These are the Best Android Phones to buy in November: Samsung, Google, OnePlus, and more!

These are the Best Android Phones to buy in November: Samsung, Google, OnePlus, and more!

We've used 100s of phones, and here are our picks for the Best Android Phones you can buy right now!

The Android phone scene is in very good shape right now. Every reputable brand has become very skilled at crafting a great device at every price range. The top-end flagships offer stunning screens and exceptional cameras; mid-tier phones are polished and could pass for a flagship for some; entry-level budget options are more powerful and better built than before. This is good news! When brands compete, we the consumers win. But if you’re not too well-versed in the industry, it could be a daunting task buying a new Android device. This is why we’re here to help.

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Best Android Phone Overall: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in black

Last year’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was our pick for the best Android phone of 2020, so it’s no surprise the Galaxy S21 Ultra — which improves on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in several ways — has dominated the top of this list all year. And since there was no Galaxy Note device this year, that means the S21 Ultra may just keep this spot through the rest of the year.

And it’s well-deserving too. Samsung basically threw everything but the kitchen sink at making this phone. Every single recent new smartphone breakthrough you can think of, this phone has it. For starters, there’s the screen, a stunning 6.8-inch, razor-sharp panel that Samsung calls “Dynamic AMOLED 2x.” It packs a 1440 x 3200 resolution, along with a variable refresh rate that can get as low as 10Hz, up to 120Hz. Whether it’s colors, viewing angles, maximum screen brightness (1500 nits), this is arguably the very best screen on a smartphone right now (although Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra could challenge that).

Then there’s the redesigned camera system, housed in this unique module that blends into the chassis of the device. It’s headlined by a 108MP main camera with a relatively large image sensor of 1/1.33″ sensor, so you’re getting shots with shallow depth-of-field for that natural bokeh if you are shooting a subject or object up close. The larger sensor also helps the main camera take in a lot of light. Then there’s a 12MP ultra-wide with a really wide field of view. Finally, for zooming, Samsung gave this phone two zoom lenses: a 10MP, f/2.4 3x optical zoom, and a 10MP, f/4.9 10x Periscope zoom. The latter is insane — you can get 10x zoom images that don’t show any noticeable loss of sharpness. Around the front is a 40MP selfie camera. If these numbers sound overwhelming, that’s okay, because Samsung made the shooting experience relatively straightforward and simple. There is no denying that this is the most extra camera system around though, with only the Huawei P40 Pro Plus (which isn’t available in most parts of the world) being able to go toe-to-toe in terms of matching every camera spec.

Powering the phone are all top-notch internals too: Snapdragon 888, 12 or 16GB of RAM, and a 5,000 mAh battery. There’s wireless charging, IP68 water resistance rating, and every other extra flourish you can think of, like stereo speakers, reverse wireless charging, Gorilla Glass Victus covering both front and back, and Samsung DeX.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra runs on Android 11 (still) but Samsung’s One UI skin on top is aesthetically pleasing and adds plenty of bonus features that vanilla Android does not offer, such as a good one-hand mode. Samsung DeX, which we mentioned earlier, is also extremely useful — it essentially lets you connect the Galaxy S21 Ultra into an external monitor (wirelessly or wired) and get a desktop experience. Pair a Bluetooth keyboard and you can get some real work done.

Finally, the Galaxy S21 Ultra also has that Samsung marketing and distribution that makes Samsung devices easier to buy than say a Google Pixel or a OnePlus phone. This last part matters because even though the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra comes very close to matching the Galaxy S21 Ultra spec for spec, and the Google Pixel 6 Pro has a case for being a more “enjoyable” Android phone to use, the fact that neither phone are entirely available worldwide (Xiaomi doesn’t sell in the US, Pixels doesn’t sell in many parts of Asia), plus the reality that neither Xiaomi nor Google have the global retail presence or after-sales support of a Samsung, ultimately limits those two phones’ mainstream appeal. All these things add up to make the Galaxy S21 Ultra very hard to beat as “the best Android phone overall.”

    Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
    The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the ultimate overkill in the new 2021 flagship series, packing in a flagship SoC, a premium build, a great display, and an amazing camera setup, as well as all the extras expected on a premium flagship.

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Best Samsung Galaxy Phones for every budget and need

Best Android Phone for most people: Pixel 6

Pixel 6 Coral

This category is tricky because the phone that tops this list isn’t usually the best phone per se in terms of having all the most premium features, but it’s the best phone for most people, the phone regular consumers should consider first because of the combination of performance and value for money.

And starting at $599, the newly released Google Pixel 6 takes this category by a landslide. Despite costing almost half of the typical 2021 flagship phone, there are several key flagship features in the Pixel 6, including Google’s first-ever self-developed SoC, Tensor, a new 50MP camera that, when paired with Google’s camera software prowess, makes for arguably the best main camera around. You also get a relatively large 4,614 mAh battery, a 6.4-inch OLED screen, IP68 water resistance, and a gorgeous, unique design with some very fun colors.

Of course, there are areas of compromise to get this phone down to this price range: the display only refreshes up to 90Hz, there’s no zoom lens, and relatively slow wired and wireless charging. But these compromises are very easy to accept for those who want a phone that looks and feels like a flagship but comes at half the price. And Google’s optimization is so well that the screen fluidity feels closer to 120Hz than 90Hz.

But let’s get back to that camera: the Pixel’s cameras have been the best or among the best cameras in the industry for years, thanks to Google’s awesome computational photography and despite the fact that the last two Pixels have used relatively pedestrian camera hardware. Now that the Pixel 6 has camera hardware that’s actually up to 2021 standards, the result is just a stunning camera experience. This is a phone that you can point and shoot and get a great shot almost every time. The ultra-wide camera, however, doesn’t fare as well. It’s fine in a vacuum, just not at the jaw-dropping standards of the main camera.

All that and we haven’t even talked about another major Pixel selling point: this is a pure Google phone, so you can expect to get exclusive Android-Pixel features and the fastest software updates too. And with Android 12 getting one of the biggest visual overhauls in years, now is the best time to have first dibs on all things Android 12. Simply put, the Pixel 6 is the best overall value on this list and the best phone for most people.

    Google Pixel 6
    The Google Pixel 6 has perhaps the best camera in smartphones right now -- as well as the best price. Look no further if you are on the market for an Android phone and you don't need all the bells and whistles.

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Best Cheap Android Phone: Google Pixel 4a

pixel 4a

This spot was previously held by the Google Pixel 5a, whose $530-ish price was a great value … up until a week ago. With the Pixel 6 available for $599, the Pixel 5a doesn’t make much sense. So we reverted back to the Pixel 4a (the standard version, not the 5G one), which can be had for around $350.

Sure, compared to the Pixel 6, the Pixel 4a seems a bit bland and lacking in features. But this is still a very capable, minimal phone with a 12MP main camera that is still among one of the best point-and-shoot phone shooters today.

The Pixel 4a is powered by Snapdragon 730G, still a capable handset today, and the 5.8-inch, 1080 x 2340 screen gets bright enough for outdoor use. It’s not a screen that’s going to blow your socks off like the Pixel 6 Pro’s screen, but at this price, you can’t gripe much — if at all.

The body is made of plastic, which was obviously a cost-cutting measure, but it gives this phone a lighter, more durable vibe. Weighing just 143g and very resistant to scratches, this is a small phone you can easily use securely with one hand. The physical fingerprint reader on the backside may be an improvement over the sort of slow in-screen fingerprint reader of the Pixel 6 series too. So in some ways, the fact this is a budget phone may make it appealing to some groups more than fancier Pixels.

And because this is a Pixel, you can expect Android 12 updates ready the second you unbox the phone. With a 3,140 mAh battery, the phone isn’t going to be an endurance beast, but it can barely squeak by a full day.

If you live outside the US, there are other excellent budget options from the likes of Xiaomi, check out our list of best cheap Android phones for more.

