Whether you want a smartphone to meet a budget or pack premium features (including gaming), we’ve got an Android handset to meet your needs.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice when it comes to Android phones. On the pros front, there’s an Android phone to suit pretty much every budget, from hundreds of dollars through to the cost of a quality 4K TV. On the cons front, it’s intimidating to sort the new from the newest, the budget-friendly from a stinker, and the best from the rest.
That’s where we step in. Samsung is the yardstick by which other Android smartphones are measured, which is why they get some love on the following pages. But there are some other great Android alternatives to consider, too. Here’s the latest need-to-know on buying a newer Android smartphone.
As years roll by, each new Android smartphone release tends to be met with incremental improvements over previous generations. While week-long battery life is still the realm of sci-fi, days-long battery life is absolutely a thing today.
As battery capacity numbers tick up, so too do numbers on other key bits of hardware. More memory and higher-speed CPUs make Android phones incredibly speedy performers, apt at handling a multitude of multitasked apps. Similarly, the megapixel count and versatility of multi-camera configurations on the back of a smartphone lead to better results, while chunkier internal storage space makes it easy to store the high-res pictorial results and ultra-high-res video footage.
Let’s take a look at a flagship phone as a guiding example.
The Samsung Galaxy Note range is renowned for big screens and big internal storage. Case in point, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 boasts 256GB of internal storage and some impressive screen real estate with 6.7 inches of glorious Super AMOLED Plus Infinity-O display to take advantage of. You can pair these hardware basics with your choice of bronze, grey or green finishes, too.
You’ll need that internal storage for taking advantage of the main 64MP rear camera, which can also capture video in up to 8K resolution. Digital 30-times zoom lets you get closer to your subject than ever before, or snap clear pics from far away. You can also opt to capture video at a lower resolution for silky-smooth 120 frames-per-second footage, which you can spice up with easy-to-use video effects.
Outside of the camera and screen, the Note line is intended to offer additional productivity options. Whether you’re an amateur doodler or professional artist (or just prefer to not navigate with your fingers all the time), the Note 20 comes with an Intelligent S Pen for drawing. More than just a stylus, the Intelligent S Pen can also be used for converting your onscreen handwriting into text or as a remote control.
But why exactly would you want a remote control for a smartphone? The Note 20 can act as a ’puter in your pocket. Use the upgraded version of Samsung DeX to wirelessly connect to compatible screens to scroll through pictures, watch videos, or get busy with business. Samsung Notes is likewise a great business companion for making and changing documents when you’re out and about, then seamlessly syncing them with a Samsung Galaxy tablet or PC.
It’s not all about work, though. The Note 20 can play as hard as it works. Bolstered touch sensitivity and Game Booster mode make for faster and more responsive smartphone gaming. And thanks to how the Note 20 has implemented clever battery optimisation, you can have all-day battery and get back to full power quicker via fast charging.
The base Samsung Galaxy Note 20 comes with inbuilt Wi-Fi 6 support, which means it’s capable of blistering home speeds when connected to a Wi-Fi 6-capable network. If that screen size isn’t big enough and you want more from your rear camera, consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It has a huge 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED Edge Display with a stunning 3088 x 1440 resolution, plus it’s packing a 108MP main rear camera with 50-times zoom. For even more future-proofing, you can opt for a 5G version of the base S20 or Ultra versions, too.
The Note 20 is also built to integrate seamlessly with the Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Watch 3. Within this intuitive ecosystem, the Note 20 pairs beautifully with Buds Live for all your essential track lists, videos and gaming sessions.
Similarly, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 plays incredibly well with the Note 20. With an LTE connection, you can leave your Note 20 at home and rely solely on the Watch 3 to lead and manage work obligations on the fly and stream your favourite music or videos when you’re on the run.
Ultra refresh rate
The Note 20 Ultra has another big perk outside of a bigger screen and better camera: a screen refresh rate of up to 120Hz. While higher screen refresh rates are more taxing on battery life, they make everything look a whole lot smoother. This covers everything from scrolling through apps or reading online to playing games. Expect to see higher-refresh-rate screens becoming a bigger talking point for future smartphones.
In your choice of basic black or blinged-out bronze, you can enter the fold of folding smartphones, which have come a way since their initial 1.0 versions. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 is a future-proofed 5G smartphone (with Wi-Fi 6 support, of course), but the real shining star is the multi-screen options.
On the front of the phone is a 6.2-inch screen, but fold it open for a 7.6-inch inner display, which amounts to a measurable screen real estate bonus. As smartphones feel capped at a certain front screen size before they can’t easily slip into a pocket or purse, foldable phones like the Fold2 are the answer to portability and presentation.
Compared to its predecessor, the Fold2 has a better main camera (64 megapixels instead of 12), a beefier battery for better longevity (4500mAh vs 4380), and a bigger fold-out screen with a better resolution (1536×2152 resolution vs 1689×2213 resolution, and 7.3 inches vs 7.7 inches).
You might think that foldable phones are a fad, but that’s not what the experts are saying. According to renowned analyst Bob O’Donnell, foldable smartphones have the potential to fold out to a 75 per cent market share. O’Donnell anticipates that as foldable phones become more ubiquitous, the asking price will be noticeably lower, too.
