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The best Google phone in 2021: a guide to the handsets and best Google Pixel deals

Best Google phone: Google Pixel 4
(Image credit: Google)

The best Google phones are a great choice for people don’t want to spend over a grand to get the very latest Apple or Samsung model, but still want a high-end phone that can handle anything you throw at it.

Enter Google’s Pixel smartphone range. Google launched its first Android handset back in 2013, and since then has unveiled a further dozen Pixel models.

The latest release, the Pixel 5, sells for an affordable price, and is easily the best Google phone available today, not to mention being one of the best camera phones overall. However, if you’re on a budget, then most of the previous Pixel phones are also very powerful, capable and user-friendly... and you can usually get them for less money. 

To help you choose the best Google phone, we’ll go through all the Pixel phones on sale today in this article, and highlight the main differences between them – and point you to the best available deals on each. That way, you'll be able to find best Google phone for your needs and budget.

The best Google phone 2021

(Image credit: Google)

1. Google Pixel 5

The best Google phone overall

First released: October 2020 | Android version: 11 | Screen size: 6 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | Weight: 151g | Dimensions: 144.7mm x 70.4mm x 8mm

Stylish design
Quality camera
Beautiful screen
Expensive

There’s no question about it: the Pixel 5 is the best Google phone available today, hands-down. 

With the trademark quirky look that’s come to define the Pixel range, it offers a compact design, a reliable point-and-shoot camera, and smart Google software that makes using the latest Android 11 operating system a joy. 

You also get a nice 6-inch screen with Full HD resolution, a 90Hz refresh rate and strong viewing angles. The main camera module features a 12.2MP sensor plus a 16MP ultrawide lens, and lets you shoot 4K video in 60fps. 5G is supported, storage is a generous 128GB, the phone is water-resistant, and you get wireless charging, too. 

Admittedly, you’re missing a few high-end features that you’d find in the top iPhones or Samsung phones, such as a telephoto lens and optical zoom. But given the reasonable price of the Pixel 5, you’re getting a quite brilliant phone for your money. To learn more, read our Google Pixel 5 review.

(Image credit: Google)

2. Google Pixel 4 XL

The second best Google phone

First released: October 2019 | Android version: 10 | Screen size: 6.3 inches | Resolution: 1440 x 3040 | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,700mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP + 16MP | Front camera: 8MP + TOF | Weight: 193g | Dimensions: 160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2mm

High-res screen
Powerful processor
Cheaper than Pixel 5
Not 5G

If you want something a little cheaper than the Pixel 5 (number 1 on our list), but which is still a quality phone, then you’ll find it in the Google Pixel 4 XL. 

Even though it’s been around since October 2019, it’s still a very impressive device. The screen itself is superior in many ways to the Pixel 5’s: larger, at 6.3 inches, and offering a higher resolution of 1440 x 3040 pixels. The processor is a little more powerful than the Pixel 5’s, too.

Elsewhere, you’re taking a step down in terms of the specs: there’s no 5G, the battery is slightly less powerful and the operating system is one down from Android 11. But it’s a pretty small step on the whole. 

The cameras, too, are pretty similar between the two phones. Yes, you can only capture 4K in 30fps, half the frame rate of the Pixel 5, but overall this is a great phone for shooting both stills and video.

In short, then, the Pixel 4 XL doesn’t quite match up to the Pixel 5, but isn’t far off. And as you should be able to get one for a lower price, it’s well worth considering. To learn more, read our Google Pixel 4 XL review.

(Image credit: Google)

3. Google Pixel 4a

The best cheap Google phone

First released: August 2020 | Android version: 10 | Screen size: 5.81 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 3,140mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP | Weight: 143g | Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm

Low price
Value for money
Decent battery life
Small screen

Holding your purse strings tightly? Then you’ll want to check out the Pixel 4a, which launched in August 2020 and is the best cheap Google phone available today.

A stripped down version of the Pixel 4 (number 6 on our list), this budget-busting phone does involve some compromises. For example, the Full HD screen’s quite small at 5.81 inches, the rear camera has just one sensor, offering a fairly modest 12.2MP resolution, and there’s no 5G connectivity. 

That said, you can shoot 4K video at 30fps, as well as 120fps in 1080P, and 240fps in 720P. And while the 3140mAh battery isn’t the most powerful on our list, Google’s intelligent app management system means it should last a day on average use. 

On the whole, then, for such a low price the Google Pixel 4a offers great value for money.  

