Editor’s Note: for even newer smartphones, check out our list of the best smartphones of 2021.
It’s always exciting when you’re ready to upgrade your smartphone, and if you’re an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy fan, then you probably wait with great anticipation to see what each new smartphone will offer. Although releases of updated and new models typically come during certain times of the year, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic ended up pushing back the timelines somewhat.
Many things have been bumpy in 2020, but these recent and upcoming smartphone releases have given us something to look forward to — at least for a while. From Apple’s much anticipated iPhone 12 to breakout successes like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 and the OneNote 8 Pro, some of the most impressive smartphones to date are poised to make the year a little better for everyone.
How to Choose the Perfect Smartphone
If you’re like many consumers, one of the biggest challenges when you want to upgrade your phone is deciding which phone to go with next. To narrow your selection to the best option for your needs, you need to carefully consider a few key points. Start by determining your price range. It won’t do any good to fall in love with a phone that doesn’t fit comfortably within your budget. If a phone is on the pricier side, be sure to do a little research to make sure all the features you’re paying for are things you will actually use.
In terms of functionality, make sure the phone you choose is capable of running your favorite apps, as some apps are limited to certain operating systems or even specific phone models. You also need to make sure the phone you want can be used with your preferred carrier. You probably don’t want to switch carriers just to use a specific phone (or maybe you do). Check the specs on storage space, battery capacity, camera quality and other features that matter to you.
No matter how much hype a phone gets, don’t forget that you’re the one who will have to rely on it on a daily basis. There’s nothing wrong — and everything right — with paying less for a simple phone if you don’t spend a lot of time using fancy extra features. The same is true for justifying the purchase of an expensive phone if you actually use it for a broad range of tasks. The most important thing is to make sure you get the best value for your money based on your preferences and needs.
Meet the New Folding Phone
If Samsung’s smartphone predictions are on point, then the future is destined to be foldable. Samsung released its much-anticipated Galaxy Z Fold2 in mid-September — and is it ever revolutionary. Editors at CNET report that, with the Z Fold2, Samsung has worked out many of the major kinks that plagued the original Z Fold, namely that the originals were far too fragile and had multiple failure points that caused different areas of the phone to break. And those aren’t what you want to deal with when you’re purchasing a phone as pricey and unique as this one.
Fortunately, the 7.6-inch inner display is smooth and luxurious, and it’s fast and capable enough that it could even replace your laptop when it comes to handling certain tasks. Its 120Hz refresh rate means there’s virtually no motion blur in videos and apps, and the apps slide seamlessly from the inner folding screen to the smaller outer screen that lets you use the device like a traditional smartphone. The Z Fold2 feels sturdier than the original, too, thanks to the addition of ultra-thin glass on the inner screen. All in all, this phone is an attention-grabbing heavy hitter — even with its current price tag.
Best Phone for Extended Battery Life
Obviously, 2020 hasn’t exactly been a “business as usual” type of year, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Apple initially announced the debut of the iPhone 12 would be delayed. Fortunately, that slowdown only pushed back Apple’s typical September release dates about two months — and on November 13 buyers finally gained access to the latest in Apple’s flagship lineup.
Now that the iPhone 12 is here, it’s impressing tech editors and everyday users alike with its redesigned flat-edge screen that boasts Ceramic Shield technology — a formulation that provides four times the amount of drop performance that previous models had. Its upgraded cameras are impressive, featuring True Depth and Deep Fusion image processing to combine multiple images into one for the crispest photos possible.
You might also find it surprising that an iPhone appears with the designation of having great battery life, but the iPhone 12 really delivers here. The full-size 12 — there’s also a 12 Mini that’s designed for easier one-handed use — provides up to 17 hours of video playback, 11 hours of streaming playback and 65 hours of audio playback.
Best Phone for Photographers
Sony’s website is currently offering sneak peeks of its upcoming Xperia Pro, and if you love shooting video, you’ll want to pay attention to this one. The 5G smartphone comes with a rear triple-camera that gives professional photographers something to truly get excited about. Equipped with ZEISS lenses, real-time Eye AF that works on both humans and animals, and new manual controls, the Xperia’s camera is rumored to give the power of the iPhone 12 a run for its money.
The Xperia Pro also comes with an HDMI input that allows you to connect to an actual camera and broadcast footage using 5G mmWave connectivity. With 16 built-in antenna pieces, losing your signal will become a worry of the past as well.
The 21:9 CinemaWide 6.5″ 4K HDR OLED display, motion blur technology and Dolby Atmos6 sound will beautifully showcase all the 4K HDR movies you record using features like Active Mode, SteadyShot and Slow Motion. In short, if video is your thing, then this is definitely a smartphone you won’t mind waiting for.
The Gamer’s Dream Phone
Shortly after Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra were announced, sales began on Samsung’s newest stylus phones. Championed by Samsung as the ultimate “power phone,” the Note 20 series certainly brings a lot to the table. Made with the toughest Gorilla Glass ever used on a smartphone, the Note 20 features a 6.7-inch display on the standard model or a 6.9-inch screen on its “Ultra” counterpart.
This version of the Galaxy Note may be of particular interest to gamers, thanks to an attachable controller that lets you play your favorite Xbox games right on your phone screen. The Note 20’s camera is also designed to appeal to videographers and claims to feature the highest-resolution video recording capabilities available on a smartphone. Capable of producing crisp, 8K video and equipped with pro-grade editing controls, the phone is definitely worth a look for budding cinematographers.
Both models also come with Samsung’s new S Pen. Not only does it allow you to take notes on your screen, but it puts in some extra effort to straighten out your writing, allowing you to hastily scribble to your heart’s content.
Best Newcomer Brand
This year, OnePlus introduced its new 8 Pro, a smartphone packed with enough great features to become a viable competitor for Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Plus. Like most of the hottest phones of the year, the OnePlus 8 Pro made the leap to 5G capability and tacked on plenty of extra perks to further add to the appeal.
The curved 6.78-inch QHD screen and 120Hz refresh rate make for a beautiful viewing experience when it comes to watching your favorite videos, scrolling through photos and gaming. The smartphone is also equipped with a 48MP quad-camera, 48MP ultra-wide angle camera, 5MP rear color filter and 16MP front camera, all of which deliver stunning photographs and videos take after take.
With 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, the 8 Pro’s operating system runs on an ultra-powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor. The high-capacity 4510mAh battery offers both warp plug-in and wireless charging. It comes with hands-free Alexa access to help you make calls, play music and more, just by asking the virtual assistant to take care of it.