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Smartphone Awards 2019 Ft. MKBHD (Marques Brownlee)
What’sup guys MKBHD here. Welcome to the smartphone Awards 2019. I’m your host Marques Brownlee and welcome to the show.
So, 2019 was a really interesting year for smartphones in a lot of ways. I think it’s really easy to get. So we’ve got a ton of smartphones which came out during the year 2019 and some of these are gonna win some awards today.
The way this works is we have a bunch of categories and each category will get an overall winner which has a trophy associated with it and if there’s a worthy one will have a runner-up and possibly some honourable mentions.
So without any further ado let’s just get right into it.
See Also: Smartphone Awards of 2018 Ft. MKBHD
Category No. 1 – The Best Big Smartphone | Smartphone Awards 2019
The first award of the night is for the best big phone. Now almost every phone on the desk is probably bigger than every phone from the desk the way it would have looked five years ago. But this award is for the one that makes the best use of that extra space that has the best big phone features.
To have a certain favourite in mind the best big phone for 2019 it’s gonna go to the Asus ROG Phone II.
So this phone absolutely crushed in the specs department and that was no surprise but they’re also a ton of other big phone features that I loved about it – the Snapdragon 855, 12 gigs of RAM we’ve all seen that, but then the huge high res 120 Hertz OLED display on the front with no notch. We got dual front-facing speakers; we have a headphone jack in this phone; a dual camera set up on the back and to top it all off they tossed in a gigantic 6,000mah battery.
You know this is a gaming phone. This is the second generation of the ROG phones that came out this year and a lot of these features and specs that I keep saying are to make the gaming experience better. The dual front-facing speakers are to make for better gaming. The high refresh rate huge OLED display is to make better gaming. The huge battery for better gaming.
All of these things, as I’ve said in the review, also contribute to making an awesome media experience and just an overall great smartphone. So, the best overall big phone for sure this year.
I have an honourable mention or a sort of runner-up. My runner-up for the best big phone of the year is one that’s perennially been one of the best uses of big phone space for a while. Now not a lot of phones can have a stylus and a 4000 million power plus battery. You already know what I’m talking about – that is gonna be the Galaxy Note 10+.
Huge battery, big phone features, big phone design and a stylus on top of it all. They got rid of the headphone jack but that’s maybe the only complaint about the way they put this thing together.
Category No. 2 – The Best Compact Smartphone | Smartphone Awards 2019
Alright, so the next category is the best Compact Smartphone and I’ve sort of mentioned this before that probably every phone on this desk is bigger than every phone from five years ago.
There are some phones that came out this year where the screen itself is bigger than the whole phone for previous years. But that hasn’t stopped some manufacturers from still focusing on a relatively compact smartphone experience. This is all about the best use of small space.
So my winner for the best compact smartphone for 2019 is the Samsung Galaxy S10e.
The S10e kind of flew on the radar for a lot of us this year. It came out alongside the S10 and S10 Plus but this was the less expensive version of that phone that made almost no sacrifices. The things that did leave out were, in my opinion, the less important 3rd telephoto camera and then it also moved the fingerprint reader from under the glass to the thumb button which on a smaller phone is actually much easier to reach and it was a really really fast one. So it was convenient didn’t feel like a loss. Of course, you still have that pole punch cut out in the top right-hand corner. Still an awesome display; still high in specs; still good battery life and on top of all that it kept the headphone jack which was pretty great for a lot of people.
So the Galaxy S10e is gonna be my pick for the best compact phone of the year.
There is a runner up as well and it’s a phone that’s perennially over and over again one of the ones that make the least sacrifices between a small version and the big version of the phone. You probably already know what I’m talking about and that’s the iPhone11 Pro
The only difference between the iPhone 11 Pro and the 11 Pro Max is smaller battery and smaller screen. Everything else the same cameras, the same specs, the same software, all the same features or all this on the iPhone.
This is a legitimate flagship at a smaller size and a smaller price than the bigger phone. So in a world where most phones these days are much bigger than any of their previous brothers were we got some good ones.
Yes, the overall winner for the compact smartphone of the year for 2019 is Samsung Galaxy S10e.
