The end of the year is often a great time to buy a new smartphone as holiday discounts abound. If you’re looking to get a new device, here are some of the best Android phones we’d recommend in late 2021.
Best overall: Google Pixel 6
The almost no-brainer in the Android market today is Google’s Pixel 6. The flagship-tier smartphone has one of the longest support commitments of any Android device, one of the best cameras on a smartphone in 2021, and an excellent price to make it a great value.
For $599, the Pixel 6 offers up 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, Google’s own Tensor chip, and a 50MP rear camera that’s physically larger and higher in resolution compared to any previous Pixel. Leveraging the AI focus of Tensor, Google has also significantly upgraded video quality on Pixel 6 as well as speeding up processing times. The Pixel 6 also has a 6.4-inch 90Hz display and an in-display fingerprint sensor.
Beyond that, the phone runs on top of Android 12 out of the box with Google’s clever wallpaper-based system themes. Google will offer the Pixel 6 software updates for three years and security updates for five years following its launch. That means you can safely use the device for five years, longer than any other Android smartphone. The standard Pixel 6 is sold unlocked with 5G support, but without the ultrafast mmWave speeds. Carrier variants, though, do support this.
At $599, as low as $499 around Black Friday, the Pixel 6 is one of the best values in any device today, but especially when it comes to buying an Android phone. Further, the $899 Pixel 6 Pro is a great option, too, if you can find it in stock, with an added 4x optical zoom camera, a faster and bigger 120Hz display, and a bit more RAM.
Well-rounded and on sale: Samsung Galaxy S21
Samsung’s Galaxy S series is the most popular line of flagship smartphones for a reason; because they nail the basics and offer an overall great experience without any obvious flaws, and around the holiday season, these devices are on sale for some stellar deals.
The Galaxy S21 series consists of three devices – the Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra. The S21 and S21+ offer up two 12MP rear cameras for standard and ultrawide shots, with a third 64MP telephoto shooter. The S21 has a 6.2-inch, 1080p display while the S21+ has a 6.7-inch 1080p display, both of which use striking AMOLED panels and a 120Hz refresh rate. Meanwhile, the S21 Ultra upgrades to a 6.8-inch 1440p display at the same refresh rate.
Under the hood, all of these phones pack the Snapdragon 888 processor, full 5G support, 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of storage.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is undoubtedly the best phone out of this trio, with a 108MP rear camera, 12MP ultrawide, a 10MP 3x telephoto camera, and a 10MP 10x telephoto camera. It’s one of our favorite cameras on a smartphone today.
Samsung has also rolled out Android 12 to the Galaxy S21 series already, with these devices set to get three years of major updates and up to four years of regular security updates. This doesn’t quite match Google’s promise, but it’s still among the best in the Android phone space in 2021.
The Galaxy S21 series starts at $799, but all models have been on sale quite often around the holidays.
Best for battery life: Google Pixel 5a
If you’re on a budget or just want the best battery life possible, it’s hard to beat Google’s Pixel 5a. The 6.34-inch mid-ranger packs a Snapdragon 765G processor, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a huge battery.
A 4,680 mAh battery sips power from that capacity, as Kyle Bradshaw explained in our full review. With nearly 12 hours of active use on a single charge, it genuinely is some of the best battery life in any smartphone today, and it charges at 18W over USB-C.
Rounding out the experience is a 12MP rear camera, a 16MP ultrawide camera, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and an IP67 water resistance rating. The Pixel 5a is currently eligible for Android 12 and will receive updates both major and for security through August 2024.
For its $449 price, which has already seen cuts around the holidays, it’s a great package on the whole and easily one of the best Android phones you can get during the 2021 holiday season.
Buy Pixel 5a:Google Store
The power user’s favorite: OnePlus 9/Pro
Finally, another pair of our top picks comes with the OnePlus 9 series. The duo of Android smartphones reaches the title of best not for their raw specs, but because they’re great for power users.
Where Samsung phones and Pixels are designed primarily for the average Joe, OnePlus still has a relatively strong focus on the enthusiast community. This includes on-device sideloading for new software updates, the ability to change system colors with any color, an option to clone apps to have two instances running at once, and a special gaming mode that can block notifications, optimize performance, and more.
OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro both run on the Snapdragon 888 processor with a camera system tuned by Hasselblad, which for the most part, is pretty solid with its 50MP primary camera. The spec sheet is rounded out with up to 12GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, a 120Hz display on the Pro model, and a 4,500 mAh battery that charges up at 65W with the included charger. Pricing on the series starts at $729, but both phones are often on sale – Amazon especially discounts them on a regular basis.
What phones are you looking at?
These are our top picks, but what smartphones are you considering this holiday season? The beauty of Android is choice, so drop a comment below and let us know what you might be buying.
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