What We Liked and Didn’t Like About the Phones of 2023

What We Liked and Didn’t Like About the Phones of 2023

Every year, we review a lot of tech at Gizmodo Australia, and 2023 was a particularly big year for phones. Apple, Samsung, and Google are constantly pumping out new models, and even as we write this article, we’re anticipating another big launch at the start of next year.

Now that 2023 is coming to a close, it’s time to go through the phones that came out this year, just like we did last year. We obviously didn’t have time for every phone, but these were all the phones that we reviewed this year, and what grabbed our attention about them, for better or worse.

A look back on the phones of 2022

The Apple iPhone 15 range

Phone news in 2023 was dominated by the iPhone’s switch to USB-C, a change years in the making that we expected several generations ago. The iPhone 15 range, including the standard 15, the 15 Plus, 15 Pro, and 15 Pro Max (our reviews focused on the Plus and Pro Max models), didn’t bring generational leaps in terms of power, but across the product family, battery life, displays, cameras, and performance remained strong – the Pro models even got a whole new ‘Action’ button and a powerful new processor for gaming. The iPhone 15 Plus starts at $1,649, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts at $2,199, but you could easily skip either phone if you bought last year’s models.

phones 2023
The iPhone 15 Pro Max (left) and the iPhone 15 Plus (right). Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The Samsung Galaxy S23 range

The Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ and S23 Ultra all debuted in 2023. We loved the base model and the S23+, claiming the entry-level model was one of the best small phones out there right now for its features and design, but battery life could be better (it’ll set you back $1,350 for the base model, $1,650 for the Plus). Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 Ultra proved once again that Samsung means performance at this end of the market, especially for its 200x zoom camera. But $1,949 for a phone is a lot.

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The Galaxy S23+ (left) and the Galaxy S23 (right). Image: Florence Ion/Gizmodo Australia

The Google Pixel 8 range

The Google Pixel 8 and the Google Pixel 8 Pro are both tremendous phones, and are some of the best of 2023, however price bumps for both models dimmed our impressions a bit ($1,199 and $1,699 respectively). The AI features are cool, if a bit creepy, but ultimately both devices can be skipped if you bought phones in the Pixel 7 family. Additionally, the temperature sensor on the Pixel 8 Pro was a total gimmick, but at the very least, we like the stylistic changes Google made with the flat screens.

phones 2023
The Pixel 8 (left) and the Pixel 8 Pro. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5

Samsung updated its foldable category this year with two new devices – the Z Flip 5 (a vertical flip, like an old flip phone) and the Z Fold 5 (horizontal, like a book), and we had thoughts on both. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is a total dopamine dispenser, focused on being fun and sweet, with a fairly alright camera, but we were disappointed in its battery life, and, obviously, $1,649 for a phone (even if it folds), is a lot of money. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Fold 5, the most expensive phone in Australia with the highest internal storage offer ($3,149), perplexed us. It’s one of Samsung’s most powerful phones, and it’s encouraged as an all-rounder for work and personal use, but we weren’t so thrilled with that framing, nor the $2,599 entry-level price.

phones 2023
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 (left) and the Galaxy Z Flip 5 (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

The Oppo Find N2 Flip

Of course, Samsung couldn’t be the only foldable phone-maker in 2023. Oppo also released its first foldable for the international market, the Find N2 Flip, and we loved how cute it was. It’s priced competitively against the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 at $1,499, and its performance was about on par, but its operating system is a bit of a let-down, as it doesn’t feel entirely optimised for a foldable design.

phones 2023
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE was released late in the year, just after Apple and Samsung held their big new phone releases, and it saw the return of the ‘FE’ phone – a nerfed version of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy devices. We actually did two reviews of this phone – one closer to release, and an Australia-specific review, and we found that the $999 device was definitely a contender among cheaper-than-flagship devices. It’s a solid phone for the cost, although it’s not as cheap as Google’s Pixel 7a.

phones 2023
Image: Alex Kidman/Gizmodo Australia

The Google Pixel 7a

The Google Pixel 7a is, all things considered, probably the best phone of 2023. At the budget price point of $749, the Pixel 7a is almost as good as the Pro, with a camera on par with its premium-oriented ‘Pixel 7’ brother, and a much more accessible RRP. Its performance is brilliant, and aesthetically we loved it much more than the other Pixel 7 devices. It’s so hard to beat the Pixel 7a.

phones 2023
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

The Samsung Galaxy A54

In April, Samsung released the latest update to its most popular product internationally, the ‘A50’ device, with the Galaxy A54. This is a budget-oriented smartphone that seriously impressed us on the specs side, and we said that it was so good that it could be ranked among the company’s flagship ‘Galaxy S’ range. The cameras weren’t too impressive, but a $699 price tag is hard to beat for what you get.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The ASUS Zenfone 10

The ASUS Zenfone is a phone I look forward to every year because I love what ASUS is doing – a premium-level phone with terrific specs in a considerably smaller body, and the ASUS Zenfone 10 continues this. Its cameras are still quite lacking, but performance is still up there with the best, and the device aesthetic is fairly distinct too. This year, however, ASUS raised the price to $1,300, up from $1,000 last year, which makes it a little bit more difficult to justify against the similarly priced Google and Samsung devices, but it’s still a solid contender.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The Lenovo/Motorola ThinkPhone

Motorola threw a curveball in 2023, collaborating with parent company Lenovo on the ThinkPhone, a mobile version of its ‘ThinkPad’ laptop range. For $999, it’s a terrific device with great performance and a mastered operating system, but its cameras were lacking against the cheaper Pixel 6a at the time, and its chassis design makes it look a little cheap. Still, it was a great phone.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The Nokia G42 5G

So Pink! That was the name of the Nokia G42 5G model we reviewed. It was released at a time when everyone was super Barbie-pilled this year, and it’s fitted with some fairly alright features at the $450 price point. It’s also completely self-repairable, with Nokia partnering with iFixit on official guides and parts distribution. It’s not the best phone on the market, but for less than $500, you’re getting a pretty good all-rounder.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

The TCL 30 5G

TCL knows what it’s doing when it comes to budget phones, and the 30 5G was no exception. Cheap, well-performing, and with fairly capable cameras, the TCL 30 5G is perfect for somebody after a new smartphone that won’t break the bank at $499.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The Google Pixel Fold

Oh, why not? Once more for 2023. The Google Pixel Fold didn’t come to Australia in 2023, though we wish it had. It’s Google’s first foldable with a horizontal book-style fold, and our colleagues in the U.S. reckon it has some wrinkles to work out, in particular around the whole folding thing and having an OS that translates well to the form factor. $US1,800 is also a steep price for any phone, and the centre crease is particularly noticeable when watching videos. We just wish it was in Australia.

phones 2023
Image: Kyle Barr/Gizmodo Australia

And that’s it for the phones of 2023. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, tech lovers.

Image: Gizmodo Australia

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