The Great Android Flagship Buying Guide |

This is a great time to be in the market for an Android flagship phone — a phone that’s all performance muscle with no major compromises. Most leading brands have launched their flagships for the year, so there is no shortage of flagship options out there. No matter what your requirement is, there is a high-end Android phone out there that can deliver just what you are looking for. So if you are thinking of investing in an Android flagship, here is our very own buying guide, tailored to your requirements. Go right ahead and figure out the one you would like to sail in, in your smartphone journey. 

Requirement: I want a hardware beast, with the best processor, display and lots of storage and RAM.  

This really depends on what you consider to be important. There are a number of phones out there that come with what seems to be the Android flagship template of curved, quad HD+ AMOLED displays with 120Hz refresh rate, Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 processor and RAM going from 6 to 12GB and storage of 128GB and more. Among the options you can consider here are the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Xiaomi 12 Pro, the OnePlus 10 Pro, the Vivo X80 Pro and the iQOO 9 Pro.

You are going to get top-of-the-line hardware with all of them, with differences really being down to perception — some might like the display of the Galaxy S22 Ultra a little more, for instance, while others might prefer that of the OnePlus 10 Pro. In fact, the current set of Android flagships are so evenly matched in terms of processor, RAM and display, that you have to head to other parameters to figure out what floats your flagship! 

Requirement: Beast is okay, but I am a sucker for Beauty. I want me a phone that looks stylish and grabs attention. 

iQOO 9

Design and appearance are highly subjective, so the answer here is a tricky one. The fronts of Android flagships are the standard tall display and narrow bezels with a teensy notch on them. So all the burden of distinction falls on the backs. If we were to go in terms of pure sticking-out-in-a-crowdness of a phone, then perhaps the winner would be, rather surprisingly, the iQOO 9 Pro. The phone’s Legend version has one of the most distinct backs out there, white in colour (a bit of a rarity now) with a racing stripe running vertically down one of the sides. A large rectangular, jet back camera unit completes the rather distinct appearance of this device. 

OnePlus 10 Pro design

More subtly attention-catching is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra whose back has cameras in a water droplet-like formation rather than as a jutting-out camera unit. And well, there is also the OnePlus 10 Pro which has a square camera unit made of ceramic on its back — very distinct, irrespective of the variant you choose! Beauty lies very much in the eyes of the beholder here. In terms of sheer build quality, we are inclined to go with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra which has Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back and an Armour Aluminium frame as well as an IP68 dust and water resistance rating. 

Requirement: Beauty and Beast and all that is nice, but can I have something that I can use easily with one hand, and which does not stretch my pockets unduly?

Most flagships out there are on the heavy, hefty side. With one very notable exception — the Samsung Galaxy S22. At 146mm tall and 167 grammes, it is very compact and actually smaller and lighter than the iPhone 13. Some might not be too pleased at its having a full HD+ rather than a quad HD+ display, but that apart, this is an all-out flagship, with a Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 processor, a great set of cameras (50-megapixel main, 10-megapixel telephoto and 12-megapixel ultrawide and a 3,700mAh battery that sees off a day of use easily. You also get stereo speakers and wireless charging. This is perhaps the only true compact Android flagship out there. It is no delicate darling either as it packs in IP68 dust and water resistance, has Gorilla Glass Victus on front and back and has an Armour Aluminium frame. 

The ASUS 8Z gets an honourable mention here, as it is impressively compact too (148mm tall, 169 grammes light)  although it comes with an older processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 888) and is weak on the camera front, with a 64-megapixel main and 12-megapixel ultrawide arrangement. 

Requirement: I am a camera wizard and I want the best camera on a phone! What do I say cheese to?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Well, you are going to get great images and videos with pretty much any Android flagship out there at the moment. All of them come with good sensors, OIS and great imaging and video software. But if you are looking in terms of sheer consistency and variety, our vote would have to go with the  Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung has pretty much thrown the kitchen sink at the cameras on the device — you get a great 108-megapixel main sensor with OIS (the highest megapixel count on an Android flagship), a very good 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor, and two 10-megapixel telephoto sensors with OIS: one with 3X optical zoom and another with an amazing 10X optical zoom. Samsung claims to deliver up to 30X Space Zoom with the cameras and we think that it is very usable at up to 20X. Truth be told, even 10X optical zoom on a phone is fantastic and makes the Galaxy S22 Ultra the one phone that you can use to snap everything from portraits to landscapes to birds. It even has a very good macro mode. 

Vivo X80 Pro

The Galaxy S22 Ultra is very good at shooting photos, but if videos are a priority for you, then we would nudge you in the direction of the very good Vivo X80 Pro. You get a 50-megapixel main sensor with OIS, a surprisingly big 48-megapixel ultrawide sensor and two telephoto sensors – an 8-megapixel periscope telephoto with 5X optical zoom and OIS and a 12-megapixel telephoto with 2X optical zoom and Vivo’s famous gimbal stabilisation. While these add up to delivering very good photography, where they really excel is in video, where they handle detail, bokeh and colours wonderfully well and have a clear edge over everyone else. 

