I reviewed 20 phones in 2023. These are my 5 favorites

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This has been a absurd year for smartphones due to the arduous array of abundant accessories at all prices. In added words, if you capital a ablaze new buzz this year, it didn’t have to be a $1,000-plus flagship.

I’ve acclimated and advised a abundant abounding phones over the accomplished 12 months, but the afterward bristles accept larboard the better consequence to become what I accede the actual best you can get.

iPhone 15 Plus

A being captivation the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.Apple iPhone 15 Plus Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

While the iPhone 15 Plus may not be the best technically absorbing new iPhone appear this year, it is the one that afraid me, as I’d acquainted that the iPhone 14 Plus was too big, too heavy, and too afflictive to be a accurate cheaper addition to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The iPhone 15 Plus apparent all the abundance issues, which in about-face fabricated it added manageable. The camera has absolutely afflicted me, too.

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It agency the iPhone 15 Plus absolutely can be advised by bodies who appetite the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s big screen, but not the accompanying big amount tag. It’s still an big-ticket phone, but there is a abundant accumulation over the 15 Pro Max, and because it’s a far bigger buzz than aftermost year’s model, it can absolutely be recommended. Calling it one of the “best” phones I’ve advised this year may be a tiny bit of a stretch, but it’s absolutely the most bigger over what came before.

I’ve additionally been application the superb iPhone 15 Pro Max back it was released, and the differences amid application it and the iPhone 15 Plus for normal, accustomed tasks are minimal. It’s alone back you get artistic with the camera, alpha arena a lot of accelerated games, or analyze the two screens carefully (one is 60Hz and the added 120Hz) that it’s accessible area the added money goes. Otherwise, the iPhone 15 Plus is a aces big-screen addition to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Google Pixel 7a

The Google Pixel 7a in a person's hand.Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Most end-of-year lists will affection the Google Pixel 8 or Google Pixel 8 Pro, and they are appropriate to do so, as both are accomplished new smartphones. But it’s accessible to balloon that Google’s cheapest Pixel phone, the Google Pixel 7a, was additionally appear in 2023, and it is the best amount Pixel to buy if you don’t appetite to absorb abundant money. It has all the accepted Pixel advantage — abundant camera and apple-pie Android — for beneath than $500. While it lacks all the AI appearance begin in the Pixel 8, it’s ambiguous as to how abundant they will add to the acquaintance for everyone.

When I’d accomplished application the Pixel 7a the aboriginal time around, I didn’t feel the charge to bandy my SIM card out and into a added big-ticket flagship phone. Considering the account included the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, this is aerial praise. It’s an abundantly competent buzz that shares the aforementioned air-conditioned architecture of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, and the camera performs about as able-bodied too. It has aftermost year’s Google Tensor processor inside, so it’s not the best array efficient, but it still consistently lasted a arranged abounding day for me.

As tech fans, we’re consistently attractive at the abutting big affair and active afterwards the actual latest releases, but overlooking the Pixel 7a because it doesn’t allotment the Pixel 8’s name and processor would be unfortunate. It’s a brilliant, capable, and abiding smartphone for anyone not absent to absorb added than $500 on a new phone.

Motorola Razr (2023)

The Motorola Razr 40's awning screen, with the Moo character.Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The third buzz on my account is yet addition midrange device, proving you don’t absolutely charge to buy an big-ticket flagship to bag one of 2023’s best. The Motorola Razr (2023), or Razr 40, as it’s accepted in the U.K., is the cheaper of the two new Razrs appear this year, with the added actuality the accomplished Razr Plus. But the approved Razr is the one that break new, important ground.

Why? It brings the bunched folding buzz bottomward to a alive price, abnormally back it was accessible for aloof $600. Even at the abounding $700, it’s still a solid buy — and Motorola seems blessed to still action deals on it, too. It’s far bigger complete than the Razr (2022), the articulation feels added reliable and expensive, and the technology central is added than abundant to amuse best bodies for circadian use. You’ll appetite added ability if you comedy a lot of games, but it’s a accessory ache back attractive at the Razr (2023) as a complete package.

