build quality, and slim bezels surrounding the 6.52-inch 1600x720 HD+ display. You get a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and the back of the Nokia G20 is home to four rear cameras, which is darn impressive given its bottom-of-the-barrel price tag. Unlike the similarly-priced POCO M4 Pro, the Nokia G20 supports all US carriers.

Speaking of impressive, the Nokia G20's specs are pretty great. You get 4GB of RAM, 128GB of onboard storage that's expandable up to 512GB, a large 5,050 mAh battery, and even NFC for Google Pay. The value-packed Nokia phone ships with a clean build of Android 11 out of the box, and looking ahead, you're promised two years of major software updates and three years of monthly security updates — a huge perk if you plan on keeping your phone for a while. The Mediatek Helio G35 chipset isn't the fastest processor in the world, so the performance is fairly slow.

Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)

Note-taking on the cheap

Reasons to buy

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Stylus allows for a lot of functionality
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Two-day battery life
+
Water repellant design
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Audio port and microSD slot
+
Supports all U.S. carriers

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 10W fast charging
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Only promised to get one major update

Few phones today ship with a stylus in tow, and we can't understand why. The S Pen is one of the most successful features of the Galaxy Note series, but the sky-high cost of actually acquiring a Galaxy Ultra phone makes it inaccessible to students. Ironically, students can probably get the most use out of a stellar Android stylus. To compensate, we have selected the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) as the best Android phone with a stylus for students.

Note (hah!) that we're recommending the more reasonable Moto G Stylus instead of the expensive S22 Ultra as it's something many students will value. It may not be as legendary as the Samsung S22 Ultra, but the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) is still an all-around great phone. It's got a water-repellent design, triple cameras, a generous 5,000mAh battery, 6GB/8GB of RAM, 128GB/256GB/512GB storage, and a 6.8-inch 120Hz LCD display. Internally you will find a Snapdragon 695 5G powering the 2022 iteration of the Moto G Stylus.

Where things get exciting is when you factor in the accompanying stylus that tucks away neatly into the phone's body. The stylus can be used for writing notes, drawing, and even used as a remote shutter button or clicker for a presentation. It is an excellent tool for anyone, but when you take it into the classroom, that's where its functionality shines. It isn't for naught that we've placed this phone on our list of best cheap Android phones.

You don't have to break the bank over the best Android phone for students

Any of the Android 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 5a.

Google's late 2021 attempt at making a mid-range Pixel device turned out to be a smash hit. The Google Pixel 5a might have a plastic design and a slower processor compared to its more expensive siblings, but the incredible camera, super clean software, outstanding battery life, IP rating, and a surprisingly great OLED 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 5a 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 Google Pixel 5a for quite a few years and still get the best of what Android has to offer.