Amazon’s kid-focused Glow device is 55 percent off for Prime members

With early Prime Day deals in full swing, Amazon has discounted one of its more niche devices for Prime members. The Glow, Amazon's interactive video-call and projector device, is down to $150 ahead of Prime Day, which is 55 percent off its normal price. That's also the best price we've seen on the gadget since it became widely available in the US earlier this year.

Buy Glow (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $150

The unique device combines an 8-inch LCD display with a projector that creates a 19-inch touch-sensitive surface in front of it. This allows kids to play games using the projected touch screen while video chatting with parents or other loved ones, who can also see the play surface and what the kids are doing. Adults can also join in on the games via their own smartphones or tablets. The Glow comes with one year of Amazon Kids+, too, which includes a bunch of compatible games for the device.

While admittedly a niche device, the Glow could be a good solution for parents who don't mind their kids playing digital games but would prefer something more interactive than what a standard tablet could offer. Kids can interact with things like digital storybooks with animations, card games, puzzles and more, and create digital art as well. The Glow also works with Tangram Bits, which are physical pieces that kids can use to solve digital puzzles projected in front of them by the device.

The Glow is likely a bit of a hard sell at its normal price of $330, but Prime members may find it more enticing while on sale like this. At $150, it's currently cheaper than picking up a Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet, but that could change if you're willing to wait until Prime Day proper, when it's likely that most of Amazon's kid-centric tablets will be discounted, too.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

Amazon’s kid-focused Glow device is 55 percent off for Prime members

With early Prime Day deals in full swing, Amazon has discounted one of its more niche devices for Prime members. The Glow, Amazon's interactive video-call and projector device, is down to $150 ahead of Prime Day, which is 55 percent off its normal price. That's also the best price we've seen on the gadget since it became widely available in the US earlier this year.

Buy Glow (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $150

The unique device combines an 8-inch LCD display with a projector that creates a 19-inch touch-sensitive surface in front of it. This allows kids to play games using the projected touch screen while video chatting with parents or other loved ones, who can also see the play surface and what the kids are doing. Adults can also join in on the games via their own smartphones or tablets. The Glow comes with one year of Amazon Kids+, too, which includes a bunch of compatible games for the device.

While admittedly a niche device, the Glow could be a good solution for parents who don't mind their kids playing digital games but would prefer something more interactive than what a standard tablet could offer. Kids can interact with things like digital storybooks with animations, card games, puzzles and more, and create digital art as well. The Glow also works with Tangram Bits, which are physical pieces that kids can use to solve digital puzzles projected in front of them by the device.

The Glow is likely a bit of a hard sell at its normal price of $330, but Prime members may find it more enticing while on sale like this. At $150, it's currently cheaper than picking up a Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet, but that could change if you're willing to wait until Prime Day proper, when it's likely that most of Amazon's kid-centric tablets will be discounted, too.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

The ASUS ROG Phone 6 has a ‘wireless’ thermoelectric cooler add-on

Following the ROG Phone 5 and 5s, ASUS decided to skip Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in favor of the more efficient 8+ Gen 1, which brings us to the new ROG Phone 6 series today — almost a year after the 5s. In a nutshell, this beastly gaming phone is all about its faster 165Hz 6.78-inch display, 720Hz touch sampling rate, up to 18GB of RAM, up to 512GB of storage, bigger 6,000mAh battery, enlarged internal cooling system and IPX4 splash resistance, in addition to its handy ultrasonic triggers and proven audio performance by Dirac. The most notable change, however, lies within the revamped clip-on cooler, which has now integrated a thermoelectric chip and yet doesn't require external power.

This new AeroActive Cooler 6 is noticeably bulkier than before, partly because of its larger, more ergonomic physical buttons — and there are now four of them instead of just two. It also has a bigger kickstand that flips out from the bottom (though not necessary), and there's a spring-loaded clamp at the top to secure (and activate) the cooler. The new Peltier cooling chip inside — positioned right over the phone's processor when mounted — is sandwiched between the fan and a large piece of copper plate, and there's also a humidity sensor nearby to help avoid condensation.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro and AeroActive Cooler 6.
Richard Lai/Engadget

You can toggle between four cooling modes in the updated Armoury Crate app's console: "Smart" is basically automatic, "Cool" is fan only, "Frosty" is fan plus Peltier chip, and "Frozen" is pushing the Peltier chip to the max, but this is only available when there's external power plugged into the cooler. ASUS claims that in "Frozen" mode, the AeroActive Cooler 6 can lower the ROG Phone 6's surface temperature by up to a staggering 25 degrees Celsius. The cool air blowing out of the two sides serves as a nice bonus for gamers with sweaty palms (like me).

The company also provided some figures from more realistic scenarios. After a 60-minute session in the notoriously resource-intensive Genshin Impact (at 60Hz), "Frosty" mode lowered the phone's surface temperature from 44.8 degrees Celsius to 37.2, and "Frozen" mode took it down further by one degree. Under the same test environment, the ROG Phone 6 was apparently able to maintain an average frame rate of 59.7 fps while staying cool at 37.2 degrees Celsius in "Frosty" mode, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro Max apparently reached a lower 56.8 fps but higher 46.3 degrees Celsius, and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra allegedly only managed 47.3 fps while reaching 47.9 degrees Celsius. This goes to show how cooling is key to maintaining a stable frame rate over a long period. 

