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Gadgets of the Year: the best smartphones of 2020

Numerous gadgets helped eased lockdown in 2020. In the first of a 3-part series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK and BRYAN TURNER select the year’s best smartphones.

Smartphones of the Year 

High end smartphone of the year (>R15k): Vivo X50 Pro 

The high-end category is often dominated by the usual suspects – Samsung, Apple and Huawei – so it’s a rare opportunity to welcome a newcomer. This year Vivo X50 Pro claimed a solid first place as a powerful smartphone with camera technology from the future. The high-resolution camera is backed with an internal gimbal system that enables the device to capture some of the most stable photos and videos on the market. The device costs R17,400 from Cellucity. 

Runners-up: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, iPhone 12 Pro Max 

Close behind in joint second place are the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The S20 FE is a stripped-down yet solid flagship device that comes in at a good price: around R15,000. At the high-end of the price range, the 12 Pro Max is set apart by an artificial intelligence-based photography algorithm that provides sharper, richer images. But it comes at a steep R24,000. 

Upper-mid range smartphone of the year (R6K-R15K): Nokia 8.3 5G 

In the upper-mid range, Nokia claims first prize with the Nokia 8.3 5G, which – as the name suggests – features ultra-fast 5G connectivity, and it’s compatible with all network flavours of 5G globally. It also has the Android Enterprise Recommended certification, making it one of the best devices for work. It comes in at R14,000. 

Runners-up: LG Velvet, iPhone SE 

The LG Velvet (which also features 5G connectivity) and the iPhone SE tie for second place. LG is pushing hard into the 5G market, and the Velvet is as functional as it is beautiful. It costs R11,200, and can be augmented with the LG Dual Screen at around R3,500. The iPhone SE maintains the familiar form factor of thick bezels and a home buttons, but features the powerful iPhone 11 processor. At R10,000, the device allows people with slightly smaller budgets to enjoy the benefits of the Apple ecosystem. 

Low-mid range smartphones of the year (≤R6K): Oppo A15, Huawei P Smart 2021 

With so many quality low-mid range devices released this year, it was tough to pick a solid winner. First place is tied between the Oppo A72 (R3,000) and the Huawei P Smart 2021 (R5,500). The Oppo A72 provides the basic  feature set one would expect from a mid-range device at a low-end price point. It takes good photos, with long battery life – ideal at the price. The Huawei P Smart 2021 has a similar processor as the P30 Lite, but features a camera array of a level that is usually reserved for mid-high end devices. Photographers won’t be disappointed. 

Runners-up; Xiaomi Redmi Note 9, Tecno Spark 5 

In second place is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9, with powerful performance of a level that won’t disappoint mobile gamers, such as those looking to play PUBG Mobile. The device starts at R4,000. In third place comes the Tecno Spark 5, one of the most affordable quality devices on the South African market, at a mere R2,400. 

Best innovation in a smartphone: LG Wing 

Not many smartphones flipped the form factor formula. Then came the LG Wing 5G and rotated the perception of what a smartphone should be – by 90°, to be precise. The 6.8” P-OLED display can be pushed out from vertical into horizontal mode to reveal a second screen.  It’s a head-turner, but best used for multi-tasking. 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee. Bryan Turner is senior writer on Follow him on @BryanTurnerZA
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