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How to buy the best Android smartphone

By Oli McKean

There are hundreds of Android smartphones to choose from. We cut through the confusion to help you buy the best mobile phone.

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Most smartphones in the UK run on the Android operating system, and there are far more to choose from compared with iOS and Windows models. But which Android mobiles are worth having?

The best Android smartphones have razor-sharp screens, long-lasting battery life and handy features such as a fingerprint reader to unlock the phone for added security. They also take beautiful photos you'll be happy to share with friends and family, and provide serious competition to the latest Apple iPhones.

Unfortunately, we've also found shoddy Android handsets that disappoint so much we've made them Don't Buys. These smartphones are far from pleasurable to use - unless you're a fan of poor battery life, bad photos and dim displays. 

One key thing to remember when shopping for an Android phone is that price is not always a good indicator of quality.

Just want to browse all the handsets we've tested? Head straight to our mobile phone reviews.

How much does an Android smartphone cost?

Android smartphones vary wildly in cost. You can pick up a budget model for less than £50, or spend £600+ on a top-of-the-range option. But what do you get for your money?

If you want to spend less than £100, you can find some handsets that handle the basics well and offer good value for money. A word of caution, though: we've found some Don't Buy handsets in this price range.

You can spend less than £200 on a Best Buy mobile phone

Stretch your budget to up to £200 and there are some Best Buy phones to choose from - but these are fairly few and far between. Pick the right handset, and you'll get a phone that can run the latest apps smoothly, take decent photos and run on the fast 4G network. But there are lots of very mediocre phones at this price, too.

Spend £450 or more and you increase your chances of buying a high-quality smartphone with a dazzling and detailed screen, sleek design and impressive cameras.

Luckily, we've tested hundreds of smartphones to help you buy the best mobile phone for you, whatever your budget. Below, we've highlighted some of the best and worst Android smartphones. Plus, we run through the pros and cons of some of the key Android phone brands.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?

Our pick of the best Android smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S8
Which? score 93%
Reviewed May 2017
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
5 out of 5
Screen quality:
5 out of 5

This is an absolutely outstanding smartphone with a whole host of features. It offers loads of storage space, and it looks simply stunning. It's hard to find anything to fault with this mobile phone.

Huawei Mate 9
Which? score 79%
Reviewed Feb 2017
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This phone has a massive and vibrant display, so is a good choice for watching films on the go. It's really fast and breezes through our tests - a fantastic Best Buy option.

LG G6
Which? score 78%
Reviewed May 2017
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This smartphone has a nice and clear display, the camera takes generally good photos, and its battery life is brilliant. Is it the perfect choice for your pocket?

Motorola Moto G5 Plus
Which? score 76%
Reviewed May 2017
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This smartphone is nothing short of amazing for its price. It has brilliant battery life, takes good photos and has some handy features. Interestingly, it does better overall in our tests than some other much pricier phones.

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Oct 2016
Best Buy
Battery:
5 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 5

This is our cheapest Best Buy mobile phone. It offers more than 25 hours of call time from a single charge, which is phenomenal. On top of this, it has a decent display and lets you have clear phone conversations.

And here are three Android smartphones to avoid

As so many different brands make Android smartphones, it's inevitable there'll be some duds you should avoid.

To help stop you making a poor decision, we've rounded up three of the worst Android smartphones we've seen from our tests.

Lenovo B
Which? score 33%
Reviewed Mar 2017
Don't buy
Battery:
3 out of 5
Camera:
2 out of 5
Screen quality:
1 out of 5

This phone is so poor that we've made it a Don't Buy. The low-resolution display is unpleasant to use, battery life isn't impressive and the cameras don't take good photos. It has a few redeeming features, but not enough to make it a phone worthy of recommendation.

Alcatel Onetouch Pixi 3 (3.5in)
Which? score 21%
Reviewed Jun 2016
Don't buy
Battery:
3 out of 5
Camera:
1 out of 5
Screen quality:
1 out of 5

This smartphone is so slow, and the screen is so poor that it makes for a very infuriating experience. Even if you're new to smartphones and considering this as a starter model, we simply can't recommend it.

Vodafone Smart First 7
Which? score 16%
Reviewed Jun 2016
Don't buy
Battery:
2 out of 5
Camera:
1 out of 5
Screen quality:
1 out of 5

This is an awful mobile phone that you should steer clear of at all costs. It has one of the worst screens that we've ever seen, it's slow and the battery life is abysmal.

Who makes Android smartphones?

Android is an operating system from Google. But you’ll find Android on a wide range of mobiles in all shapes and sizes, from companies such as Samsung, LG and Motorola. Below we look at some of the biggest names, and the pros and cons of each one.

Samsung

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-range handset, you might consider the more expensive Samsung models. They generally have good-quality screens, fast processors and innovative design. But Samsung isn’t always the best option for buyers on a budget, as we've previously found Don't Buy cheaper Samsung phones.

Pros Wide range, impressive premium models, innovative design

Cons Quality can be hit and miss, especially at the budget end

Interested in a Samsung smartphone? Check out all our Samsung mobile phone reviews.

LG

LG offers a wide range of phones, from cheaper options to expensive models. The brand is at its best at the top end of the range, with its pricier handsets offering detailed screens and all-day battery life. Some LG high-end handsets have quirky features, including a modular design on the G5 smartphone.

Pros Quirky designs, impressive high-end models

Cons Lower-spec models are sometimes disappointing

Take a look at all our LG smartphone reviews.

Motorola

Motorola changed the smartphone market with the release of its Moto G in 2013. This was the first cheap mobile to offer a decent screen, powerful processor and reasonable cameras. Since then it has built on its success and the Moto G range is well worth considering, especially for those looking to spend £150 or less. It offers an even cheaper range in the form of the Moto E, which covers the basics but has a cheap plasticky cover.  

Pros Motorola usually gets the basics right for those on a budget

Cons Its phones often lack the wow factor and aren’t always very fast

Looking for a budget handset? Click here for all our Motorola smartphone reviews.

Google

In 2016, Google brought out its pricey Pixel phones, to compete with expensive Apple and Samsung models. Both the Pixel and Pixel XL have a fingerprint reader and Google Assistant built in, and Google claims they're the best camera smartphones you can buy. You can also still pick up some of Google's older Nexus phones, which offer a decent set of specs at a more affordable price - but they're less widely available than they used to be. 

Pros Great for Android purists, decent range to choose from

Cons No real budget options

Interested in a Google handset? Head straight to our Google smartphone reviews.

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