The AeroActive Cooler 6 can use its RGB lights to indicate the temperature of the ROG Phone 6 Pro.
Richard Lai/Engadget

Sadly, the AeroActive Cooler 6 — along with its own bumper case — is an optional accessory for the ROG Phone 6 series, so you'll likely have to pay extra for this handy piece of kit. But there's some good news for existing fans: ASUS plans to release a variant of this attachment for the ROG Phone 5 and 5s as well, and it'll make use of the old pogo pins instead of the USB-C side port. Release date to be announced later.

The ROG Phone 6 series comes in two flavors: the regular ROG Phone 6 and the higher-end ROG Phone 6 Pro, with the main difference being the latter has the small "ROG Vision" PMOLED display on the back for showing off customizable animation graphics, as opposed to just having an RGB-illuminated ROG logo. Internally, the Pro packs up to 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM instead of just 16GB. The trade-off — if you want to call it that — on the Pro is that it only comes in "Storm White," while the regular model also offers a "Phantom Black" version. Save for the different camera module layout, "ROG Vision" positioning and printed graphics, the two ROG Phone 6 variants bear a strong resemblance to their immediate predecessors — to the point where they can share the same glass screen protector and ROG Clip controller. 

An ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro mounted with an ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad at the bottom, with an AeroActive Cooler 6 with bumper case at the top left corner, and the gamepad's handheld grip at the top right.
Richard Lai/Engadget

The modular Kunai 3 Gamepad — now available in white as well as black — has once again been granted a life extension by way of a bumper designed for the ROG Phone 6. If you already have this controller since the ROG Phone 3 or 5, you'll only need to get the new bumper in order to attach these Joy-Con-like sticks. Or you can just slot them into the same old gamepad grip and use the entire assembly wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The ROG Phone 6 packs an improved (apparently) main camera featuring a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, along with a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 5-megapixel macro camera. On the other side, there's a 12-megapixel selfie camera with a Sony IMX663 sensor — as seen on the compact Zenfone 8. The main rear camera is capable of shooting videos at up to 8K@24fps, though I'd imagine most people would default to 4K@60fps to get the best of both worlds.

The
Richard Lai/Engadget

On the software side, the ROG Phone 6 runs on Android 12 with ROG UI (you can switch to the less flashy Zen UI), with ASUS promising at least two major OS updates and at least two years of security updates. There's the usual Armoury Crate app which is mainly for accessing your game library, as well as the console for customizing your system lighting, the rear "ROG Vision" screen (6 Pro only, of course), the AirTriggers and more. When in a game, you can toggle the redesigned "Game Genie" dashboard by swiping in from any of the two top corners of the screen while in either orientation. Here, you can quickly toggle the screen frame rate, key mapping, screen recording, performance modes, do not disturb, crosshair and more.

The new AirTriggers 6 now lets you map up to 14 specific touch points, and you get a total of nine input methods with these two ultrasonic buttons, including the new "press and lift" — basically toggling one set of actions for pressing down on the trigger, and then toggling another set of actions when lifting from the trigger. That said, casual gamers like myself will likely just use the classic tap (to fire) and maybe slide (to reload). If needed, you can also map motion gestures with touch points in Armoury Crate.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro mounted with an AeroActive Cooler 6.
Richard Lai/Engadget

The ROG Phone 6 series includes a bumper case and a 65W USB-PD charger (which takes just 42 minutes for a full charge). As far as availability goes, ASUS has only shared that the ROG Phone 6 series will start from €999 (around $1,000) for the 12GB RAM + 256GB storage configuration in Europe, whereas the ROG Phone 6 Pro will only have one version in Europe: 18GB RAM with 512GB storage for €1,299 (around $1,300). Prices and models will obviously vary across different countries, so stay tuned for further updates.

The best smartphones you can buy right now

Choosing your next smartphone can be challenging. With so many brands offering similar features at similar prices, it can be hard to understand what device actually has the things you want. If you’ve already determined you only want an iPhone, your decision-making process is slightly easier. (And even then, Apple’s lineup offers more options than ever.) Those also considering Android will have even more options to choose from, and likely more questions. Do you want a camera that can zoom into subjects that are extremely far away, or do you want intuitive AI that can screen your incoming calls for you? Here at Engadget, we test smartphones all year round and can help you make sense of what’s available and what to look out for. And, of course, we’ve included our favorite phones to help you whittle down your shortlist.

Android or iOS?

Each OS has its pros and cons. Apple’s tight-knit ecosystem makes it super easy to share data between iPhones, iPads and Macs or seamlessly hand-off phone calls or music from one device to another. At the same time, you’re effectively locked in, as services like Apple Messages aren’t available on other platforms.

As for Android, there’s a much wider range of handsets from companies like Google, Samsung, Sony and more. However, Android phones don’t enjoy that same length of software support and often have lower trade-in values. In short, there’s no wrong answer. However, you will want to consider how your phone will fit in with the rest of your devices. So unless you’re really fed up with one OS and willing to learn another, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to switch from iOS to Android (or vice versa) – especially if everyone else in your household is using the same platform.

