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The most underrated smartphones of 2022
Big-name smartphone brands such as Apple, Samsung, and Google all delivered arguably evolutionary upgrades for the most part in 2022. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty to like about the Galaxy S22 Ultra, iPhone 14, and Google Pixel 7 series.
Although they made have grabbed most of the headlines, these weren’t the only smartphones worth talking about in 2022. There were plenty that flew under the radar, and here are our picks for the most underrated phones of the year.
ASUS Zenfone 9
ASUS seems like a perennial entry on these lists owing to its lack of a carrier presence and comparatively small market share. So it’s no surprise to see the Zenfone 9 make the cut this year.
Verdict: ASUS Zenfone 9 review
The Zenfone 9 picked up where its predecessor left off, offering familiar stylings like a compact design, a 5.9-inch 120Hz OLED screen, IP68 water/dust resistance, and a 3.5mm port. Toss in upgrades like the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 SoC, a 4,300mAh battery, and a 50MP main shooter with micro-gimbal stabilization, and that’s a pretty impressive package.
There are a few areas ripe for improvement, though. For one, the lack of a lengthy update pledge is a shame in 2022. There’s also no wireless charging or telephoto camera on board here. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad buy at launch for $700, and it’s one of the few options out there if you want a pocket-friendly flagship phone.
Nothing Phone 1
Nothing came in with a ton of hype for its first smartphone, but it seems to have been forgotten by many people following its release. It’s unclear whether that’s due to mid-rangers from major brands drowning it out, the lack of a US release, or a combination of the two factors. That’s a shame because there’s a lot to like about the handset.
Verdict: Nothing Phone 1 review
The Nothing Phone 1 is an upper mid-range offering, coming in at a launch price of €469 or Rs. 33,999. There are decent features here for the price, namely a standout design (complete with the Glyph lighting on the back), a relatively beefy Snapdragon 778G Plus chipset, a 6.55-inch 120Hz OLED panel, and a 4,500mAh battery with 33W wired and 15W wireless top-ups.
In saying so, we criticized the disappointing 50MP ultrawide camera, barebones software, and ho-hum endurance. But it’s still worth a look if you want a quality mid-ranger. Just make sure it’s compatible with your network if you live in the US and plan to import it.
realme GT 2 Pro
realme is well-known for its budget-tier handsets, but the company has slowly been making strides in the flagship space too. The GT 2 Pro carries the banner this year, yet ended up lost in the shuffle following its Q1 2022 release.
Verdict: realme GT 2 Pro review
Realme’s flagship brings expected high-end features like a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, 5,000mAh battery, and 65W wired speeds. But it also stands out thanks to a nifty back cover made out of bio-polymer, as well as a 120Hz QHD+ flat OLED panel. The phone also brings a 50MP main camera, 50MP ultrawide shooter (150-degree field-of-view), and the OPPO Find X3 Pro’s quirky 3MP microscope camera.
The GT 2 Pro is not a perfect handset though, as it lacks wireless charging, an IP rating, and a telephoto camera. In any event, it was a solid deal at its €749 launch price, and it’s a good deal today for as low as €550 at the time of writing. This wasn’t officially launched in the US though, so you’ll need to import it.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4
Yes, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is by all accounts the most popular foldable phone in 2022. But there’s a world of difference between being a popular foldable phone and being a popular smartphone in general, and the Z Flip 4 still flew under the radar by conventional smartphone standards.
Verdict: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 review
That’s a shame because the Z Flip 4 is the closest Samsung’s Flip series has come to a mainstream proposition. The device is an iterative upgrade, but tweaks like the 3,700mAh battery and faster wired charging finally bring it in line with the base Galaxy flagship.
There are still a few downsides to buying the Flip 4 though, such as the lack of a telephoto camera, that limited external display, and the crease on the folding screen. But the Flip 4 feels more like a genuine alternative to the Galaxy S22 and not just a curiosity.
Sony Xperia 5 IV
The Sony Xperia 1 IV had plenty of eyes on it in the first half of 2022, but that hefty $1,600 price tag was a bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately, the Japanese giant also released the Xperia 5 IV in 2022.
Verdict: Sony Xperia 5 IV review
Sony’s second flagship of the year makes several concessions to hit the ~$1,000 price point. It loses out on the Xperia 1 IV’s 4K display, variable telephoto camera, and 12GB of RAM. Instead, you have an FHD+ resolution, 2.5x telephoto shooter, and 8GB of RAM. You’re also stuck with the Xperia 1 IV’s disappointing update pledge (two OS updates, three years of security patches).
There are still enough upsides to make for an interesting proposition though. There’s the more pocket-friendly design, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, a 5,000mAh battery, wireless charging support, and IP65/68 rating. The triple 12MP rear camera setup (with 4K/120fps support across the board) ensures a good level of flexibility, and you’re also getting Sony’s unique Pro camera apps here.
vivo X80 Pro
vivo has slowly been making a name for itself thanks to its smartphone cameras, and the X80 Pro certainly brought the goods in this regard. The company introduced a relatively flexible quad rear camera system (50MP GN1 main, 48MP ultrawide, 12MP 2x telephoto, and an 8MP 5x periscope lens), along with ZEISS anti-glare coatings.
Verdict: vivo X80 Pro review
The rest of the phone is suitably high-end as well, featuring a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, 4,700mAh battery with 80W wired or 50W wireless charging, IP68 rating, and a 6.78-inch QHD+ OLED panel. You’re even getting what is undoubtedly the best in-display fingerprint sensor on the market.
Vivo’s 2022 flagship falls short in a few areas though, namely the amount of bloatware, the ho-hum long-range zoom, and the high price in Europe (€1,300). Much like some other phones on this list, US consumers will need to import the X80 Pro and make sure it’s compatible with their desired network.
This has been our look at the most underrated smartphones of 2022. Are there any particular smartphones you think should’ve been on the list? Let us know via the comments below!