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My favorite phone of 2022 didn’t come out this year — it’s from 2021

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, iPhone 14 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro, Pixel 7 Pro, and many more – 2022 saw the release of plenty of amazing flagship smartphones. The iPhone 14 Pro did away with the notch, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra spoiled me with its industry-leading 10x zoom. Google finally got the hardware right with the Pixel 7 Pro, and Samsung made enough refinements to the Fold 4 for it to become my primary device.

But none of these could make the cut as my favorite smartphone of 2022. None of the 2022 flagships lasted as long as my iPhone 13 Pro Max. In fact, I had to charge the Galaxy S22 Ultra twice a day to keep my SIM in it.

iOS Home screen shown on an iPhone 13 Pro, resting on a desk.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel 7 Pro was the closest competitor to my 2021 flagship iPhone in terms of battery life but it didn’t have enough juice left by bedtime for my Twitter shenanigans. And I noticed no big leap in terms of design or camera (for the average user) in the iPhone 14 Pro for it to stay in my pocket for more than four weeks.

Here’s why the iPhone 13 Pro Max, a phone from 2021, remains my favorite phone at the end of 2022.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has my heart (and my SIM)

iPhone 13 Pro Max back in hand.
Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

In the past few weeks, I’ve had quite a few occasions to keep the iPhone 13 Pro Max as my primary phone.

In the first week of November, I had a wedding at my home. And the way Indian weddings go, that meant a few sleepless nights and lots of physical work, especially when you are the bride’s brother. It’s natural to not find the time to charge your phone on days leading up to the wedding with all the functions going on.

And that’s where the iPhone 13 Pro Max shines. I took it off the charger at 8 a.m. on November 4 (the wedding day). I had to keep it with me at all times because I had to coordinate the taxis with family and guests, inform and update papa of all the stuff I was in charge of, and more. I used the iPhone 13 Pro Max extensively – for GPS while driving, as a hotspot for guests, a ton of calls, loads of photography, some videography, and more.

I had enough confidence in the phone to not even look at the battery percentage and trust it to last the entire time. In the end, my battery started to run out at 6 a.m. on November 5 as I crashed into the nearest sofa I could find — but the iPhone 13 Pro Max was still at 18% when I woke up two hours later. I am absolutely sure that no other phone would last me for 24 hours off the charger on this kind of usage. As I’ve written before, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is still the battery king in 2022.

Next up was the trip to Varkala, Kerala, in the last week of November. I needed a reliable camera, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max didn’t disappoint. I’ve captured some of the most brilliant sunsets at 3x zoom on my 2021 flagship iPhone. The above images speak for themselves.

Notably, Varkala was very bright. While my friend’s Pixel 6 was struggling for GPS signal and daylight legibility, the iPhone 13 Pro Max was easily visible in harsh outdoor light and we made our way to Kayaking with good signal reception. It’s the little things that make up for a good vacation.

The battery life, cameras, and display make the iPhone 13 Pro Max my favorite phone of 2022. I can’t put up with a phone that wouldn’t last me a day or let me down when taking photos of a lifetime. Only a few phones get the battery life, camera, and display experience over the top, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the last phone that ticked all of these boxes.

The battery life, cameras, and display make the iPhone 13 Pro Max my favorite phone of 2022.

No phone has all the perks and no letdowns, and the 2021 flagship iPhone is no different. I’m comically frustrated by iOS multiple times a day. I tap a YouTube link on Twitter, and the phone takes me to Safari. I can tap on a Twitter link in WhatsApp and have it open the link in Safari, despite my having the Twitter app installed. And then it has the guts to take me to the App Store when I tap on “open in app” on Safari.

Seriously Apple, what’s that about? I have the respective apps installed on my phone, just open them when tapping on the respective links! iOS makes things difficult for absolutely no reason. And then, it isn’t one-hand friendly at all. Reaching for UI elements on the top left corner of the largest iPhone is a chore in itself.

iPhone 13 Pro Max and Galaxy S22 Ultra rear panels.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

Despite that, I’m sticking with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, at least until the arrival of Galaxy S23 Ultra, because no 2022 smartphone got the battery life-display-camera combination right.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has amazing cameras and display, but the battery life is a big letdown. The same goes for iPhone 14 Pro, which offers good camera and display performance but wouldn’t last me a day either. The OnePlus 10 Pro lasts me a day, and has a great display, but not the best optics. The Pixel 7 Pro is the only 2022 smartphone that I’d pick if I were to upgrade from my iPhone 13 Pro Max.

I hope things will be different in 2023

The Honor Magic Vs and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 seen from the top.
Honor Magic Vs (left) and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (right) Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While 2022 may look like a year of refinements for smartphones, it was pretty good. Apple finally bid adieu to the notch and incorporated a Dynamic Island (which I wanted to love, but couldn’t). Xiaomi made a foldable thinner than the mainstream Galaxy Z Fold 4. The Pixel 7’s GPS didn’t let me down. And there were more foldables than ever – just not for the U.S. market.

It’ll be interesting to see if smartphone companies adopt the 1-inch sensor in their optics in 2023. I’m hoping for more foldables to launch worldwide, which would force Samsung to up its game as well. What else? The iPhone 15 Pro series should take more advantage of the Dynamic Island. The next Pixel might be the most complete Google smartphone to date. And I really hope Samsung retains the 10x zoom on the Galaxy S23 Ultra while also working on its battery life to last an entire workday.

I expect 2023 to be an exciting year for smartphones to look forward to. And who knows? Maybe we’ll get something that’s good enough to finally get me off the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

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