First Android phone

Hi, I’m looking at getting my first ever android phone.
Does anyone have a recommendation or advice?

A lot of people like Samsung, but I can’t stand how they oversaturate the colors in your photos. I’ve liked every Pixel I’ve had, so I can recommend that enthusiastically. If you like integration with Google’s services, it’s a really good choice. I have a Pixel 3a, so I don’t know how to advise you regarding the more recent models.


In my time I have used a Samsung Galaxy S3, which I tired of quickly because the Samsung UI was not to my tastes. (Since then they have tamed it back a fair bit, I’m told.) After that I tried the OnePlus One. It was a great phone with a great battery life at a great price, but their prices have really increased since their beginnings. I then had a Nexus 5P–the 5P was made by Huawei for Google. It developed a “near boot loop” they were known for. (I think the battery charge detector may actually be faulty, and the battery would otherwise be fine, but it thinks it’s not fully charged an shuts down.) After that I got, and still use a Pixel 2XL that I love. When I got the 5P I handed off the OnePlus and it was still in use until just recently. It got replaced by a Pixel 4a, and from what I’m told, it is a small in hand, but otherwise great phone too. My good friend has an Asus Zen Phone 6, and he raves about how he loves it.

Google phones (Pixel line) have one of the best computation cameras, hands down, and have the “purest” Android experience. If you want a photo first phone, I don’t think you can go wrong there.

OnePlus make nice enough phones, their prices can be lower for higher specs (more RAM in particular), but their camera is a tad less perfect than a Google phone.

You won’t go wrong with a Samsung phone, they’re one of the most popular Android phones for a reason. As @MacPhyle said, they’re known for pictures that can be a little super-saturated. (Some people love this, some people hate it.)

The Asus Zen phone line has a neat gimmick… the back camera is also the selfie camera because it rotates 180 degrees to face you in selfie mode. This means no hole punch or notch in the display for the selfie camera.

And if you want the lowest priced phones, but are willing to deal with the corresponding compromises, the Motorola G series phones are low cost and thus somewhat low spec, but are serviceable for the price.

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What device are you coming from? A featurephone or Apple?

At the high end I’m loving my Sony Xperia 1 ii. It’s kind of a unique form factor - very tall, akin to a remote control for a TV. I’m enjoying it but you’ll probably want to hold one to see if that style is for you. It’s got most of the features you’d want in a flagship device - Qi charging, NFC, WiFi 6, OLED 4k display.

OnePlus is popular as well in the high end. They’ve been lacking in the camera department in their previous models but they’ve made some efforts in this latest one from what I’ve read.

Nokia’s midrange game is strong right now. I’ve used their 5 series phones somewhat extensively. Decent cameras and screens. I believe the Nokia 5.4 is the current device in that series.

This site is a good resource to check out the different models available - - mobile phone reviews, news, specifications and more…

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If it was 2019, I’d say Huawei, they make the best phones at the moment, but due to the US embargoes, they don’t get Google services or the Google app store, so a lot of things people expect aren’t available, as the Huawei Store is still trying to catch up. The new Huawei failed to make the cut for me, because both of my banks’ apps were not available.

I am back with Samsung - my last one was an S3, which was dreadful, in many ways. It was the best Android phone at the time of launch, but only got 2 security updates in 18 months. The UI was also not very good.

The S20+ (and my wife has the 2019 S10) is day-and-night different. It is much closer to standard Android or the Huawei UI. There isn’t that much customization from Samsung, so it seems more familiar.

What I’ve been very impressed with, is that Samsung has been providing the security updates within about 4 days of Google announcing them. I’ve been getting a security update at the beginning of each month (first 5 days) and a couple of times minor feature or bug updates during the month. That is spectacular, compared to everybody except Google. I though the Huaweis were good, with a 1 month delay between Google releasing the code and it arriving on the handset - given it has to be customized for their chipsets and UI.

OnePlus is also very good, from what I’ve heard.

From what I’ve experienced and what I’ve read, for photography, again, Huawei is head-and-shoulders above the rest, in terms of sensor and lens quality (raw photos), but their AI can be a bit over zealous - for example, at a wedding, I used my Mate 10 Pro to make portraits and everybody seemed to be a nodding-head doll (overly large head) in the photographs.

Samsung’s cameras are excellent, but not up to Huaweis quality, but their AI is better and more consistent, if you aren’t shooting raw images and processing them yourself (my preferred method, when I’m taking something other than a snapshot.

OnePlus is a little weak on camera, at least up until the 2021 model they have done a deal with Hasselblad and the quality of the sensor and glass is much better, so it might be a contender, but the first in-depth reviews are still outstanding.

Google’s physical cameras are the worst, but their AI makes up for it with some outstanding processing - again, if you want “real” images and doing any processing yourself afterwards, Google isn’t for you, if you just want to go full automatic, the quality is probably equal to the best of the others.

I use an iPhone for work and a Galaxy S20+ privately. The iPhone feels clunky, compared to the Galaxy. That is something that hasn’t really changed since 2011, when I ditched my iPhone 3GS for a Windows Phone. The apps on the iPhone were a little more polished and some appeared sooner on the iPhone, but the overall experience was better on Android.

If you are all-in on Apple, the iPhone is very good and you’ll be disappointed by Android.

If you are all in on Google, an Android will be a big step forward in usability.

If you are not into Goolge or Apple, Android will allow you to remove as much Google as possible and allow you to customize the experience to your needs. (I fall into this category, apart from the Play Store, all Google services are deinstalled or deactivated.

What I like about Android:

  • Yubikey NFC support (since 2014) for unlocking my password safe.
  • Mobile banking apps with NFC capability for contactless payments, without having to use Apple, Google, Samsung etc. Wallet - not giving the payment information to yet another third party (and in Europe, the bank is not allowed to use the information for marketing purposes or to sell it on)
  • Customization of the home screen (widgets) - in my case, Audible, PocketCasts players and Outlook calender on the homescreen.
  • No Google or Apple services that I don’t use active.

Depends on budget of course, but I would recommend Pixel/Samsung/OnePlus. Tied top-spot is Pixel and Samsung for me. Both are very good with OS updates at the moment. OnePlus less so IME.

The Pixels have money off in the UK. £309/399/529 for the 4a/4a 5G/5 is a great price. 5a arriving in a few months (rumoured June).

Samsung always do deals. My S20 FE was £150 off. Deals on S21 already.

OnePlus I’ve gone off recently, they’re no longer cheaper, but still have a few weak areas, although are obviously trying to push the camera improvements with the 9.