Best Android Phones in the U.S. for Android Central 2020
Globalization of the smartphone world has leveled the playing field dramatically, with most phones nowadays being made available internationally. But there are some notable exceptions, and if you're in the U.S. you don't get your choice of every phone out there. These are the best devices you can get in the U.S. today — from the best overall package in the OnePlus 8 Pro, up to more expensive picks and down to dramatically more affordable options.
- Best Overall: OnePlus 8 Pro
- Upgrade Pick: Samsung Galaxy S20+
- Best on a Budget: Moto G Power
- Best Camera: Google Pixel 4 XL
- Best Value: Google Pixel 3a
- Best Value with 5G: OnePlus 8
- Best With a Stylus: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
- Best Battery Life: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
- Best Gaming Features: ASUS RoG Phone 2
- Best Foldable: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Best Overall: OnePlus 8 Pro
The OnePlus 8 Pro is as well-designed and impressive as any high-end smartphone out there. If you know anything about OnePlus phones, you'll love knowing it doesn't stray from the traditional OnePlus mantra — instead, it extends it up to its logical place in the world of more expensive flagships with more features.
The hardware easily goes head-to-head with any phone out there, and it's brought together by the best display OnePlus has ever used; it's colorful, super bright and has a 120Hz refresh rate. Internally, there are exceptional specs top to bottom, and that leads to fantastic performance thanks to its OxygenOS software that's just a joy to use.
The 8 Pro also brings the best cameras yet to a OnePlus phone, with a new larger camera sensor that steps up its game to true flagship level. The entire camera experience is still a small step behind the Galaxy S20+, but then again this is also a bit less expensive. That's where the 8 Pro fits in: it has a true flagship experience all around, for just a bit less money than the traditional players, with perhaps a couple caveats.
- Large, beautiful 120Hz display
- Greatly improved main and wide-angle cameras
- Excellent battery life
- OxygenOS is best-in-class Android software
- Wireless charging and IP68 rating
- Much more expensive than before
- U.S. 5G limited to T-Mobile
- Telephoto camera isn't good
- Some camera bugs still present
More expensive than before, and more capable to match
The OnePlus 8 Pro is an impressive and well-designed flagship smartphone that doesn't upend the traditional OnePlus system.
Upgrade Pick: Samsung Galaxy S20+
Our previous top pick here was the Galaxy S10+, and everything Samsung did this year with the S20+ made it an easy recommendation in its place. The S20+ makes improvements across the board, with a bigger and better display that has a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, a larger 4,500mAh battery, 12GB of RAM, and a new Snapdragon 865 processor. It's 5G capable as well, which isn't a huge deal now but will become more important later in 2020.
The biggest move up is in the cameras, with a new array all around. The new sensors are larger, letting in more light to take dramatically better low-light photos. It's not quite on the level of the Pixel 4 XL, but this is a big step up from what Samsung offered before and is no longer a big shortcoming of the phone. You also get solid zoom capabilities up to 5X, while keeping the ultra-wide camera for shooting variety.
The only way the S20+ steps down from the S10+ is in its price, and removal of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The base phone is a couple hundred dollars more than last year, and removing the audio jack is a tough blow for those who rely on it. Unfortunately, both are a result of the direction the whole phone industry is going — phones keep getting more expensive, and Samsung was already one of the last holdouts in the flagship space to keep the headphone jack.
- Best-in-class display
- Good battery life
- Exceptional performance
- Great all-around cameras
- 5G enabled
- Expensive for 128GB of storage
- Camera zoom much weaker than S20 Ultra
- Slow fingerprint sensor
- No headphone jack
Samsung's excellent all-rounder
The S20+ has a great screen, high-end specs, a strong array of cameras and feature-packed software. It's worth the price.
Best on a Budget: Moto G Power
With Motorola skipping releasing its G8 line in the U.S., the new Moto G Power fills the gap by offering a great Android experience at a really amazing price. The phone stands out first and foremost in the battery department, offering multi-day endurance. Then you pair that with simple and useful software, fun cameras, and solid specs for the money — the Moto G Power packs quite a punch
That said, lacking NFC in 2020 is laughable, and facing Motorola's infamous history with slow (or missed) software updates could be reason to think twice before picking one up. But at this great price, you may be able to look right past that and enjoy it for what it is.
- Ultra-wide and macro cameras are fun
- Two or three days of battery life
- Motorola's excellent software add-ons
- Compatible with all U.S. carriers
- Can't beat that price
- Fingerprint magnet hardware
- No NFC in 2020 is just ridiculous
- Slow charging
- Motorola's update speed is questionable
Best on a Budget
Enough for most people's needs, at a really affordable price
The Moto G Power continues a legacy of superb affordable Motorola phones. Solid specs and cameras get the job done with useful and simple software.
