February 24, 2024

This has been a incredible yr for smartphones as a result of sheer number of nice gadgets in any respect costs. In different phrases, if you happen to wished a superb new telephone this yr, it didn’t have to be a $1,000-plus flagship.

I’ve used and reviewed an ideal many telephones over the previous 12 months, however the next 5 have left the most important impression to develop into what I think about the perfect you may get.

iPhone 15 Plus

A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Apple iPhone 15 Plus Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

Whereas the iPhone 15 Plus is probably not essentially the most technically spectacular new iPhone launched this yr, it’s the one which shocked me, as I’d felt that the iPhone 14 Plus was too huge, too heavy, and too uncomfortable to be a real cheaper various to the iPhone 14 Professional Max. The iPhone 15 Plus solved all of the consolation points, which in flip made it extra manageable. The digital camera has actually impressed me, too.

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It means the iPhone 15 Plus actually will be thought-about by individuals who need the iPhone 15 Professional Max’s huge display, however not the accompanying huge price ticket. It’s nonetheless an costly telephone, however there’s a substantial financial savings over the 15 Professional Max, and since it’s a much better telephone than final yr’s mannequin, it may well really be really helpful. Calling it one of many “greatest” telephones I’ve reviewed this yr could also be a tiny little bit of a stretch, however it’s definitely essentially the most improved over what got here earlier than.

I’ve additionally been utilizing the excellent iPhone 15 Professional Max because it was launched, and the variations between utilizing it and the iPhone 15 Plus for regular, on a regular basis duties are minimal. It’s solely if you get artistic with the digital camera, begin enjoying lots of intensive video games, or evaluate the 2 screens carefully (one is 60Hz and the opposite 120Hz) that it’s apparent the place the additional cash goes. In any other case, the iPhone 15 Plus is a worthy big-screen various to the iPhone 15 Professional Max.

Google Pixel 7a

The Google Pixel 7a in a person's hand.
Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

Most end-of-year lists will characteristic the Google Pixel 8 or Google Pixel 8 Professional, and they’re proper to take action, as each are wonderful new smartphones. However it’s simple to overlook that Google’s most cost-effective Pixel telephone, the Google Pixel 7a, was additionally launched in 2023, and it’s the greatest worth Pixel to purchase if you happen to don’t wish to spend a lot cash. It has all the same old Pixel goodness — nice digital camera and clear Android — for lower than $500. Whereas it lacks all of the AI options discovered within the Pixel 8, it’s questionable as to how a lot they’ll add to the expertise for everybody.

After I’d completed utilizing the Pixel 7a the primary time round, I didn’t really feel the necessity to swap my SIM card out and right into a costlier flagship telephone. Contemplating the checklist included the Samsung Galaxy S23 Extremely, that is excessive reward. It’s an extremely competent telephone that shares the identical cool design of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Professional, and the digital camera performs nearly as effectively too. It has final yr’s Google Tensor processor inside, so it’s not essentially the most battery environment friendly, however it nonetheless at all times lasted a packed full day for me.

As tech followers, we’re always wanting on the subsequent huge factor and lusting after the very newest releases, however overlooking the Pixel 7a as a result of it doesn’t share the Pixel 8’s title and processor could be unlucky. It’s a superb, succesful, and long-lasting smartphone for anybody not desirous to spend greater than $500 on a brand new telephone.

Motorola Razr (2023)

The Motorola Razr 40's cover screen, with the Moo character.
Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

The third telephone on my checklist is one more midrange machine, proving you don’t completely want to purchase an costly flagship to bag one in all 2023’s greatest. The Motorola Razr (2023), or Razr 40, because it’s identified within the U.Ok., is the cheaper of the 2 new Razrs launched this yr, with the opposite being the wonderful Razr Plus. However the common Razr is the one which breaks new, necessary floor.

Why? It brings the compact folding telephone right down to a smart value, particularly when it was out there for simply $600. Even on the full $700, it’s nonetheless a strong purchase — and Motorola appears comfortable to nonetheless provide offers on it, too. It’s much better constructed than the Razr (2022), the hinge feels extra dependable and costly, and the know-how inside is greater than sufficient to fulfill most individuals for day by day use. You’ll need extra energy if you happen to play lots of video games, however it’s a minor gripe when wanting on the Razr (2023) as a whole package deal.

