Posts with «smart phones» label

The best smartphones you can buy right now

Choosing your next smartphone can be challenging. With so many brands offering similar features at similar prices, it can be hard to understand what device actually has the things you want. If you’ve already determined you only want an iPhone, your decision-making process is slightly easier. (And even then, Apple’s lineup offers more options than ever.) Those also considering Android will have even more options to choose from, and likely more questions. Do you want a camera that can zoom into subjects that are extremely far away, or do you want intuitive AI that can screen your incoming calls for you? Here at Engadget, we test smartphones all year round and can help you make sense of what’s available and what to look out for. And, of course, we’ve included our favorite phones to help you whittle down your shortlist.

Android or iOS?

Each OS has its pros and cons. Apple’s tight-knit ecosystem makes it super easy to share data between iPhones, iPads and Macs or seamlessly hand-off phone calls or music from one device to another. At the same time, you’re effectively locked in, as services like Apple Messages aren’t available on other platforms.

As for Android, there’s a much wider range of handsets from companies like Google, Samsung, Sony and more. However, Android phones don’t enjoy that same length of software support and often have lower trade-in values. In short, there’s no wrong answer. However, you will want to consider how your phone will fit in with the rest of your devices. So unless you’re really fed up with one OS and willing to learn another, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to switch from iOS to Android (or vice versa) – especially if everyone else in your household is using the same platform.

Cameras

Since people’s phones often pull double duty as their primary camera, figuring out what kind of photo tools you want is key. Nowadays, practically every phone can take a great picture in bright light. But if you want a long optical zoom, you’ll probably have to upgrade to a more expensive device like the S22 Ultra (which has 10x optical zoom), a Pixel 6 Pro (3x optical zoom) or an iPhone 13 Pro (3x optical zoom). (Note: The standard iPhone 13 doesn’t have a dedicated zoom lens.)

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Mid-range phones often only have two rear cameras (a primary wide-angle lens and a secondary ultra-wide camera) and can sometimes struggle in low-light situations. Each phone maker also has various features that might be a better fit for your style, with Apple offering four different color presets on the iPhone 13 (warm, vibrant, cool and rich contrast), while Google’s Pixel 6 comes with neat tools like dedicated long exposure and action pan modes.

Will you get 5G or Wi-Fi 6?

The good news is that in 2022, most phones have at least 802.11ac Wi-Fi and support for one or more types of 5G connectivity. However, if you want the fastest wireless speeds you can get, it’s going to cost you a bit more. For example, on certain networks, mmWave 5G offers up to gigabit download speeds, less latency and better bandwidth. But mmWave 5G also requires more sophisticated (and pricier) modems, which means support for it is often missing from budget and mid-range handsets like the iPhone SE and Pixel 5a.

On the bright side, mmWave 5G isn’t as widely available as other versions of 5G, so depending on where you live and what network you’re on, you may not be missing out on much if you buy a phone that doesn’t support it. It’s a similar situation for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, which are available on a number of high-end devices, but harder to find on less expensive handsets. Wi-Fi 6 also requires you have to have a compatible router, so unless you know you need it or have a specific use case in mind, the lack of support for mmWave 5G or Wi-Fi 6E shouldn’t be a dealbreaker when looking for a new phone.

Other features to consider

Because not everyone agrees on what makes an ideal phone, you should think about any other specs that might be extra important for you. Mobile gamers will almost certainly appreciate the 120Hz refresh rates you get on phones like the Galaxy S22 or the iPhone 13 Pro. Alternatively, if long battery life is important, you’ll probably want to go with a larger iPhone or an Android phone with a battery that’s between 4,000 and 5,000 mAh in size. Meanwhile, if you find yourself juggling a lot of devices, it can be really nice to have a phone that supports reverse wireless charging, which on Samsung phones even lets you recharge the company’s Galaxy Watches.

Our picks

Best iOS smartphone: iPhone 13 Pro

David Imel for Engadget

Picking the best iPhone is fairly easy. Of the current lineup, the iPhone 13 Pro offers the best balance of features, size and price. It has a fast-refreshing 120Hz ProMotion screen that makes scrolling a breeze, as well as a versatile camera system and great battery life. I prefer it to the Pro Max since the latter is an absolute anvil of a phone that will probably fracture your skull if it falls on your face. And though the Pro is heavier and pricier than the regular iPhone 13, the additional camera and faster screen is worth the extra money.

All the iPhone 13s are equipped with Apple’s capable A15 Bionic chip, which provides powerful performance. If you don’t need something as high-end as the Pro, consider the iPhone SE 2022, which also uses the same chip but costs a lot less. Though I’m a fan of the iPhone 13 mini’s compact size, I can’t recommend it to anyone looking for a daily driver that will last all day; its limited battery life means you’ll need to at least charge it again in the afternoon for it to stick around till you need to order that Uber at midnight. – Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Buy iPhone 13 Pro at Apple starting at $999

Best Android smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

As Samsung’s latest flagship phone and the spiritual successor to the Galaxy Note line, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has every feature power users and more mainstream shoppers could ever need. Its 10x optical zoom camera offers the longest reach you can get on a phone today, while its huge 6.8-inch 120Hz OLED screen makes everything look smooth and colorful. It also has IP68 dust and water resistance, not to mention durable Gorilla Glass Victus+ panels in front and back. And of course, there’s the built-in S-Pen, whose latency has dropped to just 2.8 milliseconds for 2022. This makes drawing, sketching and anything else you do with its stylus feel incredibly responsive. And, thanks to expanded support, Samsung’s Galaxy S will get at least four years of Android updates, which is longer than what Google has pledged for the Pixel 6. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Buy Galaxy S22 Ultra at Samsung starting at $1,199

Best midrange Android smartphone: Google Pixel 5a

Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

If all you want is a simple, affordable and easy-to-use phone without any unnecessary bells and whistles, the Pixel 5a is the perfect choice. Starting at $459, the 5a features a colorful 6.34-inch OLED display, while Google’s excellent photo processing produces pics that match what you get from phones that cost twice as much. You also get super handy IP67 dust and water resistance, along with good performance thanks to Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. And, unlike a lot of other mid-range phones, the Pixel 5a enjoys strong software support, with Google promising regular Android and security updates until August 2024.

