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When it's time to buy a new smartphone, everyone has different wants and needs. Thankfully, Android has a lot of smartphones that come in all sizes, prices, specs, and even shapes. Whether you need a foldable phone with the latest Snapdragon chip, one of the best budget phones of the year that balances power and price, or something guaranteed to get the latest version of Android before everything else, there's a phone on this list for you.

As we approach the final quarter of 2023, most of the year's phones have already been released, but the Pixel 8 is still on the horizon. But until that phone launches, these are the best phones of 2023.

Your next daily carry should be one of the best Android phones

Render of the Pixel 7 Pro in Hazel
Source: Google
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Best overall

Best all-around Android experience

$649 $899 Save $250

The Pixel 7 Pro is Google's most powerful flagship yet, even if it's only a small leap over its predecessor. With a refined design, improved camera hardware — including a 5x telephoto lens — and the Tensor G2 chipset, it's an impressive device, even well into 2023. But it's Google's software where the Pixel 7 Pro really shines.

  • Excellent camera software
  • Biometrics are pretty reliable
  • Battery life is a little lackluster

The Pixel 6 Pro introduced a brand-new design for the Pixel family, and the Google Pixel 7 Pro has refined and perfected it. The camera bar is made of polished aluminum rather than glass like last year, so it holds up against knocks and drops better than the Pixel 6 series could. The screen is still curved, but less so than last year, striking a good balance between stylish looks and practical useability. Tensor G2 is a big step up from G1 if you look close enough. It isn't a benchmark-breaking powerhouse like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but the AI-powered features make up for that.

As has been the case since the original Pixel and even the Nexus 6P, the cameras are what make Google phones shine. The 50MP sensor from the Pixel 6 Pro returns again this year, but now it's able to take almost full-quality 2x images. The ultrawide camera saw the biggest improvement, finally pushing to the wider field of view other companies have been using for years and justifying its existence. This lens enables a decent macro mode, too.

Compare the 7 Pro to the regular Pixel 7, and you'll notice the biggest upgrade is the telephoto camera, which the regular 7 lacks. This 5x periscope system takes great photos and can be combined with super res mode to take photos up to 30x, although the quality starts to drop away rapidly past 10x.

google-pixel-7-pro 19

The 7 Pro isn't perfect, of course. Battery life is slightly below average, and some of the design choices for the regular Pixel 7 look better. Tensor G2 is also a pain point, even if it has improved over the last year. It gets very warm very fast, which doesn't help the battery, and signal issues can be abundant depending on where you live. Let's hope Tensor G3 can rectify this.

The regular Pixel 7 may be the better buy for most people. But it's getting harder than ever to ignore how good the telephoto lens is on the Pixel 7 Pro. So if you want to get the most out of mobile photography, the Pixel 7 Pro is where it's at — and that's why it earns our editor's choice placement as the best Android phone right now.

All of this said, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are on the way, set for an October 4th unveiling in New York City. If you can wait, we recommend holding off your purchase until those phones arrive.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Premium pick

A powerful phablet

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the Note replacement you've been waiting for. Samsung's hardware is second to none, with the curves of this phone's display more comfortable for writing and typing than ever before. But it's the cameras where this phone really shines, centered around a 200MP sensor that can perform equally in light and dark settings. Just be prepared to pay for this premium experience.

  • Best display in a smartphone
  • Incredibly powerful
  • Amazing camera array
  • Very expensive
  • Camera software has a few quirks

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra looks like a small upgrade over the S22 Ultra on paper, but if you live outside the US, it's one of the most important phones Samsung has made. In previous years, North America would get Snapdragon chips in their Galaxy devices while the rest of the world was stuck with Samsung-made Exynos processors. They were slower, hotter, and less efficient. That changed this year, with all S23 models getting a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy worldwide. One of our UK writers screamed loud enough to wake up his family when this news broke, and regrets nothing.

Aside from the excellent 8 Gen 2, which is already one of the best chips we've ever seen in Android, the rest of the S23 Ultra is an absolute monster. The 6.8-inch Super AMOLED display can go up to 120Hz at 1440p and reach 1,750 nits of peak brightness in the sunlight. The S Pen also features, letting users take advantage of that massive display to draw, edit documents, and navigate with ease.

