Reviews of the 20 best Android smartphones that are available to buy in the UK in 2015/2016. Here are the best Android phones and best Android reviews. See also: The 20 best smartphones: What's the best phone you can buy in 2015/2016?
The mobile phone industry has been turned on its head in the past seven years, with practically every phone now sold a ‘smart’ one with manifold mobile-computer possibilities. For most people the default choice is now thoroughly Android unless you want an iPhone. The combined weight of Google with its Android software and all its hardware licensees, such as HTC, Sony, LG and Samsung, has created a buoyant and incredibly competitive market among handset manufacturers.
We identify two main categories of Android smartphones: the flagship devices that go head-to-head with leading Windows Phones and the iPhone, and the larger mass of more affordable options, typically priced at under £200 when sold SIM-free. Also see: Best SIM-only deals: Best SIM-only and Data SIM deals for smartphone and tablet users
In the UK, many Android smartphones will be sold on contract, of course, often with no upfront cost, but on a two-year contract. Another option may be a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) handset that requires topping up with credit for calls and data. But bear in mind that PAYG phones may be locked to the selling operator, which will try to recoup its loss-leading sale price with costlier fees. (See also: what's the best Android tablet?)
How to choose a premium Android phone
The flagship Android smartphones of 2015/2016 now all come with quad or even octa-core processors, huge 5in and larger touchscreen displays and 2GB or more of memory. They are also 4G-capable and ready to join the UK’s established LTE networks, and most now sport dual-band Wi-Fi with draft 11ac, so can take advantage of faster data links to the latest wireless routers.
The arms race for more processor cores and higher clock speeds was started by Android hardware makers, desperate to differentiate themselves with specifications against rival devices. We're now at the point where few phones are not powerful enough to meet your needs. With Google pedalling hard to speed up its software, interface stickiness is now barely a problem on the best Android hardware. The main processor will be integrated as a system-on-a-chip with the graphics processor, and all the best Android phones can play action games fluidly.
Although benchmark speed tests tell us little about the suitability of a smartphone to serve in its chosen role as our personal internet gateway and digital assistant, we don’t recommend you make your purchasing decision on these alone. We always tell you what the phones are like in terms of real world performance. See also: What's the fastest smartphone 2015/2016.
With development of the modern smartphone now slowing, manufacturers are building on existing components, notably the camera. Nokia made great strides with ultra-high pixel photography with the Lumia 1020 phone and its 41Mp camera, although as a sub-brand of Microsoft, its handset runs Windows Phone software. HTC went for UltraPixel capturing more light but has now gone down the more traditional route of simply more pixels like Sony and others. See also: Best phone camera 2015/2016.
On the video side, we’re seeing 4K-class UHD video recording, high-speed shooting for slow-motion playback, and front Skype cameras equally at home with full-HD face capture.
Other features typically only found in the leading Android devices include NFC, even if it remains a novelty for the greater majority of users, and infrared transmitters that allow your phone to replace your TV channel zapper.
Some even have fingerprint scanners and heart rate monitors - should those tickle your fancy. Some phones are waterproof too, allowing you to watch iPlayer in the bath without worry but it's typically Sony which offers this feature.
Smartphone material poll
Best Android phones 2015/2016: How to choose a budget Android phone
There's a wide range of Android smartphones in this chart and you don't always need to spend through the roof to get decent specifications. Most of the devices in this list are premium flagship models but some cheaper mid-range handsets have proven themselves worthy.
If you really are tight on money then we've a separate chart for the best budget smartphone which are all under £150 to buy outright.
Sacrifices can include lower-quality displays, both in pixel count, which makes text blurrier, and also in colour/image quality. Processors may also be slower or less efficient, meaning more interface lag is likely and perceptibly slowed screen animations.
Cameras may cite as many pixels as their more expensive stablemates, but will use low-grade sensors and cheaper optics, giving lower-quality photos. And built-in storage can be limited to a paltry 4GB, which means you’ll depend on slow and fiddly SD cards just to keep your music collection to hand.
