If you’re looking for a new Android phone and you’re shooting for the top, this is the place to start.
One of the strengths of the Android ecosystem is the diversity of smartphones to choose from. If you can’t find a suitable Android phone to meet your needs and desires, then such a phone may not exist at all.
But while there’s a lot of stuff to choose from, it can also be tough to find out what’s the best one for you. And that’s where we come in.
If you’re looking for the very best Android phones available right now, then look no further.
New for March 2016: We’ve updated this list with fresh picks for March, including the new Galaxy S7. We’ll update this list again next month.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
Samsung, much refined
- Fantastic design
- Excellent camera
- Gorgeous looking display
- Samsung software still an acquired taste
- A little bit slippery to hold
Launched to the world at Mobile World Congress, the two new Galaxy S phones are mostly the same save from some obvious features. The Edge is larger, has the curved display and has a larger battery inside. But that apart, mostly the same. Which means you’ll get a great experience from either of them.
And make no mistake. While the Galaxy S7 hasn’t shipped at the time of writing, it’s already the phone to beat for 2016. Samsung has refined from the Galaxy S6 while actually listening to its customers. There’s a bigger battery, resulting in a slightly thicker phone to accommodate it. Which is absolutely fine. The camera has been improved, the microSD card slot is back, all the while being wrapped in a similar, highly attractive package to last year’s phones.
There are still questions we have over the Galaxy S7, ones which may ultimately result in it dropping further down this list. One of the biggest is the monthly security patches from Google. The Galaxy S7 should be up to date out of the box, but we’re still not that sure on how Samsung is going to fare in pushing these out timely. And this stuff is important.
The best big phone you can buy. Period.
- Great build quality
- Excellent camera
- Pure Google software
- It’s pretty big
- Lacks wireless charging
- A little bit slippery to hold
We’ve usually had to recommend a Nexus phone with a rather large caveat — and that’s usually had to do with the camera. Not so with the Nexus 6P, manufactured by Huawei.
It’s got a camera that doesn’t make us want to carry around a second shooter, just in case. It’s got the design and build quality that stands up against any other phone. And perhaps most important is that it’s going to always be updated to the latest version of Android, and that goes for the monthly security updates, too.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
It’s big, and it’s spectacular.
- Gorgeous display
- Full-featured S Pen stylus
- High-quality camera
- More pricey than other offerings
- Slippery glass back
- Underwhelming speaker
Samsung did the big screen thing first with the Note line, and now in its fifth iteration the Note 5 is just average sized at 5.7 inches. In fact, Samsung has shrunk down the bezels around the Note 5 so much that it’s actually smaller than the Note 4 even with the same screen size. It’s got a beefy processor, an ample 4GB of RAM and a high-resolution QHD display. It’s running Android 5.1 Lollipop, with an update to Android Marshmallow on the way eventually, and comes with a 3,000 mAh battery.
The addition of optical image stabilization (OIS) on the 16-megapixel camera makes it one of the better low-light shooters available. And Samsung Pay is an excellent contactless payment option. Plus, the Note 5 has Samsung’s excellent pen input features, which nobody else has even bothered to attempt to replicate. It’s that good.
Add all that up, and you’ve got a major contender. But it’s lacking in the software update department and is still very expensive. On the other hand, it’s also available.
It’s really good. Even we were surprised.
- BlackBerry’s superb physical keyboard
- Excellent battery life
- Mostly stock Google interface
- Wireless charging not available in all models
- Weak front facing camera
- Still no Marshmallow
BlackBerry is a legend in the smartphone arena. The question is whether it’s a relic. The Priv hopes to stave off that title, promising privacy and privilege — and it’s certainly a privilege to use. This is the best physical keyboard ever seen on an Android phone to date — though it’s been a long time since anyone’s actually attempted one — with the rest of the hardware matching up to the rest of the smartphone elite.
Plus it’s got a gorgeous high-resolution screen, excellent battery life, good camera and a mostly Google Android experience, enhanced in places with BlackBerry’s own apps and services.
Lots of people wanted BlackBerry to do well with its first experiences on any Android phone this year.
Moto X Pure Edition (2015)
A larger yet predictable Moto X.
- Moto apps are still awesome
- Battery life is decent
- MotoMaker options are exceptional
- Camera performance is inconsistent
- Uncomfortable to use with one hand
- No wireless charging
The Moto X line keeps getting bigger and better, though depending on who you ask only one of those is a good thing. This generation saw Motorola switch from an AMOLED to LCD display, as well as a noticeable reduction in starting price.
The Moto X Pure Edition is also the first Moto X where there were almost no “new” software features, due largely to Motorola’s decision to constantly update features through the Google Play Store.
Bigger, beefier but still really good
- 32-bit audio with DAC
- Fingerprint scanner
- Excellent camera with manual video mode
- LG’s software still isn’t great
- Launched with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- It’s a really big phone
The LG V10 is a bigger, beefier LG G4 with more camera features, a Second Screen and two front-facing cameras for dual-angle selfies. And it’s not a bad phone by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s really big, and really beefy.
But once you get over the size, and LG’s software quirks, you’re left with a great experience. The camera is one of the best you’ll find on an Android phone anywhere right now, and the DAC is superb to have if you’re into great sounding audio. Besides the size, the biggest drawback is availability, with the V10 still not on sale in nearly as many places as the G4. But if you can get one, you’re getting a lot for your money.
Samsung Galaxy S6
Still a great phone one year on
- Great design
- Excellent camera
- A fingerprint scanner that works
- Battery life is poor
- User interface still busy
- Horrendous speaker
It’s sort of been a while since we’ve really been excited about Samsung’s Galaxy S line — go all the way back to the Galaxy S3, really. But the GS6 had us singing its praises, and for good reason. It’s got a design and build quality as good as anything you’ve seen before — and that’s without even talking about the curved “edge” model.
The 5.1-inch display is gorgeous. The fingerprint scanner is usable, even if we’d prefer on-screen buttons most of the time. And the 16-megapixel camera is as good as you’ll find in any other phone on any platform. And Samsung Pay is a nice addition.
But the battery life turned out to be anything but acceptable. The speaker is underwhelming. And while Samsung has included wireless charging out of the box, it’s taken away the removable battery, and the expandable storage. But it has increased the top on-board storage level to a full 128 gigabytes. It’s about to be replaced by the Galaxy S7, but consider that an S6 should now cost a whole lot less, you’re getting a top phone for mid-tier money.