The Best Upcoming Android Phones [Fall 2020]
2020 has been a bumpy year for all of us, and the phone industry hasn’t been immune. While a few phone launches have managed to get off the ground without any major issues, this summer saw a number of phones delayed—most notably, the Pixel 4a. Google’s latest budget phone was supposed to launch in May, but it’s only getting off the ground in August as we update this guide, months after its initial rumored release. Even Apple, the largest company in the phone-making game, announced that their next iPhone would miss its usual September date.
That makes this a very interesting time for phones as we head into the final months of the year. With more people staying home than ever before, it seems likely that many manufacturers will have to seriously shake up their usual phone launches to convince people to upgrade to a new device. If you’re curious what’s coming down the pipeline for Android over the next few months, you aren’t alone. From announced-but-unreleased devices to rumored models, these are the five Android phones to keep an eye on for fall 2020.
It took an extra three months for Google to announce the Pixel 4a this year, and the company seized on the moment to announce two other upcoming devices: the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5. At first glance, a 5G version of the Pixel 4a may not seem all too interesting, but without an XL version of the Pixel 4a available, Google may see the 5G version as an option for anyone looking to upgrade to a larger device.
The teaser image shared by Google ahead of the Pixel 4a launch showed the Pixel 4a 5G is a larger device than the Pixel 5, and thanks to new leaks, it’s all but confirmed the Pixel 4a will be the perfect device for anyone looking for a super-sized Pixel phone on a budget. According to the (now deleted) photos and specs, Google’s Pixel 4a 5G reportedly uses a 6.2″ display, nearly half an inch larger than the Pixel 4a’s 5.81″ screen. The 5G version keeps the refresh rate at 60Hz, and holds onto most of the other specs: 6GB of RAM, a plastic build with a fingerprint sensor on the back, the same 12.2MP sensor on the back, and a headphone jack.
So what’s new in the 5G version? In addition to a white model—the Pixel 4a is only available in black—Google is making two major changes to equip the phone for 5G. The phone moves from the Snapdragon 730G to the Snapdragon 765G, a necessity for equipping the phone with the 765G’s built-in 5G radio. Second, the phone gets an upgrade in the battery department, now offering a 3800mAh battery to make up for the extra screen size and the 5G radio.
It’s unclear what price point the Pixel 4a 5G will come in at, especially with the Pixel 5 aiming for a similar spec sheet. If we had to guess, expect to be able to pick up a 5G-equipped Pixel 4a for under $500, though that remains unconfirmed. As for a release date? All eyes are on October—the usual launch time for new Pixel devices.
Of course, we aren’t done with Google. After a slow 2020, they own the fall for Pixel releases, and the Pixel 4a 5G is only the start. Google discontinued the Pixel 4 a couple of weeks prior to announcing the 4a, which means anyone looking for a “flagship” Pixel at the moment is out of luck. And perhaps in a total restructure of the Pixel brand as we know it, that may continue to be the case with the Pixel 5.
That same Reddit leak that brought us photos and specs for the Pixel 4a 5G also brought information on what to expect for the Pixel 5, and it lines up well with Google’s own tease of the device. Here’s what we know: expect the Pixel 5 to be something of a cross between the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G, while giving consumers with a bit more cash to spend a premium experience. The size of the phone matches up well to the Pixel 4a, with the rumored screen size coming in at the same 5.8″ mark and a 1080p resolution. That said, the screen features a 90Hz refresh rate, so anyone upgrading to the Pixel 5 this fall should be rewarded with some buttery smoothness.
Although the build looks plastic, the Pixel 5 is likely using the same matte glass we’ve seen become popular over the last few years, in order to add support for wireless charging. Leaked software also seems to hint that the Pixel 5 will include reverse wireless charging, so you can top off your headphones or a smartwatch without having to bring an extra charger. However, like on the 4a series, the Pixel 5 seems to have dropped Active Edge altogether. It seems the feature might be gone for good—a disappointing reality for Pixel die-hards.
On the specs side, the Pixel 5 bumps the RAM up to 8GB, but keeps the Snapdragon 765G from the Pixel 4a XL. That means the Pixel 5 should include 5G, but will also perform about as well as the Pixel 4a XL. The cameras remain unchanged from the Pixel 4 as well, though the includion of a wide lens should make those who were down on the Pixel 4 last year pretty happy. And speaking of improvements over the Pixel 4, it seems Google has finally learned their lesson about battery life. A massive 4000mAh battery is included inside the Pixel 5, which should translate to all-day battery life.
