Android Central's Best of 2020 Awards
To say that 2020 has been an extraordinary year would be underselling it. It's been challenging for everyone, including the companies that make the products we love. But those companies have managed to deliver some incredible products in every category, from phones to tablets to Chromebooks to headphones to smart home and everything in between.
In our Best of 2020 awards, we're taking some time to recognize the achievements of some incredible products, and some of the companies behind them.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Best Android Phones of 2020
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Best Phone Overall
The best phone for most people.
The Galaxy S20 FE isn't the most technically impressive phone of the year, but without a doubt, it is our best overall pick for 2020. In a year where we're more price-conscious than ever before, the S20 FE's ability to offer the same flagship S20 experience for hundreds of dollars less is pure magic. Whether it be the 120Hz AMOLED display, Snapdragon 865 processor, or reliable battery life and cameras, everything about the Galaxy S20 FE feels as high-end as you could ask for. You get all of that for just $700, and that combination of premium features and amazing value make the S20 FE stand out as our Android phone of the year.Runner-up — OnePlus 8T (opens in new tab)
Best Android Phone — Value
An incredible budget pick.
There were a ton of phones in 2020 that represented good values, but among all of them, the Google Pixel 4a stands out as something special. Simply put, this is a phone that "just works" in about every regard. The AMOLED display is great, it's plenty fast for most tasks, the battery lasts for a full day, and you get clean software that's backed by three years of timely updates. There's also that 12MP rear camera which takes pictures that are every bit as good as some top-of-the-line flagships. For only $350, it's pretty remarkable just how much you get with the 4a.Runner-up — Samsung Galaxy A71 (opens in new tab)
Best Android Phone — Camera
If you want to take amazing photos with your phone, this is it.
Google's Pixel series always stands out for its industry-leading cameras, and with the Pixel 5, that's exactly what happened again. The Pixel 5 didn't usher in a major overhaul of Google's camera system, but the subtle changes it does bring to the table make the best Android camera ever even more enjoyable to shoot with. With a new ultra-wide camera, upgraded portrait mode features, and vastly improved video, the Pixel 5 is the phone to get for anyone that wants to have the best possible camera in their pocket.Runner-up — Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (opens in new tab)
Best Android Phone — Innovation
The second-gen Galaxy Z Fold is nearly flawless — and very pricey.
Phones are boring? We don't think so. 2020 was home to countless innovations in the smartphone space, and the one that caught our attention the most was the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Based on the same general design of the first Galaxy Fold from 2019, the Z Fold 2 delivers a better execution in virtually every possible way. It's a device that gives you bleeding-edge technology without any serious compromises, and the year-over-year improvements on display are downright mind-blowing.Runner-up — LG Wing (opens in new tab)
Best Phone Manufacturer
The world's biggest smartphone maker keeps winning
Samsung could have played it safe in 2020 and still had a killer year, but the company went above and beyond in more ways than one. On the hardware front, it exercised its innovation prowess with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Flip, along with offering unmatched value with the S20 FE. Samsung also made a new commitment to three years of software updates for a large number of its new and existing handsets, putting it on the same level of software support that we see from Google itself.Runner-up — Google
Most Improved Phone Manufacturer
Five years strong
Google has struggled finding the right voice for the Pixel series ever since its introduction in 2016, but in 2020, that finally changed. With a new focus on delivering good value and a consistent user experience over chasing the endless spec race, Google's hardware offerings of the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5 shine bright as the strongest Android lineup we've ever seen from the company.Runner-up — OPPO
Tablet, Smartwatch & Fitness Tracker
The best of Android, on a tablet
Android tablets are few and far between these days, but that doesn't mean they're completely extinct. Samsung is still a firm believer in the form factor, as evident by the Galaxy Tab S7+. It has one of the best displays of any mobile device we've seen, incredible performance, ample software features to help your workflow, and comes with the iconic S Pen.Runner-up — iPad Air (opens in new tab)
Giving Wear OS a whole new lease on life.
There's hasn't been much innovation or progress with Wear OS for quite some time, making the TicWatch Pro 3 that much more exciting. Powered by the all-new Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, the TicWatch Pro 3 delivers ample performance and battery upgrades that we've been longing for. It's a bit bulky and lacking some higher-end smartwatch features its competitors offer, but this is far and away the best Wear OS offering we've seen in a long time.Runner-up — Apple Watch Series 6 (opens in new tab)
Best Fitness Tracker
Cheap, cheeful, and powerful
The goal of a fitness band in 2020 is to deliver robust health-tracking features at an affordable cost. Out of everything that's out there, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 pulls this off with the most success. It's lightweight, has 24/7 heart-rate monitoring, activity and sleep tracking, and tools for female health. Available for $50 or less, it's an unbeatable deal.Runner-up — Fitbit Inspire 2 (opens in new tab)
A well-rounded and powerful Chromebook that rivals many laptops twice its price.
