Trying to decide on the phone of the year for 2022 was a challenge as while we had a number of phones that we enjoyed using, it was a year of more incremental hardware upgrades.
Apple would point to the Dynamic Island and new cameras in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, but the former needs more software support and the latter didn’t produce considerably better photos than its predecessor. The standard iPhone 14 models were arguably one of the biggest disappointments of the year, with little to recommend them over the iPhone 13.
Samsung played it even safer with its Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra at least integrated the S Pen into the phone to make it the Note replacement that fans were hoping for. Some of our favorite phones this year aren’t available to purchase or offer limited coverage in the U.S. like the Xiaomi 12T Pro and Nothing phone (1). The former is an impressive flagship phone at an affordable price, while the latter offers one of the most unique designs we’ve seen in recent years.
Without further ado here are our top picks for phone of the year 2022.
Google Pixel 7/ 7 Pro
Our pick for the phone of the year for 2022 is Google’s Pixel 7. Google’s transformation of the Pixel line starting with last year’s Pixel 6 has been nothing short of astounding. After the release of the Pixel 5, there was speculation that the Pixel phones could be the next residents of the Google product graveyard, but instead, the Pixel 6 burst forth like a phoenix from the ashes of the Pixel 5 with Google’s new custom Tensor chip at its core.
While the Pixel 7 doesn’t reinvent the wheel either this year, it got another solid bump to performance thanks to the Tensor G2 and Google continues to leverage its AI-optimized chipset for unique features like photo unblur that can salvage photos that were slightly out of focus, even photos that weren’t taken with the Pixel 7.
The Pixel phones have always been known for their photo prowess and the Pixel 7 is no exception, while you need to spend up for the Pixel 7 Pro to get a telephoto lens, the standard Pixel 7 punches well above its weight with its wide-angle and ultrawide lenses, outperforming any phone near its $599 starting price. While Google has finally armed the Pixels with solid sensors, this is still in large part a result of Google’s superior computational photography.
If money is no object an argument can be made for the Galaxy S22 Ultra, iPhone 14 Pro Max, or Galaxy Z Fold 4, but factoring in cost there is no question that the Pixel 7 is the phone of the year.
— Sean Riley, Assistant Managing Editor
Xiaomi 12T Pro
While it would by no means be taking the top spot for smartphone of the year, the Xiaomi 12T Pro should take home the title of “most affordably priced flagship phone on the market.” Truly, there’s little else you could want from a high-end smartphone that Xiaomi 12T Pro doesn’t offer: a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, a 6.7-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, ridiculously fast 120W charging with a 5,000mAh battery, and a 200MP camera.
All of that for a mid-range price of £699 (around $677). That’s pretty impressive, especially to those hunting down real value for money. Now, that crazy-sounding 200MP camera isn’t actually that special, unfortunately, and if you’re after a smartphone to make a fashion statement, this 12T Pro isn’t it.
But does it match the performance of other flagship phones with a more affordable price tag? Yes. And besides, a phone’s design hardly matters when you slap a stylish phone case on it. The Xiaomi 12T Pro excels at being affordable, and that’s an important trait to earn these days.
— Darragh Murphy, Editor
Nothing phone (1)
Now I know that when I reviewed the Nothing phone (1) back in August, the slab never quite matched up to the hype generated by its eye-catching design. The company’s focus on creating a unique aesthetic paired with raw minimalism led to a phone that looked interesting, but fell down in some key areas — such as battery life, a basic OS skin and a Glyph interface that felt more like a gimmick.
But I don’t add this to the list purely based on my initial experience. I add it because of the sheer determination the company has had to improve the phone through months of big updates. The end result is easily one of the best mid-range phones you can buy right now.
You see, balance is one of the rarities at this £399 price point (roughly $480), as OEMs go hard in one area for a big selling point, while compromising elsewhere. Nothing offers that balance and then some: a Snapdragon 778G+ chip, 6.55-inch 2400 x 1080-pixel OLED display (with a perfectly symmetrical bezel), dual 50MP Wide and Ultrawide cameras that have been tuned to produce impressive shots, and a 4,500 mAh battery that is capable of a full day of use after the past couple of software updates.
I would call this the most improved phone of 2022, and definitely one of the frontrunners for Phone of the year.
— Jason England, Content Editor
Sony Xperia 5 IV
Every year, we get three types of phone from Sony: the 1 series that packs a hugely impressive spec sheet and a big price to boot, the budget 10 series that makes one too many compromises, and the 5 series (otherwise known internally as the Goldilocks phone).
The Sony Xperia 5 IV keeps this trend going as the ultimate Sony flagship you should buy. It is a smaller device with great performance, cameras, and display, paired with impressive battery life and an unmistakably premium, pocketable construction.
Some of the issues do persist from last year’s model, but while some of these are technical issues like the overheating, others are deliberate choices you will have to factor into your decision, such as the prosumer-focused camera software.
But some of this isn’t really an issue when you realize that Sony is going hard on its particular niche with the fantastic 21:9 display, cameras that produce fantastic shots (if you’re a photography pro/enthusiast), and zippy performance thanks to that Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset.
— Jason England, Content Editor
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
“OMG! What phone do you have?” is the question I always get whenever I whip out the Galaxy S22 Ultra and showcase its magic. When I’m inside a loud bar, I yank out the S Pen (which ships with the S22 Ultra) and scribble my drink order on the display. This way, I don’t need to yell my tonsils off and the bartender doesn’t need to scream, “Can you repeat that?”
While attending PR events, the S Pen comes in handy, allowing me to take quick notes in a flash.
While taking selfies with several people at once, I love that I can trigger it to take photos by simply opening my hand — as if I’m about to give it a high five. This particular trick has gotten a few “oohs and ahs!” Not to mention that you can use the S Pen as a de facto remote, according to how you’d like to configure it. On top of that, the display is stunning, colorful and vivid. What’s not to love about the Galaxy S22 Ultra?
— Kimberly Gedeon, Editor
OnePlus 10 Pro
How is the OnePlus 10 Pro not the phone of the year? I debated (battled) this with my colleagues and if we were not working remotely, I would’ve pounded my fist on a conference room table. As our esteemed Sean Riley states in the headline of his review, it’s “ A challenger to the throne” and when you take into consideration its considerable specs and price point, the OnePlus 10 Pro in my humble opinion definitely warranted it’s place at the top of our Phone of the year list.
Let me recount a few things here to remind you why I am willing to arm-wrestle the WWE champ in defense of the OnePlus 10 Pro. It has outstanding battery life with fast charging, a super bright 120Hz display, a powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU, and Hasselblad-tuned cameras. Oh, I forgot to add that Oxygen OS is one of the best Android-based OS’s in the game with a super-friendly UI and it’s priced at under $1,000! You get a flagship phone for under $1k that won’t disappoint you.
I can’t even say that about most of my kids. I kid, I tease, however, the OnePlus 10 Pro matches the performance of top-tier Android phones, its display is gorgeous, and has battery life that either matches or surpasses Apple's aging iPhones. If you choose the elegantly designed, potent OnePlus 10 Pro, it will not let you down and you can mock those who spent more and got less phone.
— Mark Anthony Ramirez, Writer