2022 was a tough year for the smartphone industry as a whole. Yes, we’ve seen a lot of new launches, but while the average selling price in India has gone up, the market has started to fall. Blame it on macro factors, rising inflation, or a lack of innovation, and the truth is, smartphone sales are plummeting. It doesn’t help that the smartphone itself hasn’t evolved radically this year. Instead, most companies have followed the tried and tested formula and focused on improving a few key features. But it’s also fair to say that smartphones these days deliver a certain standard in the performance and camera departments. Of course, this makes our jobs as reviewers tougher, especially when it comes to selecting the reviewers who excelled this year. Here are our picks for 2022 based on what we reviewed.
Ultra Premium Smartphones (60,000 rupees and above)
This is one of the most difficult categories in smartphones. This is because most people love to hate these phones, given the price and everyone wants to own one. Admit it, a “super premium” phone is still something most of us aspire to be. Here is our list of the best “ultra premium phones” from 2022.
Winner: Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Apple remains ahead, with the iPhone 14 Pro Max still the device to beat. It remains the trusted choice for users who like to splurge on their phone and want a device that delivers. More importantly, it has an excellent camera, with significantly improved low-light performance as seen in our tests. Plus, that Dynamic Island notch was something no one saw coming, and don’t be surprised if you see it on other Android phones next year.
Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4
The Galaxy lineup has evolved significantly, with Samsung now focusing on top-notch foldable phones. And while the Galaxy Z Fold 4 appeals to those who want something with a larger screen, the Z Flip4 remains one of the sleekest form factors money can buy. In our view, this device packs everything you could want, a good camera and performance. It will set you apart from the crowd.
Special mention: Vivo X80 Pro, Pixel 7 Pro
Two years ago, Vivo phones might not have been mentioned in the flagship category. But the company has seriously upped the game on the camera front, which is why it’s on this list. It’s really pushed the boundaries of the main camera and is close to beating both Apple and Google in some scenarios. Cinematic mode in video recording is also one of the areas where the Vivo X80 Pro excels.
Finally, we saw the official Pixel series back in India, and yes, the Pixel 7 Pro impressed us with its camera. The Pixel 7 Pro may not have the most powerful specs on paper, but if you want an Android phone with a camera that beats the competition, the Pixel does the job with ease.
Premium Smartphones (Rs. 40,000 – Rs. 60,000)
Sure, smartphone prices have gone up, but you don’t have to pay an extra 80,000 rupees to get top-of-the-line specs. Companies like OnePlus, iQoo, Realme, and Xiaomi have offered plenty of options in this category, often with the best specs.
Winner: iQoo 9T, OnePlus 10T
The budget flagship approach has been really popular in the past few years, but the iQOO 9T seems to have got the formula just right. At just under Rs 50,000, the phone was packed with the fastest processor available with other top quality specs and a solid build.
OnePlus took an interesting approach this year, introducing the OnePlus 10T with a few deviations from what one would normally expect. The OnePlus 10T offered top specs, a large battery, and an excellent camera, but the branding dropped the alert slider and Hasselblad branding. This also meant that the OnePlus 10T was available at a lower cost than the Pro.
Runner-up: Xiaomi 12 Pro
The Xiaomi 12 Pro was also an excellent phone in this category, and frankly an ‘affordable’ flagship. It was equipped with an excellent camera for the price, a 120W fast charger and reliable performance, making it an easy pick.
Special mention: Realme GT 2 Pro
Realme GT 2 Pro is powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, one of the first devices to have the chip. It also has excellent top-notch specifications for the price of Rs 49,999 it launched. But the highlight here was the paper-inspired back panel design that allowed users to draw on and more. Making the phone feel like a limited-edition piece compared to its competitors, the paper version was available at no additional price.
Best mid-range phones (Rs 30,000 – Rs 40,000)
This particular class had some really interesting and strong performances. And yes, we have seen some innovative designs showcased in this segment. In fact, brands know that as ASP levels go up, they need options in this category, because the seasoned smartphone user now feels comfortable spending a little more to get something unique.
Winner: None, Phone (1)
Nothing Phone (1) has never been the definite best phone you can buy under Rs 30,000. Instead, I focused on two other key aspects – design and a clean software experience. While many’s experience with the latter has been shaky, five months and more updates later, Nothing Phone (1) is a solid device that offers timeless design, a few flashy tricks and most importantly, a reliable user experience with the promise of more updates than its competitors.
Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
The Samsung series has also offered capable options in this segment, and the Galaxy A53 was no different. It came with a good camera, good performance, and an excellent Samsung screen. Plus, this was 5G-ready, and Samsung is well on top of updates with most of its phones.
Special mention: OnePlus 10R
The OnePlus 10R was one of the first phones in the R series to feature a Mediatek processor, and this phone was all about solid performance in a premium body and package. The OnePlus R series has become a reliable choice for those who want the brand, but don’t want to pay the extra premium that OnePlus’ Pro series usually command. And the OnePlus 10R has delivered quite well on that promise.
Best Mid-range Smartphones (20,000 – 30,000 rupees)
This is probably the only category that has seen a lot of action with all of the competing brands offering so many options in this price range. And many phones came packed with strong specifications for the price. This is what set us apart.
Winner: iQOO Neo 6
iQOO Neo 6 really cemented the direction in which the brand new lineup was headed – best specs for the price matched with an ever-improving software experience. The phone had better build quality and specs than all of its competitors, and while it lacked NFC support, it beat close competitors like the Poco F4 with its better cameras.
Runner-up: Poco F4
Poco F4 5G was a surprise from Poco. It delivered a premium design, reliable performance thanks to the Snapdragon 870, and a camera that offers a good price. In addition, the price made this an attractive option.
Special mention: Oppo Reno 8
Oppo Reno8 was another device that offered good specifications and an excellent camera for the price with a very premium design. The only drawback that prevented it from being a winner is the slightly higher price.
Best Lower Mid Range Smartphones (Rs 15,000 – Rs 20,000)
Admittedly, the mid-budget category is getting pricier. Most phones with good specs now cost Rs 15,000 more, add 5G to the mix and the price goes up even more. However, there were a lot of solid choices for users in this particular segment.
Winners: Redmi Note 11 Pro + 5G and OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite
We have two winners in this segment, with OnePlus coming to dominate Redmi in a big way. The Redmi Note 11 Pro + 5G offers all the good features and reliable performance that users want in this particular segment.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite offered similar specifications to the Redmi option, was 5G ready and of course it came with OnePlus’ OxygenOS which has a better experience to offer in this particular segment.
Runner-up: Poco X4 Pro
Compared to last year’s Poco X3 Pro, which was the only device in its class to feature a Snapdragon 8-series processor, the Poco X4 Pro might look less impressive. However, what the Poco X4 Pro brings to the table is also unmatched by most phones under Rs 20,000 so far. It includes best-in-class design, above-average specs for the price and stylish cameras.