My Top 5 phones of 2022 – Yordan
The year is finally coming to an end and we look back and reflect on what was served up to us in these eventful 12 months. In the smartphone world, we saw over 500 new models, many of them amazing in one way or another.
As my colleagues share their top five picks for 2022, we can usually identify some trends — some love the foldables, others went for camera phones. I just like premium devices in general.
I’ve been writing about mobile technology for over ten years, the last six being part of GSMArena. I’ve seen a lot of innovation and development, but I really think 2022 was the best year to have a flagship. And that is why my Top 5 list consists of the true flagships from 5 major manufacturers. They are in no particular order, but I like them all equally.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
This smartphone has been around since February. It was launched as a replacement for the now discontinued Galaxy Note series and I was skeptical if users were ready for the change. It felt strange to have a Samsung Galaxy S phone with an S Pen, and the distinct Note design with the sharp edges didn’t sit well with me.
My worries were quickly quelled when I got to use the phone for a while. The camera was a slight improvement over the already very capable Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the user interface was a joy to work with. The S Pen is a great addition that brings all the nifty features originally reserved for the Galaxy Note series.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a chonky boy. It is incredibly tall and wide, and its sharp edges make it difficult to handle. Fortunately, humans are creatures of adaptation and size was not an issue after the first few days. The trade-off for such a large device is that the screen is large, the battery is large and long-lasting, and it can pack everything it needs to be a powerhouse.
Google Pixel 7 Pro
I love taking pictures and naturally people would think I’d get a smartphone with a mighty telephoto lens. I love taking pictures of animals from a distance without bothering them and you need a long zoom for this.
The Pixel 7 Pro came with 5x optical zoom, although the sensor is smaller than its predecessor. It also has OIS, but most importantly, it comes with Google’s unmatched algorithm to deliver clear images.
Unlike Samsung, I love Google’s concept of bringing bright colors without oversaturating the image, where the contrast goes through the roof. I also love the algorithm in night photos – in my opinion Google provides the best and most accurate details. They don’t look overly processed, and the camera seems to know what it’s seeing rather than trying to figure it out through computational science.
Huawei Mate 50 Pro
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I still believe Huawei can get back on track. I have met a lot of high-level executives from the company, based in all corners of the world, and one thing unites them all – their determination to keep Huawei a thing despite the geopolitical challenges.
The Huawei Mate 50 Pro is the latest testament. Yes, the phone lacks the obvious services many of us use on a daily basis, but it does remarkably well with the company’s suite of apps. Petal Search works fine, Petal Maps has all the essential features we need from other navigation apps, and the way AppGallery looks beyond its app store is an interesting take on getting around the current limitations.
This is of course a list about phones, so here’s why I think the Huawei Mate 50 Pro is worth it – it looks good, it performs well, and the screen and battery life are nothing short of amazing; I like pretty much everything about it. It’s a bit more expensive than I’d like, and it lacks 5G for the same reasons it doesn’t have GMS, but those aren’t deal-breakers in my world. I want a phone to be an eye-catcher, perform well and take great photos from afar – and the Mate 50 Pro does all this and more.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra
While we’re on the subject of phones with major flaws, I’m extremely disappointed with Xiaomi and how it handled the 12S Ultra launch. Yes, we brought the phone with us, but our team did the review with the elephant in the room looking over our shoulder the whole time. The phone is limited to China, which definitely puts a damper on Xiaomi’s claim to be a top manufacturer.
That said, after having the chance to spend time with the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, I loved the device the moment it got into my hands. The camera design is nice – instead of having a mess of sensors and a screen, like the Mi 11 Ultra, we have one big circle and a leather back – everything is cleaner and minimalistic, which is a win in my world.
As stated in this article, I want the phone to work well. And this Xiaomi flagship does exactly that. It came with the latest chipset, a large QHD+ display and a powerful battery with fast wireless charging. Of course, the 1″ type camera with PDAF and OIS is the main talking point.
Xiaomi tuned the camera processing with Leica, which means we have a mode called “Leica Authentic”. It reproduces true-to-life colors, something many other smartphones lack with their oversaturation of images that pop up. I want to remember moments as they are, with all their dark undertones, shadows and imperfections, and thankfully Leica delivers this in the 12S Ultra.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
I have never hidden my admiration for Apple hardware. One big problem I have with Tim Cook’s team is the Apple tax it imposes on all its products. Still, I think the iPhone 14 Pro Max is one of the best smartphones launched in 2022, if not ever.
As some may have noticed, I’m a big phone fan – I just want to enjoy my content on big, bright screens. I also love taking pictures, and the upgrade Apple has brought to the iPhone 14 Pro Max is worth mentioning. The new 48 MP camera with quad-Bayer pixel binning and the new 12 MP ultra-wide sensor with dual-pixel phase detection autofocus are fantastic.
Image processing remains unique to Apple. Yes, the HDR goes a bit overboard, which I don’t really like, but the pictures still look great. One thing Apple does better than any other company is photos of people – it preserves all the details and little imperfections that make our faces unique and beautiful. There is not as much computational science applied as it does in other scenarios.
As I said at the beginning of this article, this Top 5 is in no way trying to rank one device above the other. All five are extremely capable smartphones that deserve their place in the 2022 smartphone pantheon, even if some of them are a bit more expensive than I would have liked.