In our series of best product guides, here’s the latest update to our recommended Android Smartphone list. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing (July 29th).
We’re now in the midst of the summer months and well into the product release cycles of almost every vendor of 2020. The spring release cycle is well past us and we’ve now transitioned to the second phase of device releases of the year, seeing vendors put out devices with the second take on this current silicon generation.
2020 has been about 5G devices as well as high-refresh rate displays, combined with the adoption of many-camera modules as well as bigger sensors. Pretty much every vendor has followed this formula to date, with many vendors such as Samsung or OnePlus executing the best this year.
In the mid-range, things have been quite shaken up by the release of reasonably priced phones with the new Snapdragon 765 SoC. OnePlus’ release of the Nord marks the company’s return into the sub-$500 market, while Xiaomi’s release of the Mi 10 Lite offers incredible value for its minuscule price.
Let’s review which devices make most sense at this point in time in the year, across different price segments:
|AnandTech Android Smartphone Recommendations: July 2020
(Street-price at time of writing)
|Segment||Option #1||Option #2|
|High-End||OnePlus 8 Pro
( $999 / ~864€ )
( S20+ $1199 / 849€ )
( 399€ )
|Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite
( 325€ )
|Mid-Range (US)||Last-year refurb flagship
( Galaxy S10: ~$430 )
|Samsung A71 5G
(VZW: $469 )
|Best Low-End||Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro
( $278 / 250€ )
|Best Low-End (US)||Motorola G Power (2020)
( $249 / 208€ )
At the top-end, OnePlus with the 8 Pro still takes the lead in terms of providing an excellent overall package thanks to its outstanding specifications that ticks off most of the feature boxes you’d expect in a flagship smartphone. Samsung’s S20 and S20+ also fall into this category representing amongst the best of 2020, seeing more notable price drops in the months since the phone’s release.
In the mid-range, the addition of the new OnePlus Nord makes it a rather obvious choice given its 399€ price tag, offering a solid phone that really can only be described as-second best in its features compared to a flagship phone. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite is a closer follower and actually undercuts the Nord at around 325€, but gives up the 90Hz screen in return.
For US users, all these Snapdragon 765 haven’t been released yet. At this point in time I wouldn’t recommend any phone, or buy a refurbished last-year flagship. For those on Verizon, the A71 5G seems like a viable choice.
At the low-end, international users are still best-served by a Redmi Note 9 Pro. US users can fall back on a Motorola G Power 2020, posting similar value.
Best Flagship Devices: OnePlus 8 Pro & Galaxy S20/S20+
The high-end flagship market is where things have changed the most over the last few months. There had been some really big expectations with this generation of phones, but the one vendor that personally surprised me the most in terms of seemingly being able to deliver the best all-round package was OnePlus, in the form of the new 8 Pro.
Read: Our OnePlus 8 & 8 Pro Review
The OnePlus 8 Pro essentially checks every single feature box in a phone today, ranging from a new generation 1440p 120Hz to a new Snapdragon 865 that offers the best performance and power efficiency amongst Android devices today.
The phone’s new design – although some would call it maybe boring or uninspiring, is in my view an excellent evolution over last year’s 7 Pro as it’s now more lightweight and thinner.
Particularly on the camera side we saw OnePlus surprise us with a camera setup that not only keeps up with the competition, but arguable is amongst the best implementations this year so far.
The biggest argument for the OnePlus 8 Pro is that even at a higher price point than usual, starting at $/€899, it’s a much better value phone than anything else out there as essentially it has no obvious weakness. Particularly European and other markets where Samsung offers the Exynos 990 S20’s, the OnePlus 8 Pro with its Snapdragon chip seems a much better choice.
Read: Our Galaxy S20+/S20 Ultra Review
Samsung this year made a big kerfuffle with its new S20 series, particularly the ultra-high-end Galaxy S20 Ultra and its camera capabilities. Unfortunately, I don’t really think the Ultra was able to carve itself any place in the market, especially at its $1399 price point.
The S20+ and S20 on the other hand seem quite reasonable devices. From a hardware perspective, these are excellent phones, but Samsung’s camera software processing this year really held their potential back. Especially the Exynos 990 based variants of the S20 series are worse devices, incurring performance and efficiency compromises compared to the Snapdragon 865 models in markets such as the US.
Still, they’re good phones, even if outshone by the OnePlus 8 Pro. The smaller Galaxy S20 particularly remains quite a rare device in the market as there’s not many vendors left putting out flagship phones in such form-factors, and prices have already started dropping as the S20 can be had for 649€ if you opt for the 4G version.
