There is a common perception that innovation in the smartphone industry has peaked and phone companies have nothing new to offer. That’s not entirely right. There are mainstream smartphone models available in the market that are pushing the envelope with an array of advancements and unique features.
A phone like the Galaxy Note 10+ has the S Pen that lets you scroll through photos by flicking the stylus left and right in the air like a magic wand, or the Motorola One Action which has a built-in an action camera. Cool, isn’t it?
There are people who do care about such features and which is why we have put together a list of five smartphones with distinctive features that you won’t find on other devices.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ (Rs 79,999 onward)
The Galaxy Note 10+ is your quintessential large-screen sized flagship smartphone. It has a giant screen, the latest processor, bigger battery, a massive amount of RAM, and much more. It’s an ultimate smartphone for power users and loyal Note fans. But what makes the Galaxy Note 10+ different from other phones is the S Pen. Like the Note 9, the Note 10+ has an S Pen that connects using Bluetooth low energy but offers a number of new features. For instance, just by swiping the stylus in the air while you press the button you can change modes in the camera app, and you can zoom in by making a circular motion with the S Pen. These air gestures work, even if some may find them gimmicky.
Then there’s a new augmented reality doodle feature that takes advantage of a fourth camera on the back. You can capture a physical environment and then use the S Pen to doodle on their face. I found this feature cool and creepy at the same time. I have had a chance to spend some time with the Galaxy Note 10+ at the Unpacked 2019 in New York. You can read my first impressions of the Galaxy Note 10+ here.
Motorola One Action
Want an action camera rolled into a phone? Motorola thinks it has made a smartphone with a GoPro-style action camera. Like many other smartphones, the Motorola One Action has a triple camera setup on the rear. There is a 12MP main sensor, a 5MP depth camera for adding bokeh effects for portrait shots, and an ultra-wide-angle lens which has a 117º field-of-view. With the mix of hardware and software, Motorola intelligently turns a 117-degree ultra-wide-angle shooter into a sort of action camera. I like the approach.
What’s more interesting is that the phone allows videos to be shot vertically, but they are horizontal when played on a 6.3-inch FHD+ 21.9 aspect ratio display. As far as I know, Motorola is the only company that has taken full advantage of an ultra-wide-angle camera on a phone. Otherwise, the latest Motorola One Action offers standard specifications that you might expect from a mid-ranger.
The Motorola One Action* is coming to India on August 23 and hopefully, it will be priced under Rs 20,000.
Apple iPhone XR (Rs 59,990 onward)
When last year Apple launched the iPhone XR, the company had to go through a lot of media trials. Some said the iPhone XR was priced too high, others said the phone would be a colossal failure. As it turned out, the iPhone XR has been Apple’s best-selling smartphone since its debut. In a country like India, where Apple has a negligible market share, the iPhone XR has done well. Of course, the $749 price played a huge role in making the iPhone XR so successful. Where I think Apple got it right with the iPhone XR was the phone’s specifications and features like Face ID facial recognition for unlocking the device.
At the moment, there is no Android smartphone across price segments that has enhanced features like Face ID. This is one area where the iPhone XR triumphs over the competition by leaps and bounds. That’s not to say the phone is less superior than its Android rivals. The device has a respectable 6.1-inch LCD display and a single rear camera that does a great job. The battery life on the iPhone XR is solid and the A12 Bionic is the fastest processor you could get on the phone. Read our review of iPhone XR here.
Huawei P30 Pro (Rs 71,990)
Last year’s P20 Pro was a solid Android smartphone, but the P30 Pro improved upon the device in various departments, especially photography. The phone has a quad rear camera setup with 40MP, f/1.6 main lens, 20MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens, a ToF sensor and an 8MP periscope zoom lens which provides up to 5x of optical zoom, hybrid zoom up to 10x and up to 50X digital zoom. Up to 50x digital zoom on a phone? Well, the digital zoom up to 50x is available on the P30 Pro. Sure, the camera shakes when using the 50X digital zoom on the P30 Pro, but I am glad the feature exists. I don’t know how many people would be using the digital zoom all the way up to 50X, but this capability does allow you to see far-away things you might not see otherwise.
Even if you ignore the phone’s camera capabilities for a second, there’s a lot to like about the P30 Pro. The device’s design is gorgeous and its huge 4,200 mAh battery and Kirin 980 makes the P30 Pro a compelling device. It’s a pity that Huawei has been caught in the trade war between the US and China. Read our review of Huawei P30 Pro here.
Asus 6Z (Rs 31,999 onward)
The genius mind behind the 6Z (also known as ZenFone 6 in other markets) is Asus, a company that isn’t a major smartphone player. The idea that the phone uses a motorized flip-up camera module might not seem convincing at first, but it’s a clever way to get rid off a notch or punch-hole cut out from the front display. Two camera lenses – the 48MP main lens and a 13MP wide-angle lens – rotate from the back to the front giving you the same quality as you get on the rear.
Due to the flip camera, I can take automatic panoramas too. Just press a button and the phone will take a panorama shot by slowing moving the camera a full 180-degrees. You don’t have to move your hand at all. It’s pretty neat. Beyond its camera capabilities, the 6Z is a compelling option, as it comes with a powerful Snapdragon 855 chipset, huge 5000mAh battery, and a stock-like UI. The 6Z isn’t perfect, though. Still, I am happy to see a phone that feels fresh. Now whether consumers give thumbs up or thumbs down to the Asus 6Z is their opinion. For me, at least, Asus’ 6Z is one of the best smartphones of 2019. Read our review of Asus 6Z here.
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