While the Pixel 7 Pro is our favorite camera phone, the flexibility of Samsung's cameras shouldn't be ignored. The 200MP primary sensor is capable of taking some incredible photos, whether it's pixel binning to 12MP, shooting in 50MP mode, or going all out with full 200MP shots.

Sadly, the shutter lag is still an issue. You can remove it now by disabling Samsung's scene recognition software, but then the photos lose some of their punch. Enabling or disabling the scene optimizer based on what you're shooting is the best way to go, but it's still a faff compared to the ease of Pixel 7 Pro's cameras.

A hand holding a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

$1,200 is a lot of money for a phone, especially when that's just the starting price for the S23 Ultra. But Samsung's reputation for device support is stellar these days, and the Samsung of the TouchWiz days is nowhere to be found. The S23 Ultra will get four Android upgrades up to Android 17 (that's one more than the Pixel 7), with a fifth year of security patches, covering the phone to 2028. The price stops us from making this our main recommendation, but if you can afford $1,200 or get it on sale, this is the phone to beat.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 smartphone
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
Best clamshell smartphone

Samsung takes the cake

$940 $1000 Save $60

Samsung's latest flip phone takes the concept to the next level. While keeping everything we loved about the Z Flip 4 around, the Z Flip 5 adds an expansive 3.4-inch front display loaded with widgets, apps, and more. It's like a smartwatch glued to the front of your phone. All of this, plus a thinner chassis that fits in your pocket better than ever.

  • Flex Window is impressively useful
  • Flatter design
  • Pure fun in a smartphone
  • No telephoto lens
  • Battery life is fine, but charging is slow
  • Flex Window app support can feel a little janky

The Motorola Razr+ set the new standard for cover screens — don't worry, we recommend that phone further down in this guide — but it's hard to argue with Samsung's success in this market. That success is earned thanks to the years of polish that has gone into both the hardware and software for the Galaxy Z Flip 5.

The hinge now folds completely flat, preventing dust from getting at your foldable screen when closed. But the real star of the show is the new 3.4-inch cover screen that finally takes this secondary display from gimmick to useful. It can preview notifications, show widgets, let you respond to messages with a full keyboard, and even run any app you like through Good Lock.

There are a couple of differences in how Samsung and Motorola approached their respective smartphones. Samsung's widgets are leaps and bounds better than what you'll find on the Razr+, while Motorola allows you to open apps by default without jumping through hoops to add third-party services. Even then, though, Samsung does show some serious design chops when compared to the Razr, especially in terms of build quality.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 5 on wood with the weather widget showing.

Honestly, it's up to you which clamshell device you prefer. While some might prefer the cleaner build of Android seen on the Motorola Razr+ it's hard to argue with the fit and polish here. Samsung has really mastered the art of crafting a modern clamshell phone. Now it just needs to figure out how to squeeze a telephoto lens into one.

Moto Edge+ (2023)
Best Pixel alternative

A competent, affordable flagship

$700 $800 Save $100

The Moto Edge+ is the perfect alternative for anyone looking to avoid the Samsung-Google duopoly of the Android market. With excellent performance, long-lasting battery life, and an affordable price point, there's not much to not like here.

  • Total bargain for these specs
  • Excellent mix of performance and efficiency
  • Fast-wired charging with a brick in the box
  • Slippery phone with curved edges and silky matte glass
  • Motorola's skin can feel a little barebones
  • Camera still can't quite compete with Google

Frankly, we're as surprised to see this year's Moto Edge + finding its way onto this list as you are. Previous flagship entries in the Edge series have ranged from absolutely average to disappointing at best, but with this year's phone, Motorola kind of crushed it.

But this entry is deserved, and we couldn't be happier to see Moto returning to form. This phone combines the killer efficiency of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 with a 5,100mAh battery, all while maintaining a thin build. Every edge of this chassis is curved, resulting in sleek device that feels so smooth in the hand. It won't be for everyone, but we like it, and people who don't will cover it with a case anyway.


