There were many great smartphones released during 2022, and most of them were the best in their respective model lines we’ve seen so far – adding more power, better cameras, and the latest software. But how many have done something new or unexpected? We took a close look at all of those that were released, and finally narrowed it down to the three standout new phones that have surprised and delighted us over the past year.
Winner: None for Phone 1
It can be hard for a new smartphone to include features that make us smile or look twice these days, and it’s especially hard for a brand-new company trying to get our attention. Nothing, the tech brand founded by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, has managed to do just that with the Nothing Phone 1.
On the surface, the phone is pretty much like any other — it has a high refresh rate screen, cameras on the back, Android installed inside, and a design that’s not a million miles away from an iPhone. But to focus only on this is to willfully ignore what makes Nothing Phone 1 so special. The blinking lights on the back really serve a purpose in addition to looking great, there aren’t any redundant 2MP macro cameras, and the software is a nice clean version of Android.
Nothing Phone 1’s Glyph interface is wild, but the rest of the phone is reasonably restrained, and that makes it great. No silly macro camera (just a couple of good ones), no fancy skin-but-no-brainer on Android, and a very reasonable price. The lights mean that despite the iPhone-like looks, you can’t mistake the Nothing Phone 1 for anything else; The transparent back means it fits in perfectly with the earbuds’ unique design language, which is also seen on the EarPods 1 and Ear Stick.
It does something different than any other phone. It’s really nice to use every day, fun to look at and nothing else first phone. There are brands that don’t tick these boxes even when it’s their 10th edition! We’re very anxious to see how nothing follows on the Phone 1 in the future.
Runner-up: Apple iPhone 14 Pro
Rumors made us think we knew everything about the iPhone 14 Pro before its launch, but when it was revealed on stage, Apple surprised everyone with its Dynamic Island announcement. Instead of just giving the new phone a different notch design, Apple changed it to an exciting mix of both hardware and software – creating a new way to interact with your phone.
With it, you can control music playback, check navigation with maps, interact with timers, or manage calls right now. It is useful, intuitive and well designed. But its potential is not yet fully realized, as we wait for developers to truly embrace the system. It separates the iPhone 14 Pro models from the non-Pro versions, and there are already hints we might see something similar on an Android phone in the future. Dynamic Island is Apple showing that they still know how to come up with an anticipated feature that we look at and think, “I can’t wait to see where this goes.”
Honorable Mention: Asus Zenfone 9
Like nothing, Asus is a small fish in a big pond. While it’s best known for its excellent ROG Phone 6 Pro, it also came out with another phone this year – the Asus Zenfone 9. It got an honorable mention for doing something different and filling a gap that not only exists in the market, but one that often Requests to be occupied.
The Zenfone 9 is a flagship compact smartphone, and it comes in a similar size to the Galaxy S22 and Google Pixel 5, but with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor and up to 16GB of RAM inside. That’s serious power, and it’s all in a phone with a 5.9-inch screen. Not everything about the Zenfone 9 is successful, but at least Asus had the guts to go in a different direction than everyone else.