Category No. 3 – The Best Smartphone Camera | Smartphone Awards 2019
Alright, the next award category is the best smartphone camera and this is probably my favourite category. There were a bunch of really good and really interesting smartphone cameras that came out this year.
The best and most versatile overall smartphone camera and that’s gonna go to the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
That’s for two reasons: number one it has multiple focal lengths; it has the ultra-wide camera as a standard camera and the telephoto, and number two for prowess in both photos and videos on all three cameras.
It’s kind of funny we’ve always had this thought that iPhones are usually either at the best or some of the best smartphone cameras on the market. The competition definitely caught up.
But this year the iPhone 11 Pro took some of the biggest steps forward over the previous year and that’s especially in the image processing department. We’re talking about the new low light mode; we’re talking better portrait mode; the computational photography movement has been led in the last two years or so and the iPhone is right near the front of that now and especially that versatility.
Now I’m gonna give a runner up and it’s the one that I actually think typically takes, to me, slightly better photos than the iPhone 11 Pro but that’s in some situations.
I’m talking about Google Pixel 4.
It’s not gonna be my winner because it doesn’t take very good videos, but it doesn’t have the best microphone in the world and it doesn’t have an ultra-wide camera. The photos that it takes, for the most part, are typically a little bit contrasty and punchier. Either way computational photography, again a very strong point and one of the best points of this phone, pixel four is my runner-up for best smartphone camera of the year.
Of course, I’m gonna give an honourable mention or two here. One to the Huawei Mate 30 Pro.
I got this one later in the year and it didn’t come to the US. I haven’t even reviewed it but I did like taking photos with it. Often very sharp very detailed photos you have. A quad camera set up on the back and I like this a lot.
Another shoutout to another honourable mention is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
Those are your smartphone notables in the camera department and the winner overall for the best camera for 2019 is the iPhone 11 Pro.
Category No. 4 – The Best Battery Award | Smartphone Awards 2019
So the next up category is the best smartphone battery for 2019. This one’s pretty simple. You just have to have the best battery life or the best combination of battery and fast charging or wireless charging whatever the solution is it’s got to give the best power experience.
I didn’t have much of a choice for this one. My best battery life for 2019 and any smartphone is gonna go to the Asus ROG Phone II.
This one, as I said, had a six thousand million power battery which is pretty much part one to the recipe for any great smartphone battery. It doesn’t have wireless charging and it has decently fast charging.
If you turn the refresh rate of this 120Hertz OLED down to 90 Hertz, you were getting like a day and a half out of this thing. And if you turn it down to 60Hertz, which you probably never would really want to, but if you had to you could get two days of battery out of this phone easily confidently which I cannot say about any other phone here. This had the best battery of any phone that I’ve used in a long time.
Now I have a runner-up for this category as well. That’s gonna go to a phone that really takes advantage of having a very low power draw display and just cranking battery. It’s even better than it was last year.
I’m talking, of course, about the iPhone 11, successor to the already incredible battery life version iPhone XR.
This is like the middle child and the iPhone family. Great battery life from an iPhone and we love to see that.
I’m gonna give an honourable mention as well – this isn’t the best battery life in any phone but this is gonna go to the fastest charging phone that I’ve ever seen that the world has ever seen because it’s the fastest one you’ve ever had.
That is the Oppo Reno Ace.
They might not have heard of this phone. It’s not the biggest baddest flagship from Oppo this year but they did include what they’re calling what’s called SuperVOOC 2.0. It’s 65watt fast charging and that’ll bring this battery from zero dead to a hundred per cent full in about thirty minutes – which is incredible.
There are a couple of other smartphones that had forty-five hundred, five thousand million power batteries, pretty big ones, but those are your winners. Those are your notables in the battery department for this year with the best overall battery going to the Asus ROG Phone II.
Category No. 5 – The Best Design Award | Smartphone Awards 2019
The next category is the design award and this sort of has shifted over the past couple years. You know sometimes the design award is the best build quality in a phone or maybe it should just mean like the best overall nicest design with the least compromises. Maybe there are some other ways to think about it but we’re going back to our roots here with a design award.
