It’s now time for me to wrap up the series and list the phones that impressed me the most in what was undoubtedly an eventful year. Most of the events weren’t of the good variety, granted, but when it comes to smartphone innovation things were going strong. In fact this smartphone addict found 2020 to be the best year in a good while when it comes to new releases.
This being the last entry in a fairly long series it will inevitability contain some familiar faces, but to try and mix things up a bit I’ll also rank the phones, starting with my number 6 and gradually climbing to the top. Oh, it’s a top 5 list? Okay then, an honorable mention.
Honorable mention: Huawei Mate 40 Pro
Oh what could have been – the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is such an awesome phone that had it not been for the lack of Google Play Services and limited chip supply it would have certainly became a holiday best-seller. It’s the fourth prettiest phone this year in my book, has an unbelievably good camera and an amazing screen. Obviously it also has the rest of the flagship bangs and whistles like excellent software, blazing fast performance and super rapid charging, but these three are where it stands out.
Most people won’t give the Mate 40 Pro a chance because we are creatures of habit and we hate getting used to new things. A lot of those people will be missing out however, because with the strides the App Gallery has made the phone is perfectly capable of serving them with a few minor adjustments.
5. Realme X50 Pro
It’s not just the Fall that brought some amazing phones – the early month gave us a few gems including my number 5 and what is the exception to the whole list. Whereas the other members are here courtesy of the amazing innovation they bring in one area or another, this one I chose because it serves as a wake up call for both makers and customers.
Armed with a great display, a versatile camera setup (both front and back) and the Snapdragon 865 this one proved that you can get everything you need (in fact more than most people will ever need) without paying four-digit prices. You don’t need to look further than the list of cons in our review to know that we were struggling to find anything wrong with the X50 Pro.
Of course, if you are a frequent reader of GSMArena to the extent that you have started following this series chances are you are not most people but rather a power user that is willing to pay top dollar as long as you get to experience cutting edge technology, so let’s move on.
4. Oppo Find X2 Pro
This one easily wins the award for most underrated flagship of the year – marrying the ColorOS that I properly love to amazing hardware and the third best design in business, courtesy of that vegan leather back the Find X2 Pro is the best phone most people have never heard of.
Insufficient brand recognition, minimal marketing campaign and limited availability made sure few would end up owning the X2 Pro in the west, but even though I’m not the gambling type I’m willing to bet a decent sum that people that actually ended up owning it properly love it.
3. Apple iPhone 12 mini
The iPhone 12 mini is another disruptor phone – it’s about challenging the trend of ever growing phones than the constantly increasing prices. Of course the fact that it’s the cheapest member of the iPhone 12 line doesn’t hurt, but it’s by far not the main thing the mini has going for it.
There’s just no phone on the market like it – a diminutive package that is actually a proper flagship. All it’s missing compared to a 12 Pro or a 12 Pro Max is a telephoto camera, but at 2x and 2.5x it’s not like those two can go particularly far anyway. Meanwhile the 12 mini fits in pockets where no other phone would squeeze and is so refreshingly light.
I can’t even count the less than amazing battery life against the 12 mini because as I said it’s so unique in the current market that there’s nothing that you can rightfully compare it to. Or is there? Let’s have a look at number 2.
2. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The most exciting bit about the tech scene in 2020 was the proper arrival of foldable phones. Granted, the original Z Fold and the Mate X came in 2019, but they always felt a bit more like polished prototypes than phones ready to serve you on a daily basis. The 2020 versions, on the other hand, are amazing – just look at the Galaxy Z Flip and tell me it’s not gorgeous. The only thing prettier than it is the Motorola Razr 5G, but that one has too many compromises elsewhere, which prevented it from making my list.
But it goes beyond looks – far beyond, in fact. The Z Flip folds to 87.4mm, which is just two thirds of the height of the iPhone 12 mini and it has about the same usable screen space as the 12 Pro Max when you factor in the notch.
The foldable design also enables some cool uses too – the hinge lets it stay semi-folded on a table lets the Z Flip act as its own tripod for selfies and video calls. And while the external screen is tiny it’s still good enough to let you take selfies with the main camera, leveraging its superior image quality. So at the end of the day the foldable screen phones not only let you have the best of both worlds, but they also add bits of their own.
I’ll also quickly touch on the subject of durability because it inevitably comes up when we are discussing foldables. People will point to how Zack from Jerryrigeverything scratched the screen by pushing his nail into it hard, while ignoring reports from actual users that it’s holding up perfectly fine after months of use. I’m not going argue with their coping mechanisms – as I said us people are creatures of habits and our initial response to rapid change is rejection.
To those more open minded I’ll just point out two things. First, the screen is actually at its most vulnerable not when in use but when carried around in pockets and purses and in those cases the Z Flip’s screen is actually much better protected than just about any other phone’s out there. Secondly, the phone is looking like new after spending a few months in the hands of my wife and if it can live through that it can probably live through anything.
1. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2
After the previous entry my number one pick is unlikely to surprise anyone, even if you accidentally missed the huge spoiler that was the headline image.
The Galaxy Z Fold2 only edged the Z Flip because it fits better in my own use cases otherwise I rate the two and what they represent equally. They are two different takes on what you can achieve with the tech – a giant screen with unrivaled productivity and media consumption potential or a regular phone that folds to the size of powder box for storage.
Having used the Z Fold2 as my daily driver for the past couple of months I’m convinced of one thing – unless you absolutely must have the best camera setup around it represents better value than just about any other premium flagship. Even at MSRP it’s better to spend €2,000 on a truly exciting product than €1,500 on a boring Galaxy S21 or an iPhone 12 Pro Max. But right now deals in Europe lets you have one for €1,300, which makes it a no-brainer.
This piece ended up a bit longer than I initially imagined it and I bet a lot of you are already eager to hit the comments section and tell me how I’m oh-so-wrong and I should immediately take a lengthy vacation and then quit. The floor is now yours!