Best Android One phones: Top smartphones running stock Android

Android is the largest operating system for mobile devices in the world. Android’s share of the global mobile operating system stands as high as 85% in the world with 62% of the phones in the US being Android devices.

The vast popularity of Android is to be credited to its flexibility. Mobile device manufacturers are allowed to make use of the Android source code to create a custom operating system of their own that will result in a phone that has some extras implemented in it by the manufacturer but will also be compatible to Google apps that we often find pre-loaded when we purchase an Android phone.

These custom operating systems can be found on almost every phone with each OEM adding personalized custom functions, shortcuts, and gestures to their product devices. Samsung’s One UI (former TouchWiz), Xiaomi’s MIUI, Huawei’s EMUI, HTC Sense, LG UX, are some of the most popular Android firmware to date.

However, that also is Android’s greatest weakness. Manufacturers often equip their devices with hardware that are compatible with the version operating system they ship with and may not be powerful enough to upgrade to later versions. As software updates are crucial for prolonging the life of a phone, being deprived of such vital maintenance, the phone might be left exposed to security vulnerabilities that were fixed on later versions, miss additional features and design revamps added to Android and even become incompatible to the latest versions of Android apps and games.

Who wants a phone that will not download the latest apps and games anyway?

One of the ways Google addresses Android’s low upgrade adoption rate is via the Android One program. Android One was initially meant as a lightweight version of the Android for low-end devices in the emerging markets. That has no become what Android Go phones are with Android One being adapted into phones of all ranges and prices to deliver a user interface that is close to stock Android and that makes the devices less expensive because OEMs no longer have to invest on coding a new OS.

What is Android One?

Android One is a slightly stripped-down version of the Android OS, and it installs on phones that run it with little to no modification. Android One phones are stripped down of any unnecessary application that sometimes manufacturers add to their products to deliver a seamless phone experience. Outside of some tiny manufacturer-added software such as the camera app or the software needed to support phone hardware, no other touches are applied to the operating system destined for an Android One smartphone.

Because Android One mobiles lack extras at a software level, they do not have the useless apps, skins, and bloatware that slow down the phone and saturate its battery. They are also safer from vulnerabilities because with each Android One device you are guaranteed software updates for at least two years.

What’s the difference between Android and Android One?

Android One phones are built differently from “regular” phones that run on Android. With the regular mobiles in production, manufacturers select the hardware it wants to use when making it, and then they build an operating system on it that’s based on Android and allows the manufacturer to add their signature into it.

Android One phones are built differently. With an Android One phone awaiting production, Google is directly involved with the selection of hardware that will make a phone and it even has the final word regarding their selection. But that’s not everything Google involves its self. The giant also goes back and forth with the OEMs overseeing the software creation and takes on the responsibility to deliver regular updates to it throughout the expected lifespan.

Android One phones offer a neat and pure interface that is quite close to Google’s image for Android, and you get to enjoy unlimited storage on Google Photos that do not affect the 15GB of free memory everyone receives when creating a Google account, and your favorite virtual assistant for mobile, Google Assistant to make life easier to you.

Nokia 8 Sirocco

Nokia 8 Sirocco hands on review

Nokia 8 Sirocco is the best option of choice to a phone with a curved edge display, premium QHD screen resolution, excellent photography features, and up-to-date hardware Android One fans can put their hands to.

Nokia 8 Sirocco boasts compact glass design on both sides that’s kept squashed together via a stainless steel frame. The front OLED panel has curves on both edges and sports a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels. Nokia 8 Sirocco is also the best pick if you are looking for an Android One phone with a good camera. The dual 13MP sensors where the standard unit has a wide aperture of f/1.8, 1.4µm pixel size, and dual-pixel PDAF and the second telephoto sensor of the same megapixel range can record 4K videos at 30 frames per second.

The dual-cameras on the Nokia 8 Sirocco improve significantly when compared to the Nokia 8. Colors are rendered more accurately, and the phone can take decent shots under good light conditions. There’s a 5MP selfie snapper at the front which has a large pixel size sensor of 1.4µm and can record 1080p videos.

Read more: Phones with the best cameras

Unfortunately, there is no Android One phone to run the Snapdragon 845 SoC to date. The fastest mobile processor found on an Android One smartphone at this time is last year’s Snapdragon 835. Nokia 8 Sirocco has that too.