This is gonna go to what I think is the most important design of this year and that’s this guy it’s the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
This is the fun one and I think I have no doubt in my head this is the most interesting phone to come out during this year and potentially we’ll look back at it as the most important. So, of course, the first Galaxy Fold that never actually shipped to customers ended up breaking but that one ever actually sold. The one that actually came out a couple of months later, version two, that did actually sell to customers was around $2,000.
It was not very popular. It didn’t sell a whole ton but it’s, of course, the first of its kind. I think when you look around at the other phones that came out this year all of which had their own merits for being great in their own ways. This one was one of the only ones that gave you the possibility of putting a bigger screen in your pocket in the same footprint and that concept that I’m looking forward to seeing in generation two and generation three of and looking forward to seeing other companies takes of was one of the most fascinating parts of looking at smartphones this year.
I think a lot of other people would agree with that especially when you look at the landscape of phones we have now so I love the concept I love the risk that they took and execution was not bad. That’s the design Award winner.
I do also have a runner-up and that’s a phone that also came out this year and didn’t necessarily take big risks but was a nice fresh take on something that I really like to see.
And that is the smaller version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.
Here we got a Note 10+ and a Note 10. This smaller one is the first Note that they’ve made that you can really reach the entire screen at once. It still has that stylus in it. It still has that sweet ora glow look, the awesome display, the boxy shape and the little hole punch cut out.
So Galaxy Note 10 my runner-up in the design department but the winner overall for a design award for 2019 is Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Category No. 6 – The Best Budget Phone | Smartphone Awards 2019
Ok so next up is the budget phone category. The best budget phone of the year. Now it’s funny we look at smartphones and yes one of the themes as they’ve gotten much more expensive over the course of the last year – we have thousand-dollar phones we have 1500 to $2,000 phones here. We’re actually looking at one of the most competitive categories yet for this one, I think the top two could easily be interchangeable.
But my winner for the best budget phone for 2019 is gonna go to the Redmi K20 Pro.
There are a couple of different variants of this phone that came out in different markets but this one started at $299. That was one of the biggest things I raved about in the review and that was sort of a natural feeling was wow you get some seriously high-end specs; you get a big notch-less display; you get a popup camera; you still get a headphone jack; you get a triple camera set up on the back and a pretty decent sized battery for a such a low price – for a fraction of the cost of a lot of other phones.
A lot of people that bought this phone this year really liked it and it was a sort of a phantom successor to the famous Poco Phone from last year. But it’s not alone in this category for being really really good for the price. I’m gonna hang on to this and pick up my runner-up almost like their co-winners because they’re really that close and could go either way.
My runner-up for the best budget phone of 2019 Google’s Pixel 3a.
This was a $400 phone at launch and this took a very different approach to what the balance was for features for the price. What the pixel really focused on was an incredible camera. It had the same camera as the Pixel 3 which won our camera award from the last year and also, of course, the stock Google experience. It had a lot of the same benefits of any other Pixel like quick software updates, pure Google experience, etc. The build quality wasn’t necessarily amazing but she still got the headphone jack. You got a pretty decent battery and it was a lot of what people were looking for and just a simple inexpensive phone.
These two phones were great this year and I do have some other honourable mentions. As far as the best of the best for budget phones the $300 Redmi K20 Pro and the $400 are Pixel 3a were pretty sweet.
I’m also gonna bring up the OnePlus 7T.
This was a more expensive phone. It’s around the $700 mark but this was giving you all the same performance and features and speed as those thousand-dollar phones and was consistently looked at as some of the best banks for the buck in the smartphone world for all of this year.
I’m also gonna give a shout-out to the Motorola One Hyper.
This is actually a late edition came out just a few weeks ago this year. This is also a really great phone for 400 bucks hasn’t gotten a review yet but that may also be worth reviewing.
That’s been it. A lot of great competition in the budget area this year and that sort of stratify as this world the smartphones where now you have stuff going from $300 to $2,300 and you start to see the differences more.
The overall winner for budget phone for 2019 was your Redmi K20 Pro.
