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Looking back at our favorite phones of 2022 — and why we loved them so much

Which smartphone ticked all the boxes for us in 2022? We’re talking about the phone that we didn’t want to stop using, even though we may have been forced to in order to review another device. It’s the one phone we continually returned to because it did everything we wanted, in a way that suited us best. Our personal “phone of the year,” you could say.

Below are the picks from each member of the Digital Trends’ Mobile team, and interestingly, everyone came up with something different.

OnePlus 10 Pro

OnePlus 10 Pro camera module and alert slider.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

When I think back on all of the phones released in 2022, one that really stands out to me is the OnePlus 10 Pro. Throughout the past year, I’d often pick up my 10 Pro and use it periodically over whatever other phone I was reviewing/testing. Why? Because its hardware is just so, so good. I love the size and weight of it, the curved display is elegant without being too dramatic, and I adore the soft-touch finish of the glass on the Volcanic Black model. I also quite like how the OnePlus 10 Pro looks — including the controversial camera bump.

The OnePlus 10 Pro also remains plenty fast in early 2023, largely thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. The 120Hz display still looks excellent, the battery life is dependable, and the 65-watt charging offered on the U.S. version of the OnePlus 10 Pro is always so difficult to live without when returning to an iPhone or Pixel.

But as nice as the hardware has aged, I don’t think the OnePlus 10 Pro is as extraordinary today as it was a year ago — largely due to the software. OnePlus has since updated the 10 Pro to OxygenOS 13, which takes heavy inspiration from ColorOS. I’ve started to grow used to it compared to my first introduction to the software, but I still vastly prefer OnePlus’s old approach to OxygenOS, back when it favored speed and simplicity over a UI that now emphasizes anything but.

I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the OnePlus 10T when it launched a few months later, but I am cautiously optimistic about the OnePlus 11. If OnePlus can deliver a smartphone with the fit and inish of the OnePlus 10 Pro, further improve the camera experience, make the charging even faster, and tighten up its software, we could be in for a real treat. I still really enjoy using the OnePlus 10 Pro in 2023, and I’m excited to see what a true successor looks like.

— Joe Maring

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Deep Purple iPhone 14 Pro held in hand with a wooden gate in the background
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The iPhone 14 Pro was a real standout of the iPhone refresh from Apple this year. While the regular iPhone 14 was boring and bland, the iPhone 14 Pro really stepped it up in terms of upgrades, and for me, was well worth the cost.

With the iPhone 14 Pro, the big star was the display. This was the year that Apple went all-out with the always-on display, which it also did differently than Android devices, though it doesn’t seem like everyone was a fan of Apple’s method. I really loved how the always-on display gave the iPhone new life by having your lock screen wallpaper completely dimmed, while still showing your notifications and widgets. I’m not a fan of how Apple appeased those who weren’t fans of the feature by giving us always-on display settings in iOS 16.2, but I guess more options are good.

While we’re on the subject of the display, I’m happy to see that Apple finally ditched the notch and gave us something a little more useful with the Dynamic Island. Though I am a little let down with how slow support for it has been, it’s fun to see it in action with native apps, and the animations for it are delightfully whimsical. It was something no one was expecting when the iPhone was announced, but it’s a feature that has a lot of potential (once more apps utilize it, anyway). Hopefully, by the time the iPhone 15 rolls around, with Dynamic Islands on all models, app support for it will become ubiquitous.

Finally, though I wish the iPhone camera bumps would stop getting bigger every year, I really enjoy the 48MP main camera upgrade that Apple went with on the iPhone 14 Pro. Though the real difference is negligible coming from an iPhone 13 Pro, those who enjoy shooting in ProRaw will appreciate having the full 48MP resolution available for editing purposes. I want to see the 48MP main camera become a standard in future iPhones across the board, and I can only hope for the rumored periscope camera upgrade for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, or iPhone 15 Ultra, as it may be rumored to be.

— Christine Romero-Chan

Google Pixel 7 Pro

Google Pixel 7 Pro standing up against a red brick wall.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Choosing my favorite phone of 2022 has been a ridiculously tough choice. I decided to finalize my choice by making it the Android phone I used over the Christmas and New Year break when I was entirely free to use a phone of my choosing because I had no other phone to review. I first thought about the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but passed it by in favor of the Galaxy Z Flip 4, which is just a superb phone. But at the last minute, I slid my SIM card into the Google Pixel 7 Pro, and as expected, I didn’t regret my choice at all.

While Joe has had a lot of problems with his Pixel 7 Pro devices, I have had almost none at all. Returning to it over the past few weeks, it has been metronomically perfect. Even the battery life has been outstanding, with days of minimal use (around two hours of screen time) ending with 75% remaining. I didn’t bother charging it up and just turned it off overnight, something I did again the day after as it continued to be so efficient.

It takes photos I absolutely love, but more than that, it provides editing tools that let me quickly and easily tweak them to my tastes. They don’t always need it, but I’ll sit there and edit them just for the fun of it; such is the variety and ability of the Google Photos app on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. Android 13 is clean and fast, I have really gelled with the new design and Quick Settings layout, and notifications have been faultless. After I put my SIM back in the Pixel 7 Pro, it has done everything I wanted without any fuss whatsoever.

