Best Smartphones of 2020

The year 2020 will be remembered far and wide for all the wrong reasons. A global pandemic creates havoc, changes the way we live and causes all kinds of financial and physical grief. 2020 for most will be the hardest year of existence. In this year full of misery, we found our light, in the form of some smartphones that stood out to us. The one thing that did not disappoint us this year were the multiple smartphone launches, with some of them being segment leaders and paving the way for future tech.

This makes our task much harder since we have to list out certain products that were standouts and, considering how brands flood the market these days, it is quite tough to choose the best options. Regardless, we thought of listing out ten of the best smartphones of 2020.

1. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most complete smartphone of the year. Some might disagree with this, but, to us, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the phone to buy if you’re spending on an iPhone, since the advancements in comparison to the cheaper models are so drastic that the hike is more than justified.

The device features the biggest display to have ever been used on an iPhone (6.7-inches) with its Super XDR technology it has been rated by the folks at DisplayMate as the best smartphone panel there is which makes it the ultimate content consumption device. The stereo speakers aid the content consumption abilities and, all in all, the device’s massive display and rich sounding speakers make the device ideal for content consumption.

If you are a content creator, you will appreciate the amazing camera setup, considering the main sensor has been made larger by 47 per cent coupled with its new stabilisation system and, with some new software trickery, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is pretty much the best camera smartphone, period. Video capabilities have always been the strong suit for an iPhone and, it is not at all different this time. With support for Dolby Vision, there are even newer and enhanced video shooting capabilities.

Performance is not a worry with the 12 Pro Max, since it features a state of the art A14 Bionic chipset, which is also the first Apple chip to feature support for 5G. In terms of raw performance, this is currently the most powerful SoC to be found on a commercially available smartphone and, when paired with Apple’s amazing software optimization, you can expect the iPhone 12 Pro Max to handle anything that you throw at it.

In a nutshell, the iPhone looks gorgeous, it is built like a tank, while for some it can shoot like a DSLR, if not better and it has the raw performance that will even rival an iMac at times.

2. iPhone 12

With the launch of the iPhone 12 series, most people were awestruck upon how good the iPhone 12 Pro Max is. What everyone forgot is the price that comes with those features. The iPhone for everyone is the iPhone 12.

Sporting for the first time in a regular number series iPhone, the iPhone 12 comes with an OLED panel, which is a welcome change over the Liquid Retina displays of the past. This basically means that with the exception of the iPhone SE, the 2020 lineup now consists of similar displays all around. And it is an exceptionally good display.

In terms of the performance, as is customary, all devices feature the same chipset, which in this case is the A14 Bionic. The device runs smoother than butter and, in terms of heavy tasks, it can chew through them at ease. 5G support too is common on all devices, meaning, if you live in an area with support for 5G, you can avail the same on the iPhone 12.

Cameras are an area where the changes start to appear. There is a new 7-element lens, a new optical stabilisation system and new processing capabilities which basically make this the most reliable everyday camera you get on a smartphone. Night mode also now comes to the wide-angle and selfie camera which makes things more fun. Regardless, the two cameras on the rear are capable of providing some jaw-dropping shots and video capabilities are quite simply the best in the business.

Add to this, it gets this new design that harkens back to the classic iPhone 5 motif which makes the phone look elegant, along with the new MagSafe charging tech, this is easily the best phone for most people, especially if you’re one to splurge.

3. Mi 10T Pro

The Mi 10T Pro tells you a lot about Xiaomi’s ambitions as a smartphone brand in India. It is all about flexing its muscles and telling the likes of Samsung and OnePlus, hey we can compete too, and beat you at this game. An offshoot of the Mi 10, the Mi 10T Pro graduates with clever display tech, stunning cameras that will challenge the iPhone 12 and excellent video capabilities. It also helps that this phone has massive 5,000mAh battery which just doesn’t lose steam even during hardcore Call of Duty sessions.

