The 5 best Android flagships that aren’t Huawei or Honor
Upcoming Huawei and Honor phones might not have Google services, but there are plenty of other great options
Google’s suspension of support for Huawei means that for consumers outside of China, upcoming Huawei and Honor smartphones will come without the Google Play Store and popular Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube. Even though existing Huawei device owners will still be able to use those apps, new Android updates might be delayed or not happen at all.
It remains to be seen how long the ban will last or if other Chinese smartphone brands will be affected. If you’re in the market for a new Android phone right now, though, we have some suggestions for you.
OnePlus 7 Pro
OnePlus has been one of China’s rising stars in the international smartphone space for a few years now. It’s known for combining solid specs with reasonable pricing, and its latest flagships do not disappoint.
The OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro both sport the Snapdragon 855 chipset, use AMOLED screens and have in-display fingerprint sensors. The Pro version kicks it up a notch by using a pop-up selfie camera, which gives the device an almost bezel-free 6.7-inch screen without making the handset feel too big.
The Pro version also includes three rear cameras: The main 48MP camera, a 117-degree wide-angle lens and a 3x zoom telephoto lens. That’s not as impressive as the Huawei P30 Pro’s camera lineup, but it’s still pretty good considering the handset costs much less than the Huawei flagship. Even the fully-specced-out 12GB of RAM with 256GB of storage version of the OnePlus 7 Pro costs just US$749. That’s a significant savings over the US$1,000 it’ll cost you to get the 128GB Huawei P30 Pro.
OnePlus has its official store on Amazon, and consumers in the US can also buy OnePlus devices via T-Mobile. Unfortunately, though, US consumers will have to get the more expensive Pro version. The regular OnePlus 7 isn’t available.
Samsung Galaxy S10+
Samsung handsets aren’t so popular in China anymore, but it still rules the Android scene in much of the world. The release of the Galaxy S10 series this year saw the company’s latest smartphones receive high praise and were even found to be more popular than expected in China. One analyst told us that the quality of the series justifies its popularity.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ both pack solid processing power (either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 or Samsung Exynos 9820, depending on the region) and good cameras -- a 12MP telephoto lens, a 12MP wide-angle lens and a 16MP ultra wide lens. Many also find the look of the phones appealing, with a hole-punch design that allows the AMOLED display to wrap around the front-facing camera and fill up the front of the device.
At 157g, the S10 is also one of the lightest flagship phones. Most smartphones with similar battery capacity come in at about 180g, which is noticeably heavier in the hand. (The Huawei P30 is also pretty light at 165g, but since we’re not talking about Huawei here…)
But the US$899 phone is not without flaws. Many Chinese users have been reporting overheating issues, which also appears to be the case outside of China. It’s something to consider with what is otherwise one of the top Android smartphones available today.
Google Pixel 3 XL
If all you really want in a smartphone is a great camera and solid performance without all the bells and whistles like pop-up cameras and in-display fingerprint sensors, look no further than the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Google’s Pixel phones are famous for their photography performance, especially in low light. It’s almost all in the software, though, as the company doesn’t splurge on multiple rear-facing cameras. The company’s latest flagship phones also have good screens and smooth performance. That’s to be expected from the company that owns Android.
The Pixel 3 starts at US$799 for 64GB of storage, or $899 for Pixel 3 XL. However, Google recently announced a cheaper alternative, the newly released Google Pixel 3a. The phone starts at just $399, and the camera performance matches that of its much costlier brethren.
Xiaomi Mi 9
If you’re not into the OnePlus 7 but still want a cheaper Android smartphone with high-end specs, Xiaomi’s latest flagship Mi 9 could be an option. Like many Android flagships, it runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor and has three cameras on the back. Best of all, it only costs about $500. At least one reviewer called it the smartphone with the best value.
We also got our hands on the Transparent Edition, which has a transparent back cover that shows simulated (or “decorative,” in Xiaomi’s words) chips and circuitry. Like OnePlus, Xiaomi even offers a version with 12GB of RAM, but it costs just US$595.
Unfortunately, Xiaomi phones aren’t officially available in the US. People can still find the handsets on Amazon, but they don’t come with a warranty. Consumers in Europe can buy from Xiaomi’s official site or physical stores.
Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
This year, Chinese smartphone vendors Oppo and Vivo both launched their own sub-brands that offer more expensive smartphones. While Vivo’s iQOO focuses on gaming, the Oppo Reno is more of a standard flagship that has lots of power for a competitive price.
The Oppo Reno comes with two versions. The mid-range Reno uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor while the higher-end Reno 10x Zoom uses the Snapdragon 855. As the latter name suggests, the phone includes a camera with a 10x optical zoom along with a 48MP camera.
Like Xiaomi, Oppo doesn’t sell its phones in the US, either. Its phones are also available on Amazon, though, without a warranty.
Oppo was officially launched in the UK earlier this year, where its phones are available through Carphone Warehouse. The Oppo Reno is set to launch there in June. In China, the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is sold for 4,799 yuan (US$695).