This year was a year unlike any other, but some phones made a serious impact. What’s the best phone of 2020?
It’s pretty clear that 2020 has been a bit of an anomaly in years, so much that we’re inclined to make a new work and call it an “anomayear”. Yes, 2020 was weird, and we think we all know why: thanks, coronavirus.
The pandemic made an impact on pretty much everything, and we suspect most people will be more than happy to see the tail end of this year, and look forward to the next, welcoming it with open arms.
But there have been some technological highlights, and that may well be obvious in the world of phones. While the cancellation of Mobile World Congress largely signalled the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world’s foremost mobile phone expo and show being killed for the year didn’t prevent phones from coming out. Far from it.
While a brand or two started to pull back on releases, some brands pushed even more out, filling the void left behind by some of the players. Australians saw a lot of phones this year, with numerous new models from the likes of Apple, Google Oppo, Realme, Samsung, Motorola, Alcatel, Asus, TCL, Huawei, Vivo, and Xiaomi, plus those from telcos such as Telstra and Optus. There was even a model from LG or two, though certainly not as much as we usually see. And it means Australians have choice, but how do you pick the best phones in Australia in 2020?
Fortunately, we’re going to help narrow it down by selecting our favourites, as we judge the best phones of 2020 in Australia.
Best Android phone: Google Pixel 5
Armed with one of the best cameras you can find today, and still arriving with wireless charging and water resistance, Google’s flagship for 2020 may not feel as flagship as previous generations, but it’s a solid handset that’s hard to beat.
Not only does it come under the one thousand dollar mark, something that manufacturers seem almost in a hurry to beat this year, but it also delivers fantastic performance amidst a feature set that really works.
Oppo’s Find X2 Pro gets in there as a bit of a runner-up, something we feel is worth mentioning, and almost clinched it, if not for the lack of wireless charging, something Oppo’s 2020 flagship needs to really be the best Android phone this year.
Best iPhone: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
You might not believe it, but there have been five new iPhones this year, including the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the reinvention of the iPhone SE. And shock horror, they’re all pretty good.
But the best iPhone is the one that has the most hardware and delivers the best experience: the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Granted, it’ll make a dent on your pockets, for sure, not just in price but also physical size, but if you’re looking for the best iPhone in 2020, you need to check out the 12 Pro Max.
Best camera phone: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
And as seen in our recent look at the best phone camera of 2020, Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max achieves this title with solid daylight, night-time, and portrait images.
It’s a phone camera that is markedly different from what Apple offers in any other iPhone in 2020, complete with larger sensors plus sensor-shift image stabilisation. It’s enough to make the the 12 Pro Max the one to get if you want your phone to also be a camera to grow with.
Best value phone: Google Pixel 4a with 5G
Google’s phone camera in both the Pixel 4a with 5G and Pixel 5 get close, though. They get really close, and almost secure a victory for Google’s phones.
But while they don’t win, this impressive camera setup that’s shared between both the flagship Pixel 5 and the slightly less exy Pixel 4a with 5G is enough to secure the 4a with 5G the win for best value.
At $799, only two hundred more than the single-camera 4G-only $599 Pixel 4a, owners of the Pixel 4a with 5G get practically the same performance as the Pixel 5 and an identical camera setup, but without wireless charging and water resistance.
We think the value on the Pixel 4a with 5G is incredibly hard to beat, delivering a standout feature set for the price.
Best foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
The world of foldable phones hasn’t quite taken off the way we expected, but it’s gradually rolling out, and alongside other technologies, too. While 5G has trickled to everything — and means we no longer need a “best” category for 5G phone, because there are so many — the foldable phone category is still small enough for us to pick a specific best foldable in 2020.
And this year, that title goes to the markedly improved Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, a phone that combines the world phone and tablet beautifully, and while still being a hefty handset, bridges the gap and delivers a solid offering that manages to be both.
Best big-screened phone: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
While Samsung offers the best tablet that also happens to be a phone, we think Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max may deliver the best big screened phone overall.
It’s a little bigger than last year’s 11 Pro Max, and yet delivers it in a size that doesn’t feel noticeably larger, and also manages to be thinner.
Best small phone: Apple iPhone 12 Mini
We kind of get why Apple released this one a little after the iPhone 12 initially came out: the 12 Mini deserves a little more attention by itself.
Upon first glance, it’s easy to see the iPhone 12 Mini as a small iPhone 12, but it may well be the most comfortably held “normal”-sized phone we’ve felt in ages. In a world of typically big phones, the Mini is a winner, because it’s nice to hold and touch, and even feels like it doesn’t encroach on too much of your personal space, fitting nicely in your pocket.
We hope the small phones return en masse with this one, because it’s a welcome return, alongside the Pixel 4a, which is similarly small, albeit not quite as small as the 12 Mini.
Best battery life: Google Pixel 4a with 5G
Google’s Pixel 4a with 5G doesn’t just nail the value argument, but also the battery-focused one.
In our testing this year, we struggled to hit two days, but the Pixel 4a with 5G could, and it seems crazy that it can, but few others. There’s just so much in this phone that it’s close to the best phone of the year.
Best flagship phone: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Armed with what we think is the best camera of any other phone this year, plus a solid battery life, more than capable performance, a feature set worth respecting, and a design that makes the phone easy to grip, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a handset to admire, and the best flagship of 2020.
It’s hard to call out major negatives on this phone, beyond that of price and physical size, because both can be imposing. But if you’re after the best flagship in 2020, we think Apple has it nailed.