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Hats off to the brands that actually listened in 2022
One of the most frustrating things in the reviews business is repeating the same complaints year after year. We certainly don’t like reprising the same lines, but it’s extra disappointing when lingering issues prevent us from offering an otherwise solid recommendation to otherwise great phones.
With that in mind, we’re taking the time to tip our hat to brands that have taken feedback onboard and improved their products for the better in 2022.
Upping the long-term update game
We’ve spent the past couple of years screaming at every brand, big and small, to catch up with consumer purchasing habits and update their phones for longer. Finally, that message is getting through.
Samsung kickstarted the move with an industry-leading upgrade pledge (four OS and five years’ security) in early 2022. That even bests Google, which offers just three years of OS upgrades for its Pixel phones, along with five years of security patches. But Samsung really put the industry to shame when it brought the same policy to its new mid-range Galaxy A phones.
Some brands now offer solid long-term updates but others continue to lag behind.
Later in the year, sister brands Oppo and Oneplus also promised four major OS updates and five years of security patches. Wonderful stuff. The only catch, these pledges only apply to select flagship handsets launched in 2023. Current owners will be stuck with more middling arrangements, as will more budget-oriented customers next year.
Even though Android brands still lag behind Apple, 2022 has been a setup in the right direction. We’ll just have to keep hammering on the door of the holdouts and pile on the pressure to bring similar long-term policies to more affordable handsets as well.
A refined Google Pixel
After the success of the Pixel 6, the best Google can do for the Pixel line is stay consistent. That’s what we thought before the launch of the Pixel 7 series, and Google was certainly on the same wavelength, for once.
Refined rather than innovative has served the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro very well. The originally sluggish fingerprint scanner is vastly improved, Google has fixed the worst of the Pixel 6’s connectivity issues, and has even found the time to improve the handset’s already great camera setup.
A pause for refinement is just what the Pixel series needed.
With the issues ironed out, the Pixel 7 has gone on to pick up Android Authority’s 2022 Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice awards. With a solid foundation now under its belt, perhaps the series can flex a few more meaningful upgrades with 2023’s Pixel 8. Just don’t throw all the good work out the window, OK Google?
Addressing the Galaxy Z Flip 4 battery woes
Even the best hardware is no good if it can’t last all day. While we want to see all-day battery life by default, the ability to quickly top the phone up with powerful charging is a sought-after backup. Thankfully, Samsung heard us and addressed both these issues with the Galaxy Z Flip 4.
The battery inside the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a fair bit larger than the Galaxy Z Flip 3 — 3,700mAh vs 3,300mAh, respectively. Samsung also boosted the phone’s charging power from a measly 15W up to a more reasonable 25W. Providing you use a USB PD PPS charger, which does complicate things a little.
At 75 minutes to full, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 won’t win an award for the fastest charging phone, but it’s something. Thanks for listening, Samsung. But we’d still like more than four to five hours of screen-on time next year.
Compact phones we want to buy
Sony’s Xperia 5 series has always distilled most but not all of the powerhouse Xperia 1 range down to a more compact form and mainstream price point. A job that was especially important for 2022’s Xperia 5 IV, given the bigger flagship’s $1600 retail price.
Sony did just that, for the most part, finally introducing wireless charging to the smaller model, after years of asking. The 5 IV offers identical content creator apps as its bigger sibling, and even fixed the brand’s portrait selfie mode before the 1 IV. Along with the same 4K 120fps HDR video recording, an IP65/67 rating, and Wi-Fi 6E hardware features found in the Xperia 1 IV, this is one of, if not the only, powerhouse compact flagships on the market.
Compact flagships came through in 2022, mostly.
The handset’s execution wasn’t flawless though; you’ll miss out on some of Sony’s camera innovations by opting for the Xperia 5 IV. One to put on 2023’s wishlist, then, along with an LTPO display and long-term software support.
We should also tip our hat to Asus for building another compelling compact flagship in 2022. The Zenfone 9 isn’t a multi-media powerhouse like the Xperia, and it’s missing features like wireless charging. Still, it’s a plucky little $700 handset that’s worth a look if you’re a compact fan.
Oppo and OnePlus u-turn on Unified OS
One of 2021’s greatest smartphone controversies was Oppo all but scrapping OnePlus for parts. It nabbed the Hasselblad partnership, wanted the premium market to itself, and was even poised to strip OnePlus of its remaining identity by replacing the beloved Oxygen OS with a Unified OS platform.
After a significant uproar, at least in internet terms, the brands walked back on their Unified OS ambitions in early 2022. Oppo’s Color OS and OnePlus’ Oxygen OS will retain two distinct identities for the foreseeable future. There’s nothing like internet outrage to perk up boardroom ears.
Still, Unified OS isn’t really dead as a concept. Oppo and OnePlus share more resources than ever these days, including software development. As such, Color OS and Oxygen OS add their own unique flavors on top of a shared codebase. Whether this is enough to placate loyal fans remains to be seen. We haven’t been entirely convinced so far; we’ll have to see what 2023 has in store for the two brands.
Those were our key highlights where brands listened to our and consumer feedback alike in 2022. We’d also like to commend companies that kept their pricing roughly in line with the last generation as well. Virtually everyone wants phones to remain affordable, and that will be even more important as the economy continues to bite throughout 2023.
Did anything else make your list? Let us know in the comments below.