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 (November 12th).

It’s autumn and we’re nearing the holiday season – more importantly, every smartphone vendor has released their 2019 devices and we now have a complete overview over the competitive landscape. The biggest change in product offerings compared to Q3 is the new release of Samsung’s Note10 series, OnePlus refreshing their devices with the new 7T series, and lastly Google’s new release of the Pixel 4. Although we’re covering only Android devices here, Apple’s newest release of the iPhone 11 series does have an important impact on the value comparisons we make at this point in time and how the value argument has evolved for the different devices in 2019.

Whilst there are some new devices on the market, Q4 isn’t nearly as attractive a purchase period compared to Q3; many devices released earlier in the year haven’t received any further price cuts compared to Q3, meaning their value proposition has diminished over time as we’re nearing the end of the 2019 product cycle. Although, it’s not the most optimal period in time to buy such an older device, if you really need to upgrade right now or prepare a gift for the holiday season, which one makes the most sense?

AnandTech Android Smartphone Recommendations: Q4 2019
Segment Option #1 Option #2
High-End Samsung Galaxy S10/S10+ OnePlus 7T
Upper Mid-Range Xiaomi Mi9 / Mi9T Galaxy S10e
Best Low-End Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro

In terms of positioning and recommendations from my side, the only thing that has changed in the high and mid-range is OnePlus’ update from the 7 series to the 7T series, with the regular 7T now replacing the 7 Pro as our recommended second option in terms of flagship smartphone. Samsung’s Galaxy S10/S10+ still offer amongst the best overall packages on the market and continue to be of extremely interesting value, and it’s hard to find a similar offering of features and price at this point in time.

Best Flagship Devices:  Samsung Galaxy S10/S10+ & OnePlus 7T

Samsung Galaxy S10/S10+

The Galaxy S10/S10+ remain as the top recommendations if you’re looking into buying an Android flagship device at this point in time. By now, the S10 series has been out for 8 months so it is very much in the latter part of the product cycle. What makes the S10 still a very interesting phone at this point in time is that it doesn’t really have any kind of weakness, offering excellent performance, battery life and a full camera experience. The only feature that I would say would be lacking is a 90Hz display that’s been slowly growing popularity in the latter half of 2019, something which we expect implemented in the S11 next year.

Samsung’s real only competition here is their own Note10 line-up, however I feel that unless you absolutely must have the S-Pen and actually extensively use it, that it makes very little sense to buy these phones as they don’t offer any meaningful advantage over the S10 series, especially at the current price gap. Particularly Samsung’s has been very active in updating the S10 series with the new software and camera features introduces in the Note10 and we’ve been seeing camera software updates and improvements almost bi-monthly since release.

Compared to Q3, we haven’t seen any major price updates, with the S10 still being around 643€ and the S10+ being 743€.

 

OnePlus 7T

Whilst earlier in summer the OnePlus 7 Pro was a contender in the high-end, and OnePlus has updated the phone to the newer slightly upgraded 7T Pro, it’s the regular new 7T that really steals the spotlight in terms of value propositions. The feature that made the OnePlus 7 Pro such an interesting device and missing from the OP7 was its 90Hz screen. The OP7T now adopts this key feature at a lower price-point which, other than the 1440p to 1080p display downgrade, make it a more interesting buy than the Pro model.

There are still considerations to make as the 7T lacks in some aspects over the S10, such as a lacking 3.5mm headphone jack, and no wireless charging and the camera overall is still a bit weaker, but it’s still the best alternative and competitive offering out there on the market. The 7T can be had for $599/599€.

Best Upper-Mid Range Smartphones: Xiaomi Mi9 / Mi9T, Samsung Galaxy S10e

In terms of mid-range phones, one device that now consistently stands out beyond everything else is Xiaomi’s Mi9 and the newer Mi9T. These are Snapdragon 855 flagship phones, yet one can get it now for the astounding price of 376€ / 325€, prices at which the phones essentially just destroy every other contender in terms of value.

Xiaomi Mi9

The phone offers a competitive triple-camera system, a good quality OLED screen, and just a sleek design. The only negative I have to mention about it is that it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, and only has a mono-speaker setup – both compromises I’d be willing to make for the price. 

