These are the Best Android Phones to buy in August 2021: Galaxy S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9, ROG Phone 5, and more!

These are the Best Android Phones to buy in August 2021: Galaxy S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9, ROG Phone 5, 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 extremely good shape right now. Every reputable brand has become very skilled at crafting a great device. Flagships are seeing new breakthroughs in camera and display capabilities while mid-tier and entry-level phone are getting far more capable than devices in the same segment a few years ago. If you’re in the market for a new Android, there’s almost half a dozen great options at all times. If you don’t know where to start, we’re here to help.

Navigate this guide:

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 this year so far. With the news that there’s no Galaxy Note 21 series this year, the S21 Ultra has a good chance to hold this top spot for the rest of the year, because the phone is that good.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the most powerful Qualcomm SoC, the most versatile camera system, one of the most premium and unique designs, and it’s also got that Samsung marketing and distribution that makes Samsung devices easier to buy than say a Google Pixel or 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, the fact it’s not sold in a major chunk of the world (North America) ultimately limits its appeal. All these little things 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.

Best Samsung Galaxy Phones for every budget and need

Best Android Phone for most people: OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 in purple

The Galaxy S20 FE held this spot for months, but its reign as the best Android for most people is up. The OnePlus 9 Pro is only slightly more expensive, but it’s got a newer SoC (Snapdragon 888), superior build quality (glass-and-aluminum sandwich instead of the plasticky S20 FE), and it has a better main camera.

The OnePlus 9, in fact, is almost as good as the OnePlus 9 Pro, save for not having quite as good an ultra-wide-angle camera, a plastic and glass build, and slower wireless charging. It still packs a gorgeous 120Hz OLED display, that aforementioned top-tier Qualcomm chip, and a Hasselblad color-graded main camera that produces sharp, punchy photos. This is a very capable almost-flagship for 2021.

    OnePlus 9
    The OnePlus 9 is the best phone to buy for most people, with a Snapdragon 888, 120Hz screen, and a glass-and-aluminum design.

Best Android Phone for software and speed: OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro camera module

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. All of that is backed by a super-fast 120Hz OLED panel too.

When it comes to OnePlus’ UI, OxygenOS, it’s not just about speed. It’s also, in my opinion, the best Android skin around, with 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, even more so than Google’s stock UI.

The rest of the hardware is top-notch, with an excellent 50MP ultra-wide camera as a worthy companion to that new 48MP, Hasselblad color-graded main camera. Of course, you get Snapdragon 888, with UFS 3.1 storage, and some of the fastest wired and wireless charging around.

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

Best point and shoot camera phone: Google Pixel 5

Best Android Phone – Google Pixel 5

Google’s Pixel series, even back when it was aspiring to be a premium flagship, never really fully got hardware right. Whether it was the original Pixel’s outdated bezels, Pixel 2 XL’s display problems, Pixel 3 XL’s giant unsightly notch, or the Pixel 4’s mediocre battery life and wonky facial recognition system, every generation of Pixel has had a glaring hardware flaw that’s difficult to overlook. But despite that, many reviewers and tech enthusiasts still gladly carried a Pixel over the years, because Google’s camera software processing was that good.

That camera prowess is why the Pixel 5 cracks this list, despite a spec sheet and hardware craftsmanship that sits a tier or two below other brands’ offerings listed here. But with the Pixel 5, you know you’re getting color science that’s always on point, dynamic range perfectly balanced, and the best portrait/bokeh mode around. For the first time, we even get an ultrawide angle camera in a Pixel. Throw in the usual Pixel perks like the purest version of Android and Pixel-specific features from Google, and the Pixel 5 is an easy recommendation.

    Google Pixel 5
    Google's newest brings several new features, but the most important is that Pixel camera with its glorious image processing and dynamic range is back. If you just want to point, tap the shutter button, and expect a great shot, look no further.

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

Best Cheap Android Phone: Google Pixel 4a

Best Android Phone – Google Pixel 4a

If you want that Pixel 5 primary camera performance but want to save a bit, the Pixel 4a (not to be confused by the larger and more expensive Pixel 4a 5G) is one of the cheapest options on this list. Best of all, being a Pixel phone, this will be among the first devices to get that Android 12 update.

You lose out on the ultra-wide-angle camera and 5G connectivity, but you still have virtually the same primary camera as the Pixel 5. If it’s just standard 1x point-and-shoot photos, the Pixel series is hard to beat. If you want to see other choices on a budget, check out our guide to the best cheap Android phones.

    Google Pixel 4a
    The Google Pixel 4a brings virtually the same main camera as the Google Pixel 5, which means it's got one of the very best cameras on the market. Everything else about the phone is solid if unspectacular -- but at this price, and with a camera performance at this level, it's hard to complain.

Best overall camera phone: Huawei P40 Pro+

Best Android Phone – Huawei P40 Pro Plus

For a good half-year in 2020, the Huawei P40 Pro+ was the undisputed zoom camera king. However, Samsung’s recent release, the Galaxy S21 Ultra, has dethroned Huawei in the zoom game by a bit. With that said however, the P40 Pro+ still has a superior low light camera (50MP RYYB sensor with a larger image sensor size than the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 108MP sensor) and a sharper 40MP ultra-wide-angle camera, so one could argue it’s still technically the most accomplished camera system all around.

However, Huawei’s image processing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so it really comes down to preference. But no matter what, the P40 Pro+ camera system is one of the most accomplished around even a year later. Unfortunately, the Huawei P40 Pro+ also can’t run core Google Mobile Services apps due to the ongoing sanctions placed by the US government, so be sure you weigh the pros and cons before considering one.