There are 8gigs of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable internal storage built into the previous Nokia flagship. The unmodified Android 9.0 Pie featured on the Nokia 8 Sirocco and every new Nokia phone, makes the phone easy-to-use through software that’s familiar to anyone that has previously, owned an Android-powered phone, and it has no annoying bloatware.

The connectivity is at top notch. There is support for two SIM cards, a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, and NFC for contactless payments. The battery powering the Nokia Android One-based powerhouse is a 3,260 mAh unit with Quick Charge 4.0 technology and Qi wireless charging support.

LG G7 One

LG G7 One hands on review

LG G7 ThinQ is one of the best phones right now. But in case you’re not a fan of the UX firmware, LG has the G7 One that runs pure Android OS and is almost as good as the ThinQ edition. Although it is slightly downgraded and runs the Snapdragon 835 and not 845 as the G7 ThinQ, the G7 One still makes an excellent Android gaming phone for a budget.

The Snapdragon 835-leveraged LG G7 One has 3GB of RAM and just 32gigs of internal storage. The memory capacity is too low for a phone of this range. Luckily, you can increase the storage by up to 512GB via a microSD card. Android 9.0 Pie gives the finishing touch to this LG Android One phone.

The 16MP primary camera on the back featuring HDR, F/1.6 aperture, PDAF, and laser autofocus can record 4K videos at 30 frames per second. There’s an 8MP FHD camera at the front for selfie-taking and 1080p video recording. The overall camera features on the G7 One are not impressive. Its performance is comparable to the top-end phones from late 2016, such as the iPhone 7 for example.

The G7 One has a premium LCD screen of 6.1-inches that boasts a resolution of 1440 x 3120 pixels and has a notch in it. It supports two SIM cards, features a fingerprint reader on the back, gets fueled by a 3,000 mAh battery that comes with Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology and is wireless-charging enabled and has support for the headphone jack.

Nokia 8.1

Nokia 8.1 hands on review

Nokia 8.1 (known as Nokia X7 in China) is another premium device in HMD Global’s portfolio to come with Android 9.1 Pie out of the box that offers a clean, stock Android experience. Listed as an upper-midrange smartphone, it sports a large and vivid LCD display with a resolution of 1080 x 2280 pixels.

Nokia 8.1 boasts a glass design on both of its sides with an aluminum frame that keeps them sandwiched together. It shoots decent photos and records 4K videos with its Zeiss-design dual cameras on the rear that consist in a 12MP standard sensor with 1.4µm, f/1.8 aperture, dual-pixel PDAF, OIS, and HDR, and a second 13MP depth sensor. There’s an improved 20MP sensor at the front that makes the Nokia 8.1 a decent selfie phone alternative.

It is a disappointment that Nokia did not pick the Snapdragon 845 chipset for a brand new Android One phone launching in early 2019. It even downgrades from the Nokia 8’s Snapdragon 835 and runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 instead with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable flash memory.

Nokia 8 from 2017 is actually better than the 8.1 of late 2018, but it isn’t an Android One mobile. The 8.1 houses a 3,500 mAh battery, a jack plug socket, a rear fingerprint, and supports two SIM cards.

Xiaomi Mi A2

Xiaomi Mi A2 (Mi 6x) hands on review

Xiaomi is one of the largest providers of quality Chinese phones of all ranges and prices. Its second take on Android One resulted with the manufacturing of the Xiaomi Mi A2, an eye-catching feature-rich, and powerful mobile that sells for around $200.

The Mi A2, known in China as Xiaomi 6X, runs the Snapdragon 660 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 32GB/64GB of memory and has a premium edition packing 6gigs of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The available memory cannot be extended further via microSD on any of the models. A neat user interface provided by Android 9.0 Pie tops it up.

Xiaomi’s Mi A2 has a 12MP and 20MP HDR-enabled dual camera setup on the back with PDAF and f/1.8 aperture that take decent pics when the lighting is sufficient and also record 4K videos. A cheap phone with 4K camera is not stumbled upon randomly yet. A 20MP camera at the front with an LED flash of its own and auto-HDR function provides you with satisfactory selfies and quality video chat at 1080p.

The Mi A2 packs an elegant an elegant metal-body design with a FullView 5.99-inch LCD display packing a resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels. It has a fingerprint sensor on the rear, runs on a 3,000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 4.0 fast charging technology, supports two SIM cards, and continues the headphone jack.