The 6.67-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1080×2400 pixels and an aspect ratio of 20:9 which is fine but gamers will notice 144Hz refresh rate which makes it a mobile gamers paradise and also makes it super responsive. Not that it was needed, but this phone has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor coupled with 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage. So yeah, it is a beast and easily the fastest Android phone on this list.

It runs Android 10 with the latest version of MiUI which makes it not as gnarly as some of the Redmi phones that Xiaomi sells and it also commits to fast updates. The Mi 10T Pro is the flagship we never knew we wanted, but, after it’s arrival, the flagship killer seems to be dead.

4. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung launched a plethora of devices this year and, while most of them were good, there was one true standout. The device that I am talking about is the S20 FE. This might be a bit of a surprise to you since the brand launched devices like the S20 Ultra, the Note 20 Ultra which are great devices. But this stood out because it basically culled the bullshit that Samsung had crammed in all the other models which meant this has been the warpcore Android smartphone recommendation to most people since it launched a couple of months ago.

It features a good looking display and, more importantly, unlike the more expensive Note 20, it comes equipped with a 120Hz refresh rate panel. Imagine, even a ₹79,990 iPhone 12 doesn’t offer this. It is also a very nice screen — it looks good for all kinds of content and also gets pretty bright while retaining tremendous viewing angles. As always, the S20 FE’s display features crisp blacks, vibrant colours and, in typical Samsung fashion, the display is ideal for any kind of content consumption.

Performance is sort of a weak spot for the S20 FE, owing to the inclusion of the Exynos 990, but it is adequate for most. It also manages all this while having a very unique soft-touch finish that feels very elegant in a package that has a pretty capacious battery. In terms of the cameras, the device has a great set of cameras which will rarely disappoint.

5. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

If you are looking for innovation and something truly special, then you can’t look beyond the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung’s third folding phone. It is the real deal in every sense.

This time around Samsung has nailed the display which now has a glass 7.6-inch full-HD+ foldable, Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display with a 120Hz refresh rate. There is also a 6.2-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Flex Display with 816×2,260 pixels resolution on the cover. And yes, almost no notch.

And it basically offers the best you can get on Android in terms of horsepower. You get the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ SoC, coupled with 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM. This is one the most powerful chipset available (commercially) which means that the Z Fold 2 can handle extensive and heavy tasks with ease.

As for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 comes with a triple rear cameras on the back housing a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 lens, a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens, and a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/2.4 telephoto lens all optically stabilised. For selfies, there are 10-megapixel cameras on both the cover screen as well as main display with an f/2.2 lens. All this swagger is also matched by great battery life and decent build quality.

It is certainly quite expensive and, most of these specifications can be availed for a whole lot less, but, but you will never get it in a package that exudes so much flamboyance and for sure no other phone apart from a new iPhone perhaps will attract the attention of others around you.

6.iPhone SE

It can be argued that iPhone SE is the best iPhone deal India has ever received. The thing about it as it is powered by the A13 Bionic chipset which has the performance that’s notably faster than the flagship Android phones at just ₹42,990. This means it can game better, edit photos and videos better and also run more complex apps better for longer than any Android phone. The cameras too are pivotal for a smartphone and the SE can hold its own up against even an iPhone 11 in most situations. Video capabilities are quite similar to the flagship iPhones and, in terms of overall imaging quality, the device demolishes similarly priced phones.

The only sticking point is the design, but, considering the price, we cannot ask for a lot and, to add to that, the use of the older design helps reduce waste and aids in the preservation of the environment. Even when critiquing its design, it should be noted that it remains one of the cheapest phones with water and dust resistance and dual stereo speakers and those who like the good old fingerprint scanner, then it is here on your majesty’s service.

7. Pixel 4a

Google’s Pixel 4A is the first Pixel phone to land in the country in over a year, but it doesn’t make its mark on this list because it is transformational or cutting edge, but because it nails the basics.

The device features a 5.84-inch OLED panel with a resolution of FHD+ which makes it nice and compact. A high refresh rate panel is however missing, but, considering how well the device is priced, we can let that slide. In terms of the cameras, the device features a single 12.2-megapixel primary sensor, which can take on devices thrice its price. The only device to come close to the Pixel 4a in the mid-range segment is the iPhone SE, but even that falls behind when you talk about just taking pictures.