Cameras

Since people’s phones often pull double duty as their primary camera, figuring out what kind of photo tools you want is key. Nowadays, practically every phone can take a great picture in bright light. But if you want a long optical zoom, you’ll probably have to upgrade to a more expensive device like the S22 Ultra (which has 10x optical zoom), a Pixel 6 Pro (3x optical zoom) or an iPhone 13 Pro (3x optical zoom). (Note: The standard iPhone 13 doesn’t have a dedicated zoom lens.)

Close up of the Pixel 6 Pro's camera bump.
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Mid-range phones often only have two rear cameras (a primary wide-angle lens and a secondary ultra-wide camera) and can sometimes struggle in low-light situations. Each phone maker also has various features that might be a better fit for your style, with Apple offering four different color presets on the iPhone 13 (warm, vibrant, cool and rich contrast), while Google’s Pixel 6 comes with neat tools like dedicated long exposure and action pan modes.

Will you get 5G or Wi-Fi 6?

The good news is that in 2022, most phones have at least 802.11ac Wi-Fi and support for one or more types of 5G connectivity. However, if you want the fastest wireless speeds you can get, it’s going to cost you a bit more. For example, on certain networks, mmWave 5G offers up to gigabit download speeds, less latency and better bandwidth. But mmWave 5G also requires more sophisticated (and pricier) modems, which means support for it is often missing from budget and mid-range handsets like the iPhone SE and Pixel 5a.

On the bright side, mmWave 5G isn’t as widely available as other versions of 5G, so depending on where you live and what network you’re on, you may not be missing out on much if you buy a phone that doesn’t support it. It’s a similar situation for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, which are available on a number of high-end devices, but harder to find on less expensive handsets. Wi-Fi 6 also requires you have to have a compatible router, so unless you know you need it or have a specific use case in mind, the lack of support for mmWave 5G or Wi-Fi 6E shouldn’t be a dealbreaker when looking for a new phone.

Other features to consider

Because not everyone agrees on what makes an ideal phone, you should think about any other specs that might be extra important for you. Mobile gamers will almost certainly appreciate the 120Hz refresh rates you get on phones like the Galaxy S22 or the iPhone 13 Pro. Alternatively, if long battery life is important, you’ll probably want to go with a larger iPhone or an Android phone with a battery that’s between 4,000 and 5,000 mAh in size. Meanwhile, if you find yourself juggling a lot of devices, it can be really nice to have a phone that supports reverse wireless charging, which on Samsung phones even lets you recharge the company’s Galaxy Watches.

Our picks

Best iOS smartphone: iPhone 13 Pro

A blue iPhone 13 Pro Mac and a gold iPhone 13 Pro next to each other on a table with their rear cameras facing us.
David Imel for Engadget

Picking the best iPhone is fairly easy. Of the current lineup, the iPhone 13 Pro offers the best balance of features, size and price. It has a fast-refreshing 120Hz ProMotion screen that makes scrolling a breeze, as well as a versatile camera system and great battery life. I prefer it to the Pro Max since the latter is an absolute anvil of a phone that will probably fracture your skull if it falls on your face. And though the Pro is heavier and pricier than the regular iPhone 13, the additional camera and faster screen is worth the extra money.

All the iPhone 13s are equipped with Apple’s capable A15 Bionic chip, which provides powerful performance. If you don’t need something as high-end as the Pro, consider the iPhone SE 2022, which also uses the same chip but costs a lot less. Though I’m a fan of the iPhone 13 mini’s compact size, I can’t recommend it to anyone looking for a daily driver that will last all day; its limited battery life means you’ll need to at least charge it again in the afternoon for it to stick around till you need to order that Uber at midnight. – Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Buy iPhone 13 Pro at Apple starting at $999

Best Android smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

As Samsung’s latest flagship phone and the spiritual successor to the Galaxy Note line, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has every feature power users and more mainstream shoppers could ever need. Its 10x optical zoom camera offers the longest reach you can get on a phone today, while its huge 6.8-inch 120Hz OLED screen makes everything look smooth and colorful. It also has IP68 dust and water resistance, not to mention durable Gorilla Glass Victus+ panels in front and back. And of course, there’s the built-in S-Pen, whose latency has dropped to just 2.8 milliseconds for 2022. This makes drawing, sketching and anything else you do with its stylus feel incredibly responsive. And, thanks to expanded support, Samsung’s Galaxy S will get at least four years of Android updates, which is longer than what Google has pledged for the Pixel 6. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Buy Galaxy S22 Ultra at Samsung starting at $1,199

Best midrange Android smartphone: Google Pixel 5a

Google Pixel 5a
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

If all you want is a simple, affordable and easy-to-use phone without any unnecessary bells and whistles, the Pixel 5a is the perfect choice. Starting at $459, the 5a features a colorful 6.34-inch OLED display, while Google’s excellent photo processing produces pics that match what you get from phones that cost twice as much. You also get super handy IP67 dust and water resistance, along with good performance thanks to Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. And, unlike a lot of other mid-range phones, the Pixel 5a enjoys strong software support, with Google promising regular Android and security updates until August 2024.