The main things you won't get compared to more premium handsets are a dedicated telephoto lens, wireless charging and support for mmWave 5G (though you do get sub-6GHz). It’s worth noting that the Pixel 6a is around the corner, and it’ll use Google’s own Tensor chip that uses AI to improve photography, voice recognition and Material You. We’d need to test it to see how it performs in the real world before recommending it, but if you’re not in a hurry to get a new phone, it might be wise to wait for the Pixel 6a. – S.R.

Buy Pixel 5a at Amazon - $459

Best midrange iPhone: iPhone SE (2022)

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

With an A15 Bionic chip and iOS 15, the latest iPhone SE is possibly the most powerful phone you can find for under $450. Sure, it has a dated design, but some folks might actually appreciate the retro look. The best thing about the iPhone SE is its home button: It’s the only new iPhone to have Touch ID. And though it only has a single rear camera, the SE still takes solid pictures. If you can get over the small, low-res screen, the iPhone SE will serve you well. It’s also really the only sub-$500 option for iOS diehards.

If you’re open to considering Android and want to spend less than $400, consider something from Samsung’s Galaxy A-series or the OnePlus Nord N20. Those looking to spend even less can check out the Moto G Power – just be prepared to compromise on features like display and cameras at lower prices. – C.L.

Buy iPhone SE at Apple starting at $429

Best camera on a smartphone: Pixel 6 Pro

David Imel for Engadget

It’s hard for me to leave the house without the Pixel 6 Pro. As long as there’s a chance I might want to take photos, I make sure I’ve brought Google’s latest flagship. The Pixel 6 Pro’s triple rear camera system is versatile enough to capture anything from the largest group shots or wide landscapes to faraway animals (like that time I thought I spotted a whale when staring at a distant blob from Acadia National Park). Google’s Night Sight still outperforms the competition when taking pictures in low light, too, and its computational photography delivers clear, vivid photos.

Of course, Samsung and Apple’s flagships are closing the gap, and these days there is little difference between the photos they deliver. Some people might even prefer the warmer tint on Galaxy devices. But special features like Google’s Magic Eraser and Motion effects make the Pixel 6 Pro the most fun to shoot with. Plus, I love the additional tools you get on Pixels, like Call Screening, Material You theming and Live Captions, among others. The Pixel 6 Pro has some small flaws, including a quirky in-display fingerprint sensor and some early software bugs. But if you’re willing to put up with those issues, in exchange you’ll get the best camera experience around. – C.L.

Buy Pixel 6 Pro at Amazon - $899

Best foldable smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

David Imel for Engadget

While you won’t find as many options for foldables in the west as you would in Asia, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is widely available in Europe and North America and remains an excellent pick regardless of market. That’s because while its starting price of $1,800 definitely ain’t cheap, the Z Fold 3 has the ability to adjust to your needs. Its exterior cover screen makes it easy to quickly check notifications or a map when you’re on the go, while its huge 7.6-inch main screen delivers a more immersive video experience than practically any other phone out right now. You can even prop the phone on a table and use it as a mini tripod/camera combo.

On top of that, its OLED panel allows the phone to serve as an excellent gadget for reading comics or books, while stylus support lets you sketch or take handwritten notes with ease. (Just remember, the Z Fold 3’s S Pens are optional extras.) And thanks to its innovative hinge, the phone can switch between modes in a snap while still offering five feet of water resistance. In a lot of ways, the Z Fold 3 is a phone, a tablet and an e-reader – all rolled into a single device. Alternatively, if you’re intrigued by flexible screens but prefer something more compact, the $1,000 Z Flip 3 offers similar tech in a smaller device at a more approachable price. – S.R

Buy Galaxy Z Fold 3 at Samsung starting at $1,799

Nothing Phone 1 pre-order reservations start today

You can finally put money toward the Nothing Phone 1 — provided you can join an exclusive club. Nothing has opened pre-order reservations for its first smartphone using an invitation code system. Private community members go first, and will have 48 hours to use their code, place a £20 (roughly $25) non-refundable deposit and secure an order opportunity on July 12th. Everyone else can sign up for a waiting list that will deliver invitations in batches.

If you do go ahead with an order, Nothing will deduct the deposit from the purchase and supply a further £20 credit to use toward either a Phone 1 accessory or Ear 1 earbuds. The company hasn't yet revealed the price of the phone itself. As Nothing warned earlier, the Phone 1 won't officially come to North America outside of a closed beta for a handful of private community investors. The device should work, but won't have full support.

If the pre-order strategy sounds familiar, it should. Nothing founder Carl Pei's former outfit OnePlus used an invitation system for years. The effect may be similar. Invitation-based orders help manage tight supply (by controlling sales and improving demand estimates) while creating a cachet that might spur demand. It's not clear when you'll get to order a Phone 1 on a whim, but don't be surprised if you end up waiting awhile.

