ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Glacier Blue

It’s December once again, and for some reason – I think this is the one month that zooms by the fastest. Perhaps it’s my favorite time of the year or it is because many things are lumped together.

Throughout this ear, many smartphones have come and gone through our hands and personally, I think this year’s smartphones revolved around a few key gimmicks – smaller notch and under-display fingerprint scanner. For the latter, I honestly prefer the fingerprint scanner to be a physical scanner at the rear. There’s no point in putting it under the display. It’s impractical.

ASUS ZenBook 14 AMD

Anyway, back to the list of the best Android smartphones of 2019. Here is the list of smartphones we reviewed this year alone, arranged in alphabetical order:

Wow, we reviewed 30 smartphones this year. That’s… quite a lot and nearly double from last year. Once again, we know the pros and cons of these smartphones like the back of our hands – and here are our picks for this year.

Best overall smartphone – Samsung Galaxy Note10+ or the Galaxy S10+

I honestly can’t pick which is the best out of these two. They’re both great all-rounder smartphones – but there are two major points to highlight, which ultimately decide which to choose.

These are two great all-rounder smartphones. They have good cameras for all scenarios, battery that can last throughout a day’s use, and until now – Samsung’s user experience is still the best for Android. Combined with other conveniences like Samsung Pay, it is an experience, unlike any other Android smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Note10+

The Galaxy Note10+ has the S Pen but lacks a 3.5mm audio jack. The Galaxy S10+ has a 3.5mm audio jack, but no S Pen. So it varies between your usage.

For productivity, I’ll say go for the Note10+. But because it lacks a 3.5mm audio jack, the convenience of getting into smartphone gaming (PUBG Mobile, COD Mobile) is hindered, as we have stated here.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

The Galaxy S10+ addresses that with the 3.5mm audio jack, but lacks S Pen – which I want to use it to write and doodle. I much prefer to use the S Pen to write equations rather than using my fingertips.

Best Gaming Phone – ASUS ROG Phone 2

This year, there were many gaming-centric smartphones started popping out. However, we still picked the ASUS ROG Phone 2.

Honestly speaking, the ROG Phone 2 doesn’t have that many changes from the first ROG Phone from yesteryear. That’s because the original ROG Phone was way ahead of its time. Furthermore, even after more than a year, there’s still no smartphone that captured the essence of gaming like the ASUS ROG Phone does.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

However, the ROG Phone 2 can never beat the Nintendo Switch. The game selection on smartphones – both Android and iOS – is just mediocre in comparison.

Best value smartphone

Depending on your budget, here are our picks.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

I never thought Samsung would make a smaller Galaxy S series flagship smartphone with the same level of performance and software, but with a different user experience since it doesn’t have a curved screen. Technically, we didn’t review this smartphone but we know this smartphone inside out.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Nearly everything is identical to the Galaxy S10 and S10+, but witha much lower price point. I absolutely love it, but once again – it’s not a perfect smartphone as its battery is just too tiny.

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro

In our review, we dubbed this as the flagship killer of 2019. And we were right. The price of this phone also went down, as you can get the higher-spec version for just RM1,599. It also has a notchless display – making it perfect for mobile gaming without any obstruction.

Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro

HONOR View20

I’m not sure what HONOR is doing with this smartphone right now. Depending on what promotions they’re running, you might be able to score this smartphone at RM899. Most of the time, it’ll be hovering around RM1k – which is about half of the phone’s original price.

HONOR View20

This is the one phone that introduces innovative features that takes advantage of the 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor – and I love it.

realme 5 Pro

This is a pretty great deal. It is packed with great hardware and yet priced relatively low. It comes with most of the bells and whistles, and a rather good battery life too.

Realme 5 Pro

Samsung Galaxy A50s

This is actually a last-minute addition to this entire list. The reason why I added this mid-range Samsung smartphone is because the value that it offers. I believe that any smartphone manufacturers can buy the best hardware and slap them into a smartphone, but if the software is bad then there’s no soul.

Samsung Galaxy A50s

The Galaxy A50s is an expensive mid-range smartphone – sure, but it comes with Samsung’s very own One UI and also has Samsung Pay. That means the Galaxy A50s is a great entry point for those who want to experience Samsung’s ecosystem at a much lower price.

Fastest smartphone charger – realme X2 Pro

That extremely quick SuperVOOC charger juiced up the 4,000mAh battery inside the realme X2 Pro in just about 30 minutes. This is a crazy 50W charger we’re talking about – and it can save someone from a pickle.

realme X2 Pro

The downside? You’ll need the charger and the cable to make use of it.

Surprise smartphones of the year

We have a few surprises for this year – and some of them are really good. So let’s go through some of them here.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Let’s be real here. We know that Samsung’s foldable device is coming. However, we didn’t expect it to be the first thing Samsung showed off during the Galaxy S10 series global launch event. After a delay and many months later, customers can finally buy the Galaxy Fold.

It’s the one device that opened up our eyes to what a foldable smartphone can be. Its execution is excellent, and the practicality is magnificent.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

As per our review, the Galaxy Fold is still a first-gen device. There are lots of room for improvement – but for a first-gen device, it is very well-made. The potential for the second Galaxy Fold is vast and we’re looking forward to what Samsung will bring in the next year.

Redmi Note 8 Pro

This is another surprise smartphone. It’s using the Samsung GW1 sensor that packs 64MP in resolution. That timing Xiaomi chose to reveal this smartphone is interesting as it is also the first smartphone that uses a chipset that natively supports 64MP with low shutter lag.

Redmi Note 8 Pro

Cutting the explanation short, the Redmi Note 8 Pro can process 64MP pictures quickly and efficiently. This creates a snappy smartphone photography experience with a high resolution – and I absolutely love this phone. Yet for its price, I’m thoroughly impressed.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Showcasing to the world what a 108MP sensor in a smartphone can do, I was impressed. It can take high-resolution pictures and for us to analyze later. As we’ve stated here, we can map textures by taking pics using this 108MP camera.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Sure, it’s not perfect right now – but it’s a great showcase of what the camera can do.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

This is like a response to the Apple iPhone Xr from last year. It opens up a new yet lower price point to enter the flagship Samsung smartphone ecosystem. A lot of people bought this smartphone just because of the price – and I hope it is an indication to tell Samsung to develop a Galaxy S11e too.

Samsung Galaxy S10e Sky Avenue Genting

And that wraps up 2019!

This has been a great year for smartphones as we saw many different types of smartphones appearing. Let’s not forget foldable smartphones that we can literally go out and buy now and use as an everyday device.

Specs are becoming less and less relevant as the Snapdragon 700 series of chipsets are powerful enough to run the latest and greatest games at the highest graphical settings but without the price. Perhaps Apple was right – software, user experience, and the services are what makes a smartphone different from its competitors. Everyone can have the same specs and performs exactly the same – but the software is the key to being a fantastic smartphone.

Some fierce brands this year pushed brands to work harder to differentiate themselves from each other while remain competitive with each other.

Let’s see what comes in the year 2020.


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