The main things you won't get compared to more premium handsets are a dedicated telephoto lens, wireless charging and support for mmWave 5G (though you do get sub-6GHz). It’s worth noting that the Pixel 6a is around the corner, and it’ll use Google’s own Tensor chip that uses AI to improve photography, voice recognition and Material You. We’d need to test it to see how it performs in the real world before recommending it, but if you’re not in a hurry to get a new phone, it might be wise to wait for the Pixel 6a. – S.R.

Buy Pixel 5a at Amazon - $459

Best midrange iPhone: iPhone SE (2022)

The iPhone SE (2022) held in a hand.
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

With an A15 Bionic chip and iOS 15, the latest iPhone SE is possibly the most powerful phone you can find for under $450. Sure, it has a dated design, but some folks might actually appreciate the retro look. The best thing about the iPhone SE is its home button: It’s the only new iPhone to have Touch ID. And though it only has a single rear camera, the SE still takes solid pictures. If you can get over the small, low-res screen, the iPhone SE will serve you well. It’s also really the only sub-$500 option for iOS diehards.

If you’re open to considering Android and want to spend less than $400, consider something from Samsung’s Galaxy A-series or the OnePlus Nord N20. Those looking to spend even less can check out the Moto G Power – just be prepared to compromise on features like display and cameras at lower prices. – C.L.

Buy iPhone SE at Apple starting at $429

Best camera on a smartphone: Pixel 6 Pro

The Google Pixel 6 Pro held in mid-air with its screen facing the camera.
David Imel for Engadget

It’s hard for me to leave the house without the Pixel 6 Pro. As long as there’s a chance I might want to take photos, I make sure I’ve brought Google’s latest flagship. The Pixel 6 Pro’s triple rear camera system is versatile enough to capture anything from the largest group shots or wide landscapes to faraway animals (like that time I thought I spotted a whale when staring at a distant blob from Acadia National Park). Google’s Night Sight still outperforms the competition when taking pictures in low light, too, and its computational photography delivers clear, vivid photos.

Of course, Samsung and Apple’s flagships are closing the gap, and these days there is little difference between the photos they deliver. Some people might even prefer the warmer tint on Galaxy devices. But special features like Google’s Magic Eraser and Motion effects make the Pixel 6 Pro the most fun to shoot with. Plus, I love the additional tools you get on Pixels, like Call Screening, Material You theming and Live Captions, among others. The Pixel 6 Pro has some small flaws, including a quirky in-display fingerprint sensor and some early software bugs. But if you’re willing to put up with those issues, in exchange you’ll get the best camera experience around. – C.L.

Buy Pixel 6 Pro at Amazon - $899

Best foldable smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

A hand holding up the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with its screen open and facing the camera. A crease runs down the middle of the home page.
David Imel for Engadget

While you won’t find as many options for foldables in the west as you would in Asia, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is widely available in Europe and North America and remains an excellent pick regardless of market. That’s because while its starting price of $1,800 definitely ain’t cheap, the Z Fold 3 has the ability to adjust to your needs. Its exterior cover screen makes it easy to quickly check notifications or a map when you’re on the go, while its huge 7.6-inch main screen delivers a more immersive video experience than practically any other phone out right now. You can even prop the phone on a table and use it as a mini tripod/camera combo.

On top of that, its OLED panel allows the phone to serve as an excellent gadget for reading comics or books, while stylus support lets you sketch or take handwritten notes with ease. (Just remember, the Z Fold 3’s S Pens are optional extras.) And thanks to its innovative hinge, the phone can switch between modes in a snap while still offering five feet of water resistance. In a lot of ways, the Z Fold 3 is a phone, a tablet and an e-reader – all rolled into a single device. Alternatively, if you’re intrigued by flexible screens but prefer something more compact, the $1,000 Z Flip 3 offers similar tech in a smaller device at a more approachable price. – S.R

Buy Galaxy Z Fold 3 at Samsung starting at $1,799

The best smartphones you can buy right now

Choosing your next smartphone can be challenging. With so many brands offering similar features at similar prices, it can be hard to understand what device actually has the things you want. If you’ve already determined you only want an iPhone, your decision-making process is slightly easier. (And even then, Apple’s lineup offers more options than ever.) Those also considering Android will have even more options to choose from, and likely more questions. Do you want a camera that can zoom into subjects that are extremely far away, or do you want intuitive AI that can screen your incoming calls for you? Here at Engadget, we test smartphones all year round and can help you make sense of what’s available and what to look out for. And, of course, we’ve included our favorite phones to help you whittle down your shortlist.

Android or iOS?

Each OS has its pros and cons. Apple’s tight-knit ecosystem makes it super easy to share data between iPhones, iPads and Macs or seamlessly hand-off phone calls or music from one device to another. At the same time, you’re effectively locked in, as services like Apple Messages aren’t available on other platforms.

As for Android, there’s a much wider range of handsets from companies like Google, Samsung, Sony and more. However, Android phones don’t enjoy that same length of software support and often have lower trade-in values. In short, there’s no wrong answer. However, you will want to consider how your phone will fit in with the rest of your devices. So unless you’re really fed up with one OS and willing to learn another, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to switch from iOS to Android (or vice versa) – especially if everyone else in your household is using the same platform.