As for the performance side of things, the Pixel is powered by the Snapdragon 730G, which, while it is not the best option in the segment, is able to get the job done. It does make the user wait for a beat for the camera to finish clicking pictures, but, for most, it is more than adequate.

8. OnePlus Nord

One of, if not the most hyped products of 2020, the Nord was everything that we had hoped for. The device marked the return for OnePlus in the mid-range segment and, for the first time, we had a device in the price range that does not skip out on the basics.

The Nord features a 6.44-inch AMOLED panel, which has a resolution of FHD+ with a 90Hz refresh rate making it not only gorgeous but also responsive. As for the cameras, the device sports a 48-megapixel primary sensor, coupled with three other cameras for a quad-camera setup. The shots from the device are well exposed, contrasty and, the device as a whole is one of the best camera phones under 30k in India.

When it comes to the performance of the OnePlus Nord, it is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, which also comes with 5G support. It feels rapid. This makes the Nord one of the best options in the segment when it comes to the performance spectrum.

All in all, the Nord is a good all-rounder which has everything an Android user might need and, in doing so, does not cost a pretty penny.

9. Vivo X50 Pro

The X50 Pro by Vivo is a dark horse that no one expected. On paper it seems like yet another overpriced offline flagship phone from the house of Vivo, but when you start using it, especially the moment you switch on its cameras and you go holy hell.

It gets a 48-megapixel customised Sony IMX598 primary sensor with an f/1.6 lens and gimbal camera system which is very unique. You’ll also get an 8-megapixel super-wide-angle shooter with a 120-degree FoV, 13-megapixel bokeh shooter with an f/2.48 lens, and an 8-megapixel telescopic shooter that enables 60x hybrid zoom. And this is where Vivo is flexing its muscles as this phone delivers outlandish image quality especially in low-light thanks to the micro-gimbal.

But even in other areas this phone is no slouch. For instance, it features a 6.56-inch full-HD 3D Curved Ultra O AMOLED Screen. The phone also comes with HDR 10+ support, 90Hz refresh rate, and 180Hz touch response rate. This is a visual treat of sorts, which is ideal for content consumption.

It is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip coupled with 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. For most people this is more than adequate. It may not offer the best bang for the buck, but it’s cameras are so impressive that it made it to the list.

10. Poco X3

For people who prefer to spend a bit less, the Poco X3 is one of the best options period. It is a jack of all, master of none, and unapologetic about it.

The POCO X3 features a 6.67-inch FHD+ LCD, with a hole punch cutout for the selfie camera, 120Hz refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling rate, 450nits of peak brightness, and HDR 10 certification.These are great specs for a phone that costs well below ₹20,000. The size of the screen also makes use that it remains a delight for content consumption.

It is also no slouch when it comes to day to day tasks or even some hectic duties. It is one of the first phones in the world to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G paired with up to 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage. This makes it one of the fastest sub-20,000K phones in India.

In the camera department, the device features a 64MP f/1.89 Sony IMX682 primary sensor, a 13MP f/2.2 wide-angle sensor with a 119-degree FOV, a 2MP f/2.4 macro sensor, and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. These are solid cameras which get even better if you are a tweaker — the GCam Mod works brilliantly with this hardware and even if that’s not something you’d do, the stock camera app is excellent in typical Xiaomi style. Over on the front, POCO has packed in a 20MP f/2.2 selfie shooter which is also half decent.

But the biggest calling card of this phone is its battery life — its 6,000mAh battery and its really unique design and branding make this phone quite alluring especially when the budget is tight.

Words: Shloke Sarkar




Serving communities on the intersection of technology, indie music and culture, the warp core is a think tank founded by technology journalist Sahil Mohan Gupta

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Serving communities on the intersection of technology, indie music and culture, the warp core is a think tank founded by technology journalist Sahil Mohan Gupta

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