Oneplus 10 Pro camera

We are adding an honourable mention to the OnePlus 10 Pro for those who have a weakness for legendary camera names. The phone has a very good set of triple cameras (48-megapixel main, 50-megapixel ultrawide and 8-megapixel telephoto) but comes with a tie-up with the legendary Hasselblad. You get filters, Hasselblad colour calibration and also Hasselblad’s legendary Xpan mode, and an orange shutter button. You get very good snaps too, and the Hasselblad watermark if you so wish!

Requirement: Multimedia monster needed!  Give me something that is great for gaming and for watching shows. 

Xiaomi 12 Pro

With very similar displays, processors, RAM and the like, just about every Android flagship out there will deliver very good gaming and multimedia experience. Those wanting a slightly larger display might prefer the brilliant and bright 6.8-inch quad HD+ display on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but if you were to ask us, we would vote for the Xiaomi 12 Pro. The reason? It’s a sound one. Literally. While the Xiaomi 12 Pro boasts a very good AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate and has the requisite Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 processor and oodles of RAM and storage, what gives it a real edge over the competition is its quad-speaker arrangement tuned by Harman Kardon. Some phones might have higher volumes but the quality of sound from the Xiaomi 12 Pro is something else, and makes everything from gaming to shows truly immersive. 

If gaming is the main parameter, however, then the ASUS ROG Phone 5s also comes into contention. Yes, it does have a very slightly older processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 888+) but it is a phone designed for gaming with a brilliant display with a 144Hz refresh rate, great sound (there’s even a 3.5mm audio jack)  and a number of gaming optimisations and accessories. Mind you, it is not as much of a performer in the camera department and is a little bulky to handle.  

Requirement: It’s a smartphone, for God’s sake! A computer in your hand! Get me something on which I can do lots of work too – a productive powerhouse, so to speak.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

If it’s productivity you are looking for, then the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is your phone. It not only packs in a super display, processor, cameras and RAM but also comes with the famous S Pen stylus. This lets you scribble and sketch on that larger 6.8-inch display without any problems whatsoever. The S22 Ultra also comes with Dex which lets you attach the phone to an external monitor and get a desktop-level experience. Top that off with Knox security and you have the closest thing Android has to a computer in phone form!

Requirement: I seek a clean, uncluttered Android flagship experience. With no Pixel around in India, can I find it?

Well, with every Android flagship comes a distinct Android skin or UI. The Xiaomi 12 Pro has MIUI, Samsung’s S22 series come with One UI, while both the Vivo X80 Pro and iQOO 9 Pro come with FunTouch OS. There is however, one interface that retains a modicum of Android minimalism, and that is OxygenOS which is found on the OnePlus 10 Pro. No, it is not as clean as it once was, following a tie-up with OPPO, but it still remains one of the least cluttered interfaces you will get on Android. That said, if you are an Android fan and value updates, then the Force is definitely with Samsung, as the Korean brand has been delivering Android updates at a very brisk rate. Ironically, OnePlus has been a bit off the pace in that regard. Still, if you are seeking a clean Android experience on a proper flagship, the OnePlus 10 Pro is still the phone to go for. 

Requirement: What’s the point of a flagship that takes an hour to charge in 2022? I have a need for speed – charging speed, that is!

In many ways, 2022 has been the year of super-fast charging and this is reflected in most of the Android flagships, although Samsung seems a little wary of getting into the heat of the charging battle. Still, if you are looking for well-specced flagships that charge at a rapid rate, then you can try either the Xiaomi 12 Pro or the iQOO 9 Pro, both of which come with hefty 120W chargers which can charge the phones in under half an hour (the Xiaomi 12 Pro has a 4,600mAh battery while the iQOO 9 Pro has a 4,700mAh one). The OnePlus 10 Pro comes with an 80W charger that takes its large 5,000mAh battery (one of the biggest on flagships) from 0 to 100 in about 35 minutes, which earns it an honourable mention here. 

Requirement: Just give me the one phone that does everything well. I have no problems with the budget. 

If budget is not a constraint, then you can just go ahead and grab the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Thanks to its combination of processor, cameras, display and S Pen, it is simply the device that excels on most parameters and does not make any major compromises. If we had to nitpick, we would perhaps point to its rather slow charging speed (45W) and the absence of a charger in the box. But that aside, this is a powerhouse that is capable of doing just about everything you would want and doing it well. Yes, it has a hefty price tag of Rs 1,09,999, but it more than justifies it!

Requirement: Just give me the one phone that does everything well. And watch the price please – every penny counts. 

Looking for a flagship all-rounder, but do not want to get into the really high price echelons? Well, we would recommend the Xiaomi 12 Pro which starts at Rs 62,999. For that price, you get a very good display, a very good set of three 50-megapixel cameras (although the telephoto being just 2X optical zoom is a slight letdown), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 chip with lots of RAM, the only quad-core speaker arrangement on a phone in India and a 4,600mAh battery that charges at an insanely fast 120W. The design is a little understated, but this is the best value-for-money Android flagship in our book. Notable alternatives are the iQOO 9 Pro at Rs 64,999 and the OnePlus 10 Pro at Rs 66,999, which cost a little more and have their own pros and cons, but as we said at the very beginning, share the broad Android flagship template! 

Note: iPhones deserve a guide of their own — one which we promise we will deliver in the coming days.

With inputs from Akriti Rana

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