Yes, it is that time of the year where we reflect on the good things in tech in the past twelve months. We start with the premium-most smartphones that were launched in India this year. In this article, we won’t bother with things like affordability or value for money but celebrate the best in the segment in terms of features and performance. I am sure you may have guessed some already, but let me formally introduce you to those we believe are the best flagship smartphones of 2023.
Best Flagship Smartphones of 2023
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
No surprises here. The premium-most model from the latest iPhone 15 series is yet again the ‘best iPhone ever’. The debate about lack of enough innovation may go on long into 2024, but there are a ton of tweaks, both major and minor, that make the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max worthy of being in this list. While the switch to USB-C may have grabbed all the headlines around its launch, the switch to a Titanium frame from stainless steel is a game changer in itself.
Having used the Apple iPhone 14 Pro long enough, the heaviness of the device hasn’t been lost on us. And now the sudden drop in weight without compromising on the build quality is commendable. Even better, iPhone 15 Pro Max is a lot less prone to fingerprints and smudge marks. The phone is powered by Apple’s latest A17 Bionic chip, world’s first 3nm smartphone chipset, which is a beast and yet energy efficient. It is powerful enough for anything you throw at it. You have storage options ranging from 256 GB to 1 TB.
The display is largely the same as its predecessor but with slightly slimmer bezels. The Dynamic Island continues to float on top. Though two of the three cameras on the 14 Pro Max have been carried forward, the quality of the output keeps going up. The new addition here is a 12MP periscope telephoto camera with OIS that now offers 5X optical zoom. Collectively they click some great shots in different modes and lighting. And the captured 4K videos are even better and stabilised with support for 10-bit HDR and Dolby Vision. Guess there’s enough going for this device to be one of the phones of the year.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Wherever there’s an Apple, there has to be a Samsung, no? The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a total package as far as Android smartphones are concerned. From raw performance to a camera system that will leave you in awe, this smartphone is everything that a flagship device needs to be. Be it a vibrant display, elegant design, powerful processor, a plethora of high quality cameras, it has it all, including the ‘noteworthy’ S Pen. No wonder it waltzed into this list.
The photography department here is even more packed than the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It is now helmed by a 200MP primary camera with multi-directional PDAF, laser auto-focus and OIS. Giving it company are a couple of 10MP telephoto cameras with OIS, one with 3X optical zoom and the other with a periscope telephoto lens for 10X optical zoom – one of the best in the business. There’s also a 12MP ultra-wide camera with dual-pixel PDAF. The cameras do a stellar job across the board in photography and videography both.
Given its Note DNA, it has a large 6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x display with HDR10+ compliance and 120 Hz refresh rate. It is powered by a custom Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip that has been overclocked and tuned specifically for this device. You get a generous 12 GB RAM and internal storage of 256 GB and beyond. The phone debuted with OneUI 5.1 based on Android 13, and Samsung has promised four more Android OS updates and 5 years of security updates, keeping this device relevant for a long time.
Google Pixel 8/ Pixel 8 Pro
We weren’t too pleased about the exorbitant pricing of the new Pixel 8 series phones, but as we stated at the start, that is not a factor in this article. With that out of the way, the Google Pixel 8 Pro remains a force for those looking for excellent cameras, timely software updates and of course, the pure Android experience. So what is the Pixel 8 (non-Pro) doing in this list, you ask? Well, though the Pro has a few extra bells and whistles, we like what the Pixel 8 brings to the table in a more compact form factor.
Both phones have the same Google Tensor G3 SoC, same 50MP main camera that does a fabulous job in all kinds of lighting and the same software with the promise of 7 years of updates. So if you do not want the extras that its larger sibling offers, the Pixel 8 is a proper compact flagship phone in itself. Speaking of extras, the Google Pixel 8 Pro offers a larger, higher resolution display, a dedicated 48MP telephoto camera for 5X optical zoom and a newer 48MP ultra-wide camera that is one of the best around. All things considered, it is hard to leave these Google phones out of this conversation about the elites.
Arguably the best foldable smartphone around has to be acknowledged. The Open marked a very impressive debut for OnePlus in the foldable smartphones segment. The phone is packed to the brim with flagship features and is mighty impressive on multiple fronts. There have been valid concerns about foldable phones pertaining to their bulkiness, weight, durability and the screen crease that is hard to ignore. The OnePlus Open addresses them to a great extent.
Some smart design elements and choice of materials has helped in keeping the thickness and weight down. It is slimmer and lighter than the competition without compromising on the build quality, and the display crease is barely visible. Speaking of displays, the inner and outer screens are brilliant for entertainment and productivity both. In addition, it has powerful processing hardware (Snapdragon 8 Gen 2), ample storage (512 GB) and excellent cameras that cover all the key bases.
Good hardware needs to be complemented by equally good software to elevate the overall experience, and OxygenOS 13.2 does exactly that. It adapts perfectly to the two screens and the transition is seamless. The UI smartly adjusts to the larger display when you open the phone and makes good use of the extra screen real estate in facilitating multitasking. A perfect blend of design, hardware and software makes the OnePlus Open a well-rounded device, and among the best of 2023.