Best Android smartphones 2021: Samsung, Google, Nokia and more

Abstract image of a smartphone on a blue background, alongside the IT Pro Recommended logo

The iPhone may have kickstarted the age of the internet in your pocket, but nowadays it’s certainly not your only choice. Android has overtaken iOS to become the world’s most popular smartphone platform, with users flocking to its open ecosystem and huge variety of handsets.

The question is, with so many phones to choose from, which is right for you? Whether you need a phone for business or pleasure, there are so many options out there, offering different levels of performance, display quality, camera specs and more, that the task of choosing the best one can seem daunting indeed.

Here’s our selection of the greatest Android smartphones on the market, along with our guide to each one’s distinguishing features. So if you’re not sold on Apple, read on to find the handset that’s perfect for you.

Sony Xperia 5II

Sony Xperia 5II - Display

The Sony Xperia 5II is the budget version of the Xperia 1II and there's very little to dislike about it. Sony has managed to build a budget version that is arguably better than the original and will save you a lot of money at the same time.

It can also stand up to rival smartphones with the sheer number of features it offers, including the unparalleled video and photography modes, and the battery handles the 120Hz display well. Clearly one of the best in 2020, there's still a lot to like about this device.

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CPUQualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865
Display6.1in OLED, 1080x2520
Battery4,000mAh with 21W fast charge

Price when reviewed: £599 exc VAT

Read our full Sony Xperia 5II review for more information.

Nokia 5.3

Nokia 5.3 display

The Nokia 5.3 represents a fairly surprising package, especially when considering its decent camera configuration, fairly attractive chassis, and £108 price tag. However, compromises are to be expected if you compare it to mid-tier devices, especially when it comes down to battery life, display quality, and raw output.

Despite this, the Nokia 5.3 could be one of the best smartphones you can buy at this price point. For cash-strapped users, it's hard not to recommend.

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CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 665

Price when reviewed: £108 (exc VAT)

Read our full Nokia 5.3 review for more information.

Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a display

The Pixel 4a is not only one of the best-value smartphone experiences around, but also one of the most pleasant overall. There are a couple of downsides, such as the lack of wireless charging or the display's HDR support, but that's not worth complaining about when you consider its sub-£300 price tag.

This could well be the perfect package of a quality camera, intuitive user interface, and great battery; all offered at an amazing price.

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CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 730

Price when reviewed: £291 exc VAT

Read our full Google Pixel 4a review for more information.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

S20 Ultra 5G display

The Samsung Galaxy S20 found itself in a tough spot when it launched in February 2020. A very high price tag and, thanks to the pandemic, a turbulent market, made it a difficult sell. Despite this, not only did it prove to be the best phone Samsung has ever produced but also the best Android phone available when our review was published in September 2020.

There can be no doubt that this device is very expensive, but myriad extras provide plenty of reasons to upgrade.

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CPUExynos 990 5G
Display6.9in Dynamic AMOLED

Price when reviewed: £1,119 exc VAT

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G review​​​​​​​ for more information.

Oppo Find X2 Pro

Oppo Find X2 Pro front

For those seeking a premium 5G-ready device, the Oppo Find X2 Pro might be just what you're looking for. Its hardware is on par with Apple and Samsung flagships and, thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, the display is a pleasure to use.

This is certainly an impressive device but because of its sheer size, it does render it impractical at times. If that doesn't bother you, then this is definitely one of the best 5G-ready units currently available on the market today.

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CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 865
Battery4,260 mAh

Price when reviewed: £916 exc VAT

Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review​​​​​​​ for more information.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.