What’s the best phone for the year 2020? That’s a question that people like to ask us. It was a tough year all around, but smartphone manufacturers have not stopped releasing pretty amazing devices. Regardless of their pricing, most of the smartphones we have reviewed this year have been decent and worth recommending. However, when it comes to choosing the best of the best, this also makes our task harder.
We’ve split it into the most popular categories to come up with the best smartphones of 2020 and picked a winner in each of them. Not even the most costly flagships (although a few are) are the champions, but rather smartphones that do a specific role exceptionally well compared to the competition.
2020 Best Smartphone for gaming: Asus ROG Phone 3
Technically, any smartphone with a Qualcomm SoC 700-series or a G8x and above MediaTek SoC can be considered suitable for gaming because even demanding titles on such devices are very playable. What sets the best gaming smartphone apart from others, however, are gaming-specific characteristics that could give you a tactical benefit if you ever decide to play competitively.
This year, only one name really stood out for such occasions and that is the Asus ROG Phone 3. (Review). By making this third revision sleeker and even more powerful, Asus managed to improve on the already successful formula of the ROG Phone 2.
A superb AMOLED display with a 144 Hz refresh rate, improved cooling, cutting-edge RAM and storage technologies, more feature-rich AirTriggers, a variety of accessories, and, of course, RGB lighting were the gaming-specific features of the Asus ROG Phone 3. The Asus ROG Phone 3 also performed general-purpose tasks very well, offering very good battery life and cameras to boot, apart from the excellent gaming features.
Best camera smartphone 2020: iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max
We had to look at the flagship offerings of this year alone for the best smartphone camera, since this is where the most innovation occurs. It was tough to pick a winner even without the Google Pixel 5 launching in India. In the Galaxy S20 Ultra (Review), Samsung’s impressive 100x Space Zoom was difficult to ignore, but eventually we settled on the iPhone 12 Pro (Review) and iPhone 12 Pro Max (Review) simply because of one game-changing feature: Dolby Vision HDR video recording. It’s something that you have to see for yourself to appreciate, but there’s no going back once you get used to it.
Besides this, in terms of shooting stills and video, the Pro models in the iPhone 12 series are consistent and reliable performers. The quality of the image is outstanding, the dynamic range is wide, and the autofocus is spot on. A larger sensor and a more advanced stabilization system are featured on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which does not necessarily shoot better images during the day, but makes it much easier to capture low-light images. Both phones also boast LiDAR scanners that help close-up low-light photography to nail the focus.
Best battery life smartphone 2020: Samsung Galaxy M51
One sure way of getting a crazy amount of battery life is to match a low-power SoC and low-resolution display with a high-capacity battery. Most Android smartphones at the entry-level tend to follow this rule. However, without compromising on the display and SoC, getting excellent battery life is the mark of a great smartphone and the Samsung Galaxy M51 (Review) checks all the boxes to clinch this title.
It packs a 7,000mAh battery for starters, which posted outstanding times in our internal battery tests. This is a phone which should last you two full days easily before you even need to think about charging it. What distinguishes this phone is that In other regions, Samsung hasn’t compromised much. It has a large AMOLED display with high resolution and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC, making it a powerful smartphone for even demanding apps and games.
Best ergonomic smartphone 2020: iPhone 12 mini
We originally wanted to call this category the ‘best compact smartphone,’ but we didn’t really see many compact smartphones launching in India in 2020, come to think of it. While handling and ergonomics are very subjective, the fact that the iPhone 12 mini (Review) is currently the best available option in India is not arguable. It’s basically an iPhone 12 (Review), but it’s something many people have been waiting for in a smaller body.
Yeah, maybe you’re making a bit of a compromise on battery life because there’s just so much you can cram into a small space like that. All things considered, considering the great cameras, speedy performance, and all the frills, this is not a huge deal-breaker.
Best productivity smartphone 2020: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
For the Galaxy Note series, Samsung is rumored to have rung the death knell and this may be the last in the line. If that’s really real, then the Note series is going out with a bang, as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G (Review) this year is simply Samsung’s best Note experience to date. The S Pen has got even more features, the cameras are top-notch, and the overall design simply screams luxury, particularly in the color of the Mystic Bronze.
Few other smartphones have even tried to take on the Galaxy Note series in terms of getting things done, and that’s because Samsung is well ahead of the curve in terms of successfully improving the hardware and software.
Best value for money smartphone 2020: OnePlus Nord
Money’s worth is rather subjective. Despite its astronomical price, some would find an iPhone to be of great value, while others might describe it as spending the least possible money on a reasonably decent phone. This was another difficult one to pick, but the OnePlus Nord deserves this if we were to look at which phone provided decent hardware at a reasonably low price and could be considered future-proof.
The OnePlus Nord (Review) provides a lot of flagship-level characteristics in a well-crafted and good-looking body, with its price varying from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000.
Most popular smartphone 2020: Redmi Note 9 Pro
Due to excellent hardware and very competitive pricing, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series phones were typically overachievers and were also in very high demand. The Redmi Note 9 Pro (Review) turned out to be the most popular smartphone this year, whether on our stories and videos it was solely by search volume or the sheer amount of interaction we’ve seen around this. It isn’t difficult to see why.
Certainly, the Redmi Note 9 Pro is not ideal and lacks many of the features that we want to have today, such as a 90Hz monitor and quick charging. However, Xiaomi’s aggressive pricing coupled with the then-unique design really helped it stand out when it launched back in May.