Best Camera: Google Pixel 4 XL
The Pixel 4 XL is, first and foremost, about its cameras. The main rear camera takes spectacular shots in all conditions, and the secondary telephoto lens is surprisingly capable even at 5X zoom using software processing. There are other redeeming qualities here: The understated hardware is nice in the hand, the 90Hz display is solid, and Google's software is powerful and always kept up to date.
Google has stumbled when it comes to battery life; even the large Pixel 4 XL fails to make it through a day for many people. Its weak longevity provides no confidence. Plus, new features like face unlock and Motion Sense have little real-world use or don't work with enough apps. This all detracts from so many other great aspects of the phone.
- Super-smooth 90Hz display
- Simple, useful and fast software
- Excellent face unlock
- Top-notch camera quality back and front
- Nice-looking and feeling hardware
- Incredibly weak battery life
- Motion Sense has little real-world use
- Low RAM and storage for the money
- Many apps still incompatible with face unlock
The best camera you can get in a smartphone today
The Pixel 4 XL has the best camera you can get, but it's let down by poor battery life and weak specs for the money.
Best Value: Google Pixel 3a
There are many reasons why you'd find yourself looking at the Pixel 3a. The first is its size because it's one of the few "small" phones out there right now. Because it has a larger version, the 3a XL, the standard 3a remains compact and manageable one-handed. The screen's still big enough to get things done, but the phone isn't going to be a burden in your pocket or hard to use.
The most impressive part of the 3a is its camera, which is nearly on par with the Pixel 4 yet costs less than half as much. The main camera takes exceptional photos in all lighting conditions, with Night Sight really showing its strength in challenging scenes. The front-facing camera is great as well. Front and back, you're getting flagship-level photos out of a phone that's dramatically less expensive
The Pixel 3a offers exceptional value, especially several months after its release with some discounts. Google's software runs rather well on mid-range hardware, even though it's clearly not as fast as the latest phones. But you don't need to be worried about losing support as it gets older, because unlike most of its mid-range competitors the Pixel 3a is guaranteed to get software updates for the next couple years.
- Incredible camera for the money
- Excellent build quality with polycarbonate shell
- Guaranteed software updates
- Clean Android build
- Performance not on flagship levels
- Display is no more than functional
Google's budget phone is a great value, and it's small
The Pixel 3a has flagship camera quality but at a fraction of the price. It's also one of the few great compact phones available.
Best Value with 5G: OnePlus 8
Coming from the OnePlus 7T, not much has changed in the 8, but it didn't really need to. You're getting fresh hardware design that keeps in line with the 8 Pro, plus a jump in specs and 5G connectivity, with the same great basics elsewhere. That means a really good 90Hz display, great battery life, consistent cameras and amazing software.
Keeping its price relatively affordable versus high-end flagships, the 8 misses out on a couple of things. The cameras didn't improve from the 7T, and in some ways got worse — the telephoto camera is gone, and we get a dedicated macro shooter that isn't of much use. And unlike the 8 Pro, there's no wireless charging. At the same time, you just have to dela with the fact that OnePlus is charging $100 more than it did 6 months ago for effectively the same experience.
Still, if you want to get into a phone with 5G, but don't want to spend top dollar, this is the way to go. You get full 5G support on T-Mobile, even if you buy unlocked, or you can buy directly from Verizon to access its 5G network.
- Fantastic software experience
- 5G and excellent specs for the money
- Consistent camera performance
- Sleek and solid hardware
- Excellent battery life
- No wireless charging
- Minimal improvements over 7T
- No zoom camera, and bad macro camera
- No AT&T 5G support
Best Value with 5G
A great value-focused phone with 5G
It's effectively a 7T with a few new specs, 5G and a larger battery. But even at its higher price, it still offers incredible value thanks to all of the core tenets of OnePlus phones: good hardware, great software, excellent specs and strong battery life.
Best With a Stylus: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
Even with the Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra now available, the Note 10+ can still hold its own as one of the best phones you can buy — especially if you want a stylus. It's big, powerful, and feels completely modern for 2020. The hardware looks and feels great, the display is bright and wonderfully colorful, and there's nothing you can throw at it to slow down the software.
Everything the Note 10+ has to offer is punctuated by its S Pen, which has no equal in the smartphone world. If you see value in having a stylus in your phone, there's no comparison here — and thankfully the rest of the phone is great as well. And with its successors now in the market, the Note 10+'s price has dropped a bit.
- Incredible display
- Hardware looks and feels expensive
- Outstanding performance
- Best stylus experience on any phone
- Great battery life and fast charging
- Solid camera performance
- Low-light camera quality is weak
- Software requires lots of tweaking
- No headphone jack
Best With a Stylus
Samsung's biggest and best (for now), with a stylus
For many, there's no replacement for a Note. You get great Samsung features, with a huge display, plus the unique S Pen.