Cameras

Since people’s phones often pull double duty as their primary camera, figuring out what kind of photo tools you want is key. Nowadays, practically every phone can take a great picture in bright light. But if you want a long optical zoom, you’ll probably have to upgrade to a more expensive device like the S22 Ultra (which has 10x optical zoom), a Pixel 6 Pro (3x optical zoom) or an iPhone 13 Pro (3x optical zoom). (Note: The standard iPhone 13 doesn’t have a dedicated zoom lens.)

Close up of the Pixel 6 Pro's camera bump.
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Mid-range phones often only have two rear cameras (a primary wide-angle lens and a secondary ultra-wide camera) and can sometimes struggle in low-light situations. Each phone maker also has various features that might be a better fit for your style, with Apple offering four different color presets on the iPhone 13 (warm, vibrant, cool and rich contrast), while Google’s Pixel 6 comes with neat tools like dedicated long exposure and action pan modes.

Will you get 5G or Wi-Fi 6?

The good news is that in 2022, most phones have at least 802.11ac Wi-Fi and support for one or more types of 5G connectivity. However, if you want the fastest wireless speeds you can get, it’s going to cost you a bit more. For example, on certain networks, mmWave 5G offers up to gigabit download speeds, less latency and better bandwidth. But mmWave 5G also requires more sophisticated (and pricier) modems, which means support for it is often missing from budget and mid-range handsets like the iPhone SE and Pixel 5a.

On the bright side, mmWave 5G isn’t as widely available as other versions of 5G, so depending on where you live and what network you’re on, you may not be missing out on much if you buy a phone that doesn’t support it. It’s a similar situation for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, which are available on a number of high-end devices, but harder to find on less expensive handsets. Wi-Fi 6 also requires you have to have a compatible router, so unless you know you need it or have a specific use case in mind, the lack of support for mmWave 5G or Wi-Fi 6E shouldn’t be a dealbreaker when looking for a new phone.

Other features to consider

Because not everyone agrees on what makes an ideal phone, you should think about any other specs that might be extra important for you. Mobile gamers will almost certainly appreciate the 120Hz refresh rates you get on phones like the Galaxy S22 or the iPhone 13 Pro. Alternatively, if long battery life is important, you’ll probably want to go with a larger iPhone or an Android phone with a battery that’s between 4,000 and 5,000 mAh in size. Meanwhile, if you find yourself juggling a lot of devices, it can be really nice to have a phone that supports reverse wireless charging, which on Samsung phones even lets you recharge the company’s Galaxy Watches.

Our picks

Best iOS smartphone: iPhone 13 Pro

A blue iPhone 13 Pro Mac and a gold iPhone 13 Pro next to each other on a table with their rear cameras facing us.
David Imel for Engadget

Picking the best iPhone is fairly easy. Of the current lineup, the iPhone 13 Pro offers the best balance of features, size and price. It has a fast-refreshing 120Hz ProMotion screen that makes scrolling a breeze, as well as a versatile camera system and great battery life. I prefer it to the Pro Max since the latter is an absolute anvil of a phone that will probably fracture your skull if it falls on your face. And though the Pro is heavier and pricier than the regular iPhone 13, the additional camera and faster screen is worth the extra money.

All the iPhone 13s are equipped with Apple’s capable A15 Bionic chip, which provides powerful performance. If you don’t need something as high-end as the Pro, consider the iPhone SE 2022, which also uses the same chip but costs a lot less. Though I’m a fan of the iPhone 13 mini’s compact size, I can’t recommend it to anyone looking for a daily driver that will last all day; its limited battery life means you’ll need to at least charge it again in the afternoon for it to stick around till you need to order that Uber at midnight. – Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Buy iPhone 13 Pro at Apple starting at $999

Best Android smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

As Samsung’s latest flagship phone and the spiritual successor to the Galaxy Note line, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has every feature power users and more mainstream shoppers could ever need. Its 10x optical zoom camera offers the longest reach you can get on a phone today, while its huge 6.8-inch 120Hz OLED screen makes everything look smooth and colorful. It also has IP68 dust and water resistance, not to mention durable Gorilla Glass Victus+ panels in front and back. And of course, there’s the built-in S-Pen, whose latency has dropped to just 2.8 milliseconds for 2022. This makes drawing, sketching and anything else you do with its stylus feel incredibly responsive. And, thanks to expanded support, Samsung’s Galaxy S will get at least four years of Android updates, which is longer than what Google has pledged for the Pixel 6. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Buy Galaxy S22 Ultra at Samsung starting at $1,199

Best midrange Android smartphone: Google Pixel 5a

Google Pixel 5a
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

If all you want is a simple, affordable and easy-to-use phone without any unnecessary bells and whistles, the Pixel 5a is the perfect choice. Starting at $459, the 5a features a colorful 6.34-inch OLED display, while Google’s excellent photo processing produces pics that match what you get from phones that cost twice as much. You also get super handy IP67 dust and water resistance, along with good performance thanks to Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. And, unlike a lot of other mid-range phones, the Pixel 5a enjoys strong software support, with Google promising regular Android and security updates until August 2024.

