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The most innovative smartphones of 2023

It’s been an interesting year for smartphones. Though it may seem that phones have plateaued, we still got some genuine surprises in 2023 from names that you may not have expected. These phones stood out from the rest in some form, proving that you can still do something fun and exciting with a smartphone.

So, sit back and relax, take a sip of that delicious cider or hot cocoa, and take a look at the most innovative smartphones of 2023.

Want to see the rest? Check out our full list of the most innovative tech products of 2023!

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Winner: OnePlus Open

The OnePlus open was the most innovative phone of 2023.
Digital Trends

Though Samsung has dominated the foldable market in the U.S. for a few years, 2023 saw a rise in foldables from competitors like Google and OnePlus. But the OnePlus Open has become the folding phone to beat, even though it’s the first foldable from OnePlus.

In terms of specs, the OnePlus Open is certainly impressive. You have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip along with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage. With this kind of power, the OnePlus Open can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. It even packs in a 4,805mAh battery that will last a full day and then some, and it has support for 67W fast charging.

It features a 6.31-inch AMOLED cover display and opens up to reveal a 7.82-inch AMOLED inner display. Both screens have up to 120Hz refresh rates and can reach up to 2,800 nits peak brightness, making it one of the brightest displays available on any phone. The inner display also has an anti-reflective coating, making it much more usable outdoors in bright sunlight than the competition. Plus, OnePlus’ Flexion Hinge results in a barely visible crease, which isn’t a given with folding phones today

You have a powerful triple-lens Hasselblad camera array with a 48MP primary camera, a 48MP ultrawide camera, and a whopping 64MP telephoto camera that can do 3x optical, 6x in-sensor, and up to 120x Ultra Res zoom. The selfie cameras are also 32MP on the cover display, while the inner selfie camera is 20MP, though you can also use the rear camera for selfies.

But the OnePlus Open’s real magic is its power for multitasking with the Open Canvas feature in OxygenOS 13.2. This new way to multitask was specifically designed to increase productivity with multi-window efficiency.

What does this mean? Essentially, the OnePlus Open can support up to three apps in split screen and floating windows, and there’s a persistent desktop-like taskbar at the bottom. But it’s not restricted to just utilizing the physical screen space. You can stretch and resize all windows as you see fit, as Open Canvas is like having virtual screen space. To bring in the second or third window, just slide it in or out of view.

So not only is the OnePlus Open impressive in terms of specs (and it has a nice design to boot), but its fresh approach to multitasking allows you to be more productive than ever before. All of this makes the OnePlus Open one of the most innovative phones this year, especially for a foldable.

Runner up: Fairphone 5

The back of the Fairphone 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When it comes to smartphones, you don’t think of them as being highly repairable or even very sustainable to the planet. But that’s exactly what you get with the Fairphone 5. This is a phone that’s about commitment to the planet and sustainability, as it’s designed to last for years.

The Fairphone 5 specs aren’t super impressive compared to the competition. It has a Qualcomm QCM6460 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB internal storage, though you can increase the storage with a microSD card. You have a dual-lens camera system on the rear with 50MP primary and ultrawide cameras, plus a front-facing 50MP selfie camera — though taking photos with it has some shortcomings. But you’re not buying the Fairphone 5 for the hardware specs — you’re buying it if you want a phone to last you for years.

With the Fairphone 5, the main selling points are sustainability and repairability. This is a phone that you can repair yourself if certain parts break (including the screen, USB port, camera, and battery), and those parts are reasonably priced. Repairing parts is also relatively simple and not complicated, as all you need is a 00 Phillips screwdriver and a good work area.

Fairphone is also dedicated to updating the Fairphone 5 with five major Android plus other general software support through 2031. The Fairphone 5 tackles longer-term ownership in a way no other phone does, and that deserves recognition.

Honorable mention: Motorola Razr (2023)

Apps on the Motorola Razr Plus.
Motorola Razr Plus Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Finally, we’re giving an honorable mention to the Motorola Razr (2023). It’s not innovative in terms of specs for folding flip phones; instead, it’s innovative for the price. This is the first folding phone that you can buy for just $700.

When you bring up folding phones, the first thing that you’re probably going to think of is the price. Most foldable phones start at $1,000, and the flagship ones can reach up to almost $2,000 — and even higher, depending on your storage options.

That’s what makes the Motorola Razr so appealing. It’s the only folding phone that you can find for less than $1,000. And you get a lot of great features for that price! The design is simple yet elegant with the vegan leather, which also comes in fun colors. There’s no gap when it’s closed, the cover display makes it easy to see the time and notifications at a glance, the screens are bright and crisp, and the performance is good for the cost. And the cameras are even pretty solid, all things considered.

The Motorola Razr (2023) is the first folding phone that feels attainable for a wide group of people, and even with fairly mid-range specs, that’s darn impressive.

Editors' Recommendations

Christine Romero-Chan
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade. She graduated from California…
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