The issue about this recommendation is that the Mi9 isn’t officially available in North America. One can still easily get the phone on Amazon via resellers, but this will be the global variant and thus will be lacking compatibility with carriers such as Verizon, plus it won’t have any warranty. The real kicker here is that even like this I think the phone is just better value than some other alternatives that are officially available; the Pixel 3a comes in at $399 (3a XL at $479) while the Mi9 as of writing was available for $390. Google’s software might be better and naturally you’re getting official support & warranty – but one would have to chose for themselves if that enough to bridge the enormous hardware differences.

Galaxy S10e

 

The Galaxy S10e isn’t quite in the upper mid-range as much as it’s on the lower high-end segment. Buyers in the US might have a bit less luck on the pricing as the phone can still be a bit expensive, but in Europe it’s available for new at 520€ which is still a reasonable price. For the premium above the Mi9’s price, you get a better camera and better speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s a bit of a steep price for just those features, however it still represents a better package than other phones in the same price-range.

Best Budget Smartphone: Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 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.

Users who are on CDMA carriers (Verizon, Sprint) are just pure out of luck. It’s a tough situation and unfortunately due to the geopolitical as well as bad US carrier situation I think the best sub-$200 phones are probably refurbished previous generation flagship devices.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro

This quarter, there’s a bit of a shakeup in our recommendations as Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 8 Pro is able to steal the crown as the absolute best low-end/value smartphone. The phone is able to sport a new more modern design compared to past Redmi iterations, but where it shines is in terms of its hardware specifications. While the display is still an 1080p LCD – it’s an understandable compromise given the phone’s $224 / 244€ current price tag. It’s one of the rare MediaTek powered phones, and the new G90T is seemingly able to offer excellent performance and power efficiency.

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 2MP macro lens; these latter two aren’t of the best quality but hey, at this price we won’t complain. Finally, the 4500mAh 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 8 Pro is the fact that’s it’s readily available in the US and Europe on Amazon which makes it a straightforward purchase.

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  • rrinker - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    CDMA sucked then, CDMA still sucks. Verizon is going to be in a world of hurt at some point. There's a laundry list of technical reasons why CDMA is garbage, but there's one HUGE marketing reason why it was ever used: it's cheap. Going with CDMA was a true Dilbert moment - any competent engineer was just shaking their head, while the marketing people ate it up like crack. Reply
  • Jon Tseng - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    I still find it hilarious when US consumers thing the Pixel 3a is a credible "value" smartphone option. Because obviously the entire Chinese smartphone industry just, like, doesn't exist.. Reply
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    Perhaps check supported 4G radio bands before recommending a phone... look on kimovil that Redmi misses a ton across the board. Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    It supports the core main frequencies of all the carriers with the omission of CDMA. Reply
  • isthisavailable - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    There are so many options for people to choose from in multiple different countries with different personal preferences (size?) that it's almost impossible to write a "Best phones" article. And this does not even include discounts on last year phones and the used market. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    Discounted and used phones were mentioned in the article in this line: "...I think the best sub-$200 phones are probably refurbished previous generation flagship devices."

    There is no point in going into specifics because that field is very, very broad so a recommendation that highlights a limited number of choices would not really be of much use. Readers going down that road are going to need to do independent research and should before buying.
    Reply
  • airdrifting - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    People are going to realize 1080P 60Hz > 1440P 90Hz for most folks. The battery life improvement is too significant to ignore.
    5 hours screen on time, 30 hours since last charge, I still have 52% juice left on my OP7.
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    Most people charge phone every time they go home so not a big deal though. Reply
  • PolarisOrbit - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    I feel like a problem with this article is that the segments for recommendations don't do a good job of reflecting the market, and this Quarter things reached a breaking point where the author had to throw up his hands and give up because he couldn't make recommendations that fit the way this article's segments divided the market.

    At the top end everybody knows Samsung will be recommended making that category useless article filler. However, there is no such thing as a low end phone recommendation for "everybody," so this is where some expert insight is most valuable. Instead the expert just gave up... how disappointing! So you can't make a recommendation for everybody... how about you subdivide everybody into groups for which you can make recommendations? At least separate CDMA and GSM categories! As a US reader, I care more about whether the phone will work with my carrier than the price. There's no point reading when none of the recommendations even work on my network.
    Reply
  • 1_rick - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    If you're on a CDMA network, finding a phone that didn't come from the carrier is a huge PITA, speaking as someone who's on VZ. My last non-flagship phone that didn't come from them was a G5S+, which was great for the price--the manual camera functionality is among the best I've seen, and, for example, beat the Essential's camera app. I haven't used any of the newer ones--they don't seem like the processor's much better, though. Reply

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