The main things you won't get compared to more premium handsets are a dedicated telephoto lens, wireless charging and support for mmWave 5G (though you do get sub-6GHz). It’s worth noting that the Pixel 6a is around the corner, and it’ll use Google’s own Tensor chip that uses AI to improve photography, voice recognition and Material You. We’d need to test it to see how it performs in the real world before recommending it, but if you’re not in a hurry to get a new phone, it might be wise to wait for the Pixel 6a. – S.R.

Buy Pixel 5a at Amazon - $459

Best midrange iPhone: iPhone SE (2022)

The iPhone SE (2022) held in a hand.
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

With an A15 Bionic chip and iOS 15, the latest iPhone SE is possibly the most powerful phone you can find for under $450. Sure, it has a dated design, but some folks might actually appreciate the retro look. The best thing about the iPhone SE is its home button: It’s the only new iPhone to have Touch ID. And though it only has a single rear camera, the SE still takes solid pictures. If you can get over the small, low-res screen, the iPhone SE will serve you well. It’s also really the only sub-$500 option for iOS diehards.

If you’re open to considering Android and want to spend less than $400, consider something from Samsung’s Galaxy A-series or the OnePlus Nord N20. Those looking to spend even less can check out the Moto G Power – just be prepared to compromise on features like display and cameras at lower prices. – C.L.

Buy iPhone SE at Apple starting at $429

Best camera on a smartphone: Pixel 6 Pro

The Google Pixel 6 Pro held in mid-air with its screen facing the camera.
David Imel for Engadget

It’s hard for me to leave the house without the Pixel 6 Pro. As long as there’s a chance I might want to take photos, I make sure I’ve brought Google’s latest flagship. The Pixel 6 Pro’s triple rear camera system is versatile enough to capture anything from the largest group shots or wide landscapes to faraway animals (like that time I thought I spotted a whale when staring at a distant blob from Acadia National Park). Google’s Night Sight still outperforms the competition when taking pictures in low light, too, and its computational photography delivers clear, vivid photos.

Of course, Samsung and Apple’s flagships are closing the gap, and these days there is little difference between the photos they deliver. Some people might even prefer the warmer tint on Galaxy devices. But special features like Google’s Magic Eraser and Motion effects make the Pixel 6 Pro the most fun to shoot with. Plus, I love the additional tools you get on Pixels, like Call Screening, Material You theming and Live Captions, among others. The Pixel 6 Pro has some small flaws, including a quirky in-display fingerprint sensor and some early software bugs. But if you’re willing to put up with those issues, in exchange you’ll get the best camera experience around. – C.L.

Buy Pixel 6 Pro at Amazon - $899

Best foldable smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

A hand holding up the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with its screen open and facing the camera. A crease runs down the middle of the home page.
David Imel for Engadget

While you won’t find as many options for foldables in the west as you would in Asia, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is widely available in Europe and North America and remains an excellent pick regardless of market. That’s because while its starting price of $1,800 definitely ain’t cheap, the Z Fold 3 has the ability to adjust to your needs. Its exterior cover screen makes it easy to quickly check notifications or a map when you’re on the go, while its huge 7.6-inch main screen delivers a more immersive video experience than practically any other phone out right now. You can even prop the phone on a table and use it as a mini tripod/camera combo.

On top of that, its OLED panel allows the phone to serve as an excellent gadget for reading comics or books, while stylus support lets you sketch or take handwritten notes with ease. (Just remember, the Z Fold 3’s S Pens are optional extras.) And thanks to its innovative hinge, the phone can switch between modes in a snap while still offering five feet of water resistance. In a lot of ways, the Z Fold 3 is a phone, a tablet and an e-reader – all rolled into a single device. Alternatively, if you’re intrigued by flexible screens but prefer something more compact, the $1,000 Z Flip 3 offers similar tech in a smaller device at a more approachable price. – S.R

Buy Galaxy Z Fold 3 at Samsung starting at $1,799

Google’s Switch to Android app on iOS now works with all Android 12 devices

Google is making it easier for new Android users to transfer their data from an old iPhone. As of today, the company’s Switch to Android app on iOS will work with all Android 12 devices. Previously only compatible with Pixel phones, the software is useful if you're about to move from iOS to Android.

Once you have your new phone, connect it to your old Apple one. Your best bet is a Lightning to USB-C cable, but you can also link the two devices together over WiFi. Once they’re connected, select what data you want to be moved over. Your options include apps, contacts, photos, videos, music and messages. At that point, the software will take care of the rest.

The timing of the wider availability of Switch to Android is interesting in part because WhatsApp recently made it easier for new iOS users to move their chat histories over from an old Android phone. Obviously, Google's app won't help if you switched to Android before today's announcement, but if the headache of transferring your data is what held you back previously, now you have one less reason to wait.    

Google’s Switch to Android app on iOS now works with all Android 12 devices

Google is making it easier for new Android users to transfer their data from an old iPhone. As of today, the company’s Switch to Android app on iOS will work with all Android 12 devices. Previously only compatible with Pixel phones, the software is useful if you're about to move from iOS to Android.