    Huawei P40 Pro+
    With a 10x optical zoom camera and an 40MP ultra-wide-angle camera, the Huawei P40 Pro+ has the most versatile and capable cameras on the market. The rest of the package is pretty premium too -- unfortunately, there's the Google ban issue to consider.

Best Android phone for Gaming: ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate

ROG Phone 5 Ultimate

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. Then add functional shoulder buttons named “AirTriggers” that give extra control to first-person shooters in ways most normal smartphones cannot, and the cool “ROG Vision” screen that adds a lot of flair to the device.

Of course, when you’re done gaming, the ROG Phone 5 works fine as a regular smartphone too, with a reliable camera system, Snapdragon 888, and up to 18GB of RAM. No app will bog this thing down.

    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.

Best Android foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review

This used to be a landslide win for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 in this category, considering the only other real options were the Huawei Mate XS, which is pricier, not on sale officially in the US, can’t run core Google apps, and has a folding-screen-on-the-outside design that looks stunning but raises serious durability concerns. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 meanwhile is widely available, has no software restrictions, and has a firmer folding screen made of “ultra-thin glass” that’s protected when not in use. The new Huawei Mate X2 does improve upon a lot and gives some real competition to the Galaxy Z Fold 2, but the Galaxy Z Fold 2 still takes the cake as most people can still comfortably buy and use the device, which remains a con for Huawei.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 feels the most polished and refined of all foldable phones released so far and has won the hearts of several of us here at XDA already. Other than water resistance and perhaps a thinner build (neither of which are realistic requests at this time as the technology isn’t there yet), there’s not much you can fault the Galaxy Z Fold 2 for.

    Galaxy Z Fold 2
    The most cutting edge phone of the year -- but it will cost you a pretty penny. However, if money is no object and you need to have the very best that Samsung offers, look no further than the Galaxy Z Fold 2. We love it, and so will you!

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

Best Stock Android phone: Google Pixel 5

A product render of the Google Pixel 5 in green

While some of us at XDA prefer OnePlus’ OxygenOS because it adds some useful customization options to pure Android, there are enthusiasts out there who want Google’s pure vision for Android — the one Google designers set out to build. In that case, the Google Pixel 5 is the best phone running stock Android right now.

Not only is this version “pure” but it’s also going to get the fastest updates coming out of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.

    Google Pixel 5
    Google's newest brings several new features, and one of the highlights remains the clean Android experience. The software on this phone is the very definition of stock Android with Google Apps.

Also great: Nokia 8.3 5G

Nokia 8.3 5G

You don’t have to go Google just to get the stock Android experience, however. Google’s Android One program allows other phone brands to participate in the stock Android experience if they so choose, and the Nokia 8.3 5G is one of the better Android One phones around.

It’s got a Snapdragon 765G, a 6.8-inch IPS LCD display, a large 4,500 mAh battery, and a solid 64MP camera. But of course, it’s that clean Android software with timely updates that shines.

    Nokia 8.3 5G
    The Nokia 8.3 5G is a mid-range phone with clean Android software.

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 (not counting the yet-to-be-released Xiaomi foldable), 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. Elsewhere, the phone has 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.

    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.

Second best Android phone not sold in the US: OPPO Find X3 Pro

OPPO Find X3 Pro

The OPPO Find X3 Pro is one of the most recent flagship Android releases and it’s great enough to take this top spot for phones not sold in the US. Featuring a true 10-bit panel and a unique back design, the Find X3 Pro is one heck of a looker.

We particularly love the Find X3 Pro’s ultra-wide-angle sensor, which uses the same 50MP Sony IMX 766 sensor as the main camera, which means ultra-wide angle shots look almost as sharp and rich as the main camera. Throw in the micro-lens that can double as a magnifying glass and the usual Snapdragon 888 and 12GB of RAM, and you have one of the most powerful and polished smartphones of 2021 so far. Its lack of a Periscope zoom lens does keep it a notch below the Galaxy S21 Ultra, however.

    OPPO Find X3 Pro
    OPPO's latest is a highly polished smartphone with a true 10-bit display that allows it to display over one billion colors.

Best for multi-tasking: LG Wing, Microsoft Duo

LG Wing, Microsoft Duo

LG Wing

If productivity is paramount, then two screens are obviously better than one. The LG Wing and Microsoft Duo take very different approaches to this dual-screen setup. The Wing, in “normal mode,” resembles any other slab smartphone — it’s big, tall, curvy, with almost all-screen on its face. But give the bottom left side of the screen a little push and the front screen swivels, revealing a second screen in the backplate.

Microsoft Duo Second Screen

The Microsoft Duo

The Microsoft Duo meanwhile, is more like two screens connected together by a very premium hinge. The Duo folds and opens like a book, and unlike the Wing, both screens are the same size and quality.

Neither phone carries the most powerful SoC or best cameras, but these are productivity machines first and foremost. To be able to run, say, Slack on one screen with a word document or an email on the other is something most of us remote workers would enjoy.

Plus, with LG’s exit from the smartphone space, the LG Wing is now a potential collector’s item — it’s the last LG smartphone to hit the market.

    LG Wing
    The LG Wing is special not just because of its dual screen T-shaped design, but also because it's the last LG phone for the foreseeable future.
    Microsoft Duo
    The Microsoft Duo is an amazingly thin dual-screen device that opens and close like a book. While there were some software quirks at launch, Microsoft has fixed enough of it that the device is usable. If you need to run two apps at the same time often, this is one of the best options.

If we must pick the best overall phone here, it’d be the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. However, for those who don’t mind importing, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra rivals the Galaxy S21 Ultra in many areas (and wins in some). For those on a budget and who want the safest option, the Google Pixel 4a is still a good value smartphone stateside. But ultimately, if you have money to spend though, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is still the ultimate 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.