More open than the iPhone and first to adopt mobile technologies (wireless charging has been an Android thing for years), Android is where people head who want to be on the cutting edge of the smartphone frontier.
Here are the six models that we think won't let you down.
As good as the Android experience gets. Fast, intuitive, a gorgeous display, and with features that showcase everything Google does well. The call-screening function will prompt callers to identify themselves and show you a real-time transcription, so you can ignore spam calls. And with the new low-light camera function Night Sight, Google keeps its title of the best camera on a smartphone, full stop. If you're considering breaking up with Apple, this is where to start.
The first caveat: The 6.1 is, like many budget smartphones, only compatible with GSM. That is, it only works with AT&T or T-Mobile in the United States. That means the 6.1 won’t work with Verizon. If that’s acceptable, the aluminum construction, decent camera, and responsive fingerprint and NFC sensors make it a lot of phone for this price. It even fast-charges via USB-C. Nokia collaborated with Google on this phone, which is why the Android experience is so much less cluttered than even phones from Samsung or LG. It’s an appreciable upgrade from Motorola’s budget Android phones.
It’s not the cheapest Android phone you can buy, but it’s a hell of a lot of phone for the price. The bezel-less AMOLED display looks as good as much more expensive phones from Google and Samsung, and the dual rear camera will keep up with most phones on the market. The specs (8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, Snapdragon 845 processor) all translate to everything feeling smooth and quick. You lock an unlock it through an under-screen fingerprint scanner. Cool.
Things you sacrifice for the price: no water resistance, and no wireless charging. We also mourn the loss of the headphone jack found on previous OnePlus phones. But if you can live with those concessions, this is the best phone-per-dollar ratio in the Android market.
Samsung’s latest phones are powerhouses, with industry-top specs, a beautiful glass and aluminum body, and big, gorgeous displays that look better than anything else on the market, Android or Apple. You also get the flexibility of expandable storage (pop in a microSD card, and you’ll get hundreds of gigs more room), and a headphone jack.
Clunky Samsung-only versions of Android apps, a clunky Samsung-only assistant (“Bixby”) with a dedicated button, and incompatibility with the latest versions of Android (Galaxy phones are always a bit behind the software on Pixel phones) are among our complaints. Meaning: If this is your first Samsung experience, be ready to fight with Samsung software a bit to get it optimized.
Anyone who needs an even bigger display and likes using a stylus will spend a bit extra for the Galaxy Note9. It’s everything that makes the S9 a powerhouse, plus more.
The G6 Play is readily available for less than $200 and compatible with all major U.S. carriers, which will be enough for anyone content to use last-generation technology. It’s less powerful than the Moto G6, and slightly more expensive than the E5 Play, but the G6 Play is arguably the best balance of price and performance. It has a battery that’ll last through the day, an acceptable camera, and a 5.7-inch display with 1440 x 720 resolution. Charging via microUSB is slow, but otherwise performs well for the price.
When the LG released the V10, the first of its line, in the fall of 2015, it was an ambitious weirdo that really didn't make much sense, but it had the power of the best phones out there. Two years later with the V30, LG has refined things. It comes with an ultra-HD OLED display, a Snapdragon 835 processor, and a capable camera as well. It even retains some trappings that many smartphone users might miss, like a headphone jack and expandable storage.
You'll still be tackling with some of LG's more perple software decisions, but that's true with most phones that don't come straight from Google. Especially now that the V30 has been around for a bit and the price has dropped, it's a great value.