Category No. 7 – The Biggest Bust Phone | Smartphone Awards 2019
All right bust of the year and you hate to give that a negative award at an award show right but there’s always some pillars that stick out about a year. Smartphones that are disappointments and that are phones you shouldn’t buy.
So we do have a bust of the year for 2019. Now I will preface this by saying the sentiment about a phone is not necessarily just about how good or bad that phone is, it often also takes account how good that phone could have been. The expectations for what a phone might have been and is capable of being minus reality. You can probably see where I’m going with this.
The bust of the year for 2019 – it is Google Pixel 4.
The Pixel 4 is not necessarily at all the worst phone you can buy. It’s not the worst phone on this desk but it did have the biggest delta between what people expected of a new pixel and what she actually got. So with a new pixel we, of course, all know to expect a great camera, the latest and greatest of the Google software experience and we did get that but they started off the bet within the pretty underwhelming design; with that forehead and then we started having problems. We had 90 Hertz issues. We had them battery problems that came with that we had motion sense not being very good and then, of course, there is the no-ultra wide camera. There was no 4K 60 in video mode. There’s not a very good microphone.
Just you combine all these things on top of a launch price which was around $900 it sort of spoke out to the world that it’s competing against all these other high-end flagships but it didn’t deliver on a lot of the things that we expect from a high-end flagship. So the Pixel has a really great camera and it’s sort of a phone that’s gonna go into the radar because of the things that it was a let down on but because of that delta between what we expected from a new Pixel and what we got. That’s the bust of the year.
Now I also do have a runner-up for the bust of the year and it’s just a straight-up bad phone. It’s a phone you shouldn’t buy. It’s a phone that almost shouldn’t have existed.
I first saw it at CES where it became very clear that they were just rushing to come out with the first of its kind – the first folding phone and it finally did come out and it never should have.
This is the Royole FlexPi.
I kind of feel bad for anyone who actually bought one of these. This phone clearly still looks and feels like a prototype of a folding display that doesn’t necessarily have a mess to be used by real people, but you could get one. That’s about all I can say about it is you could get one and it wasn’t very good. Not a great battery, not a great camera, not a great OS or software experience, not a great design, not a great look or feel in the hand. Even putting it in your pocket is not a comfortable phone to use or hold with one hand or two; open or closed. Nothing good about the Royole FlexPi but really it’s just a bad overall phone. So that’s my runner up but the bust of the year overall for 2019 is the Google Pixel 4.
See Also: Which Smartphone was the Bust of 2018?
Category No. 8 – Most Improved Phone Award | Smartphone Awards 2019
Okay back to the positive Awards. The next up category is the most improved award and I love the most improved player. This is always a story that’s fun. When you see something come out last year and you don’t necessarily have high hopes for the new one and then boom big strides forward and big improvements. You love to see that.
So my winner for most improved award for 2019 is gonna go to Asus ROG Phone II.
This is I think the third trophy of the night for Asus. So a little mini round of applause. They’re the reason this is winning the most improved award. This is the second generation in their gaming phones from the ROG Phone One. The reason this is the most improved is not just because the specs – you know of course they nailed the specs. You have a huge battery, you have the new 120 Hertz OLED and you have the Snapdragon 855 but the reason it’s the most improved is that they take a legitimate risk with the software experience.
Well, some might not say risk this is a suggestion that I gave to them from the first one but a lot of people including me said that Zen UI on the first ROG phone was a little bit over the top and they heard us and in this ROG phone you have the choice between that Zen UI or a much cleaner standard version of Android and give you that choice out the box and for the entire life that you use this phone you can choose between the two.
That was them listening and responding to some real feedback and that made this phone much better. For me, I could use this phone daily and love it every single day. Cameras are not that great and maybe the one most improved again and improved the camera but I really like what they did with the software on the ROG Phone II. So that is why it’s gotten the most improved award.
I do of course have a runner-up for this category and I think flies under the radar for the improvements that they typically make and that’s gonna go to iPhone 11 Pro.
The reason this wins the runner up for most improved is because of the cameras. The new camera suite you get; the new lenses; the new perspectives; the new improve quality and the big battery gains from the iPhone 10s to the 11 and the 11 Pro Max having the biggest battery gains of them, also getting rid of 3d touch was a big reason for that. But big-time battery gains and big-time camera gains are important places to have gains and that’s why they have a most improved runner up.