But previous Motorola flagships have had performance on their side, so why does the Edge+ get special treatment? Because the rest of the phone keeps up. The camera system may still be behind Samsung and Google, but it's closer than ever and easily the best Moto has ever offered. Most importantly, Moto has finally revised its update policy so it will be supported for years to come. Combine the specs, stock-android software, and the 512GB with a $800 price, and you have a winning formula.

Google Pixel 7a blue render, front and back
Source: Google
Google Pixel 7a
A step up from the Pixel 6a

Google's new cheap winner

The Pixel 7a improves on its predecessor in nearly every way. From a larger camera sensor to wireless charging, a 90Hz display to a reinforced frame, there's very little difference remaining between this phone and the flagship Pixel 7. Unfortunately, its price tag is also higher than in previous years, placed just $100 less than Google's mainline smartphone.

  • Best photos on a smartphone under $500, bar none
  • New colors and a plastic back improve the Pixel 7's design
  • New features like a 90Hz display and wireless charging
  • Battery life is somewhere between disastrous and subpar
  • Higher price than previous generations
  • Slow charging speeds, especially wireless

Since the Pixel 3a debuted, mid-range phones have become hard to ignore, and the same can be said of the Pixel 7a. We already loved the 6a, but this upgrades everything to make the best Pixel A-series device yet. The display is finally 90Hz, wireless charging has made its appearance, and Tensor G2, the same chip from the flagship Pixels, has made its way down to this device.

Being a Pixel, this takes the best photos of anything in this price range, but it doesn't keep up with the Pixel 7 or 7 Pro. Likewise, the display is a step-down, even though they look similar on paper. Viewing angles aren't as good, especially when 90Hz is enabled, and wireless charging is limited to 5W, while the Pixel 7 can achieve 15W. Battery life leaves a lot to be desired too, which most of our team struggling to get five hours of screen time.


If you're considering the Pixel 7a, keep in mind that the Pixel 7 and Pixel 6a remain good options as well. If you're looking to save some cash, the Pixel 6a delivers a good experience for just $350 — or less if you can find it on sale.

Meanwhile, the Pixel 7 is a slightly better version of the Pixel 7a, and occasionally, you can find it for the same $500 price tag as this phone. With that discount, it's totally worth grabbing Google's more expensive flagship phone. And yes, we're aware of how complicated the company's lineup is; it confuses us too.

Moto Razr+ (2023) in Viva Magenta
Source: Motorola
Moto Razr+ (2023)
Best Samsung foldable alternative

The best '00s nostalgia you can buy

$900 $1000 Save $100

The Motorola Razr+ is everything we've wanted from a clamshell foldable. The front screen is fun and functional, capable of everything from firing off emails to controlling music to playing games. Inside, you'll find a standard smartphone experience on a large 6.9" display. Throw in a relatively affordable price, and you're cooking with gas.

  • Front screen is surprisingly capable
  • Decent battery life for a small device
  • Phones haven't been this fun in forever
  • Motorola's software updates can take a while to roll out
  • Cameras aren't great
  • Faux leather on the magenta option won't be for everyone

Samsung has long held its crown as the foldable king, largely thanks to an absence of rivals in the US. And while Google stopped short of claiming the Galaxy Z Fold-series' crown, Motorola has had more luck on the clamshell side. The Motorola Razr+ is an exceptionally fun phone, and as long as you can deal with some inconsistent — and often mediocre — cameras, there's a lot to love here.

On the inside, you'll find a pretty typical Android experience. An ultra-tall 6.9" display looks and feels like your regular Motorola phone, right down to the twist and chop gestures for the camera and flashlight, respectively. It's the outside of the phone where the Razr+ really shines. That 3.6-inch, 1:1 display might sound small on paper, but it's surprisingly capable of accomplishing most everyday tasks. From sending a text to looking up directions, this screen makes it easy to keep your phone folded when you don't need it, all while saving on battery life in the process.

