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The smartphone market is one of the oddest ecosystems in the world today. Divided between east and west, many of the largest manufacturers in the eastern hemisphere are relatively unknown to western consumers. The market slump that the smartphone industry is currently experiencing only makes it more important to closely examine the features and other improvements that these devices offer. Below, we examine five of the best options for a user’s consideration.
However, it is important to recognize a few factors before we proceed.
Despite sales diminishing by seven percent in the past year for those companies that focus more on the western market, other smaller manufacturers have thrived by focusing on the emerging audience in southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa.
This is important to address because, in our lineup of the best phones for 2019, many of the devices that are objectively better have been omitted, including the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and the OnePlus 6t. One exception is the Mate 20 Pro, which made our list despite the relative infrequency of carriers offering it.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9The Galaxy Note 9 is Samsung’s follow-up to the most expensive smartphone on the market, the Note 8. Despite a reduction in price, a consumer should still anticipate paying more than $1,100 US. While one of the largest consumer recalls occurred only two generations ago, the Note 9 offers a few improvements. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor under the hood, users have the option to select either six or eight GBs of RAM and 128 or 512 GB of onboard storage. On the surface, the phone features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with a 516 pixels-per-inch 2960 x 1440 resolution. Operating on Android 8.1 Oreo and The Samsung Experience Software, users will find that it runs much better than devices that ran the TouchWiz software of the past. The phone also features Samsung’s personal assistant, Bixby.
As for the camera, the Note 9 comes with two 12 MP lenses, one wide-angle and the other telephoto, as well as an 8 MP front-facing camera. It is capable of 4K video recording and utilizes an LED flash. The IP68-certified 4,000 mAh battery cannot be removed but has an endurance rating of 97 hours. With its onboard “S Pen” stylus, a user can enjoy additional camera and software control. This is a good device for the user at work and at play and comes in Metallic Copper, Lavender Purple, Midnight Black, Ocean Blue, or Pure White.
Specifications Build - Aluminum with Glass Front/Back Display - 6.4” Super AMOLED with ~516 ppi Chipset - Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Memory - 6 or 8 GB of RAM Storage - 128 or 512 GB of onboard storage and microSD up to 512 GB Software - Android 8.1 Oreo Cameras - 12 MP (26mm); 12 MP (52mm) with 2x optical zoom; optical image stabilization; 8 MP front-facing Battery - 4,000 mAh (97 hours) Additional Features - Samsung S Pen, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, iris scanner.
Google Pixel 3 XLWhen the Google Pixel 2 XL was released, it was lauded as having the best camera experience on a smartphone to date and created an industry-wide shift in focus towards camera quality. The Pixel 3 XL maintains this reputation, producing high-quality images (even in low light) while only using a 12.2-megapixel camera.
Despite a large notch cutting into the top of the display a little bit, the OLED display is still considerably large. In addition to its camera capabilities, many users gravitate toward the constant software support that Google offers. The Pixel 3 XL runs 9.0 Pie, the latest version of Android, and comes in White, Black, and Not Pink. The Pixel 3 XL will likely be a popular selection with consumers thanks to its relatively exclusive features and somewhat lower price tag than the available comparable alternatives.
Specifications Build - Aluminum with Glass Front/Back Display - 6.3” P-OLED with ~523 ppi Chipset - Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Memory - 4GB RAM Storage - 64/128GB Software - Android 9.0 Pie Cameras - 12.2 MP (28mm) with optical image stabilization Battery - 3,430 mAh (69 hours) Additional Features - Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, squeeze to call Google Assistant, Call screen feature, Flip to quiet notifications
LG V40 ThinQThe LG V40 ThinQ (pronounced “thin-q”) is a predictable yet satisfying smartphone. With the exception of a small notch, the 6.4-inch P-OLED screen is bezel-less and offers the best display that has ever graced an LG phone. The LG V40 ThinQ has the specs that one would anticipate from a major manufacturer’s flagship device.
