Here are the best smartphones running stock Android

By | 12th March 2018

These days, the differences in specs when comparing rival smartphones aren’t massive. That’s why companies are trying to differentiate their handsets from the competition with software. Most of them apply a skin on top of Android (HTC Sense, Samsung Experience…) that adds a few new features and changes the look and feel of the OS to make it unique.

However, these skins can often be heavy and come pre-installed with loads of apps you’ll likely never use. That’s why there’s increasing demand for smartphones with stock Android, which is the basic version of the OS that was developed by Google and hasn’t been modified by a manufacturer. In addition to being bloatware-free, the biggest advantage of smartphones with stock Android is that they are among the first to get updated to the latest versions of the operating system.

If you’re in the market for a stock Android smartphone, keep reading. You’ll find our breakdown of the best high-end, mid-range, and budget models below.

Editor’s note: We will be updating this list regularly as new devices launch.

Best high-end phones with stock Android

Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL

Stock Android and fast updates are what make the Pixel 2 smartphones popular among consumers. But the two devices have a lot more to offer. They both come with high-end specs, sport a minimalistic design that appeals to many, and have the innovative Active Edge feature on board that lets you open up Assistant just by squeezing the devices.

There are three main differences between the smartphones. The Pixel 2 XL is equipped with a 6-inch QHD+ display (18:9 aspect ratio), while the one on its smaller brother measures 5 inches and offers Full HD resolution (16:9 aspect ratio). The XL model also has a larger battery (3,520 mAh vs 2,700 mAh) and looks different up front due to its thinner bezels.

Both handsets are powered by the Snapdragon 835 chipset, have 4 GB of RAM, and feature a great 12.2 MP camera that’s still capable of capturing bokeh images despite missing the second lens. The Pixel 2 will set you back $650 (64 GB) and $750 (128 GB), while the larger model goes for $850 (64 GB) and $950 (128 GB).

Specs

Google Pixel 2

  • 5-inch AMOLED display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 441 ppi
  • Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, not expandable
  • 12.2 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,700 mAh battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm, 143 g

Google Pixel 2 XL

  • 6-inch P-OLED display with 2,880 x 1,440 resolution, 538 ppi
  • Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, not expandable
  • 12.2 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,520 mAh battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm, 175 g

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Nokia 8 Sirocco

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is part of Google’s Android One initiative, which guarantees a pure, bloat-free OS experience and timely updates. It will run Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the-box when released, with version 8.1 likely arriving shortly after.

The smartphone is an upgraded version of the Nokia 8, which launched back August 2017. It has a larger 5.5-inch display (up from 5.3 inches) that’s curved on the sides like the Galaxy S and Note series. It also sports a more eye-catching design with thinner bezels and improved water protection (IP67 vs IP54), among other things. But its biggest feature is the dual-camera setup on the back kitted out with Carl Zeiss optics and 2x optical zoom.

Nokia’s flagship was announced at MWC 2018 in February but surprisingly comes with the Snapdragon 835 chipset under the hood instead of the newer 845 found in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2. Nevertheless, the chipset is still more than capable of handling just about any task you throw at it. You’ll be able to get the device from April for €750.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch P-OLED display with 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 6 GB of RAM
  • 128 GB of on-board storage, expandable up to 256 GB
  • Dual 12 and 13 MP rear cameras, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,260 mAh battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 140.9 x 73 x 7.5 mm

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Best mid-range phones with stock Android

Xiaomi Mi A1

The Mi A1 is Xiaomi’s first Android One smartphone and has proven to be extremely popular among consumers. Stock Android is one of the reasons for its success, as the company’s MIUI skin isn’t to everyone’s liking. Another reason is that the Mi A1 offers a great price-performance ratio, like the rest of the company’s handsets.

The handset comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD display, the Snapdragon 625 chipset, and 4 GB of RAM. It can’t rival devices like the Pixel 2 XL in terms of specs, but it still has more than enough power under the hood for the average user. The device also sports a dual-camera setup on the back for those fancy bokeh images, a metallic unibody design, and a 3,080 mAh battery. It ships with Android Nougat on board but can be upgraded to Oreo.

Xiaomi’s Android One smartphone is available in around 40 markets across the globe, with the US not being one of them — although the international version of the device is listed on Amazon for $210. In Europe, you can get your hands on it for €210.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 403 ppi
  • Snapdragon 625 chipset
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, expandable up to 128 GB
  • Dual 12 MP rear cameras, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,080 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.2 Nougat
  • 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3 mm, 165 g

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HTC U11 Life

The U11 Life comes in two variants. The first runs Android 8.0 with HTC’s Sense on top, while the other — the one we’re interested in — is an Android One smartphone. Aside from the software experience, there are no differences between the two.

One of the biggest features of the U11 Life is Edge Sense, which made its debut on the U11. It lets you open up an app of your choice just by squeezing the device. It’s a useful feature to have and works surprisingly well, even though it sounded gimmicky at first. In terms of specs, the smartphone sports a 5.2-inch Full HD display, the Snapdragon 630 chipset, and either 3 or 4 GB of RAM.

HTC’s Android One smartphone isn’t available in the US — you can only get the version with the Sense skin. However, the handset is on sale in many other markets including Europe, where it goes for €320.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch Super LCD display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 424 ppi
  • Snapdragon 630 chipset
  • 3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, expandable up to 256 GB
  • 16 MP rear camera, 16 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,600 mAh battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 149.1 x 72.9 x 8.1 mm, 142 g

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Best budget phones with stock Android

Nokia 2

The Nokia 2 runs pure Android 7.1 Nougat and comes with HMD Global’s promise of monthly security updates as well as an upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo. It’s a budget smartphone with a 5-inch display that stands out from the crowd due to its massive 4,100 mAh battery.

The handset comes with unlimited photo and video uploads to Google Photos. It’s IP52 rated (drip protection) and has an aluminum frame and a polycarbonate back. You’ll find the Snapdragon 212 chipset along with 1 GB of RAM under the hood and an 8 MP camera on the back.

In addition to stock Android, one of the biggest advantages of the Nokia 2 is its price. You can get it from Best Buy as well as many other retailers for just $100.

Specs

  • 5-inch IPS LCD display with 1,280 x 720 resolution, 294 ppi
  • Snapdragon 212 chipset
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 8 GB of on-board storage, expandable up to 128 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,100 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 143.5 x 71.3 x 9.3 mm, 161 g

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Moto E4

The Moto E4 runs a near stock version of Android Nougat, which means Motorola added a few apps and features to the operating system. However, since you won’t find many of them on the device and the look and feel of the OS is extremely close to stock Android, we still included the Moto E4 on this list.

The reason is that the smartphone offers a fantastic price-performance ratio, making it a great budget-friendly option. The handset, which comes with a 5-inch HD display, the Snapdragon 425 or 427 chipset, and 2 GB of RAM, can be yours for $130. However, the Verizon variant goes for just $70, which is an absolute steal.

Despite its low price, the Moto E4 still features a fingerprint scanner. The device also has a nano-coating to help protect it against spills, splashes, and light rain. It packs a 2,800 mAh battery and has 16 GB of storage that’s expandable up to 128 GB — see more specs below.

Specs

  • 5-inch IPS LCD display with 1,280 x 720 resolution, 294 ppi
  • Snapdragon 425 or 427 chipset
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of on-board storage, expandable up to 128 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,800 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 144.5 x 72 x 9.3 mm, 150 g

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These are the best phones with stock Android from high-end, mid-range, and budget categories — at least in our opinion. There are many others available out there beyond the ones we covered, so feel free to let us know which ones would you add to this list.