The Moto Razr+ cover screen with a fall themed background being held in a hand

As with all foldables, the cameras are the big weak point here. Motorola has always struggled to keep up with the likes of Google and Samsung, and that's still true. They're not completely incapable, but you shouldn't expect anything amazing. Still, after taking a couple of years off, this latest Razr is an astounding achievement for Motorola. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a fascinating device — in some ways, far better than this one — but the phone that fits your life will really come down to personal taste.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
The premium foldable

Ultimate phone-and-tablet hybrid

$1400 $1800 Save $400

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 might be a boring upgrade for anyone already converted to the foldable lifestyle, but if you're new to the club, this is the one to get. With a refined design and excellent big screen-ready software, the Z Fold 5 is another great foldable from Samsung. We're just hoping for something a little fresher next year.

  • Slimmer, pocket-ready chassis
  • Good battery life
  • One UI remains great on foldables
  • 25W charging feels so slow
  • New features or changes are few and far between
  • Same cameras as last year

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 might not feel as exciting as previous foldables, but what worked well last year still works well on Samsung's latest release. This year's big improvement is a new hinge that allows the entire phone to fold flat for a thinner, lighter chassis. It's a change you'll only notice if you're coming from an older Z-series phone — and, frankly, no one with a Z Fold 4 or even a Z Fold 3 in decent shape should upgrade — but it's a welcome improvement nonetheless.

Most of this phone is the same as last year's, and it all starts with the screens. You'll find the same external 6.2" display paired with an expansive 7.6" inner screen, perfect for productivity. As a bonus, this year's folding display is brighter than ever before, matching the output of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. You still have S Pen support, complete with a new case. And thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, performance and efficiency are better than ever. Moreover, One UI feels designed from the ground up compared to the experience on the Pixel Fold.


You might expect such an iterative upgrade to come with a price cut, but Samsung has kept its foldable ultra-expensive. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 once again starts at $1,800 for the 256GB model, with prices only going up from there. While we expect (or maybe just hope for) a more exciting model in 2024, the Z Fold 5 proves Samsung has retained its foldable crown for a reason.

OnePlus 11 smartphone green render
Source: OnePlus
OnePlus 11
Stellar battery life

A return to form for OnePlus

$600 $700 Save $100

The OnePlus 11 is a return to form for the company. It sports an excellent display, improved build quality back up to par with the original OnePlus 10 Pro, and the company's signature fast charging. Its camera system is also pretty solid, thanks in part to the Hasselblad color science returning for a third generation. Even the alert slider has made its grand comeback.

  • Excellent battery life
  • Ultra-fast charging speeds
  • Excellent specs for the price
  • No wireless charging
  • OxygenOS 13 remains a pretty mixed bag

OnePlus is coming off a rough couple of years, but the OnePlus 11 is here to right the ship. This phone sports a high-res and ultra-fast display, perfect for movies and gaming. In addition, its build quality feels back up to par with the original OnePlus 10 Pro, even if its glossy green variant feels a bit too slippery in our hands. The Hasselblad color science is back for its third generation, and while the overall camera system isn't as impressive as the best you'll find from Google and Samsung, you can still score some pretty great shots. Even the alert slider has made its grand comeback.

The OnePlus 11's best feature, though, might be its battery. A massive 5,000mAh cell is good enough for two full days of use on a single charge, and with its bundled 80W charger — 100W outside the US — you can fully charge the phone in just about half an hour. And yes, the alert slider has made its grand comeback.

OnePlus 11 lying on a green backdrop

Granted, this phone isn't perfect. OxygenOS 13 is still a bit of a post-Oppo mess, a far cry from the days of completely clean builds. Meanwhile, its design is a little uninspired, combining a generic glass slab with a massive circular camera module. But for $700, it's a solid alternative to Samsung's Galaxy S23+, delivering a similar experience while keeping $300 in your pocket. Not too shabby, OnePlus.

Samsung Galaxy S23-1
Samsung Galaxy S23
Great compact flagship

The small S23 is finally good!

$550 $800 Save $250

Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra and S23+ might be more popular choices thanks to their larger displays, but if you're after the same sort of power in a more compact package, the base Galaxy S23 is the phone for you. With a near-identical specs sheet, this is the best compact phone experience you'll find with Android in 2023.

