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The most underrated smartphones of 2020
2020 played host to plenty of great smartphones, although we could do without the flagship price increases. Nevertheless, between the OnePlus 8 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S20 series, the Google Pixel 5, and many more, there were plenty of quality offerings to be had.
Yet, for every big-name Samsung or Xiaomi phone, there were a few lesser-known devices that deserved a little more love and attention. So, keeping that in mind, we’re looking at the most underrated smartphones we reviewed in 2020.
ASUS Zenfone 7 series
We chose the Zenfone 6 as one of 2019’s most underrated devices, and its successors make an appearance here too. Yes, ASUS released the Zenfone 7 and Zenfone 7 Pro this year.
Thankfully, the Taiwanese brand kept the Zenfone 6’s unique flipping camera mechanism. However, it added a triple camera setup to the mix (with a telephoto lens) as opposed to last year’s dual camera combo. We do get several other upgrades as well, such as 5G, a 90Hz OLED screen, 30W fast charging, and 8K recording.
Our verdict: ASUS Zenfone 7 Pro review
There are a few differences between the standard Zenfone 7 and Pro model though, such as the Pro variant using the Snapdragon 865 Plus SoC, packing OIS, and offering double the base storage (256GB).
The biggest downside to the series is that it starts at a rather substantial €699 (~$936) for the base model with 128GB of storage. Meanwhile, the Zenfone 6 128GB model retailed for €559 while the 64GB option had a €499 launch price.
Sony Xperia 5 II
The Japanese manufacturer has had a tough few years, but 2020 saw the company deliver two great flagship phones in the Xperia 1 II and Xperia 5 II. We said the latter could be Sony’s best phone yet and it even came fifth in our Editor’s Choice award voting for 2020.
Our verdict: Sony Xperia 5 II review
Sony’s late 2020 flagship earns its place on our list by virtue of its well-rounded spec sheet. It features a 6.1-inch OLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, a powerful Snapdragon 865 SoC, and a 4,000mAh battery that should keep you going. It doesn’t hurt that the phone’s $949 price tag meant it was notably cheaper than the Xperia 1 II‘s $1,200 asking price.
The Xperia 5 II also features a well-rounded 12MP triple rear camera setup. Sony went the extra mile by offering dedicated pro photo and video apps in addition to the standard camera app. Photography enthusiasts should keep an eye on this one. And yes, Sony also brought back the headphone jack on both of its 2020 flagships.
LG is no stranger to these types of lists, as it frequently delivers well-rounded if unspectacular high-end phones. However, the LG Wing makes its mark by sheer virtue of its unconventional yet polished form factor.
Featuring a slide-out main screen that hides a much smaller display, the design makes multitasking a little easier. This means you can watch YouTube on the main screen while browsing the web on the smaller one, or use Google Maps on the big display while fiddling with your music player on the little display.
Our verdict: LG Wing review
Don’t care for the dual-screen form factor? Well, the device can be used just fine without the second display. You’re also getting some solid specs otherwise. There’s an upper mid-range Snapdragon 765G chipset, 4,000mAh battery, a unique triple camera setup (featuring two wide-angle lenses), and a “gimbal” videography mode. Toss in an IP54 rating, wireless charging, and a pop-up selfie camera, and you’ve got a pretty neat package if you don’t mind the price tag.
Looking for something a little more conventional from the Korean brand? That’s where the LG Velvet comes in. It stands out thanks to its eye-catching design compared to the rest of the smartphone industry. A large part of this was due to the thin form factor and distinctive waterdrop camera design.
The Velvet also marked a rather interesting change in strategy for LG, as it took a super mid-range route instead. That means you’ve got a Snapdragon 765G processor instead of the latest and greatest silicon, a standard refresh rate, and a camera setup that’s more in line with budget phones.
Fortunately, the Velvet still delivered welcome features like water resistance, wireless charging, a 4,300mAh battery, and an FHD+ OLED panel. It made for a rather interesting proposition at $599, coming in as the antithesis of typical cheap flagships.
vivo X50 Pro
Optical image stabilization is a must if you want great low-light shots or reduced blur and judder in videos. However, vivo went one better by offering a so-called “micro-gimbal” 48MP main camera inside the vivo X50 Pro.
We found that this stabilization system delivered impressive low-light shots and smooth video capture. In fact, our own Dhruv Bhutani noted that the phone captured “incredible” low-light shots and offered “exemplary” video quality.
Our verdict: vivo X50 Pro review
Other notable features include two telephoto lenses (2x and 5x), a 90Hz OLED screen, and a Snapdragon 765G chipset. Despite the mid-range processor, the phone has flagship-level pricing in the likes of the UK, coming in at an eye-watering £749 (~$1,018) for the renamed vivo X51 5G. At least it’s more competitively priced in the likes of India, coming in at $680.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series
Samsung used 2020 to really corner the foldable space, with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 rightfully earning praise and creating a buzz. However, it seems like people forgot about the Galaxy Z Flip series when the larger, more expensive foldable was released.
The Galaxy Z Flip delivered a fresh take on an old form factor by modernizing the clamshell design. Samsung wasn’t the only brand to adopt this form factor in 2020, but it obliterated the Motorola Razr foldable by virtue of its cheaper price tag, better spec sheet, and better build quality.
Samsung’s small foldable also offers a Flex Mode, making use of the versatile hinge for several neat features. Those include acting as a makeshift tripod for the cameras (e.g. selfies, long exposure shots) and a hands-free way to do video conferences.
That’s it for our picks. We’d also give honorable mentions to the OPPO Ace 2 and Redmi K30 Ultra, which were China-only devices. What do you think were the most underrated smartphones of 2020? Let us know via the comments section below!