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Fast Charge: What have 2022’s Android flagships got right, and where have they gone wrong?

OPINION: Now that many of the major Android manufacturers have released their flagship smartphones for the year, here’s our opinion of their overall performance.

It might seem more than a tad premature to give our opinion 2022’s best smartphones when we are just into the fourth month of the year.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to close the book with a slam and give my final verdict on 2022’s best smartphones already, just four months into the year.

Yet as we stand now, many of the major manufacturers have already released their flagship phones for the year, with the schedule concentrated around MWC, and so this presents a clear opportunity to take stock of how things are going so far, at least in terms of some general trends in the market.

Are things looking up for Android, or is there a lot more to do?

Starting with this year’s designs, there’s one modern trend that I’m very happy to see in full swing, and that’s the preference for a matte finish over a glossy one.

I made my case in last week’s column that a matte finish is simply superior because of its resistance to fingerprints and obvious scuffs, which otherwise besmirch fresh glossy phones the minute they come out of the box. We loved the example set by the likes of the OnePlus 10 Pro, the Xiaomi 12 Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, while the Realme GT 2 Pro even went a length further in showcasing a very clever paper-like rear panel that fascinated our reviewer.

the back of the Realme GT 2 Pro
The back of the Realme GT 2 Pro

This positive trend was only underlined further by one unfortunate straggler, the Oppo Find X5 Pro, which had an incredibly glossy panel that looked brilliant for all of two seconds before it picked up smears from so much as a sideways glance.

However, there’s one design trend that seems to refuse to die, no matter how much I desperately wish it would, and that’s the curved screen. I don’t quite understand how this choice ever won fans, since it adds nothing to the screen quality or function and in my opinion actually detracts from it when you’re using the full screen. All that said, plenty of great phones this year – including the OnePlus 10 Pro and the Xiaomi 12 Pro – have stuck stubbornly to it, while I much preferred the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus which broke ranks to offer an excellent flat screen.

There’s a reason why the flat screen has been a mainstay across Apple’s range, and I wish Android manufacturers would take notes from this.

It’s all about the screens

Whatever my thoughts on that particular design choice, I’m far pleased to see that the actual display quality of these devices has come on in leaps and bounds. Excellent screens can be found more or less across the range of this year’s Android flagships, especially the near-perfect AMOLED panel of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. With sharp resolutions, super smooth adaptive refresh rates, HDR10+ support – you name it, we’ve seen utterly brilliant screens on the likes of the , and some of these benefits are trickling down to solid mid-range phones such as the Poco X4 Pro.

Although, perhaps on a related note to the point above, there has been a common weakness among most Android flagships so far; relatively poor battery life.

Of all the phones mentioned previously in the article, there were none that blew us away with endurance as impressive as that of the iPhone 13 Pro Max for instance, which seems a tad ironic given that just a few years ago it was a relative weakness among Apple’s devices.

Yes it’s true that we’ve seen some astonishingly fast charging results, especially for the OnePlus 10 Pro and Xiaomi 12 Pro, but frankly there’s simply no substitute for a strong battery given that when you most need it you’ll usually not have access to a charger.

Only a third of the year is gone, yet we’ve already seen some incredible Android handsets that have really impressed us; but there’s certainly some work to be done too, and if there’s one improvement we’d like to see before the year is out, it’s better battery life.

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