    Google Pixel 4a
    The Pixel 4a is one of the more affordable phones in the US, and despite its price, the phone stil offers one of the best main cameras around for still photos.

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Best Android Phone for software and speed: OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus is a brand that’s always been about speed, and the OnePlus 9 Pro is once again the fastest phone on the market. Everything – from the near-instantaneous speed at which apps launch to how the notification panel whips up and down along with your finger swipes – even the UI here has been optimized for speed.

But even going beyond speed, I’ve been a fan of OnePlus’ Android skin, OxygenOS, for years because it offers plenty of customization and shortcut gestures galore. Want to use multiple different icon packs on one home screen? Or change the accent color scheme of your app drawer? Or quickly launch an app action by long-pressing the fingerprint sensor? OxygenOS offers more ways to use Android, much more than Google’s own stock UI.

But of course, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a flagship phone and it comes with hardware to match too. The OnePlus 9 Pro offers a 6.7-inch 1440 x 3216 OLED display with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. The display doesn’t quite get as bright as a Galaxy S21 Ultra, but otherwise, vibrancy and that visual oomph feel similar. This is a gorgeous-looking screen on which you’d want to watch videos. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 888 with 8 or 12GB of RAM, as well as a 4,500 mAh battery.

The “Hasselblad” camera system is headlined by a 48MP, f/1.8, 1/1.43″ main camera, along with a 50MP ultra-wide shooter and an 8MP 3.3x telephoto zoom lens. There’s also a 2MP monochrome sensor that, unfortunately, doesn’t do much. Look at this phone as a triple-camera array.

But the good news is the cameras are quite good. Hasselblad has apparently helped fine-tune some of the color science and for the most part, I quite like the shots captured by the OnePlus 9 Pro. You can also zoom in and out in the camera app without seeing noticeable stutters when switching between lenses the way the Galaxy S21 Ultra does.  Like we said earlier, OnePlus phones just generally zip around faster and more fluidly.

Another thing that’s very fast? Charging speeds. The OnePlus 9 Pro ships with a 65W fast charging brick that can top up the phone from 0-100% in 30 minutes, and the phone also supports wireless charging up to 50W, which can pump the phone from empty to full battery in 43 minutes. You will need the official OnePlus wireless charger to get those speeds, however.

    OnePlus 9 Pro
    The OnePlus 9 Pro has the smoothest and most fluid UI around in Android -- and dare we say it, any phone.

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Best Point and Shoot Camera phone: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 Pro back with G logo

The first three Google Pixel phones were hands-down the best still camera phones around, mostly because Google’s computational photography was so far ahead of the game at the time. In the years since, other phone brands have stepped up their computational photography game. Add in the fact that Google didn’t bother upgrading its camera hardware for the Pixel 4 and 5, which meant Google’s phone was no longer the undisputed best camera phone around.

Google has regained the crown (at least in this category of best point-and-shoot) with the Pixel 6 Pro, because it finally upgraded camera hardware to a 50MP Samsung GN1 sensor with a large image sensor size and fast aperture. While the Pixel 6 Pro lacks the zooming prowess of a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the awesome video capabilities of an iPhone 13 Pro, or even the all-around range of a Vivo X70 Pro Plus, it’s the best phone for people who just want to point their phone, tap shutter button, and then get a shot they can post to social media immediately without tweaks or edits.

The difference is in software. Google’s software smarts — aka computational photography — make taking photos a joy, in that you don’t really stress too much, just point and shoot and you’re going to get a shot that’s almost always perfectly balanced, with just the right amount of boosted colors and contrast (without going overboard like Samsung), accurate white balance, and enough sharpness. Even if you didn’t frame properly and accidentally captured some unwanted people, Google’s “Magic Eraser” trick can help you fix that in post with a couple of taps. Real-time dials to adjust the lighting in both subject and background are also huge bonuses. There’s no minor shutter lag like you’d get in a Galaxy S21 Ultra, or that slightly artificial over-processed look from a Huawei. This is a camera that just works.

