Inputs compiled by Anuj Bhatia, Shruti Dhapola, Faisal Mohammed, Sneha Saha and Hansa Verma
The best flagship phone: Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
To the casual observer, it may have seemed that Apple was playing catch-up with rivals with 2019’s iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. But Apple completely redefined the experience this time and the Pro Max is the flagship winner. The iPhone 11 series was a big leap in terms of overall packaging, even if the design may not look so different from the front.
Apple finally implemented the ultra-wide camera on both the iPhone 11 and Pro variants, but it was one of the best seen in the market. It’s Night Mode further enhanced the photography department and the addition of Deep Fusion technology showed how it was pushing the camera’s boundaries on the basis of its A13 Bionic chipset.
Further proof of the iPhone 11 Pro’s processing power can be seen from the fact that it is capable of shooting videos with all four cameras simultaneously (three at the back and the selfie camera on the front). That’s something which no other flagship offers till date. But perhaps the best part of the new iPhone series was the all-day battery life, even on the Pro Max, thus solving a major issue for many Apple users. Yes, the iPhone remains an aspirational device for many in India. But as the iPhone 11 series showed, it was certainly back at the top of the pack.
Flagship that maintained the standard: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
The Galaxy Note 10 this time came in two variants: the regular and the Note 10+ and Samsung continues to maintain the standard with this series. The Note 10+ was an improvement on all fronts, adding more to the S Pen with Air Gestures and more Bluetooth capabilities. The S Pen remains a feature that no other flagship offers and Samsung’s execution is so flawless that no one is likely to come close anytime soon.
The Note 10+ had a slightly bigger display this time, but then this is the series that started the trend of the big screen phone. The design, the performance, the extra large 4300 mAh battery and the four cameras, Samsung ticked all the boxes with the Note 10+ making it the ideal upgrade for its loyal Note fanbase.
The phone that stood out the most: Samsung Galaxy Fold
If there was a phone that got everyone excited about the foldable form factor, it has to be the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Yes, it had a rough start when it first went on sale in April with trouble over the screen, but Samsung did eventually manage to sort out those issues and the Galaxy Fold was back on sale by September, and was eventually launched in India by October.
The Galaxy Fold set the standard for what to expect in a foldable phone. As we noted in our review, Samsung managed to ensure that “this was a very compact smartphone” which fit perfectly in the user’s hand “despite its thick build” when it was folded. The company nailed the user interface as well on the newer foldable form factor, which will be crucial in the future.
Despite the price tag of Rs 1,64,999, the Galaxy Fold certainly showed that a foldable phone could be popular and even managed to sell out in the first days in India. No, Samsung might not have sold one million units of this yet, but it has big plans for the foldable series. In 2020, Samsung is expected to showcase two new versions of the foldable phone and all eyes will be on these.
Best value for money flagship: OnePlus 7 Pro, later OnePlus 7T Pro
The OnePlus series is usually much-anticipated because it offers a flagship phone at a mid-range price and the company has perfected this formula. In 2019, it had a slightly different approach: a OnePlus 7 Pro and a OnePlus 7.
The Pro variant was impressive on all accounts; a 90Hz display rate which put it ahead of the competition when it launched in May, a triple camera that was excellent and a smooth daily performance as always. The OnePlus 7 Pro was an impressive flagship smartphone from all accounts. Our team had no qualms recommending this to anyone who needed a flagship under Rs 50,000. The OnePlus 7T Pro variant builds on this, and remains an excellent choice as well.
Best mid-range premium flagship: OnePlus 7
While the OnePlus 7 Pro series was slightly more expensive, OnePlus 7 and later the 7T were more mid-range phones, which still had the premium looks and features.Both were excellent options for those looking to get a flagship under Rs 40,000.
OnePlus has managed to maintain quality when it comes to its phones by delivering on performance, camera, battery and software. Its steadfast performance is what makes this the best mid-range flagship.
Mid-range flagship that stood out: Redmi K20 Pro
The was the first time that Xiaomi’s Redmi brand entered the mid-range premium segment, and the Redmi K20 Pro was an excellent offering.
It ticked all the boxes on specifications, offered the ‘pop-up’ selfie camera, and a very stylish design. In performance too, the phone did not disappoint as we noted in our review.
Mid-range flagships with innovative cameras: Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
This segment is also about standing out, about giving the iPhones and Note 10s a run for their money.
With the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom, Oppo did that by offering an innovative camera with a 10x hybrid zoom feature, which no one else offered.
Vivo V17 Pro
This one has six cameras in total, four at the back and two at the front, which might have seemed an overkill, but Vivo V17 Pro delivered on the camera performance.
Be it low-light or regular light, the Vivo V17 Pro ensures some excellent shots, and given the price was under Rs 30,000, this made the deal even better.