Once you have your new phone, connect it to your old Apple one. Your best bet is a Lightning to USB-C cable, but you can also link the two devices together over WiFi. Once they’re connected, select what data you want to be moved over. Your options include apps, contacts, photos, videos, music and messages. At that point, the software will take care of the rest.

The timing of the wider availability of Switch to Android is interesting in part because WhatsApp recently made it easier for new iOS users to move their chat histories over from an old Android phone. Obviously, Google's app won't help if you switched to Android before today's announcement, but if the headache of transferring your data is what held you back previously, now you have one less reason to wait.    

HTC’s first new phone this year is the metaverse-focused Desire 22 Pro

HTC has introduced a new phone with metaverse-focused features, like it promised earlier this month. The HTC Desire 22 Pro supports HTC's Viverse ecosystem and will allow users to visit communities even without VR devices using their browsers. It's also compatible with the company's $499 Vive Flow VR headset and can be paired with the device if users want to explore experiences, watch movies and TV or even just access their apps in virtual reality. As Engadget Chinese notes, though, aside from its metaverse-focused offerings, the phone is firmly mid-range.

The HTC Desire 22 Pro has a 6.6-inch display with a 1,080 x 2,412 pixel resolution and a 120 Hz refresh rate. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chip, a mid-range SoC, has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The device has a 4,520 mAh battery and offers reverse wireless charging. Plus, it has a three-camera system at the back, with a 65-megapixel main, 13-megapixel ultrawide and 5-megapixel depth-sensing cameras. For selfies, the phone has a 32-megapixel front-facing camera. 

A company executive said at Mobile World Congress this year that the manufacturer is gearing up to launch a new high-end device. It's not clear if the executive was talking about this particular phone, but prices for the Desire 22 Pro begin at NT$11990 or around US$404, which means it has the potential to reach a wider audience than more expensive flagship devices. The Desire 22 Pro is now available for pre-order and will start shipping on July 1st in the company's home country of Taiwan. In the UK, buyers can pre-order a unit for £399 and expect shipping to begin on August 1st. Those who also want to get a Vive Flow headset can order a discounted bundle for NT$23,490 (US$791) in Taiwan or £763 in the UK.  

Nothing’s Carl Pei thinks everyone else’s smartphones are boring

Carl Pei thinks there’s something wrong with the smartphone industry. That’s not to say the handsets on sale today are bad. Across the board, modern mobiles are faster, more sophisticated and take better photos than previous generations. But like a growing number of tech enthusiasts, Pei has started feeling like new phones just aren’t as special as the devices that came out five or 10 years ago. So ahead of the launch of the Phone 1 on July 12th (pre-orders begin today), I sat down with the founder and CEO of Nothing to learn how the mobile startup is trying to bring some innovation, quirkiness, and maybe even a bit of fun back to the smartphone market.

Now there’s a very logical explanation for why recent phones don’t possess the same kind of wow factor. Back when the iPhone made its debut, it felt like a revelation. “I used to watch all the launches. I was in Sweden, so I stayed up until midnight or 4AM to see what was coming out,” said Pei. But in recent years, that excitement has waned, with Pei often skipping big keynotes and relying on condensed recaps to stay informed. And it’s not just Pei that feels this way.

Set for a launch on July 12th, Nothing's first smartphone is simply called the Phone 1.
Nothing

“When I talk to consumers, they are also quite indifferent,” says Pei. “When doing focus groups, some consumers said they believe smartphone brands are holding features back intentionally just so they have something to launch for the next iteration, which is not the truth. But if consumers feel that way, it's a sign that they're kind of bored.”

The big issue for Pei is one of stagnation. With major players like LG and HTC having exited the market or becoming irrelevant, the smartphone industry is dominated by a handful of huge corporations like Apple, Samsung, and Google. “You have a few big companies and the way they work is more structured and systematic,” said Pei. “They have technology roadmaps from partners like Qualcomm, Sony or Samsung Display, so they know what's coming. They do a lot of consumer research, they get their feedback and they look at their competitors and the overall market landscape.”

However, Pei feels that approach leads to a lot of sameness. “So they have this information, they analyze it, and then they create a very rational product that is going to do well on paper because they used all this great data,” said Pei. “But the problem is everybody's using the same data and everybody's using the same analysis. So if the input is the same and the method is the same, the output is more or less the same as well.”

Comprised of 900 LEDs, Nothing's Phone 1 features a unique lighting feature designed to surface information to owners without them needing to look at its screen.
Nothing

That’s one thing Pei is trying to change with Nothing’s upcoming handset, the Phone 1. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel – or in this case, the phone – Pei wants to bring some originality back to mobile tech design. “Maybe we can turn down the brain a little bit and turn up the intuition,” said Pei, which is a mantra that has resulted in some of the Phone 1’s more unique features including its design, embedded lighting and glyph interface.

Pei says the inspiration behind the Phone 1’s design comes from a concept the team describes as “raw technology meets human warmth,” or technical warmth for short. “It's got this machine-like nature to it, but also has quirky and very human elements as well.” That’s why instead of hiding the inside of the device behind an opaque back, like you see on so many other phones, Nothing uses transparent glass that exposes components like the Phone 1’s wireless charging coil, heat pipes, and more. In a lot of ways, it feels like a modern industrialist take on the Game Boys and iMacs with see-through plastic shells we got in the 90s and early 2000s.

