Google has been selling smartphones for more than a decade at this point, but it's only on the fourth generation of Pixel phones. The Pixel era is when Google got serious about building a cohesive product that married hardware and software rather than just a vehicle for the latest stock version of Android. With the Pixel 4, it's clear that Google has learned a lot from the last three generations of Pixels, but I worry it hasn't learned all the right lessons. Read More
Over the past few years, we've seen the emergence of a new category of phone: the budget flagship. Pioneered by brands like OnePlus, these affordable devices have a lot of the desirable qualities of phones that cost considerably more. At just $550, ZTE's Axon 10 Pro packs a spec wallop, and it seems like a great option on paper — but questionable software decisions and lousy image processing spoil what could've otherwise been an easy recommendation. Read More
Sony used to be one of the most successful mobile companies in the world, but it never really got into a groove as modern smartphones took over the market. Sony has been on a slow downward slide for the last decade thanks to a string of mediocre, overpriced devices and failing relations with carriers. There have been some bright spots along the way, though, and Sony has been focusing on the hardware more in recent years. Last year's Xperia XZ3 was an encouraging improvement, and the new Xperia 1 is better still. However, it's just not good enough. Read More
Over the last six months or so, Honor has undertaken a rebranding exercise in part to give the impression of a more modern smartphone maker that appeals to a youthful audience and in part to distance itself from parent company Huawei. In view of recent political developments, it’s obviously hugely beneficial for Huawei to have a sub-brand that carries a different name and cachet, although they come as a package as far as Google is concerned and that looks like it could spell trouble for both.
Let's assume, for a moment, that it will all get sorted out (otherwise this review will have been a massive waste of time). Read More
Right now, the dominant trend in flagship smartphone design is one of refinement. Instead of aiming to sell shoppers on the appeal of tricks like modular hardware, or overloading a handset with gimmicky sensors, successful phones are instead trying to achieve the platonic ideal of basically existing as little more than one big screen. That's driven recent efforts like the proliferation of in-display fingerprint sensors, pop-out selfie cams, and the evolution of the notch to hole-punch designs. But you wouldn't know much of that, to look at the LG G8 ThinQ. Read More
Motorola started the trend of cheap phones that aren't junk with the original Moto G back in 2013. That was the first time you could buy a phone for a couple hundred bucks that would get you through a day without making you want to hurl it through the nearest window. The success of that phone led other OEMs to target lower prices, and the battle rages to this day. However, Motorola has moved the Moto G a bit more up-market. Each successive generation has been a little more expensive, but some premium smartphone features are still missing. Read More
After a period of what seemed like smartphone stagnation, we're finally seeing some weird devices again. With edge-to-edge screens, hole-punch cameras, and displays that fold in half being high-end oddities, Sony saw fit to shake up the budget formula, too, and plopped ultra-tall 21:9 displays in its Xperia 10 and 10 Plus. And while I applaud its efforts, being long doesn't save the Xperia 10 line from being terminally boring. Read More
The HMD-backed resurgence of Nokia in the smartphone market has been a real treat to watch. After years of watching Microsoft bungle its Nokia acquisition, the Nokia name is again emblazoned on excellent smartphone products. However, most Nokia phones have been toward the budget end of the spectrum. They've been good for the money, but the Nokia 9 PureView is a true flagship with high-end specs, a wild five-camera setup, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. All that, and it's a few hundred dollars less than competing phones. Read More
Nubia is finally selling a phone in North America. Sadly, it's not that wacky dual-screen device but the more modest Red Magic Mars gaming phone. We've talked repeatedly about how most gaming phones aren't any more suited to gaming than the competition, but the Red Magic Mars at least tries to justify the name with dedicated shoulder buttons and a custom gaming mode. 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