But there’s more to a phone than just the camera, so you can rest assured that the Pixel 6 Pro offers top-tier performance in all the other bits too. The 6.7-inch, 120Hz display looks great, and because it’s an LTPO panel, it has a variable refresh rate to conserver battery. All of us at XDA are also fans of the unique design of the device, particularly that striking visor and the bold colors (unless you buy the black model, which still looks cool in an understated vibe). With 12GB of RAM, this is the first Pixel phone that actually isn’t lacking in the memory department, and then there’s that Google Tensor SoC, the first such chip made by Google — a sign of things to come in the future of the smartphone space.

Whether it’s scrolling through Instagram or switching apps, the Pixel 6 Pro doesn’t slow down, it’s Google’s first phone with tip-top premium hardware that can match the iPhones and Galaxy S phones of the world.

    Google Pixel 6 Pro
    The Google Pixel 6 Pro finally brings new camera hardware to match Google's best-in-class camera software, the result is a perfect synergy or camera hardware and software prowess.

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Best Smartphone Cameras of 2021: Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus — We’ve tested them all!

Best Overall Camera phone: Vivo X70 Pro Plus

Vivo X70 Pro+ Featured

I know we just waxed poetically about the Google Pixel 6’s camera prowess, but the best overall camera goes to the Vivo X70 Pro Plus because it’s a more well-rounded system. Sure, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro offer awesome main camera performance for photos, but its video recording is below par by 2021 flagship standards, and its 4x optical zoom is fine, but lacking compared to rival offerings.

The Vivo X70 Pro Plus, on the other hand, doesn’t have a glaring weakness in the cameras. Its 50MP main camera is only a hair behind the Pixel 6 Pro’s in terms of consistency and shutter speed (they use the same Samsung GN1 sensor, in fact), and the X70 Pro Plus’s 48MP ultra-wide, built on top of a miniature 3-axis gimbal, produces superior ultra-wide shots than the same lens in the Pixel 6 (or iPhone 13 Pro or Galaxy S21 Ultra, for that matter). In fact, BBK Electronics (the parent company behind Vivo, OPPO, and OnePlus) has knocked it out of the park this year with ultra-wide shooters, as the OnePlus 9 Pro and OPPO Find X3 Pro also offer superb ultra-wide shooters. But the gimbal stabilization here gives the X70 Pro Plus the edge.

Then there are the two zoom lenses: the Vivo X70 Pro Plus has a 12MP 2x optical zoom lens along with an 8MP 5x Periscope zoom lens. While we think the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 3x and 10x are better dual-focal length setups, Vivo’s 2x and 5x still beats the Pixel 6 Pro’s sole 4x zoom lens.

And with a self-developed ISP inside the V1 chip, the X70 Pro Plus excels in videos too. Whether it’s day or night, every footage shot with the X70 Pro Plus is perfectly balanced and as stable as any Android phone gets.

Elsewhere, the Vivo X70 Pro Plus also packs a Snapdragon 888+, with 12GB of RAM, and a vibrant, 120Hz 6.8-inch OLED screen. Even on the software front, which had previously been a weak point of Vivo phones, is better than before now. FunTouchOS isn’t perfect, but it behaves much closer to its BBK cousins OxygenOS and ColorOS, which means it’s a functional software with lots of customization options.

The only downside to the Vivo X70 Pro Plus is that the phone is not on sale officially in the US, so many readers can’t buy this officially. Still, we cover smartphones on a global scale, and the Vivo X70 Pro Plus has the best overall camera system yet.

    Vivo X70 Pro+
    The X70 Pro+ from Vivo is the best camera phone overall. Regardless of what situation you're shooting in, the X70 Pro+ is sure to perform well across scenarios.

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Best Android phone for Gaming: ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate

ASUS ZenFone 8 next to ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate

Left: ASUS ZenFone 8. Right: ASUS ROG Phone 5.