Nokia 7 Plus

Nokia 7 Plus hands on review

Nokia 7 Plus is one of the top products the “New Nokia” has designed to date. It sports a 6-inch notch-less FHD LCD display and the same dual cameras found on the Nokia 8.1 that can record 4K videos at 30 frames per second. It even is a great alternative to the 8.1 that runs Snapdragon 660 and does not have the ugly notch on the screen to mess things up.

A 16MP Zeiss-optics sensor at the front with f/2.0 aperture snaps decent selfies and records full HD videos at 30 frames per second. The handset has a premium design with a metal body at the back and copper bezels that highlight its beauty.

Nokia’s top-quality 7 Plus midranger has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable memory. It launched with Android 8.1 Oreo back in the March of 2018 and is now upgradable to Android 9.1 Pie. It supports two SIM cards, comes with a fingerprint reader at the back, and runs on a 3,800 mAh battery. In addition, there’s NFC, fast charging, and a headphone jack.

Motorola One Power

Motorola Moto One Power hands on review

Motorola Moto One Power is one of the most beautifully-designed affordable Motorola phones, and it brings the traditional Moto design to Android One phone list. This Moto Android One device comes with no third-party apps except Motorola’s native applications that are quite useful.

Moto One Power, as the name suggests, has a massive battery that will keep it going for quite some time. Its battery, a 5,000 mAh unit is massive indeed and due to its Turbopower fast charging technology, it needs only 15 minutes of charging to stay up for up to six hours.

The One Power, referred to as the P30 Note in China, features a metal body design on the rear and boasts an FHD LCD display of 6.2-inches and equips an HDR-loaded 16MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture and PDAF with a 5MP depth-detection sensor on the back to record 4K videos on the go. There’s also a quite-impressive 12MP sensor at the front that takes over selfie-related functionalities.

Motorola’s One Power is splash resistant and has two SIM card slots, runs the Snapdragon 636 SoC with variants packing 3GB,4GB, and 6GB of RAM with 32GB and 64GB of expandable storage models. It features a fingerprint reader on the back with the Motorola logo embedded in it and brings continuation to the headphone jack.

Nokia 7.1

Nokia 7.1 (Nokia 7 2018) hands on review

Nokia 7.1 performs slightly better than the Nokia 7, but it isn’t as good as the Nokia 7 Plus. It, however, brings the edge-to-edge display trend and adds a tiny notch to it.

The new Nokia 7.1 continues the all-glass body design found in almost every recent Nokia phone and packs a compact screen size of 5.84-inches with FHD resolution. It sports a 12MP standard camera with HDR and PDAF and a 5MP depth sensor on the back that supports 2160p video recording. Regarding selfies and video chat, the Nokia 7.1 brings up an 8MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture that shoots clear 1080p videos.

The Snapdragon 636-powered Nokia 7.1 has variants packing 3GB and 4GB of RAM with 32GB and 64GB of respective built-in memory. The available memory supports extension by another 400GB via a microSD card.

Nokia 7.1 is a dual-SIM phone and features a fingerprint sensor on the rear, NFC, and the headphone jack. It gets its power from a 3,060 mAh battery that supports fast charging.

Nokia 6.1 / Nokia 6.1 Plus

Nokia 6.1 Plus hands on review

Nokia 6.1 and 6.1 Plus are two leading budget-oriented Android one phones that offer design choices to anyone that wants to enjoy the user experience only Android One provides. The Nokia 6.1 is no longer the top-choice Android with a home button the Nokia 6 was and goes FullVision while retaining the notch-less display while the Nokia 6.1 adds a notch and glass panels on both sides.

Both, the 5.5-inch Nokia 6.1 and the 5.8-inch Nokia 6.1 Plus feature FHD LCD screens that are protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The first of them runs the Snapdragon 630 chipset while the second phone with the notch has the slightly-faster Snapdragon 636. Nokia 6.1 has 3GB and 4GB of RAM editions with 32GB and 64GB of memory and the 6.1 Plus has 4GB and 6GB of RAM models also with 32GB and 64GB of built-in memory. Both these phones use their second SIM card as a microSD reader and can further expand the available storage by up 256GB and 400GB.

The smaller 6.1 houses a single 16MP camera lens made by Zeiss with HDR and PDAF for taking 4K videos. The same sensor can be found on the 6.1 Plus phone, but in this case, it works together with a 5MP depth sensor. The 8MP FHD selfie snapper on the Nokia 6.1 is upgraded to a 16MP sensor that captures clearer images on the 6.1 Plus edition.

Both these phones have 3,000 mAh batteries, rear-mounted fingerprint readers, NFC readers, and headphone jack.

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