It’s odd to see Google transitioning the entire Pixel series to the midrange, but with the ever-increasing prices of phones these days, it might be a smart way to set themselves apart from the pack. Pixel phones have never been sales hits, but they’ve really fallen off over the last few years. With Pixel prices returning to Earth for the first time, Android fans may finally be able to justify the purchase over a $1,200 phone from Samsung.
This year’s OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro are fantastic devices, but as we move into the fall, it’s time to set our eyes on what’s next for the company’s flagship phones. The T-series revisions always show up in the fall, and we’re hoping to learn more throughout the next couple of months, but surprisingly, things have been quiet from the company since the OnePlus Nord was released earlier this summer. The Nord is designed to offer a new midrange phone for those who miss the days of $500 OnePlus devices, but without an official launch in the US, fans of the company have been left waiting for any news on what’s next.
Still, if you’re planning on upgrading to a new Android phone this fall, you’d be smart to keep your eyes on OnePlus. While the 8-series is still worth buying this fall, the OnePlus 8T might be using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865+, a must-have for mobile gamers everywhere. As the leaks start to flow this fall, we’ll update this space with more information.
Unlike most phones on this list, the Asus ROG Phone 3 is announced and ready to go. In fact, in some regions, you can head out and pick up an ROG Phone 3 today, but in the US, we’re still waiting for a planned September release. Anyone looking for the Android superphone of their dreams deserves to keep an eye on Asus’s new gaming-themed phone, even if we expect the price point to break the $1,000 mark.
Aesthetically, this is an ROG phone through and through, with a massive RGB LED logo on the back of the device. It’s a big, bulky phone, with a massive 6.59″ display and a 6000mAh—yes, six thousand—battery that should manage to go two days without a charge with no questions asked. Although the display’s resolution tops out at a disappointing 1080p, the 144Hz refresh rate more than makes up for it, marking the first time in our memory that a phone has achieved 144Hz.
As with all ROG Phones, this is a specs monster at its core. In addition to the class-leading refresh rate and battery tech, Asus has included Snapdragon’s gaming-focused 865+ processor, and up to 16GB of RAM. That’s overkill in every sense of the word, and it’s all backed up by up to 512GB of storage. Unfortunately, the phone lacks both a headphone jack and an SD card slot for expandable storage, though it makes up for the former by offering two USB-C ports along both the bottom and the side of the phone, helping to keep things charged while gaming and using wired USB-C headphones.
All of this power does mean one thing: this phone gets really hot, really fast, especially when gaming. Asus offers a number of gaming accessories with the ROG Phone 3, including a gamepad and a controller clip, but if you’re going to pick up any of them, we recommend the cooling pad, which should help to keep the device a little easier to hold when gaming.
Still, with the Asus ROG Phone 3 likely to come in over a grand—before you even add any of the accessories—it remains to be seen if it’ll be a worthy purchase for most people. If you find yourself gaming on your phone more than ever though, Asus’s newest device is well worth a look.
Finally, we come to the strangest device on this list: the Microsoft Surface Duo. Originally announced at last October’s Microsoft event, the Duo is something well worth keeping your eye on. It’s Microsoft’s first Surface phone, and it’s running Android—the first time the company has fully switched to the mobile OS since the failure of Windows Phone. It also happens to be the latest foldable phone to arrive on the market, though with a unique, two-display design that immediately calls back to the fabled (and canceled) Courier devices of last decade.
Launching September 10th for a whipping $1,399, the Duo is posed to be a pretty niche device, one picked up by Microsoft die-hards but kept at arm’s reach from everyone else. For one, the device is already dated: much like when RED announced an Android phone a year in advance back in 2017, the Surface Duo is using an outdated Snapdragon 855 processor. It’s not a bad chip, but with the Snapdragon 875 only half a year away from making its public debut and the Snapdragon 865+ running circles around the 855, it’s a tough call to pay for outdated specs.
Likewise, the camera is rumored to be… bad. Microsoft has hidden the performance of the 11MP sensor from the public, but a number of images teasing the Surface Duo on Twitter might be from the Duo itself, and if that’s true, expect the camera to be unusable in many cases.
For anyone interested in grabbing this device though, it may not matter. The real interest comes in how Microsoft has modified the software to make the dual screens work for productivity. From notetaking with the included stylus to messaging with a full-size keyboard, the dual 5.6″ OLED displays are the real reason to consider picking one up. It is truly a fascinating device, but whether or not it’ll hold up as a phone remains to be seen. We’ll find out when the Duo launches in September.