Smartphones have become an ubiquitous part of our lives now – and according to Statista, 68% of the population of the world have a smartphone.
With the ease of accessing the internet, hundreds of thousands of apps for productivity, communication, entertainment and gaming, and the sophisticated cameras that are found in the latest smartphone, the pure computing power that we have in that handheld device would blow the minds of the earliest internet and mobile phone pioneers.
It’s been 50 years since the first mobile phone call was made by a Motorola employee in New York, and with the phone in our pockets (and the abundance of free wi-fi connections and 5G), we can search the internet, upload videos to TikTok, and enjoy poker gaming wherever we are.
If you are due for an upgrade or looking to go a new direction with your smartphone, you might be looking at alternative options – especially if you do not want to pay a premium price tag. The biggest selling brands are obviously Apple and Samsung, but are they worth their eyewatering costs or can you get the same (or better) performance from a smaller manufacturer for a more palatable price?
What Do You Want in a Smartphone?
Many of the top manufacturers have made their smartphones multifunctional, with great performance across many areas which makes them suitable for pretty much anyone. If you are looking for something a bit more specific – usually a gaming mobile is the biggest niche – then you might want to explore the more focused products from the dedicated producers.
However, the top features that people look for in a smartphone include:
- Camera – front and back, video capabilities, low light shooting etc.
- Memory – space for apps and storage.
- Looks – bevelling, screen clarity, overall design.
- Screen size – bigger the better, especially for streaming.
- Battery life – long-lasting batteries tend to be better for high usage.
Other considerations are things like the operating system, what network they are available on, and whether you need a physical SIM card or an eSIM.
Top Smartphone Brands
The first iPhone created by Apple was launched by Steve Jobs back in 2007, and this futuristic looking device got rid of the traditional keyboard in favour of a swipe and touch control system. While the original iPhone changed the landscape of what a phone could do, it wasn’t the first smartphone – but Apple products have been leading the way in terms of innovation since then.
The Apple iPhone is released annually, and they are popular because they have the smoothest designs, fast processing, and they fit the aesthetic that many people are looking for from a premium product.
Apple might have dominated the global smartphone market in 2022, but the limitations of the Apple iOS and the prohibitive costs of both the device and buying apps can be a turn off for those who don’t buy into the Apple product lifestyle.
Samsung recorded a higher market share than Apple in the first quarter of 2023 for the first time – and the brand is known for making devices that match (and even exceed) the capabilities of the iPhone without needing the eye-watering price tag.
Samsung smartphones are available as premium devices (the S line and the new Z folding phone), and they also offer mid-range price point options in their A, M, and F ranges; reducing some of the specifications to make them cheaper for the consumer.
Android apps are generally cheaper than their iOS counterparts, and the Android ecosystem is easier to work in for most developers, making it much simpler to make apps. Android users can enjoy more personalisation of devices than can happen with Apple, too.
For most buyers, the choice usually remains as either the latest Samsung S device or the latest Apple iPhone, but there are other manufacturers in the game that you could choose.
The first all-Google phone was released in 2016, and it was developed to focus (no pun intended) on being the best camera phone available. This attention to camera detail has continued throughout every iteration of the Google Pixel, so you can expect similar processing capabilities to other Android devices as well as a top spec camera – and a range of price points that might be more comfortable for most people.
Oppo is a relative newcomer to Western countries, but they have been making smartphones since 200 for the Chinese market.
Like other companies, they create a range of devices based on different price points – their premium Oppo Find has top spec styling and excellent camera capabilities, while their mid-range Reno and budget Oppo A are still excellent devices, just without the high price.
OnePlus was started by two ex-Oppo employees who wanted to create a simple and clean smartphone solution. The OnePlus One was their first device, and it came onto the market at a price that was unbelievably cheap in comparison to the other options available. Their latest devices have seen price increases, but they have mitigated that by ensuring that the premium devices are still cheaper overall than the nearest competitors, and they have options that are even more budget friendly.
Xiaomi was founded back in 2010, and they launched the Xiaomi Mi in 2011. While their initial market was in China, they have managed to branch out into several sub-brands that are focused on a particular market share – for example, the Black Shark range is all about gaming, while the Redmi range is super affordable.
Xiaomi devices use Android, and that makes them an excellent choice for those who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on their smartphone.
No list of smartphone manufacturers should be without the pioneers in the industry – Motorola and Nokia. While neither of these brands have hit the heights of Apple and Samsung in the smartphone revolution, you can still get them – the Motorola RAZR is a throwback to that iconic 2000s design, while Nokia are still making simplistic devices for other companies.