Nothing's Carl Pei thinks everyone else's smartphones are boring

Carl Pei thinks there’s something wrong with the smartphone industry. That’s not to say the handsets on sale today are bad. Across the board, modern mobiles are faster, more sophisticated and take better photos than previous generations. But like a growing number of tech enthusiasts, Pei has started feeling like new phones just aren’t as special as the devices that came out five or 10 years ago. So ahead of the launch of the Phone 1 on July 12th, I sat down with the founder and CEO of Nothing to learn how the mobile startup is trying to bring some innovation, quirkiness, and maybe even a bit of fun back to the smartphone market.

Now there’s a very logical explanation for why recent phones don’t possess the same kind of wow factor. Back when the iPhone made its debut, it felt like a revelation. “I used to watch all the launches. I was in Sweden, so I stayed up until midnight or 4AM to see what was coming out,” said Pei. But in recent years, that excitement has waned, with Pei often skipping big keynotes and relying on condensed recaps to stay informed. And it’s not just Pei that feels this way.

Nothing

“When I talk to consumers, they are also quite indifferent,” says Pei. “When doing focus groups, some consumers said they believe smartphone brands are holding features back intentionally just so they have something to launch for the next iteration, which is not the truth. But if consumers feel that way, it's a sign that they're kind of bored.”

The big issue for Pei is one of stagnation. With major players like LG and HTC having exited the market or becoming irrelevant, the smartphone industry is dominated by a handful of huge corporations like Apple, Samsung, and Google. “You have a few big companies and the way they work is more structured and systematic,” said Pei. “They have technology roadmaps from partners like Qualcomm, Sony or Samsung Display, so they know what's coming. They do a lot of consumer research, they get their feedback and they look at their competitors and the overall market landscape.”

However, Pei feels that approach leads to a lot of sameness. “So they have this information, they analyze it, and then they create a very rational product that is going to do well on paper because they used all this great data,” said Pei. “But the problem is everybody's using the same data and everybody's using the same analysis. So if the input is the same and the method is the same, the output is more or less the same as well.”

Nothing

That’s one thing Pei is trying to change with Nothing’s upcoming handset, the Phone 1. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel – or in this case, the phone – Pei wants to bring some originality back to mobile tech design. “Maybe we can turn down the brain a little bit and turn up the intuition,” said Pei, which is a mantra that has resulted in some of the Phone 1’s more unique features including its design, embedded lighting and glyph interface.

Pei says the inspiration behind the Phone 1’s design comes from a concept the team describes as “raw technology meets human warmth,” or technical warmth for short. “It's got this machine-like nature to it, but also has quirky and very human elements as well.” That’s why instead of hiding the inside of the device behind an opaque back, like you see on so many other phones, Nothing uses transparent glass that exposes components like the Phone 1’s wireless charging coil, heat pipes, and more. In a lot of ways, it feels like a modern industrialist take on the Game Boys and iMacs with see-through plastic shells we got in the 90s and early 2000s.

“I think one thing we’re trying to accomplish is to bring people back in time to when they felt more optimistic about gadgets,” said Pei. This desire to make tech fun again is actually something Nothing carried throughout its entire design process, right down to Phone 1’s codename Arceus, which is a reference to the legendary Pokemon of the same name. (For the record, Pei says his favorite ‘Mon is Squirtle.) There are other quirks too, like the heat pipe at the bottom of the phone that looks like an elephant and the red indicator light in back that lets people know when a video is being recorded.

See if you can spot the elephant hidden in the Phone 1's design.
Nothing

However, while Pei wants to bring fun back to gadgets, Nothing always falls back on the core design principle of form following function. Pei said “We don't do ornaments. We can design different things and unique things, but they always have to be functional.” The best example of this is the Phone 1’s glyph interface, which uses 900 LEDs arranged across the back of the device to create a sophisticated notification system unlike anything out right now.

By allowing owners to assign unique combinations of lights and sounds to different contacts, the idea is that people will be able to see who is calling or texting without looking at the screen. Even the Phone 1’s ringtones evoke old-school analog synths combined with the noise of a dial-up modem, it’s both fresh and retro at the same time. On top of that, the lights glow when the phone is wireless or reverse wireless charging, while the small strip of LEDs next to the charging port can show how much juice the phone has – once again, without ever seeing the screen.

That said, having big ideas about phone design and actually making them a reality are very different things. Making phones is hard, and trying to break into the market as a startup is damn near impossible. If you look at the industry today, the only company that has really broken through in the last decade is OnePlus, which was co-founded by Pei and received significant backing as part of BBK Electronics’ tech umbrella. Meanwhile, the junkheap of failed smartphone startups is littered with ambitious companies like Essential (whose branding and IP are actually now owned by Nothing) that teased similarly big ideas, but went belly up before ever making a second-gen device. Or consider more mainstream companies like Motorola, who failed to make modular phones more than a novelty with its Z-series devices. And ever since, Moto has largely played it safe by shelling out endless rehashes of its G-series line.

Nothing

“The reason why this industry is very hard is because it requires end-to-end capability,” Pei said. “If you're going to create a smartphone company, every single team has to be at least seven out of 10. And some of them have to be even better if your product is going to stand out in some way.”

