Callum BoothManaging Editor
Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.
This is the part of the intro where we talk about what a turbulent year 2020 has been, and then, via a tenuous link, make some reference to how phone manufacturers somehow kept pumping out [INSERT ADJECTIVE] devices.
Here is where we tell you what the article is: a list of TNW’s favorite phones in 2020.
And now this is where I stop this charade. Out of laziness? Apathy? Lack of imagination? You may never know…
The article isn’t necessarily meant to list the best phones (although they are great), or the devices we’d give the highest ratings (again, they’d probably get those too), but the devices that meant something to us in 2020. So, without further ado, here they are.
Google Pixel 5
The Pixel 5 is not the phone I would have expected to put on this list a few months ago, yet here we are.
Google made the unusual choice of bumping down the processor and avoiding gimmicky features to just make a phone that does almost everything right. It performs smoothly thanks to optimized software, the camera is excellent, and the battery lasts forever. What else could I ask for? (Napier)
OnePlus’ not-quite-flagship is my favorite phone of 2020 because of one class-leading feature, and a personal experience. First off, its 65W charger juices up the 4,500mAh battery in under 40 minutes. If I’m ever low on power before I need to head out for a few hours, the 8T can charge up to last through that time in the just the few minutes it takes me to get dressed.
Perhaps, more importantly, this is a surprisingly well built model. I discovered that after my phone flew off my motorcycle’s claw-like holder recently, when I was doing about 120 kmph amidst heavy cross winds while a storm was approaching.
I found the phone’s TPU case on the expressway, lying empty — where was the handset? I walked a few more steps and my Bluetooth earbuds reconnected, which signaled a sign of life for the 8T. I found it on the side of the road in decent shape, especially considering what it had just been through.
Yes, the glass back was shattered, but there wasn’t a scratch on the screen or the camera module — and the phone works perfectly. The frame has bent a wee bit, but it’s only noticeable when you place the phone on a desk. Kudos to OnePlus for putting together something that can take a licking and keep on ticking. (Abhi)
In July, when OnePlus launched its affordable offering, the $335 OnePlus Nord, I was excited to see a phone that could provide great value with an excellent screen and reliable performance. I thought this would be the phone to beat in this segment.
But shortly after that, Xiaomi’s now spun-off brand Poco surprised with me its X3 device. It sports a massive 6.67-inch 120Hz LCD screen, has a 6,000 mAh battery (Indian variant) that can be topped up with fast charging, and good cameras — all for the very reasonable price of $230.
I love pocketable phones such as the Pixel 4a. But this year, I didn’t go out and pockets didn’t matter. So, when I’m doomscrolling my way through the pandemic, I appreciate a big screen and battery to get me through the day.
Yes, I didn’t get to visit beautiful landscapes to take gorgeous pictures. But I have two cats, and I want a phone camera to do justice to those furry goofballs’ beautiful existence. The Poco X3 does all that for me on a budget.
The OnePlus Nord has a great build and impressive OLED screen. However, if you’re looking to save some money in this horrible year, you’re not losing anything by opting for the POCO X3 — my favorite phone of 2020. (Ivan)
Google Pixel 4a
This has obviously been a good year for Google phones. Where Napier picked the Pixel 5 for offering a flagship phone at a mid-range price, I went for Google’s budget device: the Pixel 4a. Why? Because this is the phone I’d recommend your mom.
I’m not even being glib. If anyone’s looking for an Android phone for someone that doesn’t really give a damn about technology and just wants something that works, the Pixel 4a is the choice.
It’s small (144mm long), but has a beefy 5.81-inch screen (I’m not sorry about mixing up units), meaning it can be carried around easily and used without glasses. The battery lasts a long time for light users, it has a great camera, and the stock Android makes it easy to use and sync up with other Google services.
And the best part? It’s only $350. Fucking bargain. And it’ll save you wasting your breath next time a relative asks what phone they should get. (Callum)
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.