Best Mid Range Smartphones: OnePlus Nord & Mi 10 Lite – Obvious Value Choices
The mid-range has been greatly shaken up by the release of new generation Snapdragon 765 phones. The biggest proposition of these phones is that you’re investing in a future-proof phone thanks to the 5G connectivity – besides the fact that they offer an overall excellent value in by themselves.
The new OnePlus Nord seems a new fantastic phone to this category and represents the company’s return in the sub-€/$500 market, something we’ve been missing given ever-increasing flagship pricing over the years.
The phone can be generally summed up as being a very well-rounded package that features the second-best of everything. The S765 provides good levels of performance although there are obvious differences to the more expensive flagships. The OLED screen’s 1080p resolution is plenty satisfactory but still manages to showcase a 90Hz refresh rate. On the camera department, it features the same camera setup as on the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 7 series – albeit this is very much an average performing unit.
Still, at 399€ for the 128GB variant this represents quite a fantastic value simply due to the fact you’re buying a future-proof 5G phone that will retain its value better than if you were to buy a 4G device at this point in time.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite is another Snapdragon 765 device with similar formula as the Nord. Both phones are extremely similar up to their camera systems. The primary differences are found in the display as the Xiaomi lacks a 90Hz refresh-rate display, but does add in a headphone jack in return.
The Xiaomi undercuts the Nord by 75/60€ coming in at 325€ for the 64GB version and 340€ for the 128GB variant, again, some pretty incredible prices for a well-rounded phone that offers 5G connectivity and also represents a more future-proof investment.
Best Mid-Range US: Refurbished Flagships, or Samsung A71 5G
As a European editor it’s always astounding to me when I’m writing up these guides as the US market always shocks me as to how limited it is in terms of options. Neither OnePlus nor Xiaomi currently offer their mid-range devices in this market. In fact, I’m not even aware of any reasonable priced Snapdragon 765 devices that are available and compatible with the networks.
OnePlus has communicated that they might launch the Nord later in a few months, so it would be prudent to maybe wait out for availability. Lacking any other options, only Samsung’s Galaxy A71 5G seems to be a valuable investment at $469, however availability of this phone currently is limited to Verizon which might not be an option for some readers.
At this point, it would be a safer bet to buy a refurbished or find a good deal on a previous generation flagship device, a refurbished Galaxy S10 goes for around $434 at the time of writing which seems to be a perfect no-brainer choice.
Best Budget Smartphone: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro
This category of devices is very hard for me to write about due to the sheer size of the market and particular regional segmentation. In particular the US market is absolutely barren of viable options due to the fact that many OEMs don’t officially release their products in this region. This is incredibly frustrating as it’s in this budget segment where we see the vast majority of competition from Asian vendors, providing some of the more incredible value propositions.
The situation has been slightly been improved with Motorola’s range of low-end phones. Devices like the 2020 variant of the G Power represent a good value, although essentially, they’re beaten in every regard by the more competitive Chinese alternatives from vendors such as Xiaomi. For customers on CDMA carriers such as from Verizon or Sprint, the Moto is the only choice.
In the month of May, we replaced our low-end recommendation from the Redmi Note 8 Pro to the newly released Redmi Note 9 Pro and continue this recommendation through July. Like its predecessor, it brings to the table some incredible value at a price point of currently only 249€. The new phone upgrades the SoC to a Snapdragon 720 which houses two Cortex-A76 cores as its performance cores, paired with 6GB of LPDDR4X. The only real thing really betraying the phone as a low-end unit is the fact that it still houses an LCD IPS display in a time where most have transitioned to OLED screens.
The camera system is dominated by a new 64MP main camera sensor that punches far above its weight in this price segment. There’s also an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens as well as a 5MP macro lens; these latter two aren’t of the best quality but hey, at this price we won’t complain. Finally, the 5020mAh battery rounds this phone off as a quite outstanding value proposition and Xiaomi really steals the spotlight yet again also in this segment. The best thing about the Note 9 Pro is the fact that’s it’s readily available in the US and Europe on Amazon which makes it a straightforward purchase.
If you’re a CDMA carrier in the US or if you care about warranty, the Xiaomi isn’t an option and the only reasonable fall-back choice here is the Motorola G Power 2020. The phone features a Snapdragon 665 SoC, featuring Cortex-A73 cores, which would be quite significantly less performing that the A76 cores of the Redmi Note 9 Pro.
On the camera side, the Motorola also offers less impressive specifications as we have a rather small 1/2.8” sensor with 16MP resolution. The display is a comparable 6.4” IPS LCD unit at 2300 x 1080 resolution which is still plenty satisfactory at this price range. The Moto G Power can be had for $249, and is actually also available in Europe as the G8 Power at a competitive 208€, although again I would rather recommend the Xiaomi for 30€ more as you get a lot more value out of your purchase.