As 2022 draws to a close, we want to look back over the past 12 months and talk over the next few days about the devices that caught our eye throughout the year. It’s been a year full of launches, but not necessarily full of significant ‘upgrades’, with the entire tech industry seemingly coming to a standstill in many ways. However, there were a few devices that caught our attention, and the first category we’ll talk about is smartphones, by far the most popular gadgets on the market.
What follows is not a ranking and we will not “award” the best devices on the market, nor will we make price categories. These are just the smartphones we were happy to remember at the end of the year and which stood out among the other models we tested.
iPhone 14 Pro Max
Apple’s new flagship iPhone 14 Pro Max is a “near” perfect phone. We say almost, as it has a few shortcomings, which we also mentioned in the review, such as the very slow Lightning port for both charging and data transfer. At the same time, it also has some of the best performing components otherwise. We’re talking about one of the best performing chipsets on the market, one of the best performing cameras, delivering consistent results every time and in all types of light, as well as the best video on the market.
The screen is the big news in 2022, being one of the brightest, and featuring the first iPhone design change in 5 years: changing the camera cutout to the “dynamic island,” a new multitasking area for iOS. On top of all this, Apple finally has the always-on display feature on the Pro models, and the battery is back at an all-time high, offering the best battery life in the flagship area.
There’s also some bad news in connection with the iPhone 14 Pro: the price, which has increased significantly from last year, and availability. Even if you have the 7000+ for this phone, it’s very hard to get your hands on it, as Apple can’t keep up with market demand. This also means that a cheapening is not on the horizon.
Galaxy S22 Ultra
It would be easy to say that the Galaxy S22 Ultra isn’t much different from the S21 and S20 in the Ultra variants if you look strictly at the hardware specs, but this year Samsung has brought to market the phone that those who prefer the Note lineup wanted. The S22 Ultra (review) has added on top of the large screen and very powerful cameras and an S-Pen stylus, integrated into the phone, the accessory that differentiates it most in the market.
Of course, the cameras are excellent, but one of them is certainly more powerful than what any other device on the market offers: 10x optical zoom, with the possibility of very good results up to 30x hybrid zoom. This camera unlocks creative new shooting options on the phone that have been pretty much missing from all the other phones tested this year.
Of course, there are downsides to this model, such as the battery life, which isn’t great, but also the Exynos 2200 processor which is slower and heats up more than the alternatives on the market. Also, charging is very slow compared to most flagships. Still, there are few phones in the Android phone market that offer as “complete” a package, even if, in certain categories, they might be better.
Of all the mid-range models tested this year, the Galaxy A53 remains a benchmark model. Despite using a weaker processor than other comparable models on the market, it’s the most easily recommended mid-range device of the year for several reasons.
Sure, it has a “plasticky” build and a somewhat “childish” design, but it comes with water resistance and offers the most advantages in its price category. First, it’s one of the few mid-range phones on the market that will receive four system updates and five years of security updates. It’s already received the update to Android 13, while other €1,000+ models from competitors are still waiting.
Then it’s a mid-range with 120Hz OLED screen, powerful camera and good battery life. For most smartphone users, this is the phone that will do everything they need. The only major drawback would be the lack of charger in the package, something other brands offer in this price range. Surely though, many would rather use a charger they already have, or buy one for a few dozen, than buy an inferior phone at a similar price, just because it offers a plug adapter in the package.
Realme GT 2 Pro
Realme’s GT 2 Pro managed to impress us more than the OnePlus 10 Pro and Oppo Find X5 Pro models released around the same time by “related” brands. That’s because for just over half the price of those flagships, you were getting largely the same experience. We’re talking top-notch screen and processor, good but not perfect cameras, and very good battery life.
Realme seems to be the brand that could “win” users’ sympathy in regions like Romania, thanks to its very good performance/price ratio. Sure, it can’t boast Hasselblad camera systems or Oppo’s MariSilicon image processor, but it doesn’t need to, as most users won’t know the difference anyway. And the plastic construction is a plus this time around, as the back cover has a nice texture that’s resistant to scratches and mechanical shocks, which might encourage using the phone without a case.
Also from the Oppo “family”, we have the OnePlus 10T, a model that proved this brand can still produce flagship killers. That’s because the 10T is significantly cheaper than the 10 Pro, but comes with a more powerful and better-cooled processor, much faster charging at 150W, and a number of drawbacks that might upset OnePlus fans.
The biggest drawback would be the lack of the alerts slider, a true “signature” of OnePlus flagships. Then, the cameras aren’t up to high-end expectations, but at the same time, the company’s phones have never been at the top of the preferences of phone photography enthusiasts.
Certainly in 2022, OnePlus has shown that it hasn’t completely given up on the concept of high-performance phones at fair prices, but neither does it seem to be promoting them as much as before, preferring to focus its efforts on the significantly more expensive Pro model.