“Your supply chain team has to be great. Your mechanical engineering, your software, engineering, your industrial design, your sales, your marketing, your customer support,” said Pei. And if we look back at the PH-1 which had an innovative design and a team with serious pedigree, in the end, a handful of issues like its high price and weak camera quality at launch ultimately spelled doom for Essential.

On the flipside, despite Pei claiming that Nothing has already sold more than 560,000 pairs of its Ear 1 buds, there are concerns about the Phone 1 being overhyped. Some commenters online have even compared Nothing’s community forums to a cult based on early reactions to what remains an unreleased device. But when it comes to hype, Pei feels like there’s only one road that leads to success.

“One is the path we currently are taking. We try and create the maximum interest for a product at launch. That sets really high expectations for the product to deliver. And if it does, things go really well. If it doesn’t, maybe it fizzles out.”

However, the challenge is that if a company tries to reign in the hype, the product may never take off regardless of quality. Pei said “In this path, we at least have a chance to try and deliver a great product. The second option is being a small company with no marketing budget is that no one will know about your device. So even if the product is good, the result is still that nobody cares. You don't even have a chance to prove yourself. This is actually our only logical option.”

Nothing

So while the design of the Phone 1 is quite unique and eye-catching, Pei preaches a pragmatic approach. Instead of taking a huge swing right out the gate, Pei is looking to gradually grow Nothing’s business and ecosystem, starting with its first earbuds and soon, its first phone.

“We’re a fast follower. We didn't invent smartphones. We didn't invent Android, but we have experience in this market. We see ways in which we could do it better and some gaps in the market.” But Pei knows Nothing needs to take it one step at a time. “We need to gradually build to a position of strength. Then when you’re strong, you can go and do something really, really innovative, because you’ll have a business that’s stable enough to take a lot of shots.”

However, while the success (or failure) of the Phone 1 is still to be determined, I appreciate that not only is Pei challenging billion-dollar giants with a new smartphone startup, Nothing is also trying to shake things up in the process. “I think this device is the beginning of something different, but it’s also a gift to our industry,” said Pei. “We're not saying this is a revolutionary product that's going to change the entire industry overnight. But maybe it's going to plant a germ in people's minds.” In a sea of similar-looking glass bricks, Pei hopes the Phone 1 will encourage customers to ask for more creative devices while also sparking larger companies to take more risks. “Some of it will fail. But ultimately, the smartphone market is going to be much more dynamic and we'll improve faster as an industry.”

Polestar adds Apple CarPlay support to its EVs

Polestar promised Apple CarPlay support for its EVs two years ago, and it's finally delivering. As The Vergeexplains, the car brand has released an over-the-air update for the Polestar 2 that makes CarPlay available on the Android Automotive-based sedan. If you'd rather use Apple Maps instead of Google Maps or prefer to talk to Siri in lieu of Google Assistant, you now have that choice as long as you connect your iPhone.

The most fun part about driving a Polestar is driving it, but there's more to it. Our latest over-the-air update for the Polestar 2 comes with Apple CarPlay, allowing Polestar owners with an iPhone to change music, use apps, and communicate through Siri or the infotainment system pic.twitter.com/mulkjIUR6D

— Polestar (@PolestarCars) June 22, 2022

In 2020, the automaker expected to deliver a CarPlay update in January 2021. It's not clear what prompted the delay (Polestar cited "various factors" last fall), but the wait isn't completely surprising. Android Automotive is built around Google's operating system, and often its services. iPhone support was always going to be a lower priority, particularly when you don't need an Android phone to use Polestar's built-in functionality.

You still can't find CarPlay on numerous other Android Automotive cars, including newer Volvo models as well as Rivian's R1T. You won't have to wait long in some cases, though. Volvo expects to add the interface within weeks, and it will eventually support iOS 16's next-gen CarPlay interface. In that sense, Polestar is just a vanguard for its sibling brand.

Apple's passkeys offer even better protection for your passwords

As part of the company's ongoing efforts to improve user security, at WWDC 2022 Apple announced new digital passkeys that add an extra layer of security to your passwords.

Available on both iOS and macOS, Apple's passkeys are designed to replace standard passwords by providing unique digital keys that are stashed locally on your device. Apple says that by not storing passkeys in the cloud, they are much less susceptible to being stolen in the case of a data breach or phishing attempt. 

Passkeys will feature integration with biometric security including Touch ID and Face ID, and can be synced to other Apple devices via your iCloud Keychain. They will also work with apps and on the web, allowing users to sign into their accounts using their iPhone instead of their password. 

The arrival of passkeys comes after Apple, alongside Google and Microsoft, announced a partnership with the FIDO Alliance and the WWDC earlier this spring. Apple's passkeys look to be the company's attempt to simplify and streamline the use of passwordless sign-on methods and will feature end-to-end encryption and compatibility with a wide range of Apple devices including the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV when it arrives sometime later this year. 

Follow all of the news from WWDC right here!

 

Motorola’s endless rehashes will only make it less relevant

While Motorola might not have the same clout in the smartphone space as Apple and Samsung, the company holds an outsized influence on the US market. By the numbers, Motorola is the third most popular smartphone maker overall, the second largest maker of prepaid phones and the biggest seller of unlocked handsets.

The problem is that, as part of the company’s attempt to gobble up more of the market following the demise of LG Mobile, Motorola has been churning out too many phones too quickly while offering little in the way of long-term support. And even though the Moto G family of phones has earned a reputation for providing great value in recent years, that legacy is starting to deteriorate as things like camera quality and support for basic features like NFC have stagnated. In short, Motorola needs to slow down and shape up.