Best mid-range budget phone: Redmi Note 7 Pro
Yes, we know Redmi Note 8 Pro is available in the market, but the Note 7 Pro has proved to be a best-seller for Xiaomi and was first launched back in February. It brought a much needed revamp to the Redmi Note series’ design, had an excellent processor and was one of the first phones under Rs 15,000 to offer a 48MP camera at the back, which worked very well.
In fact, this is still on our list of recommended devices, if you can get it. For its consistent performance throughout, the Redmi Note 7 Pro is the winner, though the new variant is just as impressive.
Runner up: Realme 3 Pro
Realme might have moved quickly from Realme 3 Pro to the Realme 5 Pro (skipping the 4-series), but the older device appealed to us more. With Realme 3 Pro, the brand challenged Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 7 Pro and proved to be a worthy competition.
Realme 3 Pro came with a 20W fast charger in the box, which most phones in this price range do not offer.The camera and general performance made this a value-for- money device.
Best camera phone: Redmi Note 8 Pro
The camera performance on mid-range phones is definitely a lot more impressive, though we aren’t quite sure if the four camera trend is needed. The winner here would be the Redmi Note 8 Pro, given it did improve the camera compared to the previous version. The macro camera, the Portrait performance, low-light performance and the 64MP camera were impressive as we found out in our review.
The only weak point was the ultra-wide, but that remains an issue on most phones, even those that cost more than Rs 20,000. Of course, this was not the first phone to offer a 64MP camera, the Realme XT did that first. But Redmi’s implementation of this was impressive, which is why it is the winner.
Best phone for performance: Realme XT
Realme XT definitely stands out when it comes to overall performance in the mid-range, thanks to 64MP quad rear cameras, Snapdragon 712 processor, 4,000mAh battery with fast charge support, and FHD+ screen. The stylish design should appeal to many users and the rear camera impresses with good photos even in low-light which a lot of devices in this price range struggle to get right.
The bigger battery helps get through one full day with moderate to heavy usage and it takes under an hour to get fully charged, thanks to fast charge support, which is among its strongest suits. Realme XT impressed with its real-life performance as well as it was fast with daily tasks and does not noticeably lag even while playing graphics-heavy games such as PUBG Mobile.
Best phone for battery: Galaxy M30s
Samsung knew it had to try something different this year as it faced a Chinese onslaught from Xiaomi and Realme, and its answer was the M series. But the Galaxy M30s was the most impressive of the lot considering it offered a 6000 mAh battery, something that no other phone has in this price range.
And the best part was that the phone was not heavy or bulky as a result of this, it weighed only 188 grams, less than the Redmi Note 8 Pro for reference. If you wanted a big battery and the 48MP triple camera, the M30s was an excellent bet.
Best phone for gaming under Rs 20,000: Realme X2
The Realme X2 is the latest phone from the Xiaomi rival and it is overall a good smartphone. One of the key highlights of the X2 is the chipset running it. The Realme X2 is powered by Qualcomm’s latest gaming chipset for mid-range smartphones, Snapdragon 730G paired with up to 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The Realme X2 handles both heavy GPU and basic games very well. The phone doesn’t lag at any given point.
It offers very good performance for the price it comes for, something that is rare to see in phones at the sub-Rs 20,000 price tag and that’s why we think this is ideal for gaming. The price of the phone starts at Rs 16,999 in India.
Best budget smartphone: Realme 3
Realme’s first launch in 2019 came with the Realme 3 that was priced under Rs 10,000. The phone turned out to be an all-rounder packing heavy specifications for its price point.
It ticked most of the right boxes while featuring a stylish design that stood out. The Realme 3 came with a good dual-rear camera setup and performed well with its Helio P70 processor as well making it a worthy choice.
Noise cancelling steals the thunder
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Headphones (wireless in particular) with anti noise cancellation (ANC) feature became an instant hit with consumers in 2019. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (Rs 34,500) stood out for its high-end audio technology. Think of it as a pair of smart headphones that lets you keep your head up to the world with easy access to voice assistants. Or confidently take a call with the most powerful microphone system for voice pickup.
And then there’s Bose AR, a first-of-its-kind audio augmented reality platform that makes astonishing new audio experiences possible. With controllable noise cancelling, optimised for voice assistants, and playing upto 20 hours —Bose continues to amaze us no end.
Skullcandy Crusher ANC
Then, there was Skullcandy Crusher ANC, a new feature-driven pair of headphones (Rs 24,999) that brings a unique active noise canceling experience to users. Crusher ANC unlocks dimensional sound through the combination of three innovative technologies: Skullcandy Sensory Bass, Active Noise Cancellation, and Personal Sound.
Said to be the only pair of headphones in the market to combine these three technologies, Crusher ANC is designed to take listeners deeper into their music and movies than ever before.