Best Android phones 2015/2016: what to look for
As you'll see from our reviews of the best Android smartphones (below) there is a wide variety of Android operating systems on the market. So do be aware that not all Androids are made equal. Each manufacturer puts on to Google's OS its own stylings and features: Samsung's TouchWiz interface is very different from HTC's Sense, for instance. But it's also worth pointing out that there are different iterations of Android included with brand new phones, and your phone is not likely to be upgraded when a new Android comes out.
If you like the design of a phone but not the user interface, you can still customise things thanks to the openness of Android. Not only can you choose your own widgets, there are various launchers available including Google's own giving you a vanilla Nexus look and feel. See: Make your own Google Play Edition smartphone and best Custom Launchers for Android.
Also some Android phones - none here - don't give you access to Google Play and all the apps and media contained therein. This is a big point: don't get caught out.
Unlike Windows Phone and BlackBerry the Android world is full of great apps. Unlike Apple's iOS you have a choice of music and movie stores. And almost all Android phones charge and sync from vanilla micro USB cables, and allow for the addition of SD cards for expanded storage.
(That said, it is possible to buy an Android BlackBerry phone - see our BlackBerry Priv review.)
The bottom line is that the best Android phones, those reviewed here, are the best phones you can buy. Remember that the phone in the number one position isn't necessarily the right device for you. Click through to our full and in-depth review of each phone for more details before parting with your cash.
Android phones to look out for in 2015/2016
New smartphones are arriving all the time and there are a few that are likely to make their way into this chart as and when they arrive. The Galaxy Note 5 was recently unveiled but for now, at least, won't be coming to the UK but you can still get hold of it. Google's new Nexus 5X and Nexus Nexus 6P have now launched with Android Marshmallow. Meanwhile, the Xperia Z5 range has now, in part, made its way into this list.
If you're looking for older devices - which can still be a good buy - check out our best old phones chart for handsets like the LG G3, HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
Best Android phones 2015/2016: best Android smartphone reviews
20. Huawei P8
- Reviewed on: 5 June 15
- RRP: 499 Euro
The Huawei P8 has excellent design and build for a price lower than other flagship rivals. On the whole hardware is decent too, particularly in the photography department. However, poor performance and buggy software taint the experience to frustrating level which make it very difficult to recommend.
Read our Huawei P8 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 November 15
- RRP: £499 inc VAT (32GB); £534 inc VAT (64GB)
There’s a clear reason to buy the Moto X Force: the shatter-proof screen. Whether you’re accident prone, or simply need a phone that’s not going to break on you at a critical moment, the X Force should be a compelling choice. It’s a great phone in its own right, too. Powerful and with a top-quality screen and decent (if imperfect) cameras, you can’t ask for much more at this price. Except, perhaps, a fingerprint scanner and use of the second SIM slot for those that want it. Battery life is good, if not quite as long as Motorola claims, and it charges speedily with the included adaptor. Ultimately, the Moto X Force is a little on the expensive side for what you get, but the unique mix of additions to Android and the tough screen will make it worth it for some people.
Read our Motorola Moto X Force review.
18. Honor 6 Plus
- Reviewed on: 18 June 15
- RRP: £299
For anyone looking for a smartphone with a large screen, the Honor 6 Plus is absolutely worth considering. It has great specs, a good-looking and sleek design and a cool camera, all at a surprisingly low price.
Read our Honor 6 Plus review.
- Reviewed on: 30 July 15
- RRP: £230
The mid-range smartphone market is always tricky, especially with budget devices getting so good. If you are looking for something around this price, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a solid choice although the Honor 6 is worth a look for extra features. It offers flagship-like design, a great camera and a user-friendly Android Lollipop.
Read our Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review.
- Reviewed on: 18 August 15
- RRP: From £159 inc VAT
With various upgrades including a waterproof design, great cameras and stock Android, the new Moto G 2015 is a great affordable phone. The device is still a bit chunky and it's a shame to see the stereo speakers gone. It's worth opting for the model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM and when you customise the device with Moto Maker the price is a not so attractive £209. The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is worth a look at just £125 with its Full HD display.
Read our Motorola Moto G 2015 (3rd gen) review.
