2019 has been an exciting year for smartphones. We've seen new manufacturers enter the Australian market, Telstra and Optus launch 5G networks, the first foldables, and more. Of course, some phones are better than others, so here's a look at our favourite smartphones of 2019.
Google Pixel 3a
The Google Pixel 3 was a contentious handset when it launched last year. A good phone to be sure, but the price was a touch high for incremental upgrades to what the Pixel 2 was already packing. But Google wasn't done. Last month it came in hot with its lite version of the device. Not only are the specs ridiculously similar to its bigger siblings, so is the camera. Oh and the battery is better. In one fell swoop Google fucked the mid-range phone market. In fact, it may have even fucked the high range one. It redefined what consumers should expect for $650 and thus threw the phone landscape into glorious chaos. And I for one worship it.
The launch of Google's Pixel 3a was a watershed moment for affordable smartphones. Priced at $649, it's a comparatively inexpensive device with the kind of amazing camera we'd previously only seen in the priciest smartphones.
While the Pixel 3a doesn't have extra lenses like ultra-wide or zoom, it's still one of the very best camera phones around. It even holds its own against the newer Pixel 4. Better yet, it does this without compromising on performance, battery life, display, or build quality. Sure, the Pixel 3a isn't quite as flash as a "premium" handset, but at the end of the day, you're getting 90% of a flagship at a fraction of the price.
As smartphone prices keep creeping higher and higher, the importance of a device like the Google Pixel 3a is hard to overstate. It's a phone that definitively proves you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a great device. It's easy to recommend to almost anyone, and one of the smartest smartphone choices you can make today.
It's for these reasons and more we've crowned the Google Pixel 3a our phone of the year.
Here are a few Google Pixel 3a plans:
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
The iPhone 11 Pro is a beautiful phone. There I said it! The matte glass back is elegant. The OLED display is slightly brighter than I expected, which is clever. The trypophobia-inducing camera bump is sleeker than it looks in photos, and the ability to zoom in and out is pretty cool. The iPhone 11 Pro is a little faster.
The iPhone 11 Pro is a return to form for Apple. The iPhone XS was fine, but lagged behind Android rivals when it came to photo quality and battery life. While the iPhone 11 Pro doesn't reinvent the wheel, Apple has made meaningful improvements where it matters. The camera is one of the best around, and battery life is better than we've ever seen on an iPhone. It no longer feels like you're compromising on your smartphone if you want to stay in the Apple ecosystem.
Instead, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are some of the best phones you can buy right now. Even if you’re hesitant to call them the very best, they're easily the most polished. Any omissions are minor enough that they won't matter to most, and factors like Apple's tight hardware and software integration make the iPhone 11 Pro feel completely seamless.
Once you add in accessories like the Apple Watch Series 5 and the AirPods Pro, it's very easy to understand how one could be drawn into Apple's garden.
Of course, the hefty $1,749 starting price is imposing, but otherwise, it's hard to fault the iPhone 11 Pro.
Here are a few iPhone 11 Pro plans:
And here are a few iPhone 11 Pro Max plans:
Huawei P30 Pro
Is that real? How are they not edited!? These exclamations, often peppered with jovial swear words, have been a common thread, woven throughout my personal interactions over the past three weeks. They have been in reaction to the photographs I have taken on Huawei's P30 Pro. The camera that has been injected into this phone is a marvel of engineering and its photos are truly something to behold.
Huawei's had a bit of a rough year thanks to the trade war between the US and China, but that doesn't take away from the crowning achievement that is the P30 Pro. The P30 Pro wowed us with its ability to take crystal clear shots in complete darkness, and its absurd level of zoom. We accused the P30 Pro camera of "black magic" when the phone first came out in March, and that claim still holds true.
Even if the P30 Pro was otherwise a trash-fire of a smartphone, it would still be worth considering just because of how damn good its camera is. Thankfully, the P30 Pro also boasts excellent battery life and top-tier performance. It's an all-round great handset.
The P30 Pro is a device that reminds us that it would be a genuine loss if Huawei were to disappear from the smartphone market. Huawei has been a constant source of innovation of late - especially when it comes to camera technology. Huawei had the first dual rear-facing camera smartphone, the first night mode, and the first phone to ship with a periscopic zoom lens.
Even if you're not rocking a Huawei phone personally, the manufacturer has spurred on a lot of the features we've come to love in modern devices, whether it's an iPhone, Galaxy, or Pixel. And no matter which smartphone you're buying, strong competition is vital for the industry.
Here are a few Huawei P30 Pro plans:
OPPO Reno 5G
Oppo recently entered the 5G game by releasing its Reno 5G in Australia. From its giant display, stunning colour options and pop-up selfie camera, it's one of the more interesting phones we've have seen this year. But this isn't particularly surprising for the Chinese phone manufacturer. It has a penchant for being a bit weird, and we're extremely here for it. But is the wild design choice all that Oppo's latest flagship has going for it? We spent some time with it to find out.
The Reno 5G marked OPPO's transition from an "affordable premium" smartphone manufacturer to pure premium. While the company is still making excellent midrange devices, the Reno 5G proved that OPPO can make a flagship that can genuinely command a top-tier asking price.
There's lots to love about the Reno 5G. It has a cute pop-up shark-fin selfie camera that results in a genuinely all-screen display, OPPO's best rear-facing cameras yet, zippy performance, and a battery that comfortably lasts at least a day-and-a-half. And while 5G may not really be a reason to buy a smartphone yet, if you're keen to futureproof yourself, the Reno 5G is one of the best value next-generation handsets around. Plus it has dat nub.
The Reno 5G may not be as affordable as OPPO's past smartphones, but it's a great device in its own right.
Here are a few OPPO Reno 5G plans:
Samsung Galaxy Fold
Last month the $2,999 Samsung Galaxy Fold was announced for Australia. Once it went on sale some Australian reviewers who received the Fold only had a couple of days with the product to accompany the short embargo period. This has been due to a lack of supply. With such a short lived experience with a new form factor and thus an inability to adequately test it, I can't in good conscience call this a review. But I do have many thoughts.
The Galaxy Fold is the best phone you shouldn't buy. It's a phone that's easy to love, but hard to recommend. With the Fold, Samsung has presented a convincing argument that foldable phones are worthwhile. There are plenty of caveats and quirks, but the Fold is better than it has any right to be.
There's a certain magic to being able to fold and unfold a smartphone. It's sorcery. It's sci-fi. It's new. It's exciting. It's different. But mostly importantly, it works. Well, for the most part.
The Galaxy Fold is great as a tablet, and not bad as a smartphone. The front screen is just a tad too small for tasks like banging out messages. Otherwise, the Fold shows just how close Samsung came to making a device that can genuinely replace both your tablet and smartphone.
Of course, the Fold is somewhat marred by durability issues and a sky-high price tag. It's hard to justify spending $3,000 on a phone that you have to handle with kid gloves.
While we wouldn't recommend running out and buying a Galaxy Fold, it's nonetheless a remarkable accomplishment. It's a wonderful glimpse of the future, and we can't wait to see what's next.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website.
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