Just look at the dizzying number of Moto G handsets that have been released in the last two years. At CES 2021, Motorola launched four new phones including the second-gen Moto G Stylus, the revived Moto G Play, the Moto G Power and the Moto One 5G Ace – the latter of which is merely a rebranded version of the Moto G 5G from 2020. Then in the summer, Motorola released another Moto G Stylus (this time with 5G) followed by the Moto G Pure last fall.

At the pace Motorola has been releasing new G-series phones, it's become incredibly difficult to keep track of them all and the minor differences between them.
Chris Velazco/Engadget

More recently in February, Moto decided to update the G family with yet another version of Moto G Stylus, and just this week Motorola returned to announce two more additions in the Moto G Stylus 5G and the Moto G 5G. And this isn’t counting stuff like the Moto G Power 2022, which was actually released in November 2021. At this point, if you’re confused by the vomit of new Moto G phones, just rest assured you’re not the only one. It’s like some twisted smartphone version of Cap'n Crunch’s Oops! All Berries, except that instead of tasty fruit-flavored treats, it's an endless string of non-descript plastic handsets.

Meanwhile, some of Motorola’s most interesting phones like the 2020 Razr have been languishing waiting for an update, only getting a half-hearted refresh that added a slightly faster chip and support for 5G. Quite often, it feels like Moto has been releasing budget phones without 5G, just so the company can push out a “new” model six months later. Even then, it’s typically just sub-6GHz 5G, which only serves to increase customer confusion regarding current cellular standards. And while Moto has been idling, Samsung has dominated the foldable phone market with devices like the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which is not only cheaper than the Razr, it has a better screen and cameras too.

When Motorola made its first flagship phone in years with the 2020 Edge+, our lasting impression was that it was merely OK.
Chris Velazco/Engadget

Another big issue with Motorola’s recent phones is paltry software support. Last year, Samsung announced that it would provide four years of security updates for a wide range of Galaxy devices, including older phones and tablets such as the S10 and Tab S6. Then, just a couple of months ago, Samsung bolstered its software support again by giving four generations of Android upgrades to all of its 2021 and 2022 flagship phones. And over in Pixel land, Google also stepped up its efforts by promising five years of security updates for the Pixel 6 (though you’ll still only get three years of OS upgrades). And all of this still pales in comparison to iPhones, with Apple providing at least five years of OS and security updates for its handsets.

Then we come to Motorola, which even on its most recent flagship – the 2022 Edge+ – is only offering two major OS updates and three years of bi-monthly security patches. And if you move down to its more affordable handsets, things get even worse. The newly announced Moto G Stylus 5G and Moto G 5G, for instance, will only get a single OS upgrade. This isn’t a one-off situation either, because during a briefing about those phones, a Motorola representative confirmed that the general policy for the entire G family typically only covers one major Android OS update.

Mewanwhile, this year's Edge+ fell far short of living up to its $1,000 price.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Even worse is that, during the same briefing, a Motorola exec seemed to be making an excuse for the poor update policy by recounting a conversation they had with a car service driver. The driver owned a Moto G device and lamented that their device seemed like it was constantly prompting them to install some sort of update. Now I can certainly empathize, sometimes it feels like everything you own constantly needs to be patched. But that’s not a good reason to drop support for a gadget after a year or two. If an owner doesn’t want to install an update for whatever reason, that’s their choice, but they should at least have the option.

Perhaps my biggest concern about Motorola’s direction is a general lack of innovation and support for basic features. Take for example the Moto G Stylus, which doesn’t have NFC. I mean come on, it’s 2022. Basically every place supports some sort of contactless payment nowadays, which requires NFC. But if you buy a budget Moto phone, too bad. And it’s not just the Moto G Stylus, because the Moto G 5G announced this week doesn’t have NFC either. The company also routinely fails to equip its handsets with substantial water resistance, often doing just enough to protect against splashes but falling far short of the IP67 or IP68 ratings you get on competing devices. 

Additionally, when I reviewed the Moto Edge+ back in March, I was kind of appalled with its cameras. This is a $1,000 phone that produces low-light photos that look like they come from a $500 phone at best. I even noted in my review that it seems like Motorola is going backwards, delivering a device with a lower-resolution main camera than its predecessor, while lacking a dedicated telephoto lens. 

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Motorola tells me that it puts macro cams in its phones instead because of demand from customers who like taking close-ups. And that may be true. But I also know that it costs more to put telephoto cameras on phones, and I have a sneaking suspicion that may be the bigger driving force. While Apple, Google and Samsung are making large strides when it comes to low-light performance and computational photography, what I’ve seen from Moto’s latest pseudo-flagship is second-tier at best.

The sad thing is that it doesn’t have to be like this. There are a number of things I still appreciate about Moto devices. They have near stock builds of Android and Moto Action gestures like double chopping to turn on a phone’s flashlight are often quite handy. But those small perks are easily overshadowed by the concerning trend of too many rehashes while returning too little value.

However, it’s not too late to reverse all this. Sure, it will take some strong leadership and willpower for the company to forgo short-term sales in order to focus on long-term growth and development. Improving mobile photography isn’t easy. Just ask OnePlus’ Pete Lau, who has been very vocal about his desire to bring the photography on the company’s phones up to speed. But unless Motorola wants to become the next HTC, it needs to reduce the churn and concentrate on releasing a smaller number of higher-quality devices with the software support its customers deserve.

