April 20, 2024

Forget the iPhone 15 Pro, skip the OnePlus Open, this is my smartphone of 2023

As the calendar progresses, I think about my personal smartphone of the year. It has been a year that feels like a calm before a storm. Several manufacturers have embraced the idea of ​​foldable smartphones, which will undoubtedly force a faster innovation cycle in this space. Beyond the origami of the former, both hardware and software are seeing incremental advances, leaving many smartphones feeling slightly better than last year’s option, but without notable improvements.

The rise of AI in public awareness began to impact in the second half of the year, as software opened up about its use of AI and hardware offered specific support for AI and ML routines.

All of this influences my choice, but the most important criterion is difficult to quantify: my personal judgment. This isn’t a massive survey and investigation to find everyone’s phone of the year, an exercise that would undoubtedly find the least worst phone rather than the best. My winner needs to say something about the industry in general, the difference he has made and the ideas he supports and introduces.

Before I get to my pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Oppo Find N2 Flip

In 2023, the Oppo Find N2 Flip, the manufacturer’s first folding phone, was launched globally.

More importantly, the Find N2 Flip offers a big challenge to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip family. Reduced the price by $150. The display on the outer cover was larger and offered more information, and with the launch of Oppo’s ColorOS13 debuting on the Find N2 Flip, the company noted that this was one of its flagship phones.

Oppo is following the trend, but it is also one of the first in the sector and may lead the thinking behind the next generation of foldable phones. That makes the Oppo Find N2 Flip an important starting point, but it’s not yet mature enough to dominate the smartphone space.

OnePlus open

OnePlus introduced its first foldable device this year (but I’ll note that its parent company offers the same design as the Oppo Find N3) and garnered critical acclaim almost instantly. It’s not hard to see why, because OnePlus leaned heavily on the camera during the design process and made smart decisions around multitasking on a big-screen Android device.

It’s a great evolution in foldable phone design, but it’s also missing features that are present in other premium foldable phones (like wireless charging). Like other foldables, the price is still high for most consumers. I’m looking forward to OnePlus/Oppo’s design evolution to see what innovations 2024 could bring to the world of foldables.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro

The iPhone is the only game in town if you need to be in the iOS ecosystem and work with Apple’s cloud-based services. Small changes made to the iPhone can seem momentous; Adding the programmable action button seems like a revelation, and faithful can celebrate the weight reduction thanks to the switch to a titanium chassis.

However, there is a touch of arrogance around the iPhone 15 Pro’s most significant change, the switch to USB-C, when the EU ordered it to allow a standard charger on all consumer electronics devices.

The iPhone 15 Pro saw a small evolution compared to the iPhone 14 Pro; Enough to be new, but not enough to disrupt the market. Apple offered a minimum viable update, checking all the boxes except the one marked “excitement.”

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The same could be said for Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra. It offered enough upgrades from the Galaxy S22 Ultra to be a new phone, but the fundamental package remained stable.

Performance improved thanks to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, but that performance gain was reflected across many manufacturers. Samsung’s OneUI software retained its charm or awkwardness, depending on your point of view, and the S-Pen remained the main differentiator between the Utlra and other premium phones.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra did everything 2023 demanded of a flagship phone, but without the fireworks and with an air of practicality that seemed a little… boring.

ROG Phone 7 Ultimate

One area where innovation abounds in smartphone design and development is mobile gaming. Modern games demand maximum performance from every part of a phone, from the raw performance of the CPU and GPU, to the display refresh rate to the high sampling rate for precise control.

It’s an area that Asus’ “Republic of Gamers” has been exploring in both the desktop and laptop markets and the smartphone market. The focus on delivering the best gaming experience gives the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate a defined purpose and place. Many phones lack this as they try to be all things to all consumers.

Is the ROG Phone of 2023 an all-round phone for everyone? No, but it’s a wonderful example of how a specialized phone can offer a top-notch experience.

My smartphone of the year is… the Google Pixel 8 Pro

At this year’s I/O Developer Conference, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that “Google is moving from mobile-first to AI-first.” The launch of the Pixel 8 Pro (alongside the Pixel 8) confirmed just how broad that claim would be.

AI was promoted at every opportunity, even if some features (like the AI-powered “zoom and zoom” feature that CSI: Mountain View loves so much) weren’t available out of the box. AI in photo editing, AI in video editing and sound editing, AI in Google Assistant. AI is essentially everywhere.

Google increased the support window to seven years for both security updates and full versions of Android, which should last until 2030. It also has easy access to Pixel 8 Pro components, which means that support centers Third party repair should find service. the phone more easily (and if you want, you can repair the device yourself).

We can already see that AI will be one of the key features of all smartphones in 2024. We can only hope that longer software support periods and easier access to repair parts also become standard. With the Pixel 8 Pro, there’s no need to wait for any of these.

That’s why the Pixel 8 Pro is my smartphone of the year.

Now read my review of the Pixel 8 Pro after its launch…

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