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Tech review: The best Android phones

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy.

After testing every flagship Android phone released in the last two years over hundreds of hours, we think the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the best new phone for most people. It looks and feels fantastic, it's packed with useful features, and its 16-megapixel camera and 1440p Super AMOLED screen are the best on any Android phone. The screen is bright, crisp and colorful: it's very high-resolution, so everything looks sharp, and because it uses AMOLED technology, the black pixels on its screen are actually black (and do not use any backlight). We came to this decision after combing through all the available reviews of the top Android phones and testing them hands-on. If you want a phone with a larger screen or one that's friendlier to your budget, we have alternative picks as well.

Should you upgrade?

If you're happy with your old phone, don't get a new one yet. The phones that will be out when you are ready for an upgrade will be better than what's available today. Unless you're a power user or a serial early adopter, you probably don't need an upgrade if you bought a phone in 2014 or later. If you use your phone constantly and your old one isn't serving you well anymore, a new model is worth the cost, even if your current phone is only a year old.

Grabbing whatever phone your carrier offers for free with a two-year contract can be tempting, but those phones usually have some combination of unintuitive user interface, outdated software, substandard specs and poor build quality. When it is time to get a new phone, we recommend choosing the best, newest phone you can afford.

The best overall option

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is the best new smartphone for most people seeking an Android phone. It has the best camera and the best screen, it offers lots of useful features, and, for once, it isn't made of plastic. It's the first truly exciting Samsung phone in a long, long time. It has a nonremovable battery and no microSD card slot. For most people, the S6 is the best phone so far. Available on all four major U.S. carriers, it starts at $200 on-contract for the 32GB model or $650 to $700 off-contract.

Samsung Galaxy S6 (The Wirecutter)

The best phablet for multitaskers

If you want a large phone/tablet hybrid that helps you get things done, or if you can't live without a removable battery and a microSD card slot, you should get the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It has a fantastic screen, a great camera and excellent battery life. It's almost as big as Apple's iPhone 6 Plus, but it offers an even larger and sharper screen despite being slightly shorter. And unlike the iPhone 6 Plus and every other phablet, the Note 4 is designed for multitasking, with a stylus and software that lets you use two apps side by side.

The Note 4 starts at $300 on-contract at AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular, and $750 off-contract at T-Mobile.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (The Wirecutter)

The best budget option

Midrange unlocked phones are becoming increasingly popular, but the market is still a bit of a minefield. Some models are OK, but others aren't even worth their meager asking price. If you need the cheapest decent phone you can get, that's the Motorola Moto G. Compared with most phones in this price range, the Moto G has amazing build quality and software.

You can find two versions of the Moto G: a 4.5-inch-screen phone from 2013 and a 5-inch model released in 2014. Both have the same 720p resolution, identical quad-core Snapdragon processors and 1 GB of RAM. The 2013 Moto G is just $200 with LTE, while the newer 2014 version without LTE is $180. We think the older LTE version is the better value for people in the U.S., since the phones are so similar otherwise.

Motorola Moto G (Motorola)

Wrapping it up

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is the fastest and most well-made Android phone available, and it should be a great fit for most people.

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This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation, please go to TheWirecutter.com. The Wirecutter's extensive research and testing is supported by a small commission from the purchases made by its readers.

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