2020 was the year that Chromebooks got their chance to shine, and when looking at the Chromebook that managed to beat out all of the competition by a healthy margin, we end up with the Lenovo Flex 5. Everything you could ask for is here — whether it be a compact design, good performance, reliable battery life, or a backlit keyboard. The Flex 5 gives you all of that are a seriously great price, making it a no-brainer as our best Chromebook pick of the year.Runner-up — Samsung Galaxy Chromebook (opens in new tab)
Best Chromebook — Value
This inexpensive Chromebook can do it all — especially a great Android tablet impression.
One of the best things about Chromebooks is the good value they usually represent, and nowhere is that shown better than with the Lenovo Duet. The Duet pulls double-duty as the name implies, functioning as a tablet when you want it to and transforming into a fully-fledged Chrome OS laptop when you attach the included keyboard accessory. With long battery life, a great display, and built-in kickstand, you're getting an unbelievable amount of features for such a small price.Runner-up — Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (opens in new tab)
Smart home & gadgets
Best Wi-Fi Router — Overall
A fantastic all-round Wi-Fi 6 router.
TP-Link's Archer AX20 brings Wi-Fi 6 technology to a price and speed that makes sense for more households. With AX1800 speeds, this isn't the fastest router you can get but should be more than enough to keep up with most internet connections. Get the most out of your upgraded Wi-Fi 6 devices while maintaining support for Wi-Fi 5 devices at full speed. Upcoming support for OneMesh will allow you to expand your network with other OneMesh compatible routers. Four Ethernet ports keep your wired devices online without adapters and a streamlined setup with the Tether app makes it as easy as possible to upgrade.Runner-up — Netgear Nighthawk RAX50 (opens in new tab)
Best Wi-Fi Router — Mesh
Eero is back and better than ever
The main thing we love about an Eero mesh is how easy it is to forget about it thanks to its consistent and reliable performance. Eero's software makes setup a breeze and management a quick and easy task. Updates are handled automatically you'll likely never even notice that they happened. Eero 6 adds support for Wi-Fi 6 at AX1800 with enough speed for internet connection over 500Mbps even with a full mesh setup. Eero kept the routers small and affordable at $129 and extenders costing $89. It even works with older Eeros and the smart software will make sure you're using the best and fastest connection possible.Runner-up — Google Wifi (2020) (opens in new tab)
Best Smart Light
A lighter, brighter Hue bulb
Philips Hue is quite possibly the most well-known name in smart lighting, and the new A21 1600 lumen bulbs show why they're the best. These are the brightest smart lights on the market and, just like the rest of the Philips Hue line, work with every smart home product you can think of.
Best Wireless Earbuds
Bean there, not done that
Samsung isn't just a phone company, and that's no more evident than the success it's having with its superlative Galaxy Buds line. The Galaxy Buds Live may not look conventional, but they sound incredible and are among the most comfortable wireless earbuds we've ever worn.Runner-up — Google Pixel Buds (opens in new tab)
Best Wireless Headphones
More of the same, better than ever
Sony is back with yet another incredible pair of its most popular headphones. This year's model improves the quality of the active noise cancelation, adds multi-device pairing, and a useful auto-pause feature, while also improving sound quality.Runner-up — Surface Headphones 2 (opens in new tab)
Best Streaming Device
More than just a pretty remote
While the streaming media device landscape is filled with tons of amazing products, none were as highly anticipated, nor shown as brightly, as the Chromecast with Google TV. Google's latest streaming dongle brought with it a handy voice remote and all-new Google TV user interface. On top of that, it has all the specs you'd expect, like 4K HDR streaming and Dolby Vision and Atmos audio. Plus, it will soon support Google's Stadia cloud gaming service. If you ask us, that all comes together to make a pretty compelling package for just $50.Runner-up — Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite (opens in new tab)
Best Android TV
The TV with Google Assistant
Hisense has been a huge proponent of Android TV built-in televisions, and this year's H9G Quantum Series proves why Hisense is one the best company's to lead that charge. The H9G has just about every high-end feature you could want, including 4K HDR picture quality, Dolby Vision/Atmos, automatic backlight detection, and hands-free Google Assistant. All of that can be yours with a starting price of just $750, which is a lot more affordable than much of the competition.Runner-up — Hisense H8G Quantum Series (opens in new tab)
Best Security Camera
See in the dark
It might be one of the more expensive wireless security cameras on the market, but that's because it's the best. The Arlo Pro 4 offers 2K HDR video, color nighttime video, and works with all your favorite virtual assistants. It can also connect directly to your Wi-Fi network, removing the need for a hub.Runner-up — Wyze Cam Outdoor (opens in new tab)
Best Smart Speaker
Listen to this
It had been nearly four years since the original Google Home smart speaker debuted, and Google Assistant fans were primed and ready for a mid-size update to the already excellent lineup that included the Nest Mini and Nest Hub Max. Enter the Nest Audio, our pick for the Best Smart Speaker of 2020. It bosts a refreshing new design with partially recycled materials, much improved sound quality over the Google Home, and it is available in five festive colors. On-device voice processing has also gotten better, making the Google Assistant more useful than ever in this smart speaker.Runner-up — Amazon Echo (4th Gen) (opens in new tab)