Last year’s ASUS ROG Phone 3 was our pick for gaming phone of the year, and this year’s update, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, is even better — thus making it an easy favorite for the best gaming phone of 2021.

So what makes the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate a gaming beast? Let’s start with the 144Hz display, which the handset can maintain without micro-stutters. Throw in a massive 6,000 mAh battery to handle that variable refresh rate, which means you won’t have to worry about finding a charger mid-day. In our testing, this phone can last a day and half easily if used as a “normal smartphone,” and even if you do game on it, unless you’re pulling marathon sessions, it can last you through a day on one charge.

Because this is a gaming phone, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate offers functional shoulder buttons named “AirTriggers” that give extra control to first-person shooters in ways most normal smartphones cannot. There’s also rear display, named “ROG Vision,” that may not add a lot of practical usability, it does bring extra flair to a stylish device. What’s more, the package includes a fan accessory that attaches to the backside and helps keep the phone cool, although you probably don’t need it much as the phone’s built-in thermal system already does a great job.

Inside the phone is a Snapdragon 888 with up to a whopping 18GB of RAM. Nothing you can do can slow this thing down. You may want to use it as a movie-watching machine too because the device packs front-facing stereo speakers that are some of the best in the smartphone scene.

On the camera front, you have the main system consisting of a 64MP main (f/1.8), 13MP ultrawide (f/2.4) and 5MP macro (f/2.0) setup, and a 24MP selfie camera. Photos captured by this phone are sharp, punchy, and overall good, but video recording isn’t the greatest, as footage suffered from poor stabilization and dealing with sudden shift in lighting.

Ultimately, if you are a mobile gamer and you don’t want to be bogged down by less-than-premium hardware, this is the phone to get.

    ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
    ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is, as the name implies, the ultimate gaming phone with up to 18GB of RAM.

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Best Large Foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

In the first two years of foldable phones’ existence, skeptics and doubters have pointed to their high prices and supposed fragility as a sign that foldables were just a fad. Well, Samsung is here to tell the naysayers “nah.” The Galaxy Z Fold 3 not only managed to do what was previously thought impossible by water-proofing the device, Samsung also lowered the price by 10%. Sure, at $1,800 it’s still expensive, but this is a bleeding-edge portable computer that can do literally a million things. There is nothing else like it.

That’s not all when it comes to improvements. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 also improved the foldable display to make it sturdier and feel more like glass. This foldable screen also supports the S-Pen, although a separate purchase is required. The outside “cover display” gained a refresh rate up to 120Hz, and the overall dimensions of the phones have shrunk ever so slightly. The hard sharp corners of the previous device have been rounded, making for a foldable that, while still a bit hefty at 271g, is easier to handle and carry.

The main camera system consists of a trio of 12MP cameras, and while the hardware remains unchanged from the Galaxy Z Fold 2, they’re quite capable, confident shooters thanks to Samsung’s software fine-tuning. There are also a pair of selfie cameras, a normal 10MP lens on the outside screen, and a 4MP under-screen selfie camera on the main folding screen. The latter is the sharpest camera we’ve tested, but it gets the job done for basic video calls.

Samsung’s also improved the software experience to make the Galaxy Z Fold 3 better take advantage of its larger screen. For example, many first-party Samsung apps will open in a two-pane layout if the phone is unfolded, and third-party apps like Spotify will also take advantage of this setup. With a 4,400 mAh battery, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has enough juice to power the device through a whole day, and for those of us at XDA who owns one, the device has had no trouble making it through an entire day on a single charge. If you want to top up, the phone can be topped up wired or wirelessly.

If you want a phone that can be both a tablet and a smartphone, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is hard to beat right now. If you find it a bit too big, however, then Samsung has a smaller option for you too — see below!

    Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
    The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the most polished foldable smartphone ever -- and it's cheaper than the previous generations too!

