In the era before modern smartwatches, Fitbit's name became synonymous with wearable fitness trackers. Full-fledged smartwatches have become the norm as consumers have demanded more and more from wearables, and Fitbit stepped in with the Ionic and Versa smartwatches a few years ago. I had high hopes that Fitbit would continue to improve and provide Android users a viable alternative to the increasingly frustrating Wear OS experience, but the Sense has some of the same shortcomings and bugs I remember from the Ionic. The Sense also has its own raft of new glitches that I find equally annoying. At the same time, Fitbit promises this watch can do so many things!
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Google's Pixel 5 is here, but it didn't exactly blow our minds. Released alongside it is another phone that's more worthy of your consideration: The Pixel 4a 5G. Ignore the name, it's basically a Pixel 5 but $200 cheaper. You give up on a few benefits like an IP rating, 90Hz display, and metal build, but you get a bigger screen and a headphone jack, all with the same camera and internals.
Frankly, we don't see a reason for most folks to buy the Pixel 5 over this.
Over the past few years, smartphones have stopped evolving at a rapid pace and settled into iterative, yawn-inducing update cycles. Just like how a desktop PC from eight years ago can still handle basic productivity tasks in 2020, a flagship smartphone from two or three years ago isn't radically different from what you can buy today, and there’s only so much room for innovation in the flat glass slab form factor. This has sent some manufacturers to go back to the drawing board in search of something more radical and exciting. Samsung has released severalfoldablephones, LG is developing a dual-screen device, and now Microsoft has the Surface Duo.
I've been using the Pixel 5 for the better part of a week now, and it's the first Google phone in years I'm getting a very particular feeling about. It takes great photos, I think the physical design is muted in a very charmingly Google way, and the software is exactly the unfettered Android experience I've come to know and love. But I'm just not sure how long I'm going to keep using it now that this review has gone up.
The Pixel 5 is by its nature an exercise in compromise. A slower chipset, the lack of face unlock, a missing telephoto camera lens, and cost cuts on components like haptics make it a bizarre case of this year's phone being worse in very material ways than last year's.
Xiaomi’s been busy this year. In addition to launching a plethora of Xiaomi and Redmi-branded phones, the company’s turned Poco into its own sub-brand, starting with the Poco X2 in February, followed by the Poco F2 Pro in May, Poco M2 Pro in July, plus the Poco X3 NFC and Poco M2 in September. What started off as a single, $300 handset with flagship specs in 2018 — the Poco F1 (or Pocophone F1) — is now an entire product line.
Granted, Xiaomi’s mostly re-branding Redmi devices here, with Poco handsets getting a few hardware and software tweaks like unique memory and storage configurations, and a bespoke launcher.
OnePlus is the definition of "disruptor" in the smartphone space — or it used to be. Early devices like the OnePlus One and OnePlus 3 blew minds without burning wallets. Over the years, that value proposition has dwindled as competitors rise to the occasion, bringing us to 2020. OnePlus has a whole "Pro" line of higher-end models now, soon to be augmented by mid-range and budget phones. Among this growing selection, the "base" OnePlus is being lost, and while the 8T is a good phone, it just can't compete on value.
The processing power common to flagship phones means you can expect mobile games to run smoothly on them, but for most devices, that gaming prowess is an afterthought or an added bonus. The ROG Phone 3, launching soon in the US, pairs top-shelf internals with custom hardware and software tailored to creating an excellent gaming experience — and that laser focus on performance means it's great at other things we all use our phones for, too. But nagging flaws more expected from budget phones make it hard to recommend to any but the most ardent mobile gamer.
If it wasn't for the Pixel 3a, the Asus Zenfone 6 probably could've been a surprise hit in 2019. It packed an almost stock-like Android experience, the best processor on the market (back then), and a unique flip camera. We worried that Asus' creation could turn out to be a flash in the pan, but after spending two weeks with the Zenfone 7 Pro, I can confirm that it is an improvement over that already great phone. It comes with a higher price, though.
Google's Wear OS platform has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years—mostly downs. Perhaps the greatest issue has been slow progress on hardware. Most Google-powered watches sold right now use the Snapdragon Wear 3100, a two-year-old SoC built on the same 28nm process that the Snapdragon 800 from 2014 used. Qualcomm promised to finally address battery life and performance limitations with the new Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, and the TicWatch Pro 3 is the first Wear OS smartwatch to use it.
After using the TicWatch Pro 3 for a while, I can confidently say that the Wear 4100 is the hardware boost Wear OS has desperately needed for years.
I started out as a folding phone critic. In fact, I bought the Z Flip we reviewed this spring with the full intention of pointing out how dumb the idea was, except I was dead wrong. I fell in love with my little flip phone, and the last week spent with the Galaxy Z Fold2 has further cemented my change of heart. Folding phones are undeniably the future, and for the right folks, the Z Fold2 is a must-buy game-changer — though probably not for you.