Best Phone Case Manufacturer
One of a kind
Caseology has been a consistent case maker we've trusted with our phones for years, but in 2020 Caseology took two steps to help solidify it as the best case maker of the year. Firstly, while other case makers have been trimming back on which phones they make cases for, Caseology had great cases ready and available for phones like the Pixel 4a, OnePlus 8/8Pro, and Galaxy S20 FE on or before release day. Additionally, while companies like OtterBox, Speck and Spigen were curbing color options and leaving us stuck with boring old black for most case models, Caseology doubled down on color, instead giving us rich burgundies, deep teals, and a Purple Pixel 4a case that was absolutely to die for.Runner-up — Moment (opens in new tab)
Best Phone Case Series
Bumpy road ahead
Caseology's most well-known case series, the Parallax exemplified its 2020 drive for style and wide availability, with bold colors available for both flagships like the Note 20 and mid-range phones like the Pixel 4a, and those color options varied to match each series as appropriate. We saw an absolutely darling "Purple-ish" Pixel 4a Parallax that mirrors the Pixel 3a's standout color. We saw an Aqua Green for the Note 20 and many Galaxy phones. Caseology also improved the grip on the Parallax this year, making it easier to hang onto when your hands are sweaty or when you're wearing gloves. And while the headliner case series at competitors like Otterbox and Speck will start at $40-$60 and then drop $25 less than a month after launch, the Parallax has consistently cost $15-17 depending on the color you buy.Runner-up — Caseology Skyfall (opens in new tab)
Apps & Services
Best VPN — Overall
Make your traffic secure
Picking the BEST overall VPN service comes down to a few key points, all of which ExpressVPN does really well. The service is extremely reliable, the speeds are fast, customer service is excellent, and it's easy to use. You can't really ask for much more when it comes to a VPN service.Runner-up — Surfshark (opens in new tab)
Best VPN — Android
Improve your Android phone's security
ExpressVPN is our top overall pick, and the same holds true for anyone looking for the best VPN to install on their Android device. It runs on up to five devices at the same time, offers great speeds, secure connections, and much more.Runner-up — ProtonVPN
Best Streaming Video Service
Watch more stuff
2020 has been a good year for streaming services, as everyone's been stuck home looking for ways to keep their spirits up and their families entertained. While most streaming services are stepping up their game, none have been able to take the streaming crown from Netflix yet. Netflix's wide diversity of original content — from new series like the Haunting of Bly Manor and the third season of Castelvania to original movies like The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Over the Moon — and its availability on just about internet-connected device from phones and tablets to TVs and connected displays have kept it forefront in viewers minds.Runner-up — Disney+ (opens in new tab)
Best Streaming Audio Service
Listen to this
It's easy to see why Spotify is the number one streaming service. It has a massive catalog of music, and even podcasts, and regularly curates playlists to help you discover new songs. With a Spotify Premium plan, you can save tracks for offline playback (perfect for traveling), and a Premium Family plan gives up to 6 people the same paid perks for one low monthly fee.Runner-up — YouTube Music
Best Live TV Service
They have TV on computers now
YouTube TV's price might've gone up to $65 this summer, but it still has the best Live TV streaming experience in the business and now offers up over 85 channels with its package including local news networks, cable news networks and the major sports and entertainment channels. YouTube TV's interface and DVR layout are highly intuitive and it's the only Live TV service to currently integrate with the new Google TV layout — and you can get a Chromecast with Google TV if you're signing up for the service for the first time.Runner-up — Philo (opens in new tab)
Best New Android App
Google TV is new again, again
The all-new Google TV app has replaced Play Movies & TV, bringing with it an all-new interface for trying to watch your favorite movies and TV shows. Pick up that TV show where you left off, or find some new movies to watch with ease.Runner-up — Action Blocks (opens in new tab)
Best New Android Game
Addictive in the best ways
If you want to talk about surprise hits, Genshin Impact needs to be a part of the conversation. It kind of blew up following its release earlier this year, and won a lot of our hearts in doing so. At its core, it is a gacha action RPG with really fun elemental combat and party systems. Success comes from adaptability. The open world is one of the best we've ever seen on Android, and it's full of things to do. Genshin Impact's endgame can be a bit grindy, but this one is an easy choice for the best new Android game of 2020.Runner-up — Vampire: The Masquerade - Night Road (opens in new tab)
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.
Were these results influenced by advertisers? Some of these items keep showing up in 'fake news' articles like the VPN choices.
I will assume this is indeed basically an advertisement since you have not responded.