You could argue that Motorola made budget phones worth buying when it launched the original Moto G in 2013. That device was a marvel at the time—for under $200, you could get a smartphone that didn't suck. Suddenly, everyone was making $200-300 phones that also mostly didn't suck. Today, the mid-range space is much more crowded, and Moto has sometimes failed to make a splash with the annual Moto G revamp. This year there are three new G-series phones, including the Moto G Power. Arguably, this is the device with the widest appeal. There's no stylus included, but it's got more muscle than the G Play, and it has a big honkin' battery.
Premium Sony phones like the Xperia 5 II are hard to review. They're made for a very specific demographic — one so specific as to comprise roughly zero percent of the market. They're made for people who want both niche features like a physical shutter button and features that used to be common but now aren't, like headphone jacks, expandable storage, and displays without notches or hole-punches.
And that's fine! If you're a member of that subset of a subset of consumers, you'll probably like the Xperia 5 II very much. But the phone costs $950, which, after a barn burner of a year for very competent phones that cost $800, $700, $600, and less, is a bitter pill to swallow.
While Google did release a "flagship" Pixel 5 this year, I think the more budget-friendly Pixel 4a 5G has stolen its thunder. The sleeper-hit is basically a bigger Pixel 5 that's missing a few features, but $200 cheaper. That means skipping out on an IP rating, 90Hz display, a bit of RAM, and a metal (ish) build, but you get a bigger screen and a headphone jack, paired with with the same camera, internals, and the Pixel software experience. At just $500, this is my favorite phone of 2020.
2020 has been a very, very good year for smartphones. We've seen some wild and crazy stuff land, from folding to flipping devices, and the average phone is better than it's ever been. That puts the OnePlus 8T in a tough spot: It's a good phone that adheres to OnePlus' usual formula, but the competition is better than it's ever been, and "good" isn't enough to beat them.
Phones have gotten boring in the last few years, but things are getting weird again, and thank goodness. I have been doing this long enough to remember the last time phones got weird—I've reviewed phones with spring-loaded keyboards, tablet docks, curved bodies, and all manner of multi-screen configurations. After settling on the flat glass slab form factor, OEMs are finally starting to take more risks. No phone better exemplifies this trend than the LG Wing. While LG has been pushing dual-screen accessories for a while, the Wing is the first modern LG phone that integrates a second screen in the handset.
Samsung's top-end phones are getting more and more expensive at an alarming rate, as evidenced by the fact that very few people bought an S20 during the series's launch window. Seeing the gap to fill between bargain-bin budget phones and outright luxury devices, this week, Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition. It costs $700 (currently $600 on sale), and it packs a ton of features we're used to seeing in flagships with very few compromises. This might just be the best phone of the year.
This story was originally published and last updated .
Samsung is best known for its big, powerful, and obscenely expensive phones. But what does $250 buy you in the Galaxy lineup these days? Getting your head wrapped around Samsung's budget offerings is an understandably difficult task given their confusing naming scheme and year over year model refreshes, but the Galaxy A21 is one of the latest price-conscious phones from the Korean manufacturer. It's available on a number of US carriers now, including Boost, which is the version of the phone we reviewed. While the A21 offers a large screen and decent battery life, the phone's overall performance and cameras (for the price) should give budget-conscious big-phone enthusiasts pause.
While flagships are getting ever more expensive, midrange and entry-level phones are giving us ever better hardware at the same affordable prices. The Xiaomi Redmi 9 is no exception and offers great value at €150 (or ₹10,000 as the Redmi 9 Prime in India). If Xiaomi had invested more in a better processor and less in the heavily-marketed but poorly executed quad-camera setup, I could recommend this phone with no reservations. As it stands, this phone is still a good option for some people.
As smartphones have converged on the "flat glass slab" form factor, companies like Samsung and OnePlus have risen to the top. Sony, on the other hand, has not. The $1,200 Sony Xperia 1 II is the company's latest attempt to sell you a phone, but it feels more like a vanity project for Sony than a viable product. It's got dazzling specifications, but that's not enough to make a phone competitive these days.
Motorola took a few years off from making flagship phones, but 2020 was supposed to be its big chance to get back into the high-end. Well, it's a lot harder to sell a $1,000 phone in the midst of a global pandemic, but maybe a somewhat cheaper phone has a shot? The new Motorola Edge is the pared-down version of the Edge+ that launched a few months ago. Unlike that phone, this one is unlocked and has a Snapdragon 765 for 5G connectivity rather than the 865.