Samsung's Galaxy S22 is down to a record low of $700 at Amazon

Both Samsung and other retailers have offered a few ways to save when picking up one of the latest Galaxy smartphones, including offering a discount on higher storage models during the pre-order window. But Amazon's back now with a new discount — $100 off the Samsung Galaxy S22, bringing the 128GB model down to $700. The same discount applies to the 256GB versions, which are on sale for $750.

Buy Galaxy S22 (128GB) at Amazon - $700Buy Galaxy S22 (256GB) at Amazon - $750

While the Galaxy S22 isn't a huge departure from last year's flagship phones, Samsung made some useful changes and welcomed upgrades this year. The handset's design remains attractive and now has Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus+ for added protection against drops and scratches. The S22 sports a lovely 6.1-inch 2,340 x 1,080 resolution touchscreen with a 120Hz variable refresh rate and an ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader, too. The panel is impressive, reaching up to 1,300 nits of brightness, and the new Vision Booster feature automatically ups things like color saturation and contrast depending on your environment. Plus, the fingerprint reader is really fast, so you'll never have to wait long for the device to unlock.

The S22's triple rear camera array takes sharp photos and much-improved images in low-light conditions. Even though we think Samsung's new Adaptive Pixel feature, which uses multi-frame image capture to combine high-quality pics with lower-res pixel-binned shots to create a final composite image, is a bit overhyped, the S22 still has some of the best cameras you can get on a smartphone at this price.

General performance is stellar as well thanks to the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip inside the handset. You're also getting 5G support and a decent battery life. In our testing, the Galaxy S22 lasted just under 15 hours (if battery life is your biggest concern, you're better off going for the S22+, which lasted about 2.5 hours longer). Overall, if you're looking to upgrade to a new Android phone, the Galaxy S22 is one of the best out there right now — and it's even better at this sale price.

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The Galaxy A53 is the first mid-range Samsung phone with 5G

Almost a year after Samsung revealed the Galaxy A52 (and the rest of the 2021 Galaxy A family), the company is back with even more phones. While the foldables and the Galaxy S22 line might grab the headlines and raise the bar for specs, the Galaxy A phones have been a commercial success, combining decent specifications with large screens, complicated camera arrays and Samsung’s premium aesthetic.

The new Galaxy A53 and the A33 don’t diverge from this strategy – it is working, after all – but instead introduce 5G connectivity and Samsung’s more powerful 5nm Exynos chips. They also look remarkably similar to each other and the extended Samsung Galaxy phone family.

I’ll focus on the A53 5G, which is coming to the US on April 1st, priced at $450. It has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display that’s capable of 120Hz refresh rates, matching last year’s model. Samsung says it’s capable of adaptive refresh rates, but couldn’t specify the range as of this writing. Still, it’s rare to see any degree of adaptive refresh rates in phones at this price. Smooth scrolling is usually the hallmark of an expensive device, so I was pleasantly surprised in a recent demo session to find that interacting with the A53 felt similar to using more expensive phones like the S22. There are some signs that it’s not quite as premium as Samsung’s top phones, with a notable bezel around the display.

Samsung puts a lot of emphasis on its camera innovations, and the A series has benefited from that. In 2022, that means another quad-camera system – take that, iPhone SE. The main 64-megapixel sensor has optical image stabilization and an f/1.8 aperture, which works alongside a 12MP fixed-focus ultra-wide camera, and two 5MP sensors: one for depth detection and another for macro shooting.

Samsung’s briefing rooms aren’t the best place for an impromptu photoshoot, but with a high-res primary camera, I was pleasantly surprised at the detail I captured from some of the set dressing. When lighting was consistent, I was able to take some sharp shots of other attendees, with an array of filters to add while using the camera app. (These filters are also now available across the A53’s other cameras.)

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The camera system benefits from the new 5nm Exynos 1280 Octa-core processor inside the phone, Samsung says the power of this new chip made its AI-augmented night mode shooting possible. The A53 can draw together 12 frames and create a more stable (hopefully more detailed) single image. The A53 can also adjust video capture frame rates to improve shot quality. You’ll also get some of the most recent Samsung photo editing features, like Object Eraser and Photo Remaster to help salvage more of your shots.

Samsung says improvements from the new processor should be felt elsewhere, too, claiming a 43 percent increase in GPU performance and a 31 percent boost in AI processes. (Like the aforementioned night mode.)

Yes, the design is very similar to last year’s A52, but the introduction of 5G and a more powerful chip could ensure that this device is more future-proof than its predecessor. Samsung promises four years of software updates, and both new A-series phones will come with the latest version of its One UI – which is currently making its way to the rest of the Galaxy phone range.

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Samsung’s approach to affordable mid-range phones stands in contrast to how Apple reintroduced the iPhone SE earlier this month. And yet, the phones will inevitably face comparisons. Samsung has gone to great lengths to ensure the A53 fits in alongside the S22 and the S22 Ultra both design-wise and when it comes to cameras. Meanwhile, Apple’s iPhone SE keeps a classic design but pairs it with a powerful cutting-edge chip found in its most-expensive devices. Preferences on iOS versus Android notwithstanding, it could come down to whether you want a new phone with a big screen, or one that easily fits into your pocket.

The Galaxy A53 5G will be available for preorder on April 1st across T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, with the phone launching on April 8th. Besides carriers, you’ll get the choice of white and black color options, as well as new powder blue and peach hues, if you’re looking for something a little different.

