On the other hand, if you are buying outright you might not be able to afford the newest phone you have your eye on. Thankfully, if all you need is a high-end phone that will last a few years and not feel like it is out of the bargain bin, you don’t have to pay as much as $2000.
Google’s most expensive 2020 phone, the Pixel 5, is $999. It’s reliable, easy to use, and continues Google’s trend of smart and phones with heaps of smarts.
I like its eggshell-textured recycled metal enclosure, love the camera and I don’t mind that it is packing an old-fashioned, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor instead of facial recognition. Everything else you expect in a high-end phone is here.
If you are happy to do without water resistance, the $799 Pixel 4a with 5G is essentially the same phone but with a plastic body and some of the fancy trimmings, including the 90Hz screen refresh rate, removed.
Meanwhile, the $599 Pixel 4a is stunning value with all the same smarts and a fantastic camera system, in a smaller package with less grunt and no 5G. The 4a pair also feature 3.5mm headphone jacks, which is becoming a rarity, and every 2020 Pixel has a generous 128GB of storage.
For some people, any phone not bearing that mirrored fruity logo on the back is a non-starter, but with many of the 2020 model iPhones exceeding the $2000 mark it can be a stretch to buy one outright. Instead, I would make an argument for the iPhone 11, which Apple sells for $999. You get almost all the up-to-date software features thanks to iOS 14, basically the same camera capabilities as this year’s iPhone 12 and a big, bright LCD screen.
If you want to squeeze a bit more, go for the $849 iPhone XR, which is essentially the same phone with an older processor and a more basic camera. All of these prices are for devices with 64GB storage.
Apple made some impressive improvements to its devices this year, including 5G capabilities, hardier materials and rear magnets that make them compatible with a new range of MagSafe accessories. Compared to the iPhone 11 and XR, in particular, the OLED screens on the iPhone 12 range are a spectacular leap. If you must get in on the latest and greatest, the minimum spend will be $1199 for the 64GB version of the iPhone 12 Mini.
Samsung offers so many phones from the very low to the very high end but, this year, the sweet spot may be the $999 Galaxy S20 FE. With a 120Hz OLED screen, trio of cameras and powerful processor, it is essentially a full S20 with a plastic body, bigger battery and most features pared-back just a bit.
If you are happy to lose the waterproofing, some power and a bit of camera clarity, the $749 Galaxy A71 strikes a nice balance.
I have also been impressed with the LG Velvet at $899. This is a big and flashy 5G phone, so if you want that premium flagship feel at a sub-$1000 price, it fits the bill. There’s also a heap of custom software that will appeal to content creators.
Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.