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Best Small Foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

The Galaxy Z Flip 3

If you have ever lamented the escalating size of smartphones and want something that won’t create a bulge in your pocket, then the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is worth considering. Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which is a tablet that folds into a phone, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a normal-sized smartphone that folds into a compact square, about the dimensions of a coaster, or a makeup compactor. Improvements this year include a much larger outside cover screen that allows you to read entire notifications, as well as interact with several widgets showing things like weather, timer, etc.

The inside folding screen, measuring 6.7-inches, sees its refresh rate bumped up to 120Hz. A new film material is used this year to cover the screen, giving it a feeling more resembling glass than plastic. Inside you’ll find a Snapdragon 888 with 8GB of RAM and a 3,300 mAh battery. The entire package comes in ultra-sleek, measuring just 6.9mm in thickness when unfolded (and 17.1mm when folded). Its 183g weight can be considered light in late 2021. The hinge is sturdier than ever, and the Galaxy Z Flip 3, like the Galaxy Z Fold 3, also features IPX8 water resistance.

The hinge’s ability to stay halfway folded in place — which Samsung calls “Flex Mode” adds a whole slew of new use cases to the Galaxy Z Flip 3. For example, you can fold it in an L-shape, place it on a tabletop, and have a hands-free video calling or watching machine. Likewise, you can shoot time-lapses or long-exposure shots without needing a tripod or hold the phone up yourself.

the Z Flip 3 in flex mode

All that and we haven’t talked about perhaps the most awesome part of the Galaxy Z Flip 3: the price. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 starts at $999, nearly 50% lower than the original prices of the first two Galaxy Z Flips. That Samsung managed to lower prices this much while still giving you a much-improved product is bonkers. This sub-$1,000 price also makes the Galaxy Z Flip 3 the most affordable foldable phone ever.

    Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
    The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the cheapest foldable phone ever, and also the most durable and stylish one too.

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Best Foldable Phones: The Top Folding Smartphones that you can buy right now

Best Stock Android phone: Google Pixel 6

Pixel 6 Green

Okay, so the Google Pixel 6 technically isn’t “stock” Android, because stock Android is the bare bones open-source Android (AOSP) usually seen in a few entry-level budget phones from obscure brands. Instead, the Pixel 6 runs a Google-modified version of Android 12, because it’s Android exactly the way Google sees it. And in our opinion, this Pixel-ified experience is a far more important signifier than “stock Android.”

And if you want that pure Google Android experience, the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro is the phone to get. This year, not only are the phones among the first to run on the newest version of Android, but it also happens to coincide with one of the biggest Android visual overhauls in years.

Android12 Material You Collage

The theme of this year’s new Android 12, at least on the Pixel, is “Material You.” Essentially, the Pixel 6 phones will look at your homescreen wallpaper and create a palette to color the system interface. Throughout the UI, there are whimsical Google touches, such as buttons of varying sizes and shapes.

Other than the excellent software, you’re getting an excellent phone too with the Pixel 6. You get a 6.4-inch, 1080 x 2400 OLED screen that refreshes at 90Hz, along with arguably the best point-and-shoot main camera around, a 50MP sensor backed by Google’s epic photo-processing algorithms. You also get a large 4,612 mAh battery and plenty of RAM to make sure the phone zips around. Add in a unique two-tone finish, and a really attractive price, and it’s hard to name anything else in this spot.

    Google Pixel 6
    The Google Pixel 6 has perhaps the best camera in smartphones right now -- as well as the best price. Look no further if you are on the market for an Android phone and you don't need all the bells and whistles.

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Best Android phone not sold in the US: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra with its 50MP main camera and a second screen

Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra is its most expensive phone yet, but there’s good reason. The Mi 11 Ultra is a hardware beast, packing the brand new Samsung GN2 sensor with the largest image sensor in the industry, a very good 48MP ultra-wide camera, and a Periscope zoom lens that’s just a hair below what the S21 Ultra’s Periscope zoom can do.

The main camera’s large sensor not only takes in a lot of light, but has a shallow depth-of-field, which means as long as there’s some separation between subject/object and background, you get natural-looking bokeh. Video performance is also top notch, with excellent stabilization and a good dual microphone system.