There are just two caveats to add here. In addition to the Pixel 7 Pro, I use an iPhone 14 Pro every day, and really, the two are equal as my top choices of the year. In an ideal world, I’d like a single device that’s somehow a combination of both. The other caveat is, as Joe can attest, not everyone’s experience with the Pixel 7 Pro will be the same. Mine is fantastic, but yours may not be, and that’s a serious downside. Approach with caution, then, but if you get a good one, it’s really good.

— Andy Boxall

Google Pixel 7

The back of the Google Pixel 7, held in a man's hand.
Google Pixel 7 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Smartphone cameras aren’t built for darker skin. It’s a rule that holds true with all but one brand, with some brands even optimizing for lighter skin. I’ve used several smartphones this year, far too many for my family to be pleased with as my bubbles go from green to blue every other week, and one smartphone brand I’ve kept coming back to was Google’s Pixel line.

On the first day of spring, I went out for a lovely walk around London, and the next month, I took a trip to Dublin. In December, I took a trip to the Netherlands. Every image I captured with a Pixel phone, I thoroughly enjoy and regularly revisit. Primarily, this was due to Real Tone, a technology you find on Google’s Pixel phones that makes people of darker tone look more true to life. It certainly helps when you’re going on a trip with family and want pictures you’d love to keep.

It’s funny, when I switched from a Pixel back to an iPhone for other reasons, I would almost immediately stop taking pictures because of the comparatively duller, drabber, and more depressing images it would capture. Somehow, Google not only nailed the color of my skin, but also the color of everything else too. With all that said, when it comes down to it, Google’s Pixel 7 was my favorite phone of 2022, with heating issues and all. While primarily I used the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7 came towards the end of the year. All feel incredibly similar where it counts.

The Pixel 7, particularly the Snow and Lemongrass colors, captured my heart. With a screen that’s crisp, a camera that captures clear images, and a design that feels like jewelry, Google’s latest makes for a compelling package. While my preference ultimately was the slightly older but cheaper 6 Pro (because I really wanted the telephoto lens and didn’t want to pay up for the 7 Pro), the 7 is still a really good phone.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend you rush out and buy it — there are many better smartphones, and its well-documented foibles may be a bit much for some at the best of times. But the heart wants what the heart wants, even if it’s not always the best thing.

— Michael Allison

Nothing Phone 1

The back of the Nothing Phone 1 with Glyph lights active.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s fair to say this is a tough year for me to pick a favorite phone, as many fell into what I like to call the “but phone” category. You know what I mean; it’s the sort of phone you describe by saying, “it’s like the previous phone, but … .” We had some excellent smartphones come out this year, but most of them fell into this trap, as if all the major smartphone manufacturers came together and decided to take the year off. Polish some camera lenses. Tweak a processor. Kick back a little. Even Samsung’s folding phones were largely copy-pasted versions of the previous year’s efforts.

All except the new kid on the block, Nothing. I’m as surprised at this as anyone, as I was initially quite vocal in my disdain for the Nothing Phone 1’s Glyph lighting gimmick and Nothing OS. But color me surprised when it launched, and it was pretty good. Of course, there are kinks to work out, and technically, the Nothing Phone 1 isn’t as good a smartphone as, say, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Apple iPhone 14 Pro, or even the Google Pixel 7 Pro.

But I love an underdog, as well as when a company tries something new. That’s why the Nothing Phone 1 holds up so well in early 2023, simply because there’s nothing like it. Who else would put a range of bonkers lights on the back of a smartphone, just because they look cool? Well, a few gaming brands would, but never as big and as bold as the Nothing Phone 1.

The mission is clear for the Nothing Phone 2: keep the Glyph lighting and everything that makes the phone unique, but do it better. Top of the list to sort out will be the inconsistent camera quality, the rubbish battery life, and the update schedule. But these are all common pitfalls for new Android phones, and ones most manufacturers tend to surmount sooner or later. The future looks bright for Nothing, and the Nothing Phone 2 could easily become a hit.

— Mark Jansen

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 being closed.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The one phone that stood out for me in 2023 was the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. Despite not looking like much of an upgrade on paper, Samsung added essential improvements over the Fold 3 (which remained in my pocket for over six months during 2021/2022).

The upgraded internals, better optics, superior front display, and improved hinge mechanism meant it was even more durable than the Fold 3 and captured better images – not as good as the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though. I found myself keeping the Fold 4 over the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max because it was simply more productive than the slab phones. The added dock in the software served as an excellent example of how Samsung is pushing itself to deliver seamless performance on its foldables.

I loved reading Kindle e-books on my Fold 4. However, I’d like to have a better battery backup on a single charge. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 required me to charge it before bed for my Twitter chronicles. I also missed the sharp 10x zoom I got on the Galaxy S22 Ultra – it made me click photos at 10x, and the perspectives I got were unreal.

I hope the next Galaxy Fold gets a 10x telephoto lens and lasts a day easily. I also wouldn’t mind if it’s lighter and slimmer, because carrying the Fold 4 on train journeys was a tedious task. I still like the Fold 4 for the productivity it provides, but I’d like to see battery, optics, and design improvements from the Fold 5 later this year.

— Prakhar Khanna

Digital Trends Staff
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