Best of MWC 2023: PhoneArena Awards

Best of MWC 2023: PhoneArena awards
The lovely Mediterranean food, the awe-inspiring architecture, and the numerous rooftop bars are all excellent reasons to visit Barcelona for a week. The tech crowd, however, is probably familiar with yet another attraction the Spanish city is known for – the Mobile World Congress.

MWC is the largest trade show dedicated to bringing the latest mobile technology products and innovations under one roof. Smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, mobile audio products, and AR/VR devices are just some of the flashy gizmos we get to see there, and the feeling of being among the first to test them is one of a kind. 

But we've saved the best for last. After spending the past few days exploring the MWC 2023 halls and show floor, we're ready to announce the products and innovations that made the biggest impression on us. These are the Best of MWC awards for 2023! 

Best of MWC 2023: PhoneArena Awards

Samsung: Galaxy S23 Ultra

One of the biggest and flashiest MWC booths was Samsung's, where the company's latest products were demoed and their advantages highlighted. The top phone among them – and quite probably the best Android phone you can buy right now – was the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. 

We've already presented in depth the phone's strongest sides in our Galaxy S23 Ultra Review, but to sum things up, it's a phone that brings meaningful improvements across the board, while also solidifying Samsung's position as a leader on the Smartphone market with its great battery life, beautiful screen, capable camera, and sheer processing power. 

In addition to that, this year Samsung is doubling down on its commitment to sustainability by reducing the amount of plastics in its packaging and more extensive use of recycled materials within its phones. There's still a long way to go until big tech's impact on the environment is minimized, but when you sell phones by the millions, like Samsung does, every step matters.

OnePlus: Innovative cooling tech in Concept Phone

Introduced at MWC 2023, the OnePlus 11 Concept phone is not a phone you would ever be able buy. The next-level tech inside it, however, is something we hope to see in the company's future products. 

You see, the sophisticated, high-tech design of the OnePlus 11 isn't just for show (although the soothing blue glow does look awesome). Under its hood, the device contains next-gen cooling technology utilizing liquids and piezoelectric pumps. Why is this a big deal? Because all flagship phones can deliver top performance momentarily. But not all of them can sustain peak performance for long, and OnePlus's tech aims to make that possible. If this cooling system lands in the next OnePlus flagship, it could very well make it the best Android phone in terms of raw performance. 

Oppo: a foldable phone to flip for

In the final days of 2022, Oppo launched a pair of high-class foldable phone that make their own spin on the two popular form factor — the book-type Oppo Find N2 and the clamshell style Oppo Find N2 Flip.

The Find N2 Flip makes a huge improvement on the modern flip phone with its rather large external screen. Capable of displaying much more information and a more useful UI out there, it makes it much easier to deal with notifications and events at a glance. Despite that, it is still thinner (when folded) than its contemporary competition. It is a fine example of where the foldables are — and should be — headed.

Motorola: the ThinkPhone is a product long overdue

Lenovo, which owns Motorola, has a very popular and successful line of laptops – the ThinkPad. They are extremely robust and comfortable machines built for professionals and often loved for their keyboards, screens, and battery endurance.

Motorola has now introduced a new handset with similar branding – the ThinkPhone. It's a well-specced handset with a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and a stealthy design that features a black color and red accents, matching the looks of a ThinkPad.

So, what's special about the ThinkPhone? Its software includes features which will allow it to sync with a PC much easier, allowing the two devices to share a clipboard, transfer files with ease (drag and drop style), stream you Android apps on the PC, or use the ThinkPhone's camera as a webcam on the computer.

Although some manufacturers have tried, we haven't seen an Android phone use these features in a seamless or user-friendly manner. The Motorola ThinkPhone is obviously made with the professional's work needs in mind, so it also comes with a robust security suite – Lenovo ThinkShield, Moto Threat Defense, and Moto Keysafe — which will ensure network connection security, malware protection, and file safekeeping, respectively.

Xiaomi: focus on the camera

Despite massive improvements in recent years, you can still argue that phone cameras need improvement. Physical size is one thing that's a limitation, however the Xiaomi 13 Pro is one of few smartphones to feature the new Sony IMX989. That is a 1-inch imaging sensor – a size that you can even find in some point-and-shoot cameras.

However, Xiaomi did not stop there, as it also put a Leica lens on top of that excellent camera. Combine all that hardware with software post-processing and we have a serious camera-centric smartphone for the shutter enthusiasts.

That's not where the innovation with this phone ends – it supports 120W charging, which puts it among the fastest-charging smartphones of today. It can go from 0% to 100% in less than 30 minutes.

