The smartphone market has gotten crazy competitive in the past few years – with manufacturers coming up with a suitable offering no matter what your budget is. And that’s a big win for the consumers; having more choices is always good in an economy. And the recent trend shows buyers skewing away from investing in flagship devices, but want something close for less money. This is a seemingly Nobel and an untapped market from the most renowned manufacturers. Now, 2020 has handed a perfect opportunity for those OEMs to experiment on the sub-flagship flagship market. Here, Apple’s cheapest entry in the new iPhone 12 series – the iPhone 12 mini, Google’s new Pixel 5, and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) all start at $699; way below what a basic premium phones cost these days. For what it’s worth, all three of them are a beast in their own right, while being so different from one another. So, let’s take a closer look at what features they’re packing inside.
Apple iPhone 12 mini Like I mentioned earlier, the iPhone 12 mini is the entry-level iPhone for this year. As expected from a phone of that stature, it comes with a small screen, battery, and a few other compromises. While its design language and most of the internal hardware remains the same as the ones on its big brothers, the iPhone 12 mini has a compact body and will definitely entice those seeking a more pocketable smartphone. With minimum bezels all around (discounting the unacceptably large notch at the top), Apple has managed to cram in a 5.4-inches display. It’s an OLED panel with a 476 PPI of pixel density. Additionally, it also supports Dolby Vision and HDR contents, but no, it doesn’t support the higher 90/120Hz refresh rate that’s getting so much traction these days. The phone has IP68 certification, and an aluminum frame while the front and the back is made from by glass. Interestingly, Apple has collaborated with Corning to come up with what it’s calling “Ceramic Shield”. With this, the company claims the screen on iPhone 12 mini has 4 times for protection against regular drops. With every iteration, iPhones have been unrivaled in terms of performance and this time’s no different either. The new A14 Bionic, which has been fabricated under an efficient 5nm process, is said to have 50% faster performance over any other smartphone chip. Now that’s a manufacturer’s claim which may not necessarily reflect in real-life usage. And frankly, the elevated level of CPU and GPU performance isn’t the most exciting thing about it – in fact, the upgraded ISP (Image Signal Processor), and the 16-core Neural Engine that promises 80% faster performance compared to its predecessor, should be the real talk of the town. Moreover, 5G is also one of the major talking points of this year’s iPhones, and the 12 mini is being hailed as the “smallest, lightest, and thinnest 5G smartphone” in the world. Getting to the cameras, it has a dual 12MP lens system at the back, consisting of a primary wide camera with OIS (that can let in 27% more light compared to iPhone 11), and a 12MP ultra-wide camera with 120-degree FOV (Field Of View). Upfront, there is a TrueDepth 12MP selfie camera that also enables Face ID. The exact battery capacity hasn’t been revealed yet, but Apple says the 12 mini can last up to 15 hours of continuous video playback. Sadly, the company is yet to make a switch from its Lightning connector to USB-C port on the iPhone 12 series but more importantly, it won’t include a charging adapter, or a Type-C earphone (France being an exception), in the box itself. But, you will be getting a USB-C to Lightning cable alongside the phone itself. The phone is available in three memory options: 64, 128, and 256GB.
Google Pixel 5 Next up, we have the Pixel 5 from Google. While last year’s Pixel 4, 4 XL experimented with some wild hardware features like the Soli Radar chip letting users control their phone with a simple motion, gestures, the company is getting back to its roots of simple, no-nonsense smartphone this year. It looks like every other mid-range phone and packs in an upper mid-range silicon as well. Yes, you read that right. The new Pixel 5 doesn’t sport a flagship SoC like the Snapdragon 865/865+. Instead, Google has gone with the 7nm Snapdragon 765G, which is probably the most widely implemented non-flagship chip of the year. Unlike the 865 series, this one has an integrated Snapdragon X52 5G modem meaning, less power use, while still supporting both sub-6GHz and mmWave spectrum of 5G connectivity. The major reason behind using a non-flagship silicon in the company’s next-gen smartphone has been stated as cost-saving. Makes sense considering how expensive Snapdragon 865 is. But hey, there are already way cheaper phones with the aforementioned chip from other companies like Vivo’s iQOO, Xiaomi, etc. But, even though Google is a multi-billion dollar company, its hardware business is still incomparable to manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, Huawei, etc. As a result, it can’t enjoy the similar benefits of mass production and other amenities. Here, the Snapdragon 765G has been complemented with 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and 128GB of storage. Moving on, Pixel 5’s design is reminiscent of the classic Pixel phone. Google has gotten rid of the bezels at the top & bottom and has replaced it with a small punch-hole cutout for the 8MP selfie camera at the top-left instead. The phone has a “bio-resin” aluminum body (no, not glass or plastic), with a physical cutout at the back enabling wireless and reverse wireless charging. It is also IP68 certified with protection against dust and water. The front of the phone houses a 6-inches FHD+ OLED panel with support for HDR content. Additionally, it has a smoother 90Hz refresh rate as well. In terms of camera, you’ll get a 12.2MP dual-pixel primary lens and a 16MP ultrawide sensor with 107-degree FOV at the back. There’s also a physical fingerprint scanner. In terms of battery, Pixel 5 comes with a modest 4000mAh cell with 18W fast charging.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Finally, we have the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung raised the premium smartphone bar by pricing its new Galaxy S20 series out-of-reach to most customers. The cheapest phone in the S20 lineup started at $999 with prices going as high as $1400 depending on the phone’s model. So, now more than ever, a cheaper alternative was essential. Enter, the Galaxy S20 FE. To bring down the cost while still delivering a flagship experience, Samsung has had to introduce several downgrades. First off, the phone doesn’t have a glass back and instead uses a matte plastic material with a soft texture that honestly, doesn’t feel less premium at all. On top of bringing down the manufacturing cost, this material also makes for a more durable (as in less likely to be damaged from a drop) phone, while also being relatively more resistant to fingerprints or smudges. The phone also has IP68 dust/water protection. Similarly, the display has been flattened as well. And to most people, that feels like an upgrade since there’s a fair share of shade against the likeness of a curved screen being more prone to accidental touches. Galaxy S20 FE has a 6.5-inches Super AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate and also supports HDR10+ content. This AMOLED panel is also the house to an in-display fingerprint scanner. There’s a small cutout at the top for the 32MP selfie camera. Speaking strictly in terms of pixel count, this one’s an upgrade from the S20 series’ 10MP selfie shooter as well.