The big changes come in where the camera is concerned - there are three in the back (a 12-megapixel wide angle, a 12-megapixel telephoto, and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle) and two in the front. This enables a variety of photos to be taken, assisted by the “triple-preview” that enables a user to see all of their camera options before taking the photo. Another camera feature, called “triple-shot”, allows the user to use all three cameras at once, creating a single picture and a video. For $900, the LG ThinQ is available in New Platinum Gray, Carmine Red, New Aurora Black, and New Moroccan Blue.
Specifications Build - Aluminum with Glass Front/Back Display - 6.4” P-OLED with ~537 ppi Chipset - Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Memory - 6 GB RAM Storage - 64/128GB, microSD up to 512GB Software - Android 8.1 Oreo Cameras - 12 MP (27mm) optical image stabilization; 12 MP (52mm) with 2x optical zoom and optical image stabilization; 16 MP (16mm); 8 MP (26mm) and 5 MP (21mm) front-facing. Battery - 3,300 mAh (64 hours) Additional Features - Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner
Huawei Mate 20 ProWe’ve come to the phone mentioned above, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Admittedly, it has its downsides - as Huawei is a Chinese company, there are political concerns that have bled over into concerns that, since the government holds a major stake in the company, the security of American users may be at too much of a risk. However, this doesn’t mean that the Mate 20 Pro couldn’t easily outmatch the competition.
Bedecked with a 6.4-inch AMOLED display, the Mate 20 Pro packs a seven-nanometer Kirin 980 octa-core processor that provides the user with considerable performance. Also leveraging a three-camera setup, it has a 40-megapixel fixed wide-angle lens, a 20-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom. It also features an in-display fingerprint reader and advanced Qi charging, so that the device can even be used as a charger itself. There is also a 40-watt fast charger included. Its price point of $1,100 makes it one of the most expensive phones on the market. This is available in Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, and Black.
Specifications Build - Aluminum frame with Glass Front/Back Display - 6.4” AMOLED with ~538 ppi Chipset - HiSilicon Kirin 980 Memory - 6/8GB RAM Storage - 128/256GB with Nano-Memory slot up to 256GB Software - Android 9.0 Pie, Huawei UI Cameras - 40 MP (27mm); 20 MP (16mm); 8 MP (80mm) with 5x optical zoom and optical image stabilization. Front facing 24 MP. Battery - 4,200 mAh (85 hours) Additional Features - Face ID, In-display fingerprint scanner, Qi wireless charging broadcasting, 40-Watt fast charging
Apple iPhone XS MaxApple is not only the world’s most profitable company, it currently holds the U.S. market’s largest share. Their newest device, the iPhone XS Max improves upon the iPhone X with an A12 Bionic processor and a larger neural engine accelerating the device’s machine learning ability. These bring the iPhone XS Max the ability to more effectively leverage augmented reality.
The iPhone XS Max is constructed around a stainless-steel frame and wrapped in glass, making it very similar to the iPhone X in that respect as well. The display stretches edge-to-edge, measuring in at 6.5-inches with 458 pixels per inch. On the outside, the cameras look identical to last year’s edition. On the back, there are two 12-megapixel cameras, one with a telephoto zoom lens and one with a wide angle lens. On the front, the camera is 7-megapixels. The camera is made much better as a whole, thanks to the new processors and iOS 12. The 3,174 mAh battery features a 78-hour endurance rating. Available for $1099.99, the iPhone XS Max comes in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold.
Specifications Build - Stainless Steel with Glass Front/Back Display - 6.5” Super AMOLED with ~458 ppi Chipset - Apple A12 Bionic Memory - 4GB RAM Storage - 64/256/512 GB Software - iOS 12/iOS 12.1 Cameras - 12 MP (26mm); 12 MP (52mm) with 2x optical zoom and optical image stabilization; 7 MP front-facing Battery - 3,174 mAh (78 hours) Additional Features - Face ID
Which of these smartphones is on your wishlist? Check with your provider they may have some Boxing Week deals on some of these phones, making it a great time to upgrade.