It’s come to the end of the year and it’s time for us to award the best smartphones of the year. In Kenya, we’ve seen a whole lot of smartphones at different price points from different brands launched in the country.
Some were launched with pomp and colour, some launches were more subtle and some just went straight to the shops but all in all, the ones that made it to our desk, got a full Gadgets Africa review experience and from that list, we’ve put together a shortlist of devices we feel deserve recognition in the year 2019 across various categories.
This is Gadgets Africa Smartphone Awards 2019 and here are the winners:
Best software experience on a phone
The winner for this category was chosen based on the ease and intuitiveness of the software the device is running on. How easy is it for a normal user to understand where things are, find options in settings and get the features they want. We also put into consideration how fast software updates are delivered by the manufacturer.
- Nokia 8.1
- Nokia 9 Pureview
- Samsung Galaxy S10
Winner: Nokia 8.1
Why the rest lost: The Nokia 9 Pureview had a good software experience but it was very buggy, especially with the in-display fingerprint scanner. The S10, on the other hand, was a worthy contender but failed in terms of fast software updates.
Best battery life
When it comes to battery life, there’s a lot to consider; How much you used the phone, what exactly you’re using it for, are you using mobile data or WiFi and many more things. In our test, we looked at normal usage of a phone, which includes, making calls, texts, social media, watching a few videos and taking photos throughout the day. Out of this, we selected the device with the highest endurance, one that would last throughout the day without compromising on performance.
- Infinix Hot 8
- TECNO Phantom 9
- Nokia 2.1
Winner: Infinix Hot 8
Why the rest lost: While both the Nokia 2.1 and Phantom 9 have beefy batteries that lasted really long, they weren’t enough to outlast the Infinix device.
Best budget phone
The biggest hurdle here was figuring out what counts as “budget”. Different people have different definitions as to what is a budget phone. To some, budget can be as high as 20k, some, it’s below 10k, so we found a sweet sport and shortlisted devices that cost less than 10k.
But the price was not the only factor to pick a winner, the winner had to not only be within our budget walls but also had to be interesting enough with few compromises and a satisfactory performance despite its low cost.
- Infinix S5
- Nokia 3.2
- TECNO Camon 12 Air
Winner: TECNO Camon 12 Air
Why the rest lost: The Infnix S5 is essentially a rebranded Camon 12 Air, only difference being that its software really sucks. The Nokia 3.2 is good too but has no outstanding feature, unlike the Camon 12 Air which has a bearable software experience and a premium-looking design that outshines the cost of the device.
Outstanding device of the year
This is a new category that we coined up. So many phones are launched, yet very few leave us wondering just how the manufacturers were able to do it and we’re not talking about the design of the phone but everything put together including the price.
In short, this is an award to the phone makers for pulling a well-rounded, well-priced device that is not essentially the best overall phone but compared to other phones in its price range, the difference is clear.
- TECNO Camon 12 Air
- OPPO Reno 10x Zoom
- Redmi Note 8
Winner: Redmi Note 8
Why the rest lost: While the Camon 12 Air is on this list for being the cheapest smartphone with a punchole display and the OPPO device featuring some neat 10x zoom camera and a shark-fin pop-up camera, the more standard-looking Redmi Note 8 outshines the rest thanks to its relatively low price compared to the features it packs, including a 48MP camera that doesn’t suck.
Unique device of the year
Here’s yet another category that we had to get creative with. To find the most unique smartphone in the Kenyan market in 2019, we had to think beyond the basics, dig into which phones tried to offer more in terms of hardware specifications all the while looking at the device’s practicality and overall performance relative to its price tag.
- Nokia 9 Pureview – so many cameras, it’d made some of us physically sick
- Samsung Galaxy Fold – first-ever foldable device in the country
- Vivo V17 Pro – first dual pop-up selfie camera in the country
Winner: Vivo V17 Pro
Why the rest lost: The Nokia 9 pureview is on this list thanks to its numerous cameras that make some people physically sick, the Galaxy Fold, well, is the first foldable device to actually sell in the country and while these two are actually worthy devices, the Nokia just sucks in terms of photography and being a flagship, the Fold, on the other hand, is just too fragile for its high price.
Best Flagship Phone
What is a flagship phone? Well, to us, this the best smartphone a company has to offer its customers at a particular time and traditionally, these flagship phones are not cheap, coming in at 80k and above.
- Huawei P30 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S10+
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10+
Why the rest lost: Looking at our nominee list, one would see that the race is tight. However, the P30 Pro loses out on design and software experience, despite having an awesome camera. The iPhone, on the other hand, is a great device but just lacks the features that we find on other flagship devices, the only thing going for it is the camera, which anyway, according to this test isn’t as good as the rest of the devices on the list. The S10+ balances being a flagship with a better price than the rest and packs itself with features the rest would envy.
Smartphone of the year
This is the creme de la creme award. Out of all the smartphones we’ve used this year, we pick one, just one that ticks all the boxes available including; design, battery life, camera, performance, price and user experience. In short, this is the one smartphone that we’d recommend to anyone in a heartbeat without thinking twice.
- Huawei Y9s
- Samsung Galaxy A50
- TECNO Camon 12 Pro
Winner: Huawei Y9s
Why the rest lost: The Samsung device is good, overall, but fails in camera performance compared to the rest. The TECNO puts up a good fight but despite having a cool, in-display fingerprint scanner, it still needs some work to catch up to the Huawei device. The Y9s takes the crown thanks to its beautiful design and reliability as a phone.