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Finder's expert team has tested and reviewed every single phone featured in this guide to come up with our list of the best Android smartphones. Testing involves considering the performance, battery life, cameras, design and overall value for money.
Our editorial team selected the phones on this list based on their overall quality and value compared to other phones on the market. The selection and order is not based on review scores.
Samsung has newer phones than the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, but it takes our top spot because – just as it did when it was brand new – it distils the best that Samsung can do in the Android arena and gives it to you at a highly compelling price point. That's only improved as the newer Galaxy S21 and Galaxy A series have arrived, frankly.
The 5G version features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, a very capable camera and a slick 120Hz capable display at a reasonable price for a premium phone. It's worth spending extra for the 5G model even if you don't want next-gen connectivity, as the 4G variant makes do with a lower-power Exynos processor. In either case, you'll want to use that 120Hz display feature sparingly, because it can be a real battery hog.
It's a very close run at the top between Samsung's affordable S20 FE and the more technologically advanced Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. Certainly, if you're looking for the best of the best in regular Android handsets right now, this is our easy pick of the bunch.
The S21 Ultra 5G is basically a Note phone thanks to its S-Pen compatibility, although annoyingly, there's no included stylus. Match that with some of the best app performance we've seen from any Android handset to date and some really impressive camera tech, and you've got a phone that almost lives up to its asking price.
There are some other annoyances too, though. The 100x "Space Zoom" is a gimmick, and it's really not clear why it doesn't support any level of storage expansion. The Exynos-based models we see in Australia are also slower than the Qualcomm versions sold in the USA. It doesn't seem likely that Samsung's going to opt for a 2021 actual Galaxy Note refresh right now, especially as the Galaxy Z Fold3 supports the S-Pen as well. As such, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G remains Samsung's more sensible flagship – and a superb phone in its own right.
Google's shifted to and fro on whether the Pixel line should be premium priced or more affordable and, in 2020, it swung towards the more affordable side of the equation. Its best phone of the lot is the Google Pixel 4a 5G, thanks to its larger display, the inclusion of an actual headphone jack and that super-smart AI-led Google camera at the rear.
However, the use of the cheaper Snapdragon 765G processor does leave its performance wanting compared to other flagships. It's not exactly a pretty phone either, and we know that the Pixel 6 family is coming soon, even though Google doesn't seem keen to launch the Pixel 5a down under.
However, the Pixel 6 phones are expected to swing back to the premium side of the pricing fence, which may leave the Pixel 4a 5G in rather good standing.
Vivo isn't a brand that's too well known to Australians. It's yet another make out of Chinese mega-firm BBK Electronics, owners of the Oppo, realme and OnePlus brands. The Vivo X60 Pro 5G is competitively priced for its feature set, mostly. Its Snapdragon 870 processor is fair for the price, and its gimbal stabilisation feature really does make it simple to take good photos, even if you're a novice.
Weighing against that is the fact that this is a premium phone that skips out on a few expected premium features, such as water resistance and wireless charging. Battery life isn't spectacular, either, although that's true of many 5G handsets.
In the phone space, ASUS has delivered a number of surprisingly good phones under its ROG sub-brand, but for value for money, it's hard to look past the ASUS Zenfone 8. It's also one of very few compact Android phones that doesn't compromise on performance, packing in a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 under its 5.9-inch Super AMOLED 120Hz display.
That makes it a good choice for Android performance fans who hate the whole large phones/phablet trend, although there are some compromises along the way. Battery life in our tests varied a lot, and the cameras are quite plain for a flagship phone in 2021.
The real flagship in the Oppo range at the time of writing is actually the Oppo Find X3 Pro.
So why have we chosen the more affordable Find X3 Neo instead? It's partly because it is more affordable than Oppo's flagship. But it's also because you'll get more everyday use out of the Find X3 Neo's quad camera array than you will the fancy-but-not-functionally-useful microscope camera on the Find X3 Pro. The Snapdragon 870 on the Find X3 Neo isn't the fastest competitor on the block, but it's more than enough for most Android apps.
You will have to put up with Oppo's somewhat garish ColorOS overlay on top of regular Android, as well as a lack of water resistance, which is annoying.
Samsung's range of Android phones in Australia is very wide, which can make picking between them quite difficult. We would rate the S20 FE and S21 Ultra 5G over the Galaxy S21, but if you don't want a phone that big, this is still a very good option.