The Mi 11 Ultra has a premium design too, with a ceramic back, aluminum chassis, and a 6.8-inch WQHD+ OLED display that curves on all four sides for a super smooth, premium in-hand feel. Elsewhere, the phone supports 67W wired and wireless charging (the charging brick is included with the box too) and of course, the Snapdragon 888 with plenty of RAM. There’s even a second display on the back of the device, which means selfie lovers can snap self-portraits with the phone’s very capable main camera system.

On the software front, the Mi 11 Ultra runs MIUI 12.5 over Android 11, it’s a fine software that offers very fluid animations. There are useful features not found in “stock” Android, such as the ability to open an app in a floating, resizable window.

Several of us at XDA have used a Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra as our daily driver and we all came away impressed. This is a very powerful, good looking phone that can go toe to toe with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. If you somehow are not convinced by any Android options in the US and are open to importing, this is probably the best option out there.

    Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
    The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a culmination of the company's best hardware in a smartphone yet, featuring a great display, a great camera setup, great performance, and more.

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Best for Multitasking: Microsoft Duo 2

Outlook open on dual-screen phone

If productivity is paramount, then two screens are obviously better than one, and right now the only dual-screen phone on the market that isn’t running on outdated hardware is the Microsoft Duo 2. Bringing back the premise of the original, the Duo 2 is essentially two screens attached by a very well-built 360-degree hinge. While the first model had a very mediocre single-camera setup, an outdated SoC (even at the time of shipping), and a small battery, the Duo 2 improves on all three of these areas.

First, there’s a proper camera now, consisting of a 12MP, f/1.7 main, 16MP ultrawide, and a 12MP 2x telephoto zoom lens. Unfortunately, this also means the machine has a camera protrusion now, so the two screens cannot flip backwards and stay flat as before.

Surface Duo 2 on black table showing camera

Next, Microsoft put the Snapdragon 888 into the Duo 2, which is still today the best SoC in Android. The original Duo shipped with Snapdragon 855 at a time when the 865 was already out. The battery capacity has also been increased to 4,449 mAh, which despite the two screens, can power the machine for a full 12-, 13-hour day on a single charge. The bezels around the screen have also shrunk a bit — though they’re still sizable — and the screen refresh rate has been bumped up to 90Hz. So in terms of hardware, the Duo 2 is an improvement in every way.

When the Microsoft Duo 2 works as intended, this thing is a multitasker’s dream: run two apps at the same time on separate screens, or stretch one app across two screens to see more content. Or fold the phone halfway and watch videos or take video calls hands-free. Another usage I enjoy is holding the phone “sideways,” and using the bottom screen to display a keyboard while the top screen is showing Google Docs or WhatsApp. It reminds me of old-school clam-shell PDAs. The possibilities aren’t quite endless — but there are many of them.

However, the Duo 2 still suffers from some of the software bugs that plagued the first Duo, including slow reactions to switching orientations or one screen freezing a bit while the other screen remains active. Microsoft has promised continual software updates so this could be fixed down the line.

There’s no sugar-coating this: the Microsoft Duo 2 is a bit rough around the edges. But still, if multitasking on a mobile device is your number one goal, it’s hard to top what this phone can do.

    Microsoft Duo 2
    The Microsoft Duo 2 brings much improved hardware and slightly improved software over the first generation. The result is a dual-screen phone that can more than most phones.

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If we must pick the best overall phone here, it’d be the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. But the Google Pixel 6 being several hundred dollars cheaper makes it very, very appealing. For those who don’t mind importing, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra rivals the Galaxy S21 Ultra in many areas (and wins in some). But ultimately, if you have money to spend though, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still the ultimate do-it-all device.

About author

Ben Sin
Ben Sin

I'm a senior editor at XDA Developers. I have been a journalist for a decade, the last five years covering the mobile tech scene closely, reviewing just about every phone and attending trade shows and launches. I also run a gadget review channel on YouTube.