I appreciated the Razr (2023) as a result of the {hardware} by no means felt like a compromise, and it introduces the enjoyment of a folding telephone to those that don’t wish to spend $1,000 to get one. Folding telephones are enjoyable, thrilling, and helpful, and the extra individuals who can uncover this, the higher. The Razr (2023)’s compact design means it’s by no means a burden, but you’re not lacking out on a stunning huge display if you need it. Plus, the telephone is given character by Moo, the creature that lives on the duvet display, one thing you don’t typically discover on any smartphone, not to mention a modestly priced foldable.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Extremely

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in Sky Blue, seen from the back.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Extremely Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

I needed to get to a flagship telephone ultimately, and the Galaxy S23 Extremely is each bit a flagship. Because the demise of the Observe sequence, the S-Collection Extremely has taken on the duty of offering nearly the whole lot that may be squeezed into a contemporary telephone. A number of of those options are distinctive to the S23 Extremely, too, together with the 10x optical zoom digital camera and the Bluetooth-connected S Pen stylus saved contained in the telephone’s physique.

The 10x optical zoom is an enormous profit, as no different telephone presents an analogous characteristic in any respect. It provides a lot artistic capacity to the already excellent digital camera, and there’s nearly no state of affairs or setting the place it doesn’t take a superb {photograph}. I selected it because the telephone I took on a brief journey over every other for this very purpose, and I by no means as soon as regretted it. Then there’s how good the video recording is. It additionally launched me to utilizing Adobe Lightroom on a smartphone to make images look even higher.

The digital camera’s brilliance is repeated in all places else, from the outright efficiency to the software program. I’m utilizing the Galaxy S23 Extremely once more as I write this, and it has acquired an replace to One UI 6 and Android 14, bringing it proper updated. Huge, daring, and good, the Galaxy S23 Extremely is the telephone to purchase if you happen to don’t wish to change it for years.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, showing the cover screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

After I determined to improve my Galaxy Z Fold 4, I didn’t select the Galaxy Fold 5 — I purchased the Galaxy Z Flip 5 as an alternative. Whereas the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is excellent, it actually doesn’t provide a lot new over the Z Fold 4, whereas the Z Flip 5 is a very totally different telephone from the Galaxy Z Flip 4. I admire the compact design too, because it matches in with my present life-style higher. I didn’t write our preliminary assessment of the Z Flip 5, however I’ve been utilizing it long run and up to date our assessment on it not too long ago.

The massive cowl display is extremely customizable, and though it may well run any Android app you want, I discover it really works greatest if you use a core choice. The Z Flip 5 is a telephone you’ll be able to correctly use open and closed, and for a a lot wider number of duties than earlier than. Its new versatility brings it nearer to the Z Fold 5, leaving you principally with the choice as as to whether you worth an enormous display or a compact telephone extra when selecting between them.

Samsung’s {hardware} can also be nonetheless the most effective within the enterprise. I really like the Motorola Razr (2023), however you’ll be able to inform it’s cheaper than the Z Flip 5 simply from the hinge. The Z Flip 5’s hinge is easy, but tight, with no wobble or flex within the flawed locations. It provides you confidence within the telephone, as does Samsung’s use of sturdy supplies. The Z Flip 5 is the telephone that modified my thoughts about compact folding telephones, and it’s simply one of many yr’s greatest new gadgets.

Those that acquired away

A blue Google Pixel 8 Pro, laying face-down next to a small pumpkin and squash.
Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

There have been a few telephones I haven’t been in a position to make use of to this point this yr, and though I don’t count on both to usurp any of the gadgets above based mostly on what I’ve discovered from colleagues, they do deserve particular point out. It’s the Google Pixel 8 Professional and OnePlus Open which have eluded me on the time of writing.

The OnePlus Open falls into the identical class because the Google Pixel Fold and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 in that big-screen folding telephones haven’t been as attractive in 2023 in comparison with compact folding telephones. I’ve loved utilizing the Z Flip 5 and Razr (2023) so much, and each are appreciable enhancements over their predecessors. The Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold are good, however don’t provide a lot that’s new. I’ve a sense the OnePlus Open could also be precisely the identical.

OnePlus Open in Emerald Dusk showing Flexion Hinge standing up.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Tendencies

I do know I’ll love the Pixel 8 Professional’s digital camera and would have an interest to check out the extra AI options which might be unique to the mannequin, particularly as I actually appreciated the usual Pixel 8. It’s certain to be a superb telephone, however the Pixel 7a caught my consideration due to how good it’s for the value, and the Pixel 8 Professional is identical value as most different high smartphones at the moment. It higher be good once I get to make use of it.

After I use these two telephones, maybe I’ll change my thoughts about this checklist. However for now, these are my favourite smartphones from the various I’ve used and reviewed in 2023.

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