The Best Phones for Xbox Game Pass and xCloud (for Every Budget)
With iPhones blocking Project xCloud from the App Store, what are the best phones in 2020 to take advantage of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with its xCloud game streaming will not be heading to the iOS app store, leaving many iPhone-carrying Xbox players out in the cold. According to Statista, in the US alone, over 45% of smartphone owners are using an iteration of Apple’s iPhone. At almost 50% market share, chances are that just about half of Xbox owners are likely using Apple’s best selling product. This means that a good portion of people picking up Xbox Series X, will not get to enjoy what’s slated to be a tent-pole service for Xbox and their larger strategy moving forward as a company.
This latest spat between the Microsoft Xbox and Apple App Store policy is leaving Xbox players (who use iPhones) in a precarious position. Do they stay in Apple’s blue iMessage bubble? Or do they venture out to green(er?) Android pastures and enjoy Xbox Game Pass Ultimate streaming when it launches this fall?
If you’re currently an iPhone user who’s thinking of making the switch to Android, we’re setting you up with what we think are the very best Android phones for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate regardless of your budget.
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G || Starting at $1,299.99
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s cloud gaming had its official coming-out party during Samsung’s Unpacked alongside the Note 20 Ultra 5G debut. This marketing move made it the default “go-to” device to usher in the new service. For those unfamiliar, Samsung’s Galaxy Note line is the tech giant’s yearly “everything but the kitchen sink” device. With an annual fall release cadence, Samsung’s Note line historically enhances or iterates on most features from it’s “little brother” the ‘Galaxy S’ while tossing in the largest displays, fastest processors available, largest batteries (usually), and even a stylus (because, why not?).
This year, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G features the Snapdragon 865+ processor, 12gb of ram, 128gb of storage (which is also expandable), both sub-6 and millimeter-wave 5G radios for all US carriers, a 4,500 mAh battery, and a 6.9″ AMOLED 2X display that supports dynamic 120hz refresh rates. It definitely leads the pack with its audacious price tag, but if we’re being honest, you’re probably not finding another Android phone that checks as many boxes as the Note 20 Ultra 5g.
2. Samsung Galaxy S 20 || Starting at $999.99
The Galaxy S line is Samsung’s annual iPhone competitor. Like the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy S is made in various sizes, configurations, and price points in hopes of its phones finding a home in as many pockets as possible. This year’s phone, the ‘S 20’ made a gamble on 5G by placing Qualcomm’s pricier 5G radios in its entire line up. This move drove up the price of its entry model significantly. This price jump brought it up to a thousand bucks or right in line with Apple’s ‘Pro’ offering, and a whole $300 more than 2020’s best selling phone (globally) the iPhone 11.
Like it’s Note 20 big brother, the S 20 is no slouch on paper. It features a Snapdragon 865 processor, 12gb of ram, 128gb of storage, sub-6 5G, a 4,000 mAh battery, and a 6.2″ AMOLED display with support of 120hz at 1080p. Also, like the Note, it’s price tag will have most thinking twice before purchasing; however, with the device approaching the 6th-month mark since release, you can (usually) find reasonable offers and discounts from the various US carriers, especially if you’re switching.
3. OnePlus 8 5G || Starting at $699.99
OnePlus made a name for itself among Android enthusiasts who were looking for a no-frills and no-compromise experience, without having to shell out half of a mortgage payment to get one. In its early days, OnePlus was among the first OEMs to sell phones with AMOLED displays, coupled with the latest processors, running a bloatware-free version of Android, and keeping all of that below $400. Going the route of becoming the value smartphone champion created an army of raving OnePlus fans and Android faithfuls.
While the company has shown no signs of slowing down, sometimes going as far as releasing 2 flagship devices per year, its prices have almost caught up to the Apples and Samsungs of the world. Again, they’re still the value player here. But unfortunately ‘value’ in the world of smartphones now floats around a little over half a grand. For that much green, what do you get? The OnePlus 8 5G features a Snapdragon 865 processor, 8gb of ram, sub-6 5G, a 4,300 mAh battery, and a 6.5″ AMOLED display with a 120hz refresh rate. You might have just experienced some déjà vu, reading about the S20 before this phone and that’s a good thing considering the savings between the two.
4. Google Pixel 4a || Starting at $349.99
Android needed it’s own iPhone SE and Google delivered it with the Pixel 4a. Let’s be crystal clear here: like the SE, this phone is not going to win any arms race. But what it lacks in horsepower, it will deliver in overall user experience. And that’s not just for this year and next — like most Android phones — but it’s a 3rd (and maybe/hopefully even a 4th) year as Google treats all of its Pixel phones to a minimum of 36 months of software support and updates. It’s an unheard-of feat in the Android ecosystem that can make purchasers of even the most high-end Samsung phones jealous.
If you plan on using your phone for real-life things like photos of your pets and your food, then you should know that you’re also getting Google’s (arguably) unmatched camera with all of the computational photography software tricks found in high-end Pixel phones. At $349 this phone might be a better buy than a dedicated point and shoot camera, that’s how confident I am with Google’s top-notch photography software. Luckily, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s magic mostly happens in the cloud, so while the Pixel 4a will not be the snappiest of the bunch on this list, it will still get the job done. So what’s under the hood? The Pixel 4a features a Snapdragon 730 processor (sorry, no 5G here folks), 6gb of ram, 128gb of storage, and a 5.8″ display. Oh right, and again, it’s only $349.
There are many more Android phones to choose from but the list above is comprised of what we think are the very best phones at their given price points. If you’re already an Android user, you probably already had your mindset on your next phone before you clicked through to see our list. If you’re an iPhone user who was looking forward to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s game streaming you have another important decision to make before you even entertain this list of phones mentioned here.
Here’s what it all boils down to: are you ready to venture away from iMessage, Facetime, (and maybe even the Apple watch you’re presently wearing) to enjoy some video games on the go? While to most — a phone, is a phone, is a phone — to others, there’s serious ‘green bubble’ shaming out there in the world and the FOMO of not having those Apple iPhone-only services like iMessage and Facetime can (unfortunately) be another burden altogether.
Project xCloud is officially being unveiled on September 15th, and anyone with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will have a front-row seat. If you haven’t picked up a subscription already, you can grab it on Amazon to help support DualShockers.