  • Improved battery life over its predecessor
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is efficient and powerful
  • Compact design and easy to hold
  • 25W charging is slow
  • Camera struggles slightly in low-light

The Galaxy S23 Ultra and S23+ are excellent phones in their own right, but they're also huge. If you're looking for something a little easier to hold, Samsung's smallest Galaxy S23 shouldn't be missed. It matches those larger models in nearly every way — Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, 8GB of RAM, the same camera lineup as the S23+ — but in a much smaller package. Its display is limited to 1080p but looks plenty sharp, thanks to the smaller panel. Unfortunately, you'll have to settle in a couple of key areas, as the S23 is downgraded to UFS 3.1 storage (only the 128GB; 256GB has 4.0) and 25W wired fast charging.

Lavender Samsung Galaxy S23

Don't let those sacrifices get you down, though. The Galaxy S23 still represents the best small phone Samsung has made since the days of the Galaxy S10e nearly half a decade ago. It sports phenomenal battery life for its size, capable of up to two days on a single charge depending on your use case. And everything else we love about the S23 series is here as well, including an excellent design, great camera quality, and One UI 5.1.

Render of the back and front of the OnePlus Nord N30
Source: OnePlus
OnePlus Nord N30 5G
Best OnePlus Nord phone

An affordable Pixel 7a alternative

$270 $300 Save $30

Although it's not quite the replacement for the Nord N20 we envisioned, the OnePlus Nord N30 5G is a competent phone in its own right. With a faster display, solid battery life, and an affordable price, it's a solid offering — though we miss the AMOLED panel on the N20.

  • New 90Hz refresh rate
  • Solid battery life
  • Fast-charging budget phone
  • No AMOLED panel
  • Build quality feels cheap
  • Identical processor as the N20

We loved last year's Nord N20 5G, but OnePlus has decided to take the series in a new direction in 2023. The Nord N30 5G is more of a revision than a true successor, ditching some of our favorite elements of the N20 while improving others. The base design just isn't as unique looking, and the glossy plastic picks up plenty of scratches right out of the box. The display has been boosted to 90Hz, but at the same time, a swap from AMOLED to LCD means you won't see an always-on display here. And even the specs haven't seen much improvement, with the same Snapdragon 695 chip still employed.

Image of the OnePlus Nord N20

So while it's not quite the knockout hit that the Nord N20 was last year, it's still a competent, affordable device. Battery life is excellent, for example, and fast charging is a rarity in this price range. If you can get over the shortcomings on display here, the Nord N30 5G is a solid budget buy. Still, if you find an N20 in stock, you might be better off with that phone. Alternatively, you can also check out the Nord N300 5G. It's not quite as sleek or powerful as this phone, but it's a bit cheaper, making for a good alternative if you're on T-Mobile.

Asus ROG Phone 7 product box
Source: Asus
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
Best gaming phone

Absolute maximum power

If you're looking for the best gaming experience on Android, this is it. Packing all of the power you could want, the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate includes every gamer's need to get the most out of their favorite titles, right down to two USB-C ports. It's a big, expensive phone — but for many, that's exactly what the doctor ordered.

  • Large, fast display
  • Huge battery
  • All the specs you could want
  • Display might be a little too large for some
  • Expensive
  • No headphone jack

The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has dethroned its predecessor as one of the best gaming phones around, especially now that it's available in the US. Like the ROG Phone 6, this device is an absolute monster, with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, a massive 6.78", 1080p, 165Hz display, and a 6,000mAh battery guaranteed to deliver multiple days of use on a single charge. However, you're paying for the benefit of something like this; it starts at $1,300.

Asus ROG Phone 7 review rear standing

Still, our review found that there's very little missing from the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, so long as you can deal with a couple of shortcomings. For one, it's bulky, big, and heavy. That comes with the territory, but not everyone is going to be comfortable using this phone. The cameras are exactly what you'd expect — this isn't a phone for photographers, so on-the-go gamers might need to keep some cash aside for a dedicated camera if it's another one of their passions. And, just to double down, it's an expensive phone, coming close to foldable territory in terms of pricing. If you can stomach all of that, though, this is as close to old-school Android phones as you'll find these days. All power, no compromise.