Samsung's curved contour design really shines on the smaller Galaxy S21, making for a phone that looks really cool while also being easy to use with a single hand. The underlying Exynos 2100 processor is good for just about every Android app, although – as is almost always the case with Samsung phones – the US Qualcomm models are just that wee bit better.
HMD Global (the company with the rights to produce Nokia-branded phones) mostly plays in the budget and low mid-range parts of the Android ecosystem. To date, its premium phones have felt lacking, even if devices like the Nokia 9 Pureview were genuinely different.
The Nokia 8.3 5G's calling card is its battery life, scoring the highest level of battery endurance we've seen in any Android handset to date. This is a phone that just keeps on going, and it's pleasant to use when it does, thanks to HMD's hands-off approach to Android. That also makes it easier to update, with a guaranteed 3 years of updates under the Android One banner.
However, it's not all positives. The cameras are heavily hyped, but we found them rather lacking in our tests. Unlike many flagships, you don't get any level of IP-rated water resistance, and wireless charging is also absent.
Foldable phones have commanded a price premium since their introduction, but Samsung has tried to combat that with the Galaxy Z Flip3. No, it's not a low-cost budget foldable, but it is priced substantially below the premium expected of prior foldable generations.
There's a lot to like about this phone, most notably the easy way you can fold it in half to make it easier to carry. The external cover display has been expanded, making it far more useful for notifications and a limited range of widgets. There's even IP-rated water resistance and a tougher internal display covering to keep it going.
However, its dual camera set-up feels out of place on a $1,499 phone in 2021. The folding nature of the Galaxy Z Flip3 means that the screen crease is always visible. Our biggest issue with the Galaxy Z Flip3 is its battery endurance – or, more accurately, its lack of battery endurance. It's a flagship phone that all too often fails to last a single day of regular usage, and that's not great. However, if you can live with its battery limitations, it's a fascinating device.
The Pixel 4a has technically been superseded by the Pixel 5a, but Google doesn't seem to want to sell that phone to Australians just yet. That leaves Google's Pixel 4a as a good option if you don't need 5G or the larger display on the Pixel 4a 5G. Like all Pixels, you get the benefits of Google's computational photography for your happy snaps, as well as the assurance of the fastest Android security and full OS upgrades.
The big catch here is that because Google's now selling the Pixel 5a, it appears to have stopped making the Google Pixel 4a. That makes it a tough phone to track down on virtual or actual store shelves.
Google's Android operating system runs more phones than any other, having entirely seen off Windows Phone and taken significant market share from Apple's iOS. It's where we see the most innovation, year in and year out – whether it's in battery capacity, new camera features or consumer-friendly ways to make each Android device your own.
That means it's much more than just a game of comparing specifications, especially as the vast majority of premium phones run off the same OS and mostly the same core processors. Premium Android phones bring features such as improved camera optics, wireless charging, large high-resolution displays and stylish finishes with robust glass.
Here at Finder, we've reviewed all of the flagship smartphones that have launched in Australia, putting them through their paces to see which is best. We've argued long and hard to create this list of 2021's best smartphones, which we update constantly.
|Display||AMOLED displays don't need a backlight – screen pixels are actually turned off to produce blacks, which can save energy. Super AMOLED has improved visibility in direct sunlight. LCD displays use a backlight, which reduces contrast. An IPS LCD display has truer colour reproduction and looks better when you view the screen at an angle.|
|RAM||RAM is your phone's short-term memory. When you use an app, instead of writing data to your phone's internal storage or SD card (long-term memory), the data is stored in the device's RAM so it can be recalled quickly and easily when it's needed. The more RAM, the better – and in the premium space, that typically means 4GB or more. When the RAM reaches capacity on an Android phone, RAM is recycled through a memory-heavy process called garbage collection.|
|Megapixels||MP is short for megapixels and is generally accepted as a guide for image quality. More megapixels doesn't mean a better-looking photo. Megapixels are about the maximum size of the image in relation to image quality. The more megapixels, the larger you can blow up your picture without it becoming distorted.|
|Sensor size||Too many megapixels for a small image sensor will ruin the image quality.|
Amazon prices last updated on 29 November, 2021 at 08:05 am
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