Huawei: the combination we didn't know we needed

"Innovation" is often simply combining two things together, making them more portable and helping them draw on each other's strengths. In the case of the Huawei Watch Buds we have wireless earbuds... in a smartwatch!

Obviously, this is cool for the simple fact that it makes it easier to store and transport your earbuds — they are always on your wrist. But we also like some original ideas that Huawei came up with here to ensure quality of life.

For example, you needn't worry about rotating the earbuds as you slot them into the watch – each bud has a platinum-plated ring running around it, which will make contact with the charging pins no matter how you insert it. Also, since the two buds have identical design, you needn't look for which one is left and which one is right – they will automatically identify which ear they are in and act accordingly.

Honor: taking its flagship phones to the stars

The Honor Magic 5 Pro is Honor's latest flagship and yet another camera-centric smartphone. Instead of putting all of its eggs in one basket, however, Honor gives us a triple camera system with three 50 MP sensors. The desire for symmetry and equal performance from all three cameras is also represented by the triangle-patterned lens positioning (also inspired by the first image of a black hole, by the way).

The main camera has a fast F1.6 aperture, and the telephoto lens provides 3.5x magnification, but Honor sticks to the modern trends and provides up to 100x zoom via digital enhancement. 

But it's not all about the camera – the Honor Magic 5 Pro aims to bring an excellent screentime experience as well, with a display that has HDR10+ and IMAX Enhanced certification, TÜV-certified low blue light emission, and 2160Hz Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) dimming, which is intended to reduce flickering.

Naturally, it wouldn't be a true 2023 flagship if it weren't powered by the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. However, what's noteworthy about the Magic 5 Pro is its battery – now up to 5,100mAh, it's the beefiest cell we can find on a modern mainstream flagship.

ZTE: a tablet with a 3D screen

Is 3D making a comeback? It's early to say, but the 3D display tech ZTE showed at MWC on the Nubia Pad 3D managed to impress us. And it requires no dorky glasses to be enjoyed! Sure, all of this sounds similar to what 3D glasses-free phones delivered a decade ago, but the tech we saw at MWC looked much more evolved.

The magic happens thanks to a set of cameras tracking the user's eyes and adjusting the 3D effect accordingly for the best experience. Impressively, you can take 3D pictures with the device itself, while 2D YouTube videos can be given a 3D look. Naturally, professionals who need to view 3D models with greater fidelity might also find ZTE's tablet useful.

Nokia/HMD: repair the future

HMD, the home of Nokia phones, has been keeping a low profile in recent years. However, its quiet innovations caught our eye (and screwdriver set) at MWC, where we got to fix a phone ourselves!

The Phone in question was the new Nokia G22. It won't wow you with specs or looks, but it's designed to be super easy to take apart and repair, and that's innovation the world should know about. After all, the amount of electronic waste we generate is at a peak level, hence making phones last for as long as possible is in our best interest.

If you're curious, we were given a Nokia G22 to take apart at MWC, and five minutes was all it took us to to take its battery out. Another five would be enough to put a fresh one in. The display, charging port and other essential components are designed to be equally easy to replace if needed. Parts and tools are all distributed through a partnership with iFixit, along with professional illustrated guides to simplify the process.

Realme: new world record for fastest-charging phone

In the last year or so, we've seen some big improvements in smartphone charging speeds. But we weren't prepared to spot a smartphone with a 240W charger at MWC 2023!

The Realme GT3 is not a concept phone – it's a commercially available device that has also been sold in China under the name Realme GT Neo 5 for months now. The GT3 is the international model and yes, it comes with a 240W power brick.

This is four times the power of your typical laptop charger and it can juice up a Realme GT3's 4,600 mAh battery in less than 10 minutes.

That's all accomplished with thanks to the SuperVOOC charging tech. If the name seems familiar, it's because Oppo has been working on VOOC charging for years now. Realme did split from Oppo to become its own brand, but – apparently – they still share some tech and assets that they've been working on together in the past.

TCL: NXTPAPER display tech

The TCL brand may be most often associated with TVs, but the company has a line of phones and tablets as well. They offer good value for what they cost, but the tech that we really liked was the NXTPAPER screen technology.

It's not something we can easily convey through images. Think of it as a matte display layer that eliminates glare and makes a tablet's screen feel remarkably similar to paper when touched. NTXPAPER tech makes the screen particularly pleasant to look at when reading or looking at images – it's a subtle difference, but one that would be appreciated, at least by a small audience.

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