My top 5 phones of 2022 – Peter
2022 looks like a turning point – foldables are finding their feet, camera phones have reached a milestone, brands are developing their unique identities. Here are five of the phones that impressed me the most this year, phones that will set the benchmark for what’s to come in 2023.
Google Pixel 7 Pro
I don’t know which is more surprising – whether Google still makes phones or whether it made a good one this time. The Pixel 6 series was close, but some hardware issues left it in the “maybe not” pile. Most of the issues have been resolved in the 2022 gen and here we are.
The smaller Pixel 7 would be here instead of the Pro if Google had been kind enough to give it a telephoto lens and a 120Hz LTPO panel. It’s an industry trend that bothers me – only the big phones have the telecameras and good screens – but I’ll spare you the rant.
The Google Pixel 7 Pro is built with a vision that can’t be said of many brands. The Pixel series has its own distinct hardware aspect and timely feature removals regularly enable exciting new features that keep the phones fresh.
I’m not bothered that the Tensor G2 is slower than the chipsets of other 2022 flagships. To be honest, at some point I forgot which chipset was in my personal phone – the performance hadn’t mattered for a while. Energy efficiency hasn’t, however, and Google and Samsung still have some work to do on that front.
AI is progressing at an amazing rate, I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion and I feel like I’m in a sci-fi movie. It only makes me more excited about Google’s approach to building phones – mind over matter, software over hardware.
Oppo Find N2
When thinking about which phones should be in my Top 5, I thought of the Galaxy Z Flip4. I love small phones and have always loved the flip format, perfect isn’t it? But when I sat down to put my argument into words, I couldn’t. Has Samsung really improved the phone enough since the Z Flip3 (which I only had a passing interest in) or has my perspective changed? The latter, probably, I am slowly preparing for foldables.
But among all the 2022 versions, I think it’s the Oppo Find N2 that deserves this place. The original Find N was also quite interesting, but at 275g and 15.9mm thick (folded) it was quite bulky. Oppo engineers have done an impressive job and reduced the weight by 42g – the N2 weighs 233g, lighter than any horizontal foldable. They also reduced some of the thickness.
Seeing how volume was my main complaint with the N, the Find N2 nails everything else – an internal LTPO panel, wide+ultrawide+tele camera setup, large battery (for its size) and so on. . Again, I don’t mind that it comes with a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset instead of Gen 2. The removal of wireless charging bothers me a bit, but I guess that’s part of why the new model is thinner.
Oppo Find N on the left, Find N2 on the right
Now for the best part – the cover screen still has a pretty healthy aspect ratio (17.7:9) and with a 5.54-inch diagonal and slim bezels that make this a phone of just 72, 6 mm wide and 132.2 mm high, perfectly usable with one hand. Especially now that it weighs less than an iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Finally, a complaint about availability. It’s not the phone’s fault, of course, but if the Oppo Find N2 Flip can have a global launch, why not the Find N2?
Asus Zenfone 9
I’ve always liked smaller phones, more so than the average Joe, it seems, given their poor quality on the market. Sony ditched the Compacts a few years ago, Apple pulled the plug on the iPhone mini (a decision it may regret, given how the Plus is doing).
The Asus Zenfone 9 is one of the few properly small Androids and the only one from a major brand. I know of a few offers from emerging brands, although these seem to be mostly launched via Kickstarter (or similar services), but I prefer to go through a retailer or carrier instead.
Anyway, I will again complain about the lack of a telephoto lens on a small phone, but I’ve lived without it for years and I could live without it now…probably. The only major issue I have with the Zenfone is that Asus won’t commit to more than 2 OS updates – I spend a lot of time between changing phones and paying €800 for a phone is only justified if that phone will last for several years. The Zenfone 9 is well built and the hardware will last, but the software will be discontinued by the end of next year.
Realme GT2 Pro
I’ve used my fair share of OnePlus phones and liked them – coincidentally they were all T models. But the 8T was a bit of a disappointment, the 10T isn’t what I’m looking for either. These are starting to look like Xiaomi’s T Phones, which are a separate line instead of a mid-season upgrade to the flagship. I still have hope that Nothing will continue where OnePlus left off after going mainstream, but the phone (1) is not.
This brings us to Realme, the latest branch of the BBK tree. There’s a litter of number-series phones that make good budget choices, but they’re not for me. The GT series, however, resembles the heyday of OnePlus.
The OnePlus GT2 Pro in particular stood out. It launched globally at €750 in February, but its price has since dropped significantly. It’s frequently featured when we write about smartphone deals and for good reason – it offers a lot for your money.
There is a premium paper type option if desired. The 10-bit QHD LTPO display is flagship quality or even better, given that the Galaxy S22+ and Xiaomi 13 have FHD+ displays while costing more than the GT2 Pro.
The cameras aren’t quite OnePlus-level, but they’re pretty close considering the price difference. The next round – Realme GT3 Pro vs. OnePlus 11 – is weeks away (likely, the 2022 models launching in January), and it’s a sibling rivalry I’ll be watching closely.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra
I remember my first phone with a camera, the Nokia 6230i, I still have pictures (and even videos) of it. It was fine for its time, but two decades of advancements have improved the phone’s cameras to a level that is sometimes hard to believe. And I think the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the best example of that from 2022. Sony’s varifocal camera is also something to look out for, although the Xiaomi package is more impressive overall.
The age of 1″ sensors in smartphones has officially arrived and with the help of Leica Xiaomi has managed to extract great results from the 12S Ultra’s IMX989. And while dedicated digital cameras – some of they at least – have larger sensors, the on-device computational photography, editing and sharing options that smartphones offer are unmatched.
Realistically, it should be the Xiaomi 13 Pro here, which is basically the same phone except for the new chipset and more boring looks. Ok, “boring” is harsh, I like the sleek design of the 13 series. It looks quite plain next to the 12S Ultra, however, that leaves no guesswork about being a cameraphone bestial. I chose the 12S Ultra over the 13 Pro for its ambition, launching months before its main competition.
I should also mention the concept camera with a Leica M mount for lenses. It breaks the final wall between smartphones and mirrorless cameras and while such a device will probably never hit the market, it shows that Xiaomi can shake up the camera world if it really wanted to.