Best Android smartphones 2019: Samsung, Google, OnePlus and more

Here's a lowdown of the best devices for those who can't stand Apple

The iPhone has had an indelible effect on our lives since its first unveiling over a decade ago. Turning the humble phone into a gateway to the online world that houses more power than the rockets used to first transport man to the moon was no mean feat by any standards.

Apple's iconic smartphone series has earned a deserved place in modern history, but not everyone is a devotee of iOS. Although Apple led the way, Android has become the most popular mobile platform in the world thanks to Google's open, more flexible mobile ecosystem.

This has led to the sharp rise of superb devices from third-party manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus and HTC that are all making innovative smartphones that rival the iPhone.

Vendors in the smartphone market are competing on all kinds of fronts as more new features and capabilities are added to flagship devices each year. The battery life, processing speed, camera quality, design and screen resolution are compared in the finest of detail by users and media outlets at every launch.

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The second iteration of the iPhone X came out last year to fairly good reviews, but it is by no means the default choice. Below we have listed the best Android smartphones on offer, from the Samsung Galaxy S9 to the OnePlus 6T. It's not all about Apple, you know.

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a on table

Last year's Google Pixel 3 was a clever little phone that succeeded largely on the basis of some very slick software and smart use of AI technology woven throughout it. However, we weren't particularly keen on the phone's rather weedy battery life. Thankfully, Google has brought out a lower-priced variant - the Pixel 3a - which not only retains all of the things we loved about the Pixel 3, but also substantially increases the battery life.

True, you have to accept a slight compromise on performance, but it's still plenty fast enough for day-to-day use, and the camera (which remains one of its most attractive features) is still just as good as it was on the original Pixel 3. All in all, not only is this mid-range Pixel an absolute bargain, it's also a better phone than the original Pixel 3.

CPUOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 670

Price when reviewed: 332 (exc VAT)

Read our full Google Pixel 3a review for more information.

Samsung Galaxy S9

It's difficult to argue with the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S9 is the hottest launch of this year. Coming so soon after the Galaxy S8 - which was thought by many critics (IT Pro included) to be the best phone of last year - the S9 has a tough act to follow.

Samsung has - somehow - managed to make the Galaxy S9's top and bottom bezels even thinner. It's only a tiny reduction (after all, there's hardly anything to shave off) but the screen-to-body ratio is even more impressive than the Galaxy S8. The dimensions are virtually identical, too. Measuring 8.5mm and 163g, it's half a millimetre thicker than its predecessor and 10g heavier, but the difference is beyond negligible.

The Galaxy S9 is, so far, unquestionably the best phone of the year, and indeed the best phone ever made. It's the fastest Android phone we've ever seen, the screen is predictably gorgeous and the camera is a knockout.

CPUOcta-core 2.8GHz Exynos 9810

Price when reviewed: 616 (exc VAT)

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 review for more information.

OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6 was one of the most impressive phones we reviewed last year, and its upgraded 6T iteration proved itself to be one of the best Android devices around - and at an excellent price.

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Firstly, the device is exquisitely designed and squeezes a slightly larger display into a similarly-sized shell. The bezels are slimmer, too, while the notch takes up 50% less screen space with its teardrop design housing a front-facing camera. 

The device also features a fingerprint scanner built into the screen, but doesn't feature a 3.5mm jack, with a USB-C port the only option for audio playback beyond its speakers. 

While its display doesn't excel when compared against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S9, its Snapdragon 845-powered performance levels were stellar. These were among the highest recorded of 2018's flagships, which translates into an incredibly smooth day-to-day experience. With a battery lasting 21 hours and 40 minutes to boot, the OnePlus 6T is still among the best devices available on the market.

CPUOcta-core Snapdragon 845

Price when reviewed: 416 (exc VAT)

Read our full OnePlus 6T review for more information.

BlackBerry Key2 LE

We were far from sold on Blackberry's Key2 handset when we reviewed this last year, but its successor, the LE iteration, has worked towards addressing some of our biggest concerns.

This mid-generation update is not only considerably cheaper than its predecessor, but offers a far better user experience. As ever with Blackberry, any decision to purchase rests on a user's viewpoint towards a physical keyboard.

The software, meanwhile, is one of the most impressive aspects of the Key2 LE. It features a skinned version of Android, with a few unique twists such as a charging bar that snakes around the edges of the screen when you plug the phone in. The Key2 LE, overall, is a refined, less expensive and slicker device than the Key2 base version, and proves a tempting proposition.

CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 636 

Price when reviewed: 291 (exc VAT)

Read our full BlackBerry Key2 LE review for more information.

Nokia 8.1

Although Nokia's reputation proceeds it, the company has not hit the same strides in recent years that it has in the past. The Nokia 8 was the flagship device that reinvented its brand, and the 8.1 released just this year aims to capitalise on the progress made.

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The device's display is a particular highlight, with the 2,280 x 1,080 display coving an astonishing 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut in our tests. Performance-wise meanwhile, the handset proves its worth as a strong contender for the mid-range market.

There are also a handful of shortcomings, such as a lack of waterproofing, but nothing that approaches a dealbreaker. Also, valued at just 380, there are few reasons why the Nokia 8.1 wouldn't be a smart bet.

CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 710

Price when reviewed: 317 (exc VAT)

Read our full Nokia 8.1 review for more information.

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