Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Google Pixel 3a camera on top the Pixel 3 camera

The Wrap – The Best Phones of 2019

This week on The Wrap, we’ll talk about the best phones of 2019. Between best value and best flagship, we’re joined by WhistleOut’s Alex Choros and Vertical Hold’s Alex Kidman to find out in five minutes.

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It’s the last few days of December 2019, and you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and the year is almost over. It’s almost time to hit the switch on a new year, which means new stuff is right around the corner.

But before we get to that point, we’re eager to be judge and jury on what this year delivered, because we were there for the occasion. We’ve seen a good number of phones in 2019, and from a variety of manufacturers.

Australia didn’t just get the usual suspects this year, as a few new brands joined the likes of Apple, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Oppo, Huawei, and others.

We saw new brands Realme, Vivo, Mintt, Xiaomi, and Aspera, launching five phone companies to Australia, while Asus returned to the Australian market and Sony left.

Regardless of who we saw phones from, the focus this year was clear, with a pretty obvious emphasis on cameras and battery life in the high-end, while the mid-range was where most of the action was.

In the mid-range, that action took place in the $400 to $700 part of the market, where players including Oppo, Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei regularly play, and where those new brands tried their hand.

Yet there was one phone that truly stood out, and it was pretty much agreed upon by reviewers in Australia, the Google Pixel 3a.

While the Oppo Reno Z provided another solid mid-range option, the Pixel 3a took the win, delivering a good day and a half of battery life for $649, and a single camera that performs better than many of the multi-camera phones.

Alex Choros (WhistleOut)

My midrange phone of the year is easily the Google Pixel 3a. It single handedly redefined our expectations of what a budget smartphone can be thanks to its flagship grade camera. It may not be as pretty as a top tier device, but otherwise, it feels like it makes very few compromises in keeping costs down.

That’s Alex Choros from WhistleOut, who rated the Pixel 3a as the best in that category for 2019, a decision we agree with.

The Pixel 3a is a bit of a new move for Google, which basically made a slightly lower power version of the Pixel 3, but with the same excellent camera. While it lacked water resistance and wireless charging, it was enough of a Pixel to make a difference, and for a price that virtually everyone agreed on, including Vertical Hold’s Alex Kidman.

Alex Kidman (Finder, Vertical Hold)

Well, in the mid range space, there’s really no argument. It’s the Google Pixel 3a by a landslide. Great little phone, good price, good camera, great performance, nice clean interface. Does everything you want to there’s even a pretty good argument, you could say that the 3a is actually the best flagship phone of the year as well. I think I probably preferred it to the [Pixel] 4 from a value for money perspective and feature perspective, too.

Over in the premium space, there were quite a few contenders. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ delivered one of the better screens with a tiny hole in the top for the camera, while the Galaxy Fold wasthe first foldable phone in Australia. Oppo has a pretty cool 5G Reno, while the Huawei P30 Pro still has one of the best cameras of any phone. Huawei has a few other problems, such as a big question mark with regards to whether it will ever see a new version of Android thanks to trade issues with the US government, which is blocking Google from working with Huawei.

But there was a phone that clearly stood out, and it’s a bit of a change, as the iPhone returns to the top spot.

While last year saw Huawei clinch the best phone, the top tier iPhone 11 Pro Max is the phone to look for, delivering a refined experience that brings together a best-in-class camera, excellent battery life, and solid performance in a phone that is easy to fall in love with, and a choice reviewers seem pretty much aligned on.

Alex Kidman (Finder, Vertical Hold)

My recommendation then would be the iPhone 11 pro max. Not a cheap phone by any stretch of the imagination, but very much a complete package and that includes battery life for the first time in a very long time in an iPhone

Alex Choros (WhistleOut)

My high end phone of the year is the iPhone 11 Pro. The iPhone 11 Pro may not reinvent the wheel, but Apple made improvements where it mattered, namely camera and battery. As a result, the iPhone 11 Pro is easily the most polished smartphone you can buy.

That gives Google and Apple the best phone spots for the year, but if neither of those grab you, what do you have to look forward to next year?

It seems like foldables and experimentation is where you should be looking, with newer form-factors and more folding designs. There’s little doubt that we’ll see improvements to the cameras yet again, but reviewers are hoping for more movement across the board.

Alex Kidman (Finder, Vertical Hold)

In terms of what I want to see in 2020: more foldables, more innovation, more people doing clever things that go beyond the old look “we gave it a silly design because we felt like we could”.

In Australia, that could kick off as early as CES, with though the year’s new tech show is often focused on everything but phones. Instead, you might want to wait until late February, when Mobile World Congress lifts the lid on new phone designs.

That’s not very far, but still far enough, and we’ll be here to report on everything new in the phone world and more in the meantime.

For now, you been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. You can find a new show every Friday at Podcast One, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. Until then have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.

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