But of course, the winner for the most improved award for 2019 is that Asus ROG Phone.
Category No. 9 – The Smartphone of the Year – The MVP | Smartphone Awards 2019
So that brings us to the end which is the big award of the night – this is the MVP. It’s the smartphone of the year for 2019. Now some big pillars standing here – there’s important phones; there are important designs; there are improvements being made left and right. We have a big choice to make for the smartphone of the year and this doesn’t necessarily go to the best overall smartphone that you should buy right now.
But this goes to one that has I think the best combination of all. Its attributes that came out this year in a bunch of different departments.
So I’m talking about my winner which is the OnePlus 7Pro this phone is my MVP. My smartphone of the year.
By all accounts, the OnePlus 7Pro was the most liked smartphone of the year. It was followed up later in the year by the 7T and a 7T Pro which didn’t come to the US. But the Oneplus 7 Pro that kicked those all off felt like the best most complete smartphone of the year.
It had the Snapdragon an 855 top-of-the-line, tons of RAM, the specs were great. Then you have a full-screen high res AMOLED display with no notch thanks for the pop-up selfie camera. The cameras I think being the worst part of the phone is a good thing to say because they’re not that bad. They’re below what you’d find in like $1000 phone but they’re pretty ok. And then a solid battery, very fast charging, a great software experience from OnePlus and the 90 Hertz. 90 Hertz is really where this phone started to separate itself because now we’re starting to see a divide between smartphones don’t have high refresh rate and smartphones that do and it’s becoming this thing to follow. How low does it get at a price or where do we see these 90Hertz displays popping up and I think next year you’re gonna start to see a lot of the ones that didn’t get on the bandwagon get on that bandwagon.
It might be the year of 1920 Hertz screens in phones but this is where that started and this really proved that that experience does matter. On top of all that this was not a thousand-dollar phone. This one dropped in below 800 bucks so it was undercutting them in price proving you don’t have to spend a thousand bucks to get a really great smartphone experience. In a lot of ways, it was a better smartphone experience than some of the more expensive ones.
So this is the phone I use for a good amount of this year I am now using its sequel the 7T Pro – the predecessor or the successor. But that is my MVP that is gonna be the winner for the smartphone of the year for 2019.
But I do have some runner ups and that’s the Galaxy Fold.
Again one of the most interesting phones in a really long time and sort of proving that this is the beginning of a potentially long line of new form factors.
Then I have some honourable mentions, of course, I want to give a shoutout again to the Pixel 3a as a potential smartphone of the year.
This, for a lot of people, is a great reason to buy a phone that’s less than 400 bucks. I hope the Pixel 4 continues and picks up with a 3a left off.
I also give a shout-out to the iPhone 11Pro taking major strides forward in a lot of areas.
Now I’m still really looking forward to the 2020 iPhone but the games we made with camera and battery make this, I think, the most worthy of a Pro name in any of the smartphones. we have that came out this year.
So iPhone 11 Pro is gonna get that honourable mention for MVP but of course, the winner for most valuable player most valuable smartphone is gonna go to the OnePlus 7 Pro.
So that’s it. Those are the awards for 2019. I think maybe when we started this and we look back at you know all the phones that came out this year it’s really easy to see them all as this uniform of all these glass sandwiches. But now it’s more clear than ever. There’s something for everyone. There’s something whether you’re interested in cameras or the best possible big phone or you want a compact phone, whether you have to have the best battery experience whatever. It is really hard to buy a bad new phone now in 2019.
There are even phones on this desk that didn’t win awards that are still really good in a lot of ways so I’m happy about the choices we’ve got and I’m pretty happy with the awards.
That’s been it for the awards show. This has been my Awards for the best smartphones of 2019.
[Video] Smartphone Awards 2019!
Let me know in comments below which phone you think should be the MVP – the best smartphone of 2019. Also, you can be specific with any category that we’ve just talked about. Out of 5 stars, how many stars you’ll give to Marques for this Smartphone Awards 2019.