15. OnePlus X
- Reviewed on: 16 November 15
- RRP: £199 (Onyx); £269 (Ceramic)
The OnePlus X is the best value smartphone of the year. We love the premium design in a smaller form factor to the firm’s other phones. Software is a strong point and you get a gorgeous screen. However, cuts had to be made somewhere and the X is lacking features such as NFC, 11ac and Wi-Fi. It also is missing the fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port found on the OnePlus 2. Battery life isn’t great and cameras aren’t best in class but this is a great phone for the price.
Read our OnePlus X review.
- Reviewed on: 17 November 15
- RRP: £629 inc VAT
With more memory and excellent battery life the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a powerful phone and a great choice if you want a large screen. However, it's expensive, unwieldy and Samsung has dropped the IR blaster and hardly added anything to the edge screen. With the regular S6 available for less than £340 it's a no brainer.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ review.
- Reviewed on: 11 September 15
- RRP: £279
Overall, the Moto X Play is a decent mid-range phone. But, it's not the great upgrade which Moto X owners were looking for. The camera is good, as is the screen, but performance could be better - as could battery life. Had Motorola offered the dual-SIM version in the UK and made the phone waterproof, it would have had enough to be a decent alternative to the OnePlus 2. For many, this more powerful rival will be more appealing. It's also cheaper and has optical stabilisation and the option to shoot 4K video. Yet, if you like the idea of creating your own custom phone and don't want the hassle of getting an invite to buy a OnePlus 2, it's really not a bad deal at all.
Read our Motorola Moto X Play review.
12. Google Nexus 5X
- Reviewed on: 11 November 15
- RRP: £339 inc VAT
Those looking to upgrade from a Nexus 5 will be happy and sad in almost equal measure. The 5X is a fantastic phone overall, with excellent cameras, a good turn of speed and an excellent screen. But it's noticeably bigger than its predecessor despite the small increase in screen size, it has limited storage compared to the Nexus 6P and it lacks a couple of camera features due to the slower processor. The absence of wireless charging is another blow for some, but additions such as the fingerprint scanner will make it a great upgrade for others.
Read our Google Nexus 5X review.
11. Honor 7
- Reviewed on: 20 October 15
- RRP: £249 inc VAT
Honor has once again impressed us with a flagship smartphone at an outrageous price. For under £250 you get a lot of phone for your money. Performance is good with the main camera and fingerprint sensors being the highlights on the hardware side. Emotion UI isn't our favourite Android skin but it's perfectly usable and you can always change it if you like.
Read our Honor 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 23 April 15
- RRP: £760 inc VAT
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is a beautiful smartphone, one of the most attractive but the design has flaws such as sharp edges. While a non-removable battery is an inevitable outcome, we're surprised about the lack of waterproofing and a microSD card slot. Hardware is strong with a gorgeous screen, fast processor and great all-round camera. The key point here is that while dual edge display sounds like an amazing innovation it has very limited in functionality so simply isn't worth the extra money compared to the regular Galaxy S6.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review.
- Reviewed on: 23 October 15
- RRP: £359 inc VAT
If you're looking for a big screen phone, the Moto X Style is a great choice. It's got great specs across the board and it cheaper than rivals like the Nexus 6P and Galaxy S6 Edge+. We love the screen, stock Android and cameras. However, it really comes stands out when using the Moto Maker to customise it which costs more. With a screen only slightly smaller and a fingerprint scanner the OnePlus 2 is the spanner in the works here at £289 for the 64GB model.
Read our Motorola Moto X Style review.
8. OnePlus 2
- Reviewed on: 9 October 15
- RRP: £239 16GB, £289 64GB
The lack of NFC, a microSD card slot, a removable battery, and quick- and wireless charging means the OnePlus 2 is not a flagship killer. It does have some killer new features though, including USB Type-C, 4G dual-SIM support and some powerful hardware. At £289 (we don't recommend the 16GB OP2), it's an unrivalled deal if you can get hold of one.
