In the smartphone world, Xiaomi is the epitome of value for money. Now ranked fourth worldwide, it sells nearly one of every ten smartphones. But when companies start operating at such a large scale, the start-up mentality takes a backseat to more important considerations, and innovation can be stifled.
Oppo circumvented it with the "independent" OnePlus, Huawei spun off Honor for Western markets, and Xiaomi is taking an approach somewhere in the middle. Its Poco sub-brand is still under its umbrella and benefits from its resources, but has the advantage of an easily pronounceable name, some creative freedom, and room to fail without hurting Xiaomi's reputation. Read More
For as long as there have been smartphones, there have also been weird smartphones. While mainstream models tend to keep things basic, giving you slightly faster and more feature-rich versions of devices that have come before, there are always those outliers that seem to remind us that there's room for variety in this industry yet: phones that fold, have sliding hardware, or take similar steps to set them apart from the rest of the pack. Read More
It's not easy to turn heads in the mobile industry in 2018. At best, we see new handsets come out to critical acclaim but also a sense of stifled boredom. Maybe it is the best of its kind yet, but so what? Apart from the fact that it ticks every box, what does it bring to the table that's new? Fortunately, for those of us seeking something different (if a bit quirky), Razer has decided to get into the mobile market. The gaming hardware company is now on its second generation smartphone, the Razer Phone 2, and it's staying true to its original vision: a handset for elite mobile gamers. Read More
Despite being frozen out of the US market due to political opposition, Huawei still managed to surpass Apple this summer to become the world’s second largest phone maker behind Samsung. The Chinese manufacturer was the first to market with triple rear cameras in the P20 Pro this Spring, and many lauded its photos as the best produced by any smartphone.
Huawei’s latest flagship effort is the Mate 20 Pro, with a similar camera setup and innovations such as an in-display fingerprint sensor and 3D laser depth sensing for secure face unlock. It’s powered by the proprietary Kirin 980 chipset — the world’s first 7nm mobile SoC — and sports a 6.39” 2K+ OLED display. Read More
Android has become the most popular computing platform on the planet, but Google has had problems selling very many Android phones itself. It tried for years to make Nexus devices "a thing," but they never caught on outside the nerd demographic. With the debut of the Pixel program in 2016, the company took a different approach—it started building smartphones with consumers in mind. Google hasn't done everything perfectly, but it's gotten enough right that the first and second generation Pixels have been relatively easy to recommend. That brings us to the third-gen Pixels. Read More
The LG V40 is almost certainly the best smartphone the company has ever released. It has the best cameras, the best display, the best performance, and the most refined design of any LG phone I've ever used. And in 2018, that just isn't enough to more than an also-ran in the high-end smartphone space. At $950 unlocked, the V40 seeks to play in the smartphone big leagues with the Galaxy Note9 and iPhone XS. The sad truth is that for all this phone does right, it does just enough wrong (or simply, not as well) to knock itself out of contention. Read More
When it was first released, Essential's entry into the phone market was a bit of a flop. Reviews for the PH-1 weren't profoundly negative, but the phone's almost $700 price was humorously high considering its features and problems at the time. A bit over a year later, many of its early issues have been fixed or improved, the phone is one of just a handful to be updated to Android 9 Pie, and it's dropped down as cheap as $250 for Amazon Prime Day — though it's closer to $330 now. Read More
For several years now, Sony fans and critics have been calling for the Japanese company to move away from its boxy, dated hardware design language and join its rivals in releasing a modern Android smartphone. When the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact arrived at MWC 2018 in February, we hailed them as a small step in the right direction. Curved glass and greatly reduced bezels around an 18:9 screen combined with high-end internals and a relatively stock treatment of Android — a recipe that was also followed for the overpriced XZ2 Premium that came in the summer.
It’s somewhat surprising that we’re talking about another flagship Sony phone so soon, yet the Xperia XZ3 stole the show at IFA 2018 and goes on sale at the beginning of October, just six months after the XZ2 was released and three months after the XZ2 Premium. Read More
There aren't very many good budget phones in the United States. There are a few standouts, like the Nokia 6.1 and Moto G6, but most pale in comparison to budget devices sold in Asia and parts of Europe.
Alcatel, a sub-brand of TCL, is somewhat well known in the United States thanks to the hordes of inexpensive phones it sells through prepaid carriers (like MetroPCS and Cricket). The company's phones usually aren't anything special, but the recently-announced Alcatel 7 piqued my interest.
The Alcatel 7 has a 6-inch 2160x1080 2.5D display, a 4,000mAh battery, and USB Type-C. At a retail price of $179.99, it seems like good value on paper, even though it's a MetroPCS exclusive. Read More
Very few smartphone makers can eke out as much value from a device as Xiaomi. We often look at the company's line-up and wonder how small its margins must be if it can delivery such high specs at such low prices. This is especially true of the low-end and mid-range market, where others scramble to offer minimum usable specs and Xiaomi's devices are impressively better.
But for the longest time, recommending Xiaomi's products outside of its foothold markets of China, India, and South East Asia, had been difficult. You couldn't find them easily so you'd had to purchase from an untrusted source and gamble with future support in case something went wrong with the hardware, plus the Android interface felt more tailored toward the Eastern markets than the Western ones. Read More