9 Best Android Phones (Unlocked, Cheap): Our 2021 Picks

We test a ton of Android phones. We like the following ones, but you’ll be better off with one of the options above. If you haven’t yet done so, check out our Best Cheap Phones guide for more options.

Sony Xperia 1 III for $1,298: Sony’s newest Xperia is great for anyone who loves to tinker with the settings in the camera app, or prefers shooting photos or videos in manual mode. The camera experience is fun, but it still doesn’t deliver results that are better than some of our top picks above. You do get top-of-the-line performance, a beautiful 4K OLED 120-Hz screen, loud stereo speakers, wireless charging, and a headphone jack! It’s just so darn expensive. And the 5G here is just sub-6, which shouldn’t be the case on a $1,300 phone (5G also doesn’t work on AT&T).

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra for $749: ZTE fell off the map for a while because it was banned for violating US sanctions. But the ban was lifted, and the company is finally churning out phones again. The Axon 30 Ultra is pretty phenomenal for the price. You get the powerful Snapdragon 888 chip inside, a full day of battery life, and a 144-Hz OLED screen. I found the triple-camera array takes pretty decent photos, but it’s nowhere near the best. ZTE is only saying it will upgrade it to Android 12, with roughly 3 years of security updates. It does not work on Verizon.

Asus Zenfone 8 for $630: If you’re after the smallest, most powerful phone around, then look no further than the Zenfone 8. The 5.9-inch screen is tiny next to most flagship phones—and this is a flagship, thanks to the Snapdragon 888 inside. You also get a 120-Hz AMOLED screen, a headphone jack, and a full day of battery life. It doesn’t work on Verizon, though, and the camera system is just OK. Our review has more details.
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G for $500: It’s not the most exciting phone, but the A52 5G (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is reliable. It’ll get three OS upgrades and four years of security updates too. Our review has more details.

Motorola One 5G Ace for $350: Motorola phones have some of the best battery life around, and the Ace takes the cake in this price range. It bests the competition like the Pixel 4A and the Nord N10 with two-day battery life, and you get better performance, 5G connectivity, NFC for contactless payments (rare on a cheap Moto), plus a large 1080p display. Unsurprisingly, the cameras suffer in low light. The Moto G Stylus 5G is also a similarly great option if you want a stylus, but it doesn’t have NFC.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra for $950 ($1,050 at Samsung): This phone (8/10, WIRED Recommends) remains one of the biggest Android phones around with its ginormous 6.9-inch screen, but it’s also the only high-end phone that comes equipped with a Bluetooth stylus. Pull the pen out from the bottom and you can use it to take notes, draw, remotely snap photos, and more. It also has a beautiful AMOLED screen with a fast 120-Hz refresh rate, powerful performance, more than a full day of battery life, and three great rear cameras. This is the phone for power users, and it’s pricey. Samsung didn’t release a new version in 2021, and the Galaxy Z Fold3 above does work with a stylus; it just doesn’t have a place to store it.

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