For the most of this decade (the 2010s), almost every new smartphone iterations have been only incremental upgrades, but finally, in 2019, we witnessed big innovation such as true flexible screen making it to the hands of the consumers and also, the budget phones began to offer new features, which were seen only on expensive phones.
DH lists the top 10 noteworthy phones of different price segments, that set new benchmarks in the Indian market in 2019.
Under Rs 10,000
Since the very beginning of the Redmi Note series, Xiaomi has been setting the new benchmark in the mid-range phone. Now, the latest Redmi Note 8 series too, continues the legacy of offering top-end features at low prices in 2019.
It is the most feature-rich phone in this segment. The Redmi Note 8 series boasts Gorilla Glass 5 shield, P2i coating for protection against accidental water splashes, auto dust cleaning feature in the loudspeakers and Type C USB port-based 18W charger in the retail box, which no other phone in its class can boast off.
Xiaomi's generic Redmi Note 8 model flaunts a 6.3-inch full HD+ display with a 90-percent screen-to-body ratio. Also, it comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 octa-core backed by Android Pie-based MIUI 10 OS, 4GB/6GB RAM, 64GB/128GB storage and a massive 4000mAh battery, which is more than enough to offer a full-day life under mixed usage.
As far as the photography hardware is concerned, it comes with a quad-camera module on the back. It houses a primary 48MP sensor with 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP for macro and 2MP depth sensor for portrait images. On the front, it features 13MP snapper for selfies. It is be available in two configurations-- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage, 6GB RAM + 128GB storage--for Rs 9,999 and Rs 12,999, respectively.
If you have a few thousand bucks more to spend, go for the Redmi Note 8 Pro.
Under Rs 20,000
Xiaomi's Redmi Note 8 Pro dominated the mid-range segment for most of the year, but the arch-rival Realme ended the former reign with the feature-rich the X2 series in later 2019.
It comes with feature-rich quad-camera module-- 64MP (with Samsung GW1 sensor, 0.8μm pixel size, f/1.8 aperture, LED flash, EIS: Electronics Image Stabilisation) + 8MP ultra-wide angle ( with 119-degree lens with f/2.25 aperture) + 2MP depth sensor (with f/2.4 aperture,1.75μm pixel size) + 2MP (for 4cm macro photos) with f/2.4 aperture and 1.75μm pixel size.On the front, it comes with a 32MP snapper with f/2.0 aperture.
Realme X2's camera hardware is similar to the Redmi Note 8 Pro but comes on top for incorporating in-display fingerprint sensor, which are mostly used in more expensive phones.
Also, it has a decent configuration. The Realme X2 features a 6.4-inch full HD+ (2340x1080p) AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 series, 91.9% screen-to-body ratio and features in-display fingerprint sensor.
Inside, the new phone houses 8nm class 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G with Adreno 618 GPU, 4GB/6GB/8GB LPPDDR4X RAM, 64GB/128GB storage (expandable) and a 4,000mAh battery with 30W VOOC fast charging capability.
Under Rs 30,000
The new top-end version Realme X2 Pro is the most affordable flagship phone with Qualcomm's powerful Snapdragon 855 Plus processor and 90Hz display refresh rate.
The Realme X2 Pro also boasts a 6.5-inch full HD+ (2400x1080p) fluid AMOLED display with a 20:9 aspect ratio, in-display fingerprint sensor and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5 shield.
Inside, it comes with a 8GB RAM+ 128GB UFS 3.0/ 12GB RAM+ 256GB UFS 3.0, Android Pie-based ColorOS 6.1 and a 4,000mAh battery with 50W SuperVooC fast charging.
As far as the photography hardware is concerned, Realme X2 Pro comes with 64MP primary camera (with 1/1.72-inch Samsung GW1 sensor, 0.8μm pixel size, F1.8 aperture), LED flash, EIS, 13MP Telephoto lens (with 1/3.4-inch sensor, 1μm pixel size, F2.5 aperture for up to 20x hybrid zoom, 2.5cm macro), 8MP 115-degree ultra-wide-angle( 1/3.13″-inch lens with 1.4μm pixel size, F2.2 aperture), 2MP depth sensor (with F2.4 aperture,1.75μm pixel size) with 960fps slow-motion.
Another phone I love in this segment is the Asus 6Z. It is the most underrated phone in 2019. There are very few phones in the market with a motorised pop-up camera but none can offer the unique experience that the Asus 6Z does. It makes the best use of the rotating camera to get the finest vertical panoramic images. And also, its motion tracking is just genius.
It also has the powerful Snapdragon 855 processor and is backed by a massive 5000mAh cell that can offer two days of battery life under mixed usage.