(Image credit: Google)

4. Google Pixel 4a 5G

The best mid-range Google phone

First released: November 2020 | Android version: 11 | Screen size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 3,885mAh | Rear camera: 16MP + 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP | Weight: 168g | Dimensions: 153.9mm x 74mm x 8.2mm

Supports 5G
Runs Android 11
Cheaper than Pixel 5
No wireless charging

From the name alone, you might assume that the Google Pixel 4a 5G is the exact same phone as the Google Pixel 4a (number 3 on our list), but with added 5G. 

It’s not. 

As well as being able to access the faster internet speeds of 5G, this phone is more advanced in other ways, including powerful battery, a more advanced camera system, and it’s a different size and weight too.

In short, the Google Pixel 4a 5G – which launched in November 2020 – is best thought of as a slightly less powerful version of the Pixel 5, for a lower price. 

That means you get the full Android 11 experience and the same impressive camera you find in the Pixel 5. On the negative side, you don’t get water resistance or wireless charging, and the screen refresh rate is just 60Hz to the Pixel 5’s 90Hz. To learn more, read our Google Pixel 4a 5G review.

(Image credit: Google)

5. Google Pixel 3 XL

The best Google phone from the Pixel 3 series

First released: October 2018 | Android version: 10 | Screen size: 6.3 inches | Resolution: 1440 x 2960 | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,430mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP + 8MP | Weight: 184g | Dimensions: 158 x 76.7 x 7.9mm

Cheap
QHD screen
Two selfie cameras
Older hardware

The Google Pixel 3 XL was first released back in 2018, and given recent events, that might seem like a lifetime ago. But in actual measurable time, it’s still pretty recent. And this model remains a great choice if you’re looking for a cheap phone today. 

Running Android 10 and offering just 4GB of RAM, this isn’t the fastest Google phone you can buy today. But if you can get it for a discount, it might be the best value. Especially as its large (6.3-inch), Super AMOLED screen offers a high QHD resolution of 1440 x 2960, which is more detailed than even the Pixel 5, the number 1 phone on our list. 

The 12.2MP camera is very capable too, allowing you to shoot 4K at 30fps, and you get two 8MP selfie cameras to boot.

Overall, if you can afford the pricier Pixel 5 then you'll be getting a much better phone. But if you're counting the pennies, then the Pixel 3 XL is a worthy alternative.

(Image credit: Google)

6. Google Pixel 3a

No-frills Google phone with bargain appeal

First released: May 2019 | Android version: 10 | Screen size: 5.6 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2220 | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP | Weight: 147g | Dimensions: 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm

Cheap
Decent battery
High-res screen
Quite basic

Launched in 2019, the Google Pixel 3a remains a pretty decent smartphone, and at such a bargain price, it's a tempting buy. 

Don't get too excited. It’s got quite a small screen at 5.6 inches, limited storage at 64GB and there’s no 5G support. The camera is fairly no-frills too, compared to the latest Pixel phones, with just one 12.2MP sensor. 

That said, the battery is decent, the screen’s roughly the same resolution as the Pixel 5, and you do get a headphone jack. To learn more, read our Google Pixel 3a review.

(Image credit: Google)

7. Google Pixel 3

Compact, cheap and broadly capable

First released: October 2018 | Android version: 10 | Screen size: 5.5 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2160 | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 2,915mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP + 8MP | Weight: 148g | Dimensions: 145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm

Cheap
Wireless charging
Two selfie cameras
Not the best battery

Launched in 2018, the Pixel 3 is showing its age, but still has a lot to offer. So if you’re looking for a cheap Google phone, it’s worth a look.

The OLED screen is the smallest on our list, at just 5.5 inches, but that means the phone as a whole is compact too, which may be a plus for some people. Wireless charging is included. The single-lens 12.2MP rear camera takes decent photos, and you get two 8MP front-facing cameras too. 

On the downside, battery life isn’t great, and with just 4GB RAM and an older processor, it’s not going to be as zippy as the more recent Google phones.

(Image credit: Google)

8. Google Pixel 4

Worth buying if a discount is available

First released: October 2019 | Android version: 10 | Screen size: 5.7 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2280 | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP + 16MP | Front camera: 8MP + TOF | Weight: 162g | Dimensions: 147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm

Cheap
Good looking
Battery not great
Small screen

Another 2019 phone, the Pixel 4 didn’t impress us greatly on its release. Most notably, its 2,800mAh battery is the least powerful on our list, the camera lacks an ultra-wide lens and storage is a maximum of 128GB. With that in mind, at time of release we felt it was definitely overpriced.

On the plus side, the design of the Pixel 4 looks great, it runs Android 10, and its camera generally works well as a point-and-shoot. With that in mind, it’s at least worth considering, especially if there's a discount on offer. (The price widgets on this page update in real-time, so that's easy to check). To learn more, check out our Google Pixel 4 review

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.