“What’s the best phone?” is probably the question that I’m asked more than any other (as a tech journalist). And it’s fair enough. Smartphones are, for most people, the part of technology they care most about. If only I could give them a simple answer.
Personally, I think the iPhone 11 Pro is the best smartphone on the market. Anyone who buys this will not be disappointed. Yet, I also think that it’s too much smartphone for the majority of people. And so, it’s also too expensive for the majority of people.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, clearly agrees with me. That’s why Apple, in the post-Steve Jobs era, has started selling “affordable” iPhones. The current examples are the lower-spec iPhone 11 and iPhone SE. Both are very good handsets, but they’re some way off the iPhone 11 Pro regarding what’s inside them and what they can do.
The same can be said for Android. 2020’s crop of high-end Android smartphones – Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, Oppo Find X2 Pro, et al. – are as impressive as they are expensive. Here’s the thing: most people don’t use their phones for gaming, which means most people don’t need the expensive processors that push the price of Android devices close to the two thousand dollar mark. And sometimes past that.
So, with that in mind, this article will offer you two things. First, you’ll see a ranked list of what I think are the best phones available to buy in New Zealand in 2020. However, if you’re looking to pick up the best phone available in New Zealand…that’s right for you. I’ll also explain some things to look out for, and list (what I think) are the best smartphones for most people.
See also: Mozilla Firefox VPN review (first look!)
Best Phone in New Zealand 2020 (…if money were no object!)
- iPhone 11 Pro ($1,799)
- iPhone 11 (click to read review) ($1,349)
- OnePlus 8 Pro ($1,579)
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus ($1,699)
- Samsung Galaxy S20 ($1,299)
- Oppo Find X2 Pro (click to read review) ($1,899)
Best Phone NZ 2020 (…for most people)
- iPhone 11 ($1,349)
- iPhone SE ($799)
- Samsung Galaxy S20 ($1,299)
- OnePlus 8 ($1,179)
- Huawei P30 Pro ($1,099)
Note: The Huawei P30 Pro was released before Trump’s ban – meaning it still enjoys full Android and Google services support. At ($1,099) it’s also a bargain.
Best Phone in NZ 2020: 5 things to consider
1. Apple vs Android
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question; They’re both very good operating systems. And ultimately, it comes down to personal choice.
If you like iOS then I suggest you stick with it. It’s a solid operating system that’s fast, well designed and simple to use. It doesn’t disappoint, and it’s as secure as they come.
Similarly, if you feel Android’s open nature is more suited to your needs, then buying Android phones is a solid choice too. There’s no noticeable difference regarding mainstream app availability anymore.
That said, it’s worth noting that Android is more fragmented than iOS by nature. Apple has designed iOS specifically for its iPhones, and as a result, it’s a more efficient operating system than Android.
Android is an open-source OS that will run on a ton of different phones. But it’s not as optimised as iOS. This is important to keep in mind, as you’ll notice that Android’s specs wipe the floor with Apple’s regarding battery size, RAM and arguable raw processing power. However, the performance of these specs running a one-size-fits-all Android OS is far less efficient than what the iPhone and iOS are capable of.
Android manufacturers are also often guilty of butchering the performance and usability of the OS further with their own Android overlay (sometimes referred to as UI or launcher). For example, Samsung calls its overlay One UI, Oppo’s is ColorOS, and Huawei’s is/was EMUI. They all suck. They’re an added layer of branding/marketing that, in my opinion, detract from stock (best) Android experience.
The launcher/overlay that OnePlus runs is the best version of Android you’re going to get unless you buy a Pixel.
Every manufacturer will claim they make the phone with the best camera. The reality is that they all have strengths and weaknesses. Why? Because they’re all calibrated slightly differently re their hardware and software.
Knowing what to look out for here is really tricky. In the Android world, Sony sensors are king – but they have confusing names such as the IMX586 or the IMX555. Whereas Apple, as per, designs and manufacturers its own sensors.
The camera hardware inside a phone only tells half though story though. The way an image is processed also has a huge impact on the quality of a photo. This opens another set of problems with each manufacturer tuning their images slightly differently, resulting in different hues, tones and contrasts.
A smartphone camera’s “zoom” is another thing that needs to be taken into consideration. The Samsung Galaxy S20, for example, claims that it offers 100x zoom, which isn’t strictly true. In fact, it only has an optical zoom of 5x. The difference is made up with its digital zoom, which isn’t zoom at all – it’s cropping and AI processing.
Apple designs and builds its own chips. A13 is the latest and greatest work, and you’ll find it in all iPhone 11 devices and the iPhone SE too (which is a major plus point!).
The Android equivalent is something called the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865. It powers all of 2020’s high-end smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S20 range, Oppo Find X2 Pro and OnePlus 8 (and 8 Pro). If you want a 2020 smartphone with top-of-the-range performance, make sure it has the 865 chipset inside.
4. Battery life
As a general rule, bigger is better here. The more mAH you can get, the longer you phone should last. High-end features such as 90hz (or even 120hz) displays and lower-end processors, will cause your battery to drain more rapidly. So look of for auto-scaling displays and, as I mention above, the Snapdragon 856 chipset for optimal power performance.
The iPhone is the exception that proves the rule here, though – benefitting from its purpose-built ecosystem that optimises power consumption a lot (lot lot lot) better than its Android rivals.
I think we’ve reached the stage where you don’t really need to worry about the quality of your phone screen anymore. Smartphone display’s pixel density exceeds what our eyes can see a long time ago. If you’re buying a flagship device that’s been released in the past couple of years, it’s going to be good.
If, however, you want the best. I suggest looking for OLED displays with refresh rates above 90hz. What size you should go for is up to you.