Asus Rog Phone 2 is undeniably the best value-for-money flagship phone in the market. It boasts of 120HGz display refresh rate and a mammoth 6,000mAh battery, which is enough to keep the phone running for two full days under normal usage.
It also has really good camera hardware and powerful and fast 2.96Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor with advanced GameCool II vapor-chamber technology with multiple layers of graphene and copper plates to dissipate heat when playing graphics-heavy games.
Under Rs 60,000
In this segment, Apple iPhone 11 and OnePlus 7T Pro are the two best phones. Depending on your requirement, you can pick any of the two and you won't regret.
If you are looking for a phone with a powerful phone, a fantastic camera, and a long battery life, then Apple's iPhone 11 comes on top.
Read more | Apple iPhone 11 review: The go-to Apple mobile of 2019
On the other hand, OnePlus 7T Pro comes good in terms of immersive viewing experience thanks to the 90Hz display refresh rate. With the 30T Warp charging feature, the phone can get fully powered up from zero to 100 percent (4,000mAh) in less than one hour.
Also, it boasts Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, Qualcomm's most powerful processor to date. It is backed by up to 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. And, the camera hardware is also good for its asking price.
Best top-end phones
Samsung's Galaxy Note10+, especially the Aura Glow variant, is one of the most beautiful phone in 2019. I really had a tough time choosing the cover-shot photo for my review article. Whichever angle you point the camera on the phone, it shows up different and beautiful psychedelic colourways.
Also, it is the most versatile as well. Just by opening the stylus from the base, Air Actions application gets activated and you can just start writing, doodle art on the screen and do more stuff than ever before.
For the first time, Samsung has incorporated a 6-axis sensor including Gyro and Acceleration sensors in the S Pen, to enable the device users to operate the Galaxy Note10 series with hand gestures.
With Samsung's proprietary S Pen stylus, the consumer can make use of the Galaxy Note10 series for productivity and fun activities.
Also, with S Pen, several camera features can be controlled and the most enjoyable activity you can do with the Galaxy Note10 series is the doodling on a live photo or a video, and share it on messaging apps.
Read more | Samsung Galaxy Note10+ review: Gorgeous & versatile
Apple iPhone 11 Pro series
Apple iPhones have always been the most powerful mobiles in terms of processing power but used to come short against Google Pixel phones in terms of photography.
Now, with the three dedicated lens-- 12MP primary wide camera, 12MP telephoto and 12MP ultra-wide-angle, Apple iPhone 11 Pro is now undisputed champion among all phones in 2019.
The night mode, a first for Apple iPhones takes the low-light photography to a new level. The image quality is the best compared to other top-end phones I have reviewed this year.
The notable aspect is that the light in the picture never gets blown out as we see in other phones, which tend to make the photo come off as if it is taken during evening or daylight.
The iPhone 11 Pro's night mode just highlights the subject while keeping the colours of the surrounding environment such as the dark sky or clouds as natural as possible.
Also, the iPhone 11 Pro takes best-stabilised video as well.
Another unique aspect of the iPhone 11 Pro is that Apple has collaborated with Corning to develop a custom glass shield for new mobiles. It is said to be the toughest glass cover used for mobile in the industry.
Read more | Apple iPhone 11 Pro review: Ultimate camera champion
Samsung Galaxy Fold
Though it is the most expensive phone in the Indian market, the Galaxy Fold is an epitome of mobile innovation. Samsung worked on it for more than five years and make a commercial variant.
Yes, it had issues of screen durability soon after launch. But, the fault is not completely of Samsung.
Samsung had sent early review units to select western media outlets. The screen had a protective shield, which was not supposed to be peeled, but the reviewers, unknowingly removed it, thereby rendering the phone useless.
This forced Samsung to recall Galaxy Fold units and investigate, and they put off the release to October in India.
I spent a few days with the Galaxy Fold and have to tell, it has the most practical design language for flexible phones. It folds inwards, which protects the large screen (7.3-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED ) from daily wear and tear activities.
Also, it has a dedicated secondary cover display (with 4.6-inch HD+ Super AMOLED having 21:9 aspect ratio ) on the front. It is compact and is good for operating in one-hand to read messages, reply texts and answer phone calls.
On the other hand, rival brands such as the Huawei Mate X, it bends outward, making the display more vulnerable to damage, if accidentally dropped on the floor or even when kept in the pocket, it can get scratched easily. And given the fact, it is an expensive phone, it will cost you a bomb for the screen repair.
It’s been far too long since we saw any innovation in the phone design. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is refreshingly good and marks a new shift in the mobile industry. We expect this to be the new normal in 2020 and beyond.