2020 Indulge tech picks: Best smartphones across all categories
By any measure, 2020 has been an insane year, made even more so by the sheer number of smartphones launched once the lockdown ended. Between Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus, smartphones kept dropping at regular intervals…heck, even Apple managed to launch 5 iPhone models this year! Picking one or two clear winners in each category only got tougher this year, what with the incredibly refined offerings at each price point, but here we are – the Indulge Tech Picks for smartphones of the year 2020.
Best Budget Phone: Redmi Note 9 Pro
Xiaomi’s honed the budget formula year after year and the Redmi Note 9, its early 2020 entry in the space, has managed to stave off some incredible competition from the Nokia 5.3, the Realme 7 and its own sibling, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. It made up for its lack of a high refresh rate display and fast charging with powerful specs and strong battery life with that oh-so-aggressive pricing we’ve come to expect from Xiaomi. Yet, this is a category where the competition is getting closer with each quarter, so a notable mention has to go to the Realme 6 with its 90Hz high refresh rate display and 30W fast charging, and for folks with a budget closer to Rs. 20000, the Realme 7 Pro is an excellent buy.
Best Mid-Range Phone: OnePlus Nord
Up your budget to thirty grand and the options really open up, with something for everyone – photography lovers (Pixel 4a and Realme X3 Superzoom), folks with an eye for design (Vivo V20) and big battery fans (Samsung M51) but the phone that scored high on experience and a strong sense of balance was the sublime OnePlus Nord. This marked a shift for OnePlus, a brand that was known for top-shelf hardware, to talk up experience over specs, clean, uncluttered OxygenOS and clean design over pure performance. The 12/256GB variant is quite a decent bargain too! The Pixel 4a gets our nod for an ergonomically brilliant phone with a camera that still can’t be beat!
Best Gaming Phone: Asus ROG Phone 3
While the category itself is increasingly becoming moot – what’s to say excellent phones like the iPhone 12 and the OnePlus 8 series aren’t great gaming phones – the Asus ROG Phone is by far the most well thought through “gaming focused” phone, with its special emphasis on gaming features, beyond the obligatory inclusion of a Snapdragon 865-series chip. The ROG Phone 3 has it all – a Snapdragon 865+ chip, a 144Hz refresh rate on its AMOLED display, AirTriggers for added control while gaming, a cooling system on steroids and the RGB lighting to give it legit gamer cred – while still doing an excellent job as an everyday smartphone for all those non-playing hours! And then there are the gaming accessories for the truly committed!
Best Value Flagship: OnePlus 8 Pro and Mi 10
This is traditionally OnePlus’s territory, but with the OnePlus 8T facing stiff competition from the likes of Samsung S20 FE and the Mi 10T Pro, it was the pricier sibling (OnePlus 8 Pro) that delivered on everyone we’d been asking OnePlus – wireless charging, IP rating, a great display and a rock-solid camera that could compete alongside the big boys. The Mi 10 is a great alternative in the segment, with ergonomics and camera performance that I absolutely loved during my review. Noteworthy entrant in this segment: the iPhone SE, which impressed with its clarity of purpose and lack of compromise in stuff that counts.
Best Camera Phone: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Picking one for this category was super tough, owing to how subjective various elements of photography get for different people. Does the Pixel 4a take those dreamy, bokeh-filled portraits better than anyone else? Sure. Does the vivo X50 Pro take insanely stabilized video? Yep. Does the Note 20 Ultra take some stellar night shots? Of course. Ultimately, the camera that did everything just right – excellent dynamic range, brilliant low-light images, tack sharp portraits and Dolby Vision HDR video that ups the already high ante – was the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Best Productivity Phone: Samsung Note20 Ultra 5G
When it comes to getting things done and multitasking and multi-windowing like a champ, few can take on the productivity monster that is the Samsung Note20 Ultra.
It checks off everything you need in a premium business device – a large screen, decent battery life, fantastic S Pen features – without skimping on the premium looks and the top-grade camera you’d expect for the price. Over the years, Samsung has evolved and refined its stylus-toting flagship to a point where its garnered a faithful following of S Pen loyalists, and with the wireless DeX capabilities and the new integration touchpoints with Windows, the superphone only got more useful.
Most Innovative Phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
If it came down to purely grabbing eyeballs, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 robbed the world blind this year! It took everything that was wrong on the first-generation Fold and fixed it, delivering the most forward-looking device for the year, albeit one that would only appeal to the well-heeled owners of luxury watches and fast cars. As I said in my review, “…the Z Fold 2 guarantees an air of exclusivity with the purchase, while still delivering a device that’s as useful as it is capable of evoking the joy of using a new form factor each time you open it. Even in the sea of over-achievers in Samsung’s portfolio, the Z Fold 2 is an absolute triumph.”
Biggest Regret: Oppo Find X2 Pro
Remember the Find X2 Pro? Oppo’s flagship, the one with a Snapdragon 865 chipset, 12GB of memory, 512GB of storage, a 120Hz Quad-HD+ display, IP68-waterproofing, a 60x periscopic zoom lens and a scorching 65W fast charging. A phone I would highly recommend, if you could only buy one in India!