The past 12 months have been busy with phone announcements, and I’ll now be looking back at the devices that impressed me the most. In the world of smartphones, over 500 new models were launched, and I had a tough time picking my favorite five.
Smartphone companies launch a lot of midrangers in an attempt to grab a part of the busiest market, but you won’t find those on my list. I am in my eighth year at GSMArena, more than ever, I believe in devices of no compromises. The year 2023 was great if you wanted a flagship, making me as excited as ever to try the next best thing.
Here are my Top 5 phones launched in 2023, in no particular order.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
This year’s Samsung flagship is not that different from its predecessor from 2022 – same size, same feeling, almost the same cameras. What captivated me was the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and Samsung’s bold decision to admit it is unable to deliver top-tier chipsets every year. There’s also the 200 MP camera, which isn’t such a big deal for me.
The S23 Ultra had big boots to fill in after the impressive S22 Ultra. I loved that Samsung did not fumble the ball – it simply upgraded minor stuff here and there, perfecting what was already a top-tier device.
Yes, nothing big happened, but sometimes we need consistency and the knowledge that your phone’s performance is not falling apart, unlike many other things in life.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
The iPhone 15 Pro Max proudly sits next to the Galaxy S23 Ultra as one of the best devices on the market. While some might be puzzled as to why I chose the Samsung phone, I doubt anyone is questioning my choice of the Apple phone.
I picked the best iPhone on the market because of its lighter body that still feels like a premium phone. We don’t need a smartphone to be extremely heavy; we need to see performance, and I love that Apple never cuts corners. Features are often slow to arrive, but at least they are usually more polished than when Android makers rush things.
Yes, I’m talking about the periscope lens. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is several years late to the trend, but in my experience, I never had any issue whatsoever with the telephoto camera. For comparison, the Samsung flagship takes its sweet time to focus, while other phones, such as vivo and Oppo, provide a different color rendering, which is definitely not ideal.
Yes, Apple needs to work on its fast charging and some other minor features, and the phone is the most expensive bar phone on the market, but sometimes excellence has a price.
Google Pixel 8 Pro
The Pixel 8 Pro does fall behind in terms of battery life or general availability, but it is still the best Google phone on the market.
One unrivaled feature is the mind-blowing seven years of software support. This is great, even if I don’t believe in using the same smartphone for a long time. After all, technology evolves, and malware along with it and these phones get passed along for long these days.
Google’s Tensor G3 chipset did not impress us during the review process in raw performance or stability under load. Yes, it wouldn’t be the best device to play a game on, but the way Google’s algorithms work with the camera sensors is still one of the best in the industry.
Xiaomi 13 Pro
This smartphone was technically launched in 2022 but is a 2023 flagship for all intents and purposes, and that’s why I am including it in my list. It came with the best chipset on the market, the 1”-type sensor by Sony and a camera performance fine-tuned by Leica. There is also very fast charging, and the device looks great – it ticks all the boxes in my flagship checklist.
Some might assume my passion for flagships would have steered me towards the 13 Ultra, but the reason I picked the Pro is its wide availability and non-intrusive design. Yes, the Ultra is a better cameraphone with one extra telephoto lens, but the Pro is simply a phone that you would get out of the box and instantly start using.
OnePlus Open & Oppo Find N3
Foldable phones are the future, I have no doubt about it. The latest product by Oppo, sold in some countries under the OnePlus brand, is a testament to how technology evolved and how a company can learn from its mistakes. Just 12 months ago, Oppo decided not to launch the Find N2 internationally, but it changed the approach for the Find N3.
The Galaxy Z Fold5 is still the best foldable on the market for its intended audience – users who need multitasking, a fast chipset and a bright screen. However, the Open/Find N3 managed to narrow the gap to its Samsung competitor and now also offers a superb OLED on the outside and an excellent foldable panel on the inside.
Photo and video quality could be hit or miss, as Oppo is still struggling to find the perfect tuning for stills. Nevertheless, the experience is a lot smoother than expected, and this is the best phone to take portraits and selfies, thanks to the foldable form factor.
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