From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022

From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022

Apple still managed to trot out something exciting, and Samsung's foldables are the best they've ever been.

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A photo of phones released in 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

When it comes to smartphones, the last couple of years have felt stagnant, regardless of who you get your handsets from. With all the time we were confined to our homes, there was no need to have the latest and greatest as the world slowed down to a relative crawl. Upgraded specs and a better camera seemed tertiary compared to everything else.

Then, as we started immunizing and returning to the grind, having a capable smartphone became important again. I even felt inspired to upgrade this year, simply because I felt like “If I’m going back out into the world again, I better have a phone that takes pictures I don’t need to edit every time I want to share them.”

2022 wasn’t the year to convince people who previously weren’t ready to upgrade to move on to the cool new thing, but it was a great year to upgrade if you were already inclined to do so. The iPhone 14 Pro, for instance, didn’t just tread water and instead shined a light on where Apple’s heading, and it managed to be first to the table on features like satellite connectivity and fully adopting the eSIM protocol. And while Google’s Pixel 7 Pro is still reigning with its picture-taking capabilities, Samsung’s foldables are making every other Android phone seem dull by comparison.

2022 tried to be an exciting year, and for the most part, it kept us entertained enough to look forward to what’s on the horizon. Next year’s smartphone forecast seems too tempting not to upgrade. But before considering what’s ahead, we must first step back and see how far we’ve come.

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2 / 10

iPhone 14 Pro: Smartphone of the year

iPhone 14 Pro: Smartphone of the year

A photo of the smaller iPhone 14 Pro in black
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I’m saying it loudly: Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro is the smartphone of the year. If you’re upgrading to it, you’re going to be good for a while, thanks to its A16 Bionic chip, its telephoto lens and improved nighttime photography, and its proprietary satellite connectivity.

The iPhone 14 Pro also beat out Google’s Pixel 7 Pro here, because it’s a more consistent experience across the board. Apple’s iOS 16 update might feel different to some long-time iPhone users, but those changes made me feel like Android 13 still needs more refining. The Lock screen wallpapers for the always-on display are super neat. I want that on Android.

The iPhone 14 Pro comes in two sizes: 6.1 and 6.7 inches. After reviewing it and the Pixel 7 Pro, I realized that this gives it a leg up on the one-size-fits-all Google phone. The 6.7-inch Pixel 7 Pro is still too big for some folks, but those who opt for the smaller Pixel 7 because of its easier handling don’t get that third telephoto lens. On the iPhone 14 Pro side, Apple offers the same camera system in both sizes. You don’t have to make concessions with the iPhone 14 Pro in its smaller size, just as long as you don’t mind paying the money.

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3 / 10

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Most innovative

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Most innovative

Image for article titled From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Despite its ridiculous price, I loved this year’s Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. I still love it: I switch to it after I’m finished with the work day to catch up on the non-tech news and Discord chats that have been waiting for me all day. The multitasking capabilities of the Z Fold 4's tablet mode remain unparalleled due to Samsung’s software tweaks. And though I’m curious about what Google’s Pixel Tablet will bring us next year, it’s hard to care, since it doesn’t fold.

Unfortunately, I can’t give the Z Fold 4 the “phone of the year” accolade until it fixes a few things. Namely, the cameras could be a little more focused on image quality rather than telephoto capabilities—leave that concern to the “ultimate” Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy Ultra. Battery life is fine for a tablet, but as a phone, it’s scary to take this out into the world without a battery pack in tow. And that front screen needs to be wider for easier typing on the Z Fold 4 when it has a case on.

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4 / 10

Pixel 7 Pro: Best Android phone

Pixel 7 Pro: Best Android phone

Image for article titled From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

If you are buying an Android smartphone right now and want the best that the platform offers, I have to steer you toward Google’s Pixel 7 Pro. The camera system remains unparalleled, and Android 13 is improving with every Pixel feature drop trickling out.

Its companion smartphone, the smaller Pixel 7, has a bit of a different ranking. Though I chose it as my companion phone for the next year, I did so because of the size, access to the main camera algorithm, and its software update rollout. Despite Samsung (and OnePlus’s) promise to provide up to four years of software updates on their respective devices, they’re always behind the latest version of Android when the Pixel gets it. That can cause issues if you’re highly reliant on the Google ecosystem, like I am.

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5 / 10

Google Pixel 6a: Best mid-range offering

Google Pixel 6a: Best mid-range offering

Image for article titled From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

You don’t have to spend gobs of money to get a phone that can take decent photos. Google’s Pixel 6a has all the trimmings of its premium cousin but without the exorbitant price point—holiday sales alone brought the phone down to as low as $300 from its original price of $450. That’s not bad for a smartphone that can take nighttime photos and access AI smarts like its flagship counterpart.

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6 / 10

Nothing Phone (1): Most overhyped

Nothing Phone (1): Most overhyped

Image for article titled From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Nothing Phone (1) was a fun distraction for a while. It had a different look, aided by a bunch of white LEDs on the back that flashed in tandem with a ringtone. But the device felt like nothing more than a vanity project for former OnePlus co-founder, Carl Pei. The Nothing Phone (1) is a mid-range device with a mediocre camera system. There are much better ways to spend around £399 (or $475).

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7 / 10

iPhone 14: Most under-hyped

iPhone 14: Most under-hyped

Image for article titled From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Admittedly, I wasn’t enamored with the iPhone 14 when it launched. I was having too much fun with the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island that I missed out on the abilities of Apple’s first-tier smartphone. Like the Pro, it has impressive battery life and has gone fully eSIM. It’s also capable of Emergency SOS via satellite, proving to be one of the year’s most helpful new smartphone features. And though it doesn’t have a telephoto lens, it more than makes up for it with its impressive photography.

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8 / 10

Samsung Galaxy S22: Most hopeful

Samsung Galaxy S22: Most hopeful

Image for article titled From Apple to Android, These Were The Best Smartphones of 2022
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S22 was a fine release. It had the latest mobile processor in the Android realm, a great battery, and a gorgeous display—Samsung always delivers on video-ready smartphones. But something about its form factor seemed real—iPhoney? It could have been better at taking photos, too, and the cheapest variant didn’t even offer ultrawide band support. The pricing on the Galaxy S22 was a little high, too—$800 for the smartphone outright, compared to the camera system you get in a Pixel for less. Here’s to hoping Samsung took notes and that the Galaxy S23 makes us want to spend the money.

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9 / 10


Asus Zenfone 9: A small phone we wish we reviewed


Asus Zenfone 9: A small phone we wish we reviewed

A photo of the Asus Zenfone 9
Image: Asus

Unfortunately, I missed the Asus Zenfone 9 when it debuted in the fall. It’s an Android-based smartphone with the latest mobile processor from Qualcomm and a screen with a high refresh rate. But the kicker is that this is a small phone, as the Zenfone 9 has a 5.9-inch display. These smaller phones have been courting more and more people who don’t necessarily want to carry around a this-is-everything-to-me kind of device—or at least one that doesn’t fit into the slot of a bag.

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10 / 10