There are a lot of smartphones out there today, and we here at Android Authority make an effort to cover them all. But what about the phones that we actually use every day as our daily drivers? After all, it’s one thing to check out a phone and label it as one of the best you can buy but another thing to use one as your primary device.
We conducted a daily driver survey for Team AA back in 2018 and another last year. With some great phones already released this year, we thought it was as good as any other time to take a 2021 edition of this survey to see how things have changed over the past twelve months.
21 AA team members from around the world contributed to these results while giving their daily drivers a score of 10 and telling us what they liked / disliked about them.
What phones do Android Authority Use team members? Let’s find out!
We recorded the results by both phone model and phone brand. We’ll get into the details later in this article, but you can check the following raw numbers:
There’s a Samsung party up here
In last year’s survey, Samsung was at the top of Google’s phones by a very narrow margin, but the South Korean manufacturer widened that gap in 2021. In 2020, nearly a quarter of Team AA members used a Samsung device as their daily driver, followed by 21% of members with a Google device. A third of all members now use a Samsung cell phone.
The Galaxy S20 (two) and Galaxy S10 Plus (two) were the only phones used by more than one Team AA member. Otherwise, no other phone model appeared twice in our survey.
Samsung owners generally praised the cameras, performance, battery life, and size (both large and small models). One outstanding complaint regarding Samsung phones came from social and SEO expert Luka Mlinar and his Exynos Samsung Galaxy S20:
“You would expect a phone worth over $ 1,000 to run COD Mobile without stuttering, but that’s not the case.”
Almost a quarter of those surveyed Android Authority Members (five) use a Google Pixel phone as their daily driver, and praise generally went for the camera, phone size, and software experience. However, the complaints were directed against the aging main camera sensor on the Pixel 5 while Sam Moore – editor on our sister site SoundGuys – lamented the lack of an IP rating and wireless charging of the Pixel 4a.
OnePlus rounded off the three top brands. Four AA members said they use a OnePlus device as their daily driver. Interestingly, it also received the highest average rating among the top three manufacturers (8.75 / 10 versus 8.1 / 10 for Samsung and 8/10 for Google).
Deals editor Matt Horne also gave his OnePlus 8 full marks – the only perfect score this time. Matt said he liked everything on the phone and found that it was his first device with a built-in fingerprint sensor and that he liked the design too. However, he admitted that the praise could also be due to the fact that his previous phones were out of date.
Apple Authority strikes again
Recognition: David Imel / Android Authority
Believe it or not, two members of our team use iPhones as their daily drivers. Resident reviewer Eric Zeman and audio editor Lily Katz chose the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Mini, respectively.
Eric cited the camera, battery life, performance, and app choices for choosing the iPhone. Meanwhile, Lily preferred the mini model as she says she has small hands, carries a charger around, and doesn’t actively use her phone very often anyway.
However, the iPhone owners have a few criticisms: Eric decodes the size of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the notch, and the lack of a high refresh rate. Lily also criticized the iPhone 12 Mini for the lack of a 3.5mm port and camera lens.
Recognition: David Imel / Android Authority
What else did our AA members use as their daily drivers? Well, Huawei, LG, and Xiaomi all performed once.
Starting with Huawei, I still use the Mate 20 Pro as my daily driver. It’s still fast enough for my needs, the cameras are pretty versatile, I can get out of the battery for over a day, and fast charging is still pretty handy. However, it definitely feels like the battery has deteriorated, and the lack of a high refresh rate screen and 4K at 60fps recording is a bit disappointing compared to newer devices.
Meanwhile, Executive Editor Kris Carlon goes to the LG Wing with a rather unusual choice. He thinks the T-shaped phone is LG “at its best”:
“It’s far from perfect, but it’s one of the most interesting phones I’ve used in years. The use cases are definitely a neat niche, but once you find the ones that work for you, they strangely feel indispensable. It’s a pretty solid ‘normal phone’ too. “
It’s not all good, however, as Kris doesn’t like the piano’s software. Still, he admits it was better than he first expected.
In this survey, only one Xiaomi phone was used as a daily driver and that is Gary Sims’ Mi 9T Pro. He praised the performance, the amount of memory (128 GB), the built-in fingerprint sensor and the MIUI updates. But he also had special praise for the battery, noting that he rarely went to bed with less than 50% juice. However, Gary complained that the front-facing camera was too wide and said it distorts selfies.
- Only one Team AA member said they wouldn’t recommend their phone to readers and that’s Managing Editor Ollie Cragg and his Pixel 4 XL. He hates the 64GB of hard drive memory and described the phone’s battery as cruel. In the latter case, he said it barely got him to 6 p.m. at the moment. It still got a high rating of 8/10. That’s a complicated love-hate relationship right there.
- There was a big procrastination in last year’s survey. Eight models returned in 2021. These were Google Pixel 4 XL, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 7T Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro.
- There is only one Huawei phone on this list, compared to five members who owned a Huawei device a year ago. The lack of Google Mobile Services suggests that many members of Team AA are staying away from the Chinese-branded phones for the time being. I know I would upgrade to a Mate 40 Pro right away if it had Google support.
- This is our first daily driver survey with an OLED range as the 2020 survey included LCD enabled phones such as the Huawei P20, Huawei Mate 9, and older, cheaper iPhones. And since even mid-rangers will receive OLED screens with high refresh rates in 2021, we assume that this trend will continue into the next year.
- Almost 24% of our daily drivers offered 3.5 mm connections. These were the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 4a, Mi 9T Pro and Galaxy S10 Plus. That is in line with last year’s survey, good or bad.
- Only one phone (Pixel 4 XL) had a traditional forehead, while three offered a pop-up selfie camera. The rest has a notch or a hole cutout.
- Average battery size is 3,861 mAh, with the iPhone 12 Mini and Google Pixel 4a lowering that average significantly.
- The oldest phone on the list is the Mate 20 Pro, which was released in late 2018. I think it’s time for me to get an upgrade …
- Only six of the 21 phones (28.5%) were made by Chinese brands. South Korean brands had eight picks (38.1%) and US brands had seven devices (33.3%).
- Oppo was ranked fifth for broadcasts in 2020, according to Counterpoint Research, but is completely absent from this year’s survey. However, it isn’t the only top 10 global player missing from this survey, as Vivo (sixth), Realme (seventh), and Lenovo / Motorola (eighth) were absent.
Our next phones
We also asked the team if there are any announced or rumored phones they’ll be keeping an eye on next, and by far the biggest option was “nothing”. Seven team members were so pleased with their current phones that they didn’t plan on upgrading anytime soon – up from five a year ago.
Regarding the most popular brand, five team members said they wanted to upgrade to a Samsung phone. Two Android Authority Members said they wanted a foldable Samsung 2021 while three others wanted the Galaxy S21, Galaxy Note 21, and Galaxy S22. The second most popular manufacturer was Google, as two team members had their eye on the Pixel 6 and one was considering the Pixel 5a.
We also saw two brands take the cut that didn’t show up in our daily driver survey when Kris went for the Asus ROG Phone 5 and Ollie for the Oppo Find X3 Pro. Finally, we also saw two picks that weren’t actually brand-specific, as newsletter editor Tristan Rayner just wanted a phone with a Snapdragon 888 while accessories guru Ankit Banerjee just looked at a phone with a selfie camera under the display.
What is your daily driver right now? Do you have likes or dislikes to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.