Feast your eyes on the new green iPhone 13 and 13 Pro

It's Apple pre-order day, and not just for the M1-powered iPad Air or the latest iPhone SE. At its "Peek Performance" event this week, Apple unveiled new green versions of the iPhone 13 series, bringing the total number of colors for the non-Pro models to six. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are now available in five shades, and you can now pre-order this new "Alpine Green" version on Apple's website.

While the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13's new hues look earthier and closer to a leafy green, the Pro flagships come with a sort of frosted finish that helps them better reject smudges. It also makes the color a little paler and adds a metallic sheen.

There's nothing else different about these new iPhones. They're last year's iPhone 13s, but green. Intrigued? Then take a look at these pictures I took of the new gadgets under different lighting conditions. 

I have included photos of the two new iPhone 13s alongside other green phones like the sage Pixel 5 and the Pixel 5a. The latter's official color is called "Mostly Black," but it definitely feels more like "Off Green." My favorite is still the pastel green iPhone 12, which will reign in my heart as the best verdant gadget. At least, until someone comes up with a Matcha-colored (or flavored) phone. Or lime. Or pandan. You're welcome for the color inspiration, phone makers.

Samsung Galaxy S22 review: Sprucing up a solid foundation

A lot of gadgets operate on a "tick-tock" development cycle, with the most well-known being past iPhones that sported fresh designs, only to be replaced 12 months later by more refined but similar-looking S variants. And after Samsung ticked the box with a fresh new design for last year's S21, now the company has returned with the more polished Galaxy S22 and S22+. While they might look a lot like last year's phones, there have been some notable upgrades, especially on the S22's display, performance and camera.

Design

Even though I'm still not sure how much I love Samsung's Contour Cut camera design, the Galaxy S22 very much looks and feels like a high-end device. The outside of the phone features Samsung's Armor Aluminum alloy that's been polished to a near-mirror finish, with the S22 also being one of the first phones equipped with Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus+ to protect the phone from drops and scratches — both in front and in back.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

To add a little spice to the mixture, the S22's backside sports a lovely matte texture – which does a surprisingly good job of resisting fingerprints. And for 2022, Samsung also spruced up the S22's color options with new shades of green, pink and white, along with good ole black.

Like previous Galaxy S phones, the S22 comes with an ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader, and after years of tweaking its algorithm and improving the tech, this time it feels seriously fast. In my experience, unlocking the phone was practically instant, and I never really ran into recognition issues unless my fingers were legit wet or greasy. (Keep your grubby hands away from my phone if you're eating pizza, k thnx.)

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The one thing avid movie watchers should be aware of though is the color-matched frames on the pink and white models. If you're the kind of person that might be bothered by a glint or sparkle around the edge of the phone while watching videos, you may want to go with one of the darker color options.

And while it's not really a surprise at this point, the S22 doesn't feature a microSD card slot or a headphone jack. With the Galaxy S line now being three generations removed from the last device to include both of those features, it's pretty clear they're not coming back.

Display

Samsung has had a lock on the crown when it comes to making the best mobile displays in the business for a while now. But on the S22, the company has outdone itself once again with displays that can hit a peak brightness of 1,300 nits on the S22, or an astounding 1,750 nits on the S22+. Suffice to say any fears of the S22's screen being hard to read even in direct sunlight are unfounded.

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Then, to make things look even better, Samsung created a new feature called Vision Booster designed to amp up things like contrast and color saturation in very bright or dim conditions. While there's no indicator or pop-up that lets you know it's working, I found the effect most pronounced when I used the phone outdoors, with more subtle changes in the dark when compared to phones like the Pixel 6 Pro. I found Vision Booster made dark scenes easier to parse, but even when viewed side-by-side, I basically had to press my face up against the phones to really see the differences.

But regardless of where you are, the end result is a display that lives in technicolor, pumping out vivid shades and hues, along with the perfectly dark inky blacks that make OLED screens so enthralling. Plus, thanks to a 2,340 x 1,080 resolution and a variable 120Hz refresh rate, everything from photos to gifs look sharp and crisp.

Performance

The Galaxy S22 line is one of the first phones to feature Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, which when combined with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (or 256GB if you opt for the upgrade) results in a phone that feels blisteringly fast. In my experience, there isn't really anything you can throw at the S22 that makes it even sweat, aside from stuff like hardcore multitasking when connected to an external monitor via Samsung Dex (which is still very much a thing).

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

And while some reports claim that Qualcomm's Snapdragon Gen 8 Gen 1 has a proclivity for running hot, S22's built-in vapor chamber cooling system seems effective at keeping throttling to a minimum. Compared to the S21 FE, which features an older Snapdragon 888 chip, our S22+ posted scores in Geekbench 5's Compute test around 25 percent higher (4,708 vs 5,999). And while the gap wasn't quite as large in Geekbench 5's CPU test, the S22+ still posted a significantly higher single-core score of 1,213 compared to 1,061 for the S21 FE.

As for wireless connectivity, all versions of the S22 and S22+ support all the important flavors of 5G, including Verizon and AT&T's new C-band spectrum.

Cameras

After recent advancements from competitors like the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6, Samsung is now playing catchup to Apple and Google in the camera department. And while Samsung is touting a bunch of new camera features for the S22 and S22+ like Adaptive Pixel and various "Nightography" improvements, the real upgrades are the S22's new sensors — particularly the one for its 50MP main cam.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Thanks to that significantly higher resolution (up from 12MP on the S21), photos from the S22's main wide-angle camera are just flat-out sharper than before. But more importantly, the S22's primary camera offers wider dynamic range and big improvements for low-light photos. In darker scenes, the S22 uses a four-to-one pixel binning technique that combines four adjacent pixels into one big pixel, which allows for improved light sensitivity. The result is brighter photos with richer colors, especially at night. And even though Google's Night Sight still has a slight advantage over Samsung's Night Mode, the S22 has seriously narrowed the gap.