What's the best Android phone you can buy?

Whether you prefer your phone big or small, complex or blessedly streamlined, there's a brilliant Android phone for you. Google returned to steal our hearts with not one but two of the best phones you can buy today. If you're looking for an all-around fantastic phone, the Google Pixel 7 Pro is it. It sports a refined design over its predecessor, improved performance, and, most importantly, the best cameras on a smartphone today.

The primary sensor is just as good as it was in 2021, but the 5x telephoto is where the Pixel 7 Pro shines. It can take some incredible shots, and with Super Res Zoom, it can hit as high as 30x while retaining quality. The Pixel 7 Pro also manages to undercut its closest competition, Samsung. Truly, it's an impressive device. However, the Pixel 8 series is soon upon us, so we'd recommend waiting if you can.

Render of the Pixel 7 Pro in Hazel
Source: Google
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Best overall

Best all-around Android experience

$649 $899 Save $250

The Google Pixel 7 Pro might not look all that different from the Pixel 6 Pro, but it features some key upgrades that might cement it as the best in the series to date, and everything we loved about those last-gen phones remains the same. It's still packed with 12GB of RAM, features a huge 120Hz OLED display — now brighter than ever — and keeps the large camera bar design that, while not everyone's cup of tea, supports the phone from rocking back and forth on a table.


Q: What are the most important things to look for in an Android phone?

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the specifications and features thrown around in a phone's product listing or reviews. 100x zoom cameras, ultrasonic fingerprint sensors, S Pen stylus support, UWB, and the list goes ever on, but what do you actually need, and what’s just icing on the proverbial cake? There are four key features you should look at in a new phone — after you decide on your budget, of course.

  • Camera
  • Screen
  • Battery
  • Software & updates

Why isn’t processor or RAM in here? In recent years, the power of smartphone chipsets has more or less leveled out, and even the performance gap between mid-range and premium chipsets has shrunk considerably. In short, most phones in the same price bracket have the same level of performance, and in the flagship space, you’re already getting more memory than you probably need, too.

Q: What should you look for in a smartphone’s camera?

google pixel 6 pro samsung galaxy s22 ultra cameras

While the camera might not be the most important feature for some buyers, it’s a good indicator of overall speed, performance, and quality. For example, if a review mentions that the camera takes too long to open or too long between shots — such as on our Samsung Galaxy A53 review — when snapping multiple photos in succession, that’s a hint that the phone’s long-term performance might be more sluggish than what initial reviews indicate.

Camera speed becomes essential in many situations, such as grabbing a picture of a car fleeing an accident or capturing your daughter’s first steps. It’s also a good indicator of how your phone handles when under a heavy load. Camera features can also be vital depending on your use case. If you have small children or pets, you’ll want a camera that consistently does well with moving subjects. The Pixel 7's Real Tone — may appeal to users who despise their camera trying to whitewash them in every shot. If you go to concerts every weekend, you might care about zoom video and photography to get that perfect shot even when you’re twenty rows away.

Q: What matters most in a smartphone screen?

OnePlus 10 Pro review (8)

Most phones today come with screens in the 6.4 to 6.8-inch range, though aspect ratio certainly plays a role in how wide/narrow/tall/short a phone ends up feeling in your hand. If you prefer more petite devices, be prepared for a difficult search if you want to go smaller than the 6.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S23. Foldables like the Galaxy Z Flip 4 offer us a compact form factor in our pockets but a large screen when we want to scroll through our feed, so it’s a worthwhile compromise.

There are three other screen features to consider: curved screens, high refresh rates and maximum brightness. Curved screens can look lovely, but it’s often harder for tempered glass screen protectors to fit on them — and they can also be harder to grip without accidental touches. Some prefer the more seamless look of curved while others like the flat displays (and the lower price they often come with).

Flat or curved, refresh rates are now a feature to check whether you’re spending $200 or $1200 on new phones. The high the refresh rate on a screen, the more smoothly scrolling and other animations can appear on the screen. 60Hz is the classic rate, but 90Hz and 120Hz are becoming much more common, even among mid-range and budget phones like the Samsung Galaxy A14. The higher the refresh rate, the more time your screen refreshes its content in a minute, but it can also use more battery.