I admired the Razr (2023) because the accouterments never acquainted like a compromise, and it introduces the joy of a folding buzz to those who don’t appetite to absorb $1,000 to get one. Folding phones are fun, exciting, and useful, and the added bodies who can ascertain this, the better. The Razr (2023)’s bunched architecture agency it’s never a burden, yet you’re not missing out on a admirable big awning back you appetite it. Plus, the buzz is given appearance by Moo, the animal that lives on the awning screen, article you don’t generally acquisition on any smartphone, let abandoned a abundantly priced foldable.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in Sky Blue, apparent from the back.Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I had to get to a flagship buzz eventually, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra is every bit a flagship. Since the death of the Note series, the S-Series Ultra has taken on the assignment of accouterment aloof about aggregate that can be awkward into a avant-garde phone. Several of these appearance are different to the S23 Ultra, too, including the 10x optical zoom camera and the Bluetooth-connected S Pen stylus stored central the phone’s body.

The 10x optical zoom is a big benefit, as no added buzz offers a agnate affection at all. It adds so abundant artistic adeptness to the already superb camera, and there’s about no bearings or ambiance area it doesn’t booty a ablaze photograph. I chose it as the buzz I took on a abbreviate trip over any added for this actual reason, and I never already regretted it. Then there’s how acceptable the video recording is. It additionally introduced me to application Adobe Lightroom on a smartphone to accomplish photos attending alike better.

The camera’s accuracy is again everywhere else, from the absolute achievement to the software. I’m application the Galaxy S23 Ultra afresh as I address this, and it has accustomed an amend to One UI 6 and Android 14, bringing it appropriate up to date. Big, bold, and brilliant, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the buzz to buy if you don’t appetite to change it for years.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

A being captivation the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, assuming the awning screen.Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When I absitively to advancement my Galaxy Z Fold 4, I didn’t accept the Galaxy Fold 5 — I bought the Galaxy Z Flip 5 instead. While the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is actual good, it absolutely doesn’t action abundant new over the Z Fold 4, while the Z Flip 5 is a very altered buzz from the Galaxy Z Flip 4. I acknowledge the bunched architecture too, as it fits in with my accepted affairs better. I didn’t address our antecedent analysis of the Z Flip 5, but I’ve been application it continued appellation and adapted our analysis on it recently.

The big awning awning is awful customizable, and although it can run any Android app you like, I acquisition it works best back you use a amount selection. The Z Flip 5 is a buzz you can appropriately use accessible and closed, and for a abundant added array of tasks than before. Its new versatility brings it afterpiece to the Z Fold 5, abrogation you mostly with the accommodation as to whether you amount a big awning or a bunched buzz added back allotment amid them.

Samsung’s accouterments is additionally still the best in the business. I adulation the Motorola Razr (2023), but you can acquaint it’s cheaper than the Z Flip 5 aloof from the hinge. The Z Flip 5’s articulation is smooth, yet tight, with no wobble or angle in the amiss places. It gives you aplomb in the phone, as does Samsung’s use of abiding materials. The Z Flip 5 is the buzz that changed my apperception about bunched folding phones, and it’s calmly one of the year’s best new devices.

The ones that got away

A abject Google Pixel 8 Pro, laying face-down abutting to a baby attic and squash.Joe Maring / Digital Trends

There accept been a brace of phones I haven’t been able to use so far this year, and although I don’t apprehend either to accroach any of the accessories aloft based on what I’ve abstruse from colleagues, they do deserve appropriate mention. It’s the Google Pixel 8 Pro and OnePlus Open that accept eluded me at the time of writing.

The OnePlus Open avalanche into the aforementioned chic as the Google Pixel Fold and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 in that big-screen folding phones haven’t been as adorable in 2023 compared to bunched folding phones. I’ve enjoyed application the Z Flip 5 and Razr (2023) a lot, and both are ample improvements over their predecessors. The Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold are brilliant, but don’t action abundant that’s new. I accept a activity the OnePlus Open may be absolutely the same.

OnePlus Open in Emerald Dusk assuming Flexion Hinge continuing up.Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

I apperceive I’ll adulation the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera and would be absorbed to try out the added AI appearance that are absolute to the model, abnormally as I absolutely admired the accepted Pixel 8. It’s abiding to be an accomplished phone, but the Pixel 7a bent my absorption because of how acceptable it is for the price, and the Pixel 8 Pro is the aforementioned amount as best added top smartphones today. It better be acceptable back I get to use it.

When I use these two phones, conceivably I’ll change my apperception about this list. But for now, these are my admired smartphones from the abounding I’ve acclimated and advised in 2023.

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