Elsewhere, you also get a solid 12MP ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree field of view, and a 10MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom, the latter of which is important because neither the standard iPhone 13 or Pixel 6 comes with a dedicated zoom lens. So once again, the base S22 is the most well-rounded camera phone for the money. And in front, the 10MP selfie camera captured crisp pictures of my face including my many pores and blemishes, though you can always play around with Samsung's beauty settings if you want to put on a smoother face for social media.

Where things get frustrating is that some of the S22's new camera features are often hard to use, or even tell when they're working — with the main offender being Samsung's Adaptive Pixel feature. Adaptive Pixel uses multi-frame image capture to shoot pics using the main sensor's full resolution along with lower-res pixel-binned shots, before merging them together to create a higher-quality composite final image. The issue is that Adaptive Pixel isn't turned on by default, and searching the phone's settings for it doesn't return any matches.

To even activate this, you need to first make sure Samsung's scene optimizer is on, then you have to turn on the camera app's full 50MP capture mode, make sure the Detail Enhancer setting is disabled, and then point the S22 at a dark scene and hope Adaptive Pixel kicks in. And I do mean hope, because there's no pop-up or notification that lets you know when the feature is activated. Even when you do get it to work, while the pictures are a bit sharper and feature a more neutral color profile (which is better for anyone who wants to edit their pics later), Adaptive Pixel doesn't really produce magically superior images like Samsung's marketing may have led you to believe.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That's kind of a shame after all the attention Adaptive Pixel got during the S22's debut at Samsung's recent Unpacked event. Thankfully, other new camera features like Auto Framing work as advertised, allowing the phone to track up to 10 people's faces when capturing video, while Samsung's Advanced OIS ensures that your clips look smooth and shake-free. The company's AI Stereo Depth Map technique also makes the phone a bit better at differentiating between your subject's face and the background in portrait mode, though you may have to do some serious zooming in to really see the difference.

In short, I like a lot of the changes Samsung has made to the S22's camera setup, raising its general photo prowess, even if some of the phone's new software don't quite live up to expectations.

Software

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The Galaxy S22 line comes with Samsung's One UI 4.0, which is based on Android 12. That means because it has long supported features like scrolling screenshots, the main upgrades in Samsung's latest Android skin are the new Privacy Dashboard and customization options for your home screen, app icons and the phone's UI. Similar to what's available in Google's Pixel phones, the customizations allow you to set a consistent color palette across your phone's menu, while new mic and camera notifications make sure you know when apps are accessing critical hardware components.

Other software upgrades include Live Sharing in Google Duo, which is a Samsung-exclusive feature that lets you share your screen during video chats. It's simple and effective, even if it's not quite as full-featured as Apple's SharePlay in iOS 15. And for those looking to keep better track of digital documents like your ID, credit cards, and even digital car keys, Samsung also made a new Digital Wallet that can securely store all those things in one place.

Battery life

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Featuring 3,700 and 4,500 mAh batteries respectively, both the S22 and S22+ have respectable longevity. But if lasting a long time between charges is really important for you, the S22+ is definitely the better pick as it lasted 17 hours and 33 minutes on our local video rundown test, compared to just 14 hours and 47 minutes for the standard S22. And thanks to its 45W wired charging (up from 25W charging on the S22), the S22+ juices up way faster too. In both cases though, you'll need to make sure you have the proper power brick, as neither phone comes with a charging adapter in the box.

S22 vs S22+

Aside from the obvious differences in screen size (6.1 inches vs. 6.6 inches) and overall dimensions (5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches and 5.9 ounces vs. 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches and 6.9 ounces), there are a few other features that separate the S22 and S22+. The S22 is limited to 25-watt wired charging while the S22+ gets 45-watt wired charging, with both phones also featuring 15W Qi wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging (aka wireless power share).

Other differences include slightly faster WiFi speeds on the S22+ thanks to support for WiFi 6E (compared to standard WiFi 6 for the S22). The S22+ also has built-in UWB connectivity, which isn't available on the S22. UWB is one of many protocols used to send files to other devices wirelessly via Nearby Share, though that's not really a big deal since Nearby Share still works, albeit less swiftly, over WiFi and Bluetooth. The other consideration is that for people looking to use digital car keys from automakers like BMW and others, those often work better and have longer ranges using UWB compared to NFC, which might make the S22+ a better choice for more tech-savvy new car buyers.

Wrap-up

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The Galaxy S22 isn't a huge improvement or departure from last year's phone, but just like an "S-year" iPhone, Samsung has tweaked and elevated all the phone's most critical components. You're getting a more refined design, improved performance, a sharper main cam with better low-light photography and an even brighter screen. And that's saying something from the king of mobile displays.

Sure, some features like Vision Booster and Adaptive Pixel are more subtle or harder to use than I'd like, but putting all this in a chassis sporting excellent build quality and other premium features like IP68 dust and water resistance, reverse wireless charging and more is a formula that's hard not to like. And with a starting price of $800 for the standard S22, you're getting more phone for the money than anything you can buy from Apple or Google.