Read our OnePlus 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 22 October 15
- RRP: £429 inc VAT
The Xperia Z5 Compact is the best small phone around, but then there's not much competition in this area anymore and there are a number of phones offering decent specs for a lot less. Those looking for Z5 design and specs in a smaller frame will be pleased but it's a shame about the chunky design with the sharp edges. The fingerprint scanner is a great addition and the Snapdragon 810 with almost stock Android provides slick performance. However, the camera isn't as good as Sony makes it out to be.
Read our Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review.
6. HTC One M9
- Reviewed on: 21 April 15
- RRP: £579 inc VAT
The HTC One M9 is a genuinely desirable smartphone with the best design and build available in Android land, even with Samsung upping the ante. It's good to see the powerful Snapdragon 810 and more memory, however, some key hardware remains the same meaning M8 users are unlikely to be tempted to upgrade – and the old model is now an attractive buy at around £350. The fact the Galaxy S6 is the same price with more impressive specs is also not a good thing for HTC.
Read our HTC One M9 review.
- Reviewed on: 15 October 15
- RRP: £549 inc VAT
There's no doubt that the Xperia Z5 is a solid flagship smartphone from Sony and an improvement on the Z3+. We certainly like the new frosted glass rear cover and the addition of a fingerprint scanner in that slim power button. Once again, the camera is great but it's tough competition out there and arriving late in 2015 means rivals are now available for a decent chunk less. Once the price drops, which it will, this will be a great option for those of you looking for a waterproof flagship with a Micro-SD card slot but we'd like the Full HD screen to be Quad HD and the design just isn't as nice in the hand compared to rivals.
Read our Sony Xperia Z5 review.
4. LG G4
- Reviewed on: 19 August 15
- RRP: £500 inc VAT
LG has gone down an unexpected route with leather models which we like apart from a couple of colours. The so called ceramic model will be cheaper but feels cheap and plasticky. On the whole, hardware is once again strong - particularly the camera - but not massively different from the G3 and has tough competition. We feel build quality could be better with a metal frame and dimensions going down, not the reverse. This is the flagship to go for if you want a removable battery and expandable storage but it's a shame to see features like wireless charging dropped. (Remember the G3 is now a steal at under £300 SIM-free and the OnePlus 2 is now here)
Read our LG G4 review.
- Reviewed on: 15 October 15
- RRP: n/a
So, what do we think of the Galaxy Note 5? We’re very fond of just about every aspect of the Galaxy Note 5, from its curved and sleek design to its vibrant display and high-resolution camera. It can handle almost anything you can throw at it thanks to its CPU, GPU and 4GB of RAM and we experienced no lag during our testing. The only bad point is that the Note 5 would sometimes falsely detect the S Pen detaching – and to point out such a minor fault says a lot about the quality of the handset. With this being said, we’re both surprised and sad that the Galaxy Note 5 won’t be heading to UK shores any time soon.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review.
- Reviewed on: 12 November 15
- RRP: From £449 inc VAT
Originally, Nexus phones stood out for being excellent value at a price that was low, but not the lowest. They weren't an alternative to flagship phones, but they had the advantage of running stock Android and getting the next version more quickly. The 6P, though, is not only a flagship, but is arguably the best Android phone to buy at the moment. It won't suit everyone due to its size, nor those looking for a phone with dual-SIM slots or a removable battery. There's no support for wireless charging either. But the excellent screen, front-firing speakers, quick charging, great cameras, speedy performance and Android Marshmallow add up to make this a phone that's a pleasure to use. And yes, it's also cheaper than its rivals, so unless you think it's worth shelling out extra on the Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+ or iPhone 6S Plus, the Nexus 6P is the one to buy.
Read our Google Nexus 6P review.
- Reviewed on: 12 August 15
- RRP: £599 inc VAT (32GB), £660 inc VAT (64GB)
Samsung's Galaxy S6 is the best Android phone of 2015 so far, although we've yet to see what's to come from the LG G4 and Sony Xperia Z4. It's fast, it's well built, it has a gorgeous screen and the software isn't overly intrusive. The fingerprint scanner is vastly improved, the heart-rate scanner a potential draw for some users, and the wireless- and fast charging welcome inclusions. We'd like to see the price come down (which we are sure it will) and it's a shame we've lost the removable battery, waterproofing and microSD support, but these are all things we can live with.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 review.