Another feature that you might not find in spec sheets is the screen’s maximum brightness, but it’s important for anyone who spends much of their time outdoors. If a screen doesn’t get very bright, it’ll be hard to read outside, but high-brightness modes are also handy when watching HDR content as you’ll get a wider dynamic range and be able to make out details better. You don’t necessarily need a screen that can reach 1,750 nits like the S23 Ultra, but 800 nits is a nice goal if you need to reliably, regularly use your phone outside in full sun.

Q: Why you should look at reviews, not spec sheets, for battery details?

The brighter your screen, the more power it consumes. However, battery is more than just a number on a spec sheet; be sure to read the reviews and see how that battery fares in actual use in reviews. While a good power bank or a fast phone charger can somewhat offset a smaller battery, nothing can replace getting a phone with a proper battery life from the start.

Smaller phones are more prone to weaker battery life — smaller housings mean less room for battery, after all — but larger phones aren’t immune to poor optimizations or power-hungry chipsets guzzling power like cheap beer at a baseball game. While sometimes software optimizations can mitigate some of that power drain, it won’t fix it all, which is why it’s best to avoid it if you can.

Q: Why is software such a subjective category? And which updates matter?


Google’s done its best to try and standardize Android as much as it can, but Samsung One UI, OnePlus OxygenOS, Google Pixel, and most Android manufacturers have distinctly different visual designs and feature sets. Because visual design really comes down to preference, reviews of Android software can vary quite a bit from person to person.

For instance, some users can’t stand how One UI behaves towards most third-party launchers or how over-stuffed Samsung’s apps and features are, flocking instead to the Pixel 7, its cleaner design, and automatic call screening (which is a US-only feature for now). However, Samsung is the most popular Android phone manufacturer, and tens of millions of users like how One UI lays out your apps, widgets, and some system settings that are even more advanced than Google.

Smart Launcher on Android 13

If you like how your Android phone looks now, you’ll likely want to stick with that brand. If you’ve been as annoyed with One UI as I have, this is the time to try something new, especially considering the best Android phones receive updates for longer than ever before.

When looking at a phone’s promised updates, it’s important to remember a few things. Platform updates are updates to the features and Android level of your phone; the Pixel 6 series gets at least three years of platform updates while the Galaxy S23 series will receive four generations of Android version updates after its launch.

Security updates are updates that patch vulnerabilities and fix bugs, and these are arguably the more important updates to consider. A three-year-old phone getting the latest version of Android might bog it down, but security updates shouldn’t change how anything looks or performs on your phone. All phones in our best Android phones lineup will receive five years of security updates.

Q: How much RAM and storage does a phone really need in 2023?

Random Access Memory (RAM) is short-term storage, it stores the data of whatever you're doing on your phone right now — both on-screen tasks and background tasks like checking for notifications and finding Wi-Fi networks to connect to. When your RAM fills up, apps and processes running in the background are ended as the phone clears the necessary space for new tasks.

Most flagship phones these days ship with 8-12GB of RAM, but for most users, 6-8GB is just fine so long as you're not constantly gaming. If you're looking at budget Android phones, 4GB of RAM is okay but 6GB is better. Some sub-$200 phones are still selling with 2GB of RAM, but that will severely limit your experience.

How much long-term storage you need grows more important among the best Android phones as fewer and fewer premium phones include a microSD card slot for expandable storage. Manufacturers have done this in the name of saving space and providing a more stable experience — and they're not wrong, microSD storage is always slower than internal, and a corrupted/broken card can screw up your phone — but it also provides them the chance to upsell you on a more expensive configuration of their phones.

For internal storage, most midrange and flagship phones seem to be launching with 128GB these days, which is a godsend after years of 64GB being "standard" and filling up within a year or year and a half. 64GB is workable for budget phones — most of those still have microSD card slots — 128GB is good enough, 256 is great, and 512GB-1TB is icing for all of us except those who hoard their entire lives on their phones. Admittedly, we hold our lives on these devices whether or not we download every song, movie, and game we've ever bought anywhere, so if you have the space, why not?