Last year, Samsung released its most ambitious (non-folding) phone to date: the Galaxy S20 Ultra. It didn't go over especially well. A sky-high $1400 price tag and unremarkable camera performance torpedoed the phone outright in our final assessment, a rare miss for Samsung in the premium smartphone segment.
In 2021, Samsung is trying to reboot the Galaxy S20 Ultra formula with the S21 Ultra. And while the differences on paper (and often in practice) aren't what you'd call huge, the end result is a more palatably priced phone with a much-improved camera system — notably addressing our two biggest gripes.
How do you get excited about something as utilitarian as a battery pack? We've reviewed plenty of them here at AP over the years, and generally it comes down to measuring the specs: What charges the fastest, puts out the most power, and has the largest capacity? But while anybody can construct a big, fast battery, when's the last time you chose a battery for its design, or because of its advanced features? With a slick-as-hell cyberpunk aesthetic and real-time detailed performance feedback, the crowdfunded STORM 2 is making me seriously reconsider what I look for in a battery.
OnePlus has been hugely successful in 2020. It's the only company in the US that managed to grow during the pandemic and decline of smartphone sales. Clearly, it's doing a lot of things right, but that doesn't mean its products are perfect. Performance, battery life, and software features have always impressed, but photo quality has always been behind the curve, and its update policy falls behind its competitors now, as does the quality of those updates over time. Will the nearly $1,000 OnePlus 9 Pro fix these last two lingering issues?
There was a time not that long ago that OnePlus phones were a guaranteed excellent value. That's no longer the case as the company has increasingly focused on flagship devices and carrier partnerships, pushing the cost of some devices over $1,000. Still, that doesn't mean OnePlus is incapable of delivering a good value anymore. The new OnePlus 9 is only $729, which is more than two Benjamins less than the OnePlus 9 Pro. It's even cheaper than the OnePlus 8T it replaces, which is a welcome reversal of trends.
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Even after seven months, the Pixel 4a is still a phone worth picking up, thanks to its reliable performance and value-driven price tag. Although affordability is a key feature of the 4a, you're probably going to want to grab a good case to keep your phone looking clean and pristine for years to come. Here are some of our favorite cases for the Pixel 4a.
Aside from Samsung, Lenovo is one of the few Android OEMs that bothers to release tablets. The company has a tendency to be showy with products in the Yoga series, especially the one with that weirdo keyboard. But this ain't no Yoga — the Android-powered Tab P11 Pro is a typical tablet with an optional keyboard accessory. It was announced last year and launched just recently.
For the last several years, Samsung's flagship Galaxy S phones have been split into three variants: a kitchen sink smartphone at the high-end, an entry-level device, and that phone in the middle you probably don't think about. This cycle, I've spent some time with Samsung's middle child, the Galaxy S21+, and I came away impressed. It's not as capable as the S21 Ultra, of course, but the form factor, build-quality, and features carve out a niche in the saturated smartphone market. I'd even go so far as to say the Galaxy S21+ is worth the $1,000 asking price for some people.
Lenovo is one of a few companies to ever launch dedicated smart alarm clocks with Google Assistant, so there's never been loads of competition in the market. Xiaomi is looking to change that with its new Mi Smart Clock, a cute little gadget that should fit well with almost any bedroom design.
Unfortunately, the device is held back by the same issues that made the Lenovo clocks hard to recommend. Smart clocks are much more limited than smart displays, but they don't cost much less. They're not compatible with most video streaming apps, and they don't display some of the useful visual elements full-fledged smart displays offer.
For the last couple years, Xiaomi’s been releasing its flagships lineup on a tic-toc cycle, with a volley early in the year, and another round — the T models — later that same year. For example, the Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro landed in February 2020, followed by the Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro in September 2020. So far this year, we got the Mi 11 in January, with a rumored Mi 11 Ultra coming soon. And that’s not including the “Lite” models.
Xiaomi may have diversified its product range to offer flagship phones, but the sub-$200 segment is still where all the action happens. The fact that it has maintained its lead in the budget segment, despite the increased pressure from Realme and Samsung, speaks volumes about how well Xiaomi knows what it's doing. That shows in the 2021 Redmi Note series. With the Redmi Note 10, Xiaomi has once again managed to find the balance between performance and price, which matters more than anything else in a market like India. But that doesn’t mean the Note 10 has no weak spots — it's got its fair share of them, and they could easily be a dealbreaker for some.