Fold vs flat
Buying a foldable smartphone like the Fold2 is like buying a supercharged flat phone. The front screen, in the usual place you’d expect it to be on a smartphone, is perfectly usable. So it’s not like you need to fold open your phone whenever you want to perform a basic task (or any task for that matter). But then you have the option of folding open to a larger screen that makes basic tasks like texting or web browsing easier and clearer. The real benefits come from activities like watching videos or reading digital magazines or comics.
At its core, the Asus ROG Phone 3 is all about gaming. That makes sense given the gaming pedigree of Asus, but what makes for a great gaming smartphone also makes for a premium handset. For starters, there’s a stunning 6.59-inch AMOLED screen. You can activate 144Hz mode for silky-smooth gaming, but it’s also great for everyday functionality.
The low-latency 1ms response rate combined with the beefy Snapdragon 865 processor and generous 12GB of RAM means the ROG Phone 3 effortlessly keeps up with demanding smartphone games or a mountain of multitasking.
Best of all, because games tend to drain batteries faster than typical use, Asus has sagely included a 6000mAh battery. It’ll keep you in the game for longer, but it also amounts to multi-day longevity for normal use. The cherry on top of all of this power is 5G support, which is the right gaming companion for online play but, coupled with Wi-Fi 6, makes the ROG Phone 3 a seriously future-proofed handset.
Anyone who’s serious about their smartphone gaming will know that intensive games not only quickly drain a handset’s battery, they can also heat up the phone in your hands. The ROG Phone 3 has a massive internal heatsink to keep things cooler. If that’s not enough, you can optionally connect the bundled AeroActive Cooler 3 accessory to add additional cooling. It even offers pass-through charging if you’re running out of juice.
To 5G or not 5G
If you’re in the market for a new handset, it’s absolutely worth considering a 5G smartphone. Not only are they compatible with the existing 3G and 4G networks, they’re able to tap into the low-latency, high-speed perks of the incredibly speedy 5G network. Without a 5G-compatible handset, you won’t be able to take advantage of those 5G perks. Granted, 5G isn’t yet as widespread as 4G, but expect that to change in the coming months.
Those previous Samsung handsets are great flagship models for those who don’t mind investing more in their smartphone experiences. But mid-range Android smartphones are also a great choice for the more budget-conscious purchaser.
That “FE” in the phone title is short for “Fan Edition”, and we reckon you’ll be a fan of this mid-tier Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Offered in your choice of 4G or slightly more expensive 5G variants, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE gets a triple-lens rear camera configuration (12MP/12MP/8MP), 128GB of internal storage, and microSD storage expansion potentiality up to 1TB.
The main event on the front is a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 1080p+ resolution, plus you can crank up the refresh rate to 120Hz for smoother use that’s easier on the eyes. At the top of the Infinity-O Display you’ll find a 32-megapixel selfie camera for high-res pics of yours truly.
You can safely expect all-day battery care of a 4,500mAh battery, which also supports wireless charging. Outside of 5G connectivity, the other big difference between the two is the standard Exynos 990 processor in the regular S20 FE and the faster Snapdragon 865 CPU for the 5G variant.
Normally, when it comes to cheaper mid-tier equivalents of flagship handsets – as is the case with the budget-friendly Google Pixel 4a vs premium-priced Google Pixel 4 – it’s all about the features that are missing. But the Pixel 4a comes with a still-popular inclusion that’s missing from the Pixel 4: a 3.5mm audio jack.
Despite the cheaper price, the Pixel 4a still boasts a gorgeous 1080p+ 5.81-inch OLED screen. It’s also powered by a snappy Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor and 128GB of internal storage. For the smartphone happy-snappers out there, the Pixel 4a camera has deep photography features, including Live HDR+, dual exposure, Night Sight and an impressive zoom.
You don’t need to be an experienced photographer, either; user-friendly controls mean even the most inexperienced photographers can snap great results. This welcome user-friendliness extends to an improved Google Assistant that lets you control basic and in-depth functions with just your voice. The battery is built to last a full day and fast-charging gets you from dry to juiced in no time.
Whether you want to get all of the perks of a premium-priced handset or opt for a mid-tier Android alternative, these featured smartphones are great for upgrade consideration and even better if you’re a first-time Android user.
In terms of what you’re missing out on between a Google Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4a comparison, the former is built with more premium features. For starters, you’ll feel a difference with the metal-and-glass build of the Pixel 4, which also includes dust and water resistance, as well as wireless charging. As for accessing the phone, the Pixel 4a uses a fingerprint scanner whereas the Pixel 4 uses front-facing sensors for face unlocks. By ditching those, the Pixel 4a keeps the cost down and makes for a front that’s basically all screen and no bezel.
As smartphones get smarter, so too does the need for more robust security. The Pixel 4a has some great security features, which starts with a Titan M security chip. This chip is built to secure both your operating system and passwords. It will receive support for at least the next three years, all via discrete background downloads, and Google’s integrated Personal Safety app can be used to store medical info, emergency contacts, and can even detect if you’ve been in a car crash.