Set aside any corporate allegiance you may have and you’ll see that today’s smartphone options are vast and incredibly attractive. Developers like Apple, Samsung, Google and OnePlus have elevated how these devices factor into our daily life through both technical advancement and exploration of how these pocket computers can aid us. There are a number of quality smartphones available at different price points and applicable use cases, which can make the task of choosing the best one for yourself a challenge. Paste has looked at a number of them and came out the other side with the top smartphones of the year and the promise that there is a device ready to fit anyone’s needs.
Apple’s latest iPhone line didn’t feel like a giant leap on the whole, but the iPhone 14 Pro stands out among its siblings as the best in terms of value and new ideas. The big addition was the Dynamic Island, a new notification and app interaction tool that makes app notification less invasive and accessing apps running in the background more streamlined. It’s also the first iPhone to introduce an Always On Display. It’s the best new iPhone to hit this year, especially if you want to fiddle around with the first glimpse into new tools that Apple is sure to improve upon in the coming years.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra carries on the legacy of the Galaxy Note series in an S series device that makes it incredibly flexible in its functionality. Its five cameras are in line with the best Samsung has released and they look vibrant on its 6.8-inch AMOLED display. And Note fans still get the ability to write and scribble to their heart’s content with the included S Pen (complete with its own little sheath). Pair that with the improved compatibility between Samsung devices and you have a solid option that is even better for those already engrossed in the Samsung ecosystem and still hold an affection for the chonky productivity-focused phones of Galaxy Notes past.
Google continues to prove its mettle now that it is taking its push into the smartphone market seriously. The Pixel 7 Pro is the company’s best phone yet, pairing its top-tier camera array with the ability to shoot 4K 60fps video thanks to Google’s proprietary Tensor G2 chip. The Pixel line keeps delivering high-quality devices while maintaining price points under its toughest competitors. Google and Samsung will remain neck-and-neck when it comes to being the Android benchmark, but it remains remarkable how the Pixel line has catapulted to one of the leading Android device lines in such a short amount of time. Check out our full review of the Pixel 7 Pro.
Samsung’s push to bring back the flip phone still feels a bit gimmicky, but that feeling dissipates a bit with every passing year. And 2022 felt like the year when the company finally got enough right with the Galaxy Z Flip that it felt ready to stand on its own beyond the novelty. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 provides intuitive uses and controls in its various forms that enhance the smartphone user experience, and its unique mobility make it exceptional for hands-free photos and videos. A new screen and folding mechanism minimize the screen crease to its least indistinguishable yet, and the whole package finally realizes the goal of bringing the flip phone into the smartphone era. Check out our full review.
The Google Pixel 6A is easily the best budget Android smartphone, and may even be the best in that category overall. Powered by the Tensor chip found in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the Pixel 6A’s performance is top-notch for the category and features a camera array that outweighs its sub-$500 price point. The Pixel’s budget line also boasts long lifespans and Google continues to support them with updates for years, meaning that you won’t feel forced to part with it unless you’re itching for an upgrade. Obviously, there are some features missing here as compared to flagship devices but the Pixel 6A’s sacrifices are minimal, making it the perfect Android device for those not wanting to drop $1000 on a new phone
Apple’s entry in the budget smartphone field is as tried and true as its unchanging design communicates. While it still sports the form factor of an iPhone 8, Apple threw in the A15 Bionic chip present in last year’s iPhone 13 series, elevating its performance and allowing for 5G connectivity. Its single back camera is more than capable of everyday photos and all of the basics expected of a non-flagship iPhone are there. With rumors swirling that there won’t be a new iPhone SE in 2023, this year’s model remains the best entry point to iOS phones, especially at half the price of a flagship iPhone.
Sometimes you need something to shake up a market where the same names get bandied about, and Nothing’s entry into the smartphone space this year did just that. The company’s Phone 1 is a welcome addition to the budget phone lineup that focuses more on style and the potential for innovation over everything. Its cameras and processor are serviceable yet won’t stand up against other entries on this list, but the Phone 1 is a stunner in aesthetic thanks to its transparent glass and Glyph LED interface. The LED array alerts users to app notifications, battery charge and even individual contacts. Its inclusion of an NFT Gallery app is a bit eye-rolly, but Nothing is putting imagination into its approach to the smartphone game.
Asus isn’t known for its smartphones, but the Zenfone 9 deserves more attention as a solid mid-range device that shows that bigger isn’t always better. The device boasts an impressive screen refresh rate, long battery life and a unique image stabilization system that keeps images clear. Its 5.9-inch display is on the smaller side, but its brightness is outstanding. The Zenfone 9 is a complete package, though the fact that it can’t be used by Verizon customers and doesn’t enjoy the same longevity of updates as other devices are definite drawbacks.
OnePlus keeps cranking out high-quality smartphones in both the flagship and mid-range sector, and this year’s OnePlus 10T is no different. With a stellar 6.7-inch display and 120Hz refresh rate, the 10T ranks among the best displays at its sub-$700 price point. It also boasts 5G connectivity and utilizes OnePlus’ improved OxygenOS to produce the most intuitive version of Android on a third-party device. Plus it has a super fast wired charging speed.
The Galaxy Z Fold4 remains a statement piece of Samsung’s smartphone lineup. This year’s entry is once again positioned as the ultimate handheld productivity machine as its introduction placed heavy emphasis on the ability to multitask. A new Toolbar lets users switch quickly between their most used and recently used apps along with the ability to save and launch preset app combinations that they regularly use together. The phone itself received some design improvements as well. A new hinge design and the retooling of the screen make the phone lighter and shrink the hinge slightly. The under-display camera blends into the dual-screen display better while still utilizing Samsung’s improved nighttime photography tools (or Nightography). The improvements are solid, but the starting price still makes the Z Fold4 a big ask, though having a small tablet in your pocket is a catchy selling point.