Best Battery Life: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Just like its name implies, the Galaxy S20 Ultra takes a step beyond the S20+. It has the same specs and capabilities, but with an even larger display — up to 6.9 inches — and a correspondingly large battery at 5,000mAh. When you keep the display at 60Hz refresh, it's a complete battery champ; you'll never have to worry about battery life.
The S20 Ultra also makes use of that extra space to give you better cameras, with a 108MP main shooter that takes even brighter photos, and a telephoto camera that can reach out and get great shots at 10X (and decent shots at 15X). The trade-offs of this extra capability, and battery life, are its overall size and higher price. The S20 Ultra is huge, and almost 20% heavier than the S20+; it's also much more expensive, which can be tough to handle when the S20+ is already spendy. But if battery life is a priority, this is your best choice.
- Massive high-quality screen
- Huge battery
- Super-sharp main camera shots
- Solid zoom camera up to 15X
- Great battery limited to 60Hz mode
- Necessarily big and heavy
- Slow fingerprint sensor
- No headphone jack
- 30X+ zoom is a gimmick
Best Battery Life
Samsung goes all-out with the biggest battery and screen, plus its best cameras
Take the S20+ and take it up a level — all of the same features, but with an even bigger screen and battery.
Best Gaming Features: ASUS RoG Phone 2
RoG, or Republic of Gamers, tells you what you need to know: ASUS has focused on bringing all of the mobile gaming features you could want, no matter the game.
The RoG Phone 2 stands out with a unique design that has secondary charging and headphone ports along the side for playing games in lanscape, plus Air Trigger touch sensors that let you use the corners of your phone as customizable inputs for games, and an external Aero Active Cooler (that's included) that lines up with a heatsink to keep the phone cool during long gaming sessions.
The 6.6-inch display has a 120Hz refresh rate for the smoothest possible graphics, and the phone does a great job running all of the latest games on top settings — even though the ASUS software overall is a bit busy and clunky. Its battery is massive, so you won't be caught without power. ASUS has refined its vision for the perfect gaming phone, and it delivers here. With its polarizing design and huge size, you really need to be focused on gaming to pick this over a more well-rounded phone, but some people take mobile games seriously enough to pick it up.
- Uniquely designed for gaming
- 120Hz display refresh rate is gorgeous
- Air Trigger controls are still innovative
- Front-facing speakers are loud
- Great battery life
- Phone design may be too gamer
- Dedicated accessories are pricey
Best Gaming Features
This phone goes all-in on gaming, and does it well
Excellent gaming performance and gaming-specific features like side ports, front-facing speakers and heatsinks make this a gamer's dream.
Best Foldable: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The best thing the Galaxy Z Flip offers is normalcy and minimal compromises for a folding phone. At its core, the Z Flip is a refreshed and improved Galaxy S10+, which is a good thing.. You're getting solid specs and performance, hardware that feels modern and high-quality, and a set of cameras that are just a tad behind the latest high-end phones of 2020. Compared to the shortcomings of other foldables, the Z Flip stands out for having such good daily usability.
The Galaxy Z Flip also has the most durable foldable screen available yet, with its Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) screen covering. Now of course this is all relative, as other foldables up to this point have purely plastic screen coverings, but this is an improvement nonetheless. The UTG covering can still be damaged rather easily compared to extremely hard glass on non-folding phones, but it's more robust than what we had before — and it should be a bit more resistant to damage through normal use.
As a compromise for folding in half, you're giving up a little bit compared to a "normal" phone for the same or less money. With just a 3300mAh battery, longevity is on the low side. While its screen is great for a foldable, it's just 1080p and 60Hz, and doesn't have the same clarity and quality — and its bigger bezels don't look great. You're also getting a pretty weak single speaker, no ultra-wide camera on the back, and a tiny 1.06-inch cover display on the outside that isn't of much use.
- Most durable foldable screen available
- Really good specs
- Typically great Samsung build quality
- Folding screen turns heads
- UTG screen covering still isn't very strong
- Cameras a step behind 2020 flagships
- Weaker battery life than standard phones
- Tiny cover display is almost useless
The most user-friendly foldable you can get today
The best part of the Z Flip is its ability to feel like a normal phone when it's open, and then quickly fold down to a compact size.
When you're looking to buy a phone in the U.S., you have access to nearly all of the leading Android phones out today. OnePlus does a great job with the OnePlus 8 Pro, providing a top-end experience in specs, hardware, software and performance and doing it for a couple hundred dollars less than you'd expect.
The one shortcoming is its camera system, which isn't quite to the highest levels, but you can absolutely take great photos with it regardless. And the rest of the phone's experience is top-notch, beating out much of the competition in each respective category. Just be aware that when you buy it unlocked, you won't get 5G on Verizon or AT&T — just T-Mobile and its related prepaid MVNOs.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Andrew Martonik is Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central. He has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.
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.
Joe Maring is Android Central's News Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Reach out on Twitter @JoeMaring1 or send an email to email@example.com!
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