Feature Articles

Best of Mobile Gadgets: Tech Awards 2022 Editor's Choice Results (Part 1)

By Team HardwareZone - 15 Apr 2022

Best Premium Smartphone

Note: This article was first published on 7 April 2022.

Recognising the best in consumer technology

We are back with the 13th edition of our annual HardwareZone+HWM Tech Awards. As usual, we are kicking off our Tech Awards reporting with our Editor’s Choice segments. For this year’s Tech Awards, we tested a whopping 69 products that were released last year and leading up to February 2022. Because of the ongoing pandemic, which has led to parts shortages and shipping delays, product release/refresh lifecycles have been thoroughly disrupted. To accommodate for these, we have lengthened our qualification period to ensure every tested product category is accurately presented and evaluated.

Similar to previous editions, because of the sheer number of categories and products, we have split our reporting into four Editor’s Choice articles, beginning with Best Mobile Gadgets.

Best mobile gadgets (Tech Awards 2022)

We are returning to our schools and offices, and travel is slowly but steadily resuming. Now, more than ever, is the time to invest in the best tools to accompany you on your daily commutes and overseas trips. Notebooks are not only getting more powerful and lighter, but they are also running longer on battery power. As for phones, they are only getting more capable, with better performance and more capable camera systems. It’s not uncommon now to see some people rely exclusively on their phones to get work done when they are away from their desks. Smartwatches are also becoming more competent companions and are getting better at tracking our activities and health. 

For Tech Awards 2022, we have gathered and tested all the major devices that you need to get the most out of your time on the road. These are the award categories that the editors have assessed for this segment:-

  • Best Premium Smartphone
  • Best High-end Smartphone
  • Best Portable Projector
  • Best Smartwatch
  • Best Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Best True Wireless Earbuds
  • Best Ultraportable Notebook
  • Best Gaming Notebook
  • Innovation Awards

Other segments to be published later include Best devices for the Home, Office and Work, and Gaming. Not to forget, our Readers' Choice results for the Best Tech Brands. Watch out for our further coverage over the coming weeks.

Read on and find out what they are. For this segment, we begin with the most indispensable tool in our daily lives – the smartphone. It's so important that we've carved out two award categories just for phones.

 

Best Premium Smartphone

To say that the smartphone industry faces immense challenges is an understatement. With our new ways of life coming to a head, phone makers now have to contend with chip shortages, shipping and launch delays, and even more discerning consumers with evolved requirements at work, play, and everything else in between.

To make the cut, the phone has to be announced and/or released between March 2021 (after our previous Awards assessment) to January 2022 and has to be the brand's flagship offering that best embodies everything it has to offer - beyond just top phone specs and yet appeal to a majority of consumers. It can also include foldable-screen phones that are essentially a bar form-factor when fully open to competing with non-foldable counterparts.

Nominees:

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
  • Huawei P50 Pro

Before we talk about the comparison victor, we would like to clarify why some notable phones weren't part of the nomination list. While Huawei's P50 Pocket is also up for consideration given our new qualifying criteria, it's nearly $1k more expensive than the P50 Pro and doesn't offer much else other than scoring design points. As such, Huawei has chosen to compete in this comparison with their P50 Pro model. Elsewhere, Sony's Xperia Pro-I and Samsung's Z Fold 3 are both specialist devices that appeal to photography enthusiasts and tablet-like form factors respectively, and as such, not part of our main list of nominations.

 

And the winner is...

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 revived genuine interest in the future of smartphones by delivering on a combination of its palatable price tag, leading processor choices (for Singapore), its unique-yet-practical folding form factor, and undeniably, a premium experience one expects from paying top dollar for a phone.

Heck, the Galaxy Z Flip3 was able to single-handedly account for the massive foldable smartphone market we have at the end of 2021.

The foldable display form factor for phones is hardly new at this point (even Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip saw several iterations before it got awarded by us). So what did they do to win?

The Galaxy Z Flip3, despite its unique foldable display form factor, did not skimp out on must-haves for premium phones. If anything, Samsung took extra care to make sure its CAM mechanism is more robust than before, and still managed to include all the basics like NFC, IP-rated water resistance, and an eye-pleasing AMOLED display. It's also 5G-compatible too.

Surely, the massive improvements to One UI also create a high-quality user experience, but Samsung took extra UI care with additional special touches to make good use of its bigger 1.9-inch Cover Screen (even though we did wish it was even more useful at its launch).  It's a useful viewfinder for its rear cameras, it lets users add a personal touch to their devices, and offers basic yet crucial functionality like message previews and music control without needing to squint. 

The phone also performs respectably where it counts. Daily usage is smooth, performance is almost top-notch, and it has a reasonably long battery life for its form factor. Smart pricing strategies helped immensely too since it offered a complete premium package that's a good S$300 to S$800 lower than other premium alternatives that aren't as exciting to own.

It may not be the best shooter out of Samsung's stable, but a winner for our Best Premium Smartphone category doesn't go to a handset that earns top marks in only one arena; it needs to deliver across the board, and the Galaxy Flip3 does exactly that with the added pizazz in a folding display that feels less of a gimmick and more of a lifestyle choice. A high-quality, flagship-performing lifestyle choice no less.

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max deserves a special mention given the tough fight it put up. It took barely three months for the Apple contender to sit among the top 10 in phone sales for 2021, and that's considering how its rivals had much more time to clinch the other nine spots. But, Apple playing it safe meant that the accolade went to a rival that not only did better by its consumers, but also gave them a visible reason to appreciate the upgrade.

Scoring Breakdown
 

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Huawei P50 Pro

Design 9.0

9.5
(adjusted from 8.5)

9.0 7.5
Performance 10.0 8.5 8.5 8.0
Features 9.0 8.5 8.5 7.0
User-friendliness 9.0 8.5 8.5 3.0
Value 8.0

9.0
(adjusted from 8.5)

8.0 5.0
Overall 9.0

9.0
(adjusted from 8.5)

8.5 6.0
Price From S$1,799 From S$1,398 From S$1,599 From S$1,548

*Note: Prices and ratings listed are accurate at the time of individual product evaluation.

For more information on how the nominees fared in detail and thus helping us pick our winner, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References below.

 

References

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