“I think one thing we’re trying to accomplish is to bring people back in time to when they felt more optimistic about gadgets,” said Pei. This desire to make tech fun again is actually something Nothing carried throughout its entire design process, right down to Phone 1’s codename Abra, which is a reference to the psychic Pokemon of the same name. (For the record, Pei says his favorite ‘Mon is Squirtle.) There are other quirks too, like the heat pipe at the bottom of the phone that looks like an elephant and the red indicator light in back that lets people know when a video is being recorded.

In addition to being visually appealing, Nothing added quirky elements to the Phone 1 like a heat pipe that resembles an elephant.
See if you can spot the elephant hidden in the Phone 1's design.
Nothing

However, while Pei wants to bring fun back to gadgets, Nothing always falls back on the core design principle of form following function. Pei said “We don't do ornaments. We can design different things and unique things, but they always have to be functional.” The best example of this is the Phone 1’s glyph interface, which uses 900 LEDs arranged across the back of the device to create a sophisticated notification system unlike anything out right now.

By allowing owners to assign unique combinations of lights and sounds to different contacts, the idea is that people will be able to see who is calling or texting without looking at the screen. Even the Phone 1’s ringtones evoke old-school analog synths combined with the noise of a dial-up modem, it’s both fresh and retro at the same time. On top of that, the lights glow when the phone is wireless or reverse wireless charging, while the small strip of LEDs next to the charging port can show how much juice the phone has – once again, without ever seeing the screen.

That said, having big ideas about phone design and actually making them a reality are very different things. Making phones is hard, and trying to break into the market as a startup is damn near impossible. If you look at the industry today, the only company that has really broken through in the last decade is OnePlus, which was co-founded by Pei and received significant backing as part of BBK Electronics’ tech umbrella. Meanwhile, the junkheap of failed smartphone startups is littered with ambitious companies like Essential (whose branding and IP are actually now owned by Nothing) that teased similarly big ideas, but went belly up before ever making a second-gen device. Or consider more mainstream companies like Motorola, who failed to make modular phones more than a novelty with its Z-series devices. And ever since, Moto has largely played it safe by shelling out endless rehashes of its G-series line.

Unlike a lot of phones that try to hide their components, the Phone 1's transparent design allows you to see features like its heat pipe, wireless charging coil and more.
Nothing

“The reason why this industry is very hard is because it requires end-to-end capability,” Pei said. “If you're going to create a smartphone company, every single team has to be at least seven out of 10. And some of them have to be even better if your product is going to stand out in some way.”

“Your supply chain team has to be great. Your mechanical engineering, your software, engineering, your industrial design, your sales, your marketing, your customer support,” said Pei. And if we look back at the PH-1 which had an innovative design and a team with serious pedigree, in the end, a handful of issues like its high price and weak camera quality at launch ultimately spelled doom for Essential.

On the flipside, despite Pei claiming that Nothing has already sold more than 560,000 pairs of its Ear 1 buds, there are concerns about the Phone 1 being overhyped. Some commenters online have even compared Nothing’s community forums to a cult based on early reactions to what remains an unreleased device. But when it comes to hype, Pei feels like there’s only one road that leads to success.

“One is the path we currently are taking. We try and create the maximum interest for a product at launch. That sets really high expectations for the product to deliver. And if it does, things go really well. If it doesn’t, maybe it fizzles out.”

However, the challenge is that if a company tries to reign in the hype, the product may never take off regardless of quality. Pei said “In this path, we at least have a chance to try and deliver a great product. The second option is being a small company with no marketing budget is that no one will know about your device. So even if the product is good, the result is still that nobody cares. You don't even have a chance to prove yourself. This is actually our only logical option.”

While the Phone 1 might have the same silhouette as an iPhone 12, the rest of its design ensures you'll never confuse with one of Apple's devices.
Nothing

So while the design of the Phone 1 is quite unique and eye-catching, Pei preaches a pragmatic approach. Instead of taking a huge swing right out the gate, Pei is looking to gradually grow Nothing’s business and ecosystem, starting with its first earbuds and soon, its first phone.

“We’re a fast follower. We didn't invent smartphones. We didn't invent Android, but we have experience in this market. We see ways in which we could do it better and some gaps in the market.” But Pei knows Nothing needs to take it one step at a time. “We need to gradually build to a position of strength. Then when you’re strong, you can go and do something really, really innovative, because you’ll have a business that’s stable enough to take a lot of shots.”

However, while the success (or failure) of the Phone 1 is still to be determined, I appreciate that not only is Pei challenging billion-dollar giants with a new smartphone startup, Nothing is also trying to shake things up in the process. “I think this device is the beginning of something different, but it’s also a gift to our industry,” said Pei. “We're not saying this is a revolutionary product that's going to change the entire industry overnight. But maybe it's going to plant a germ in people's minds.” In a sea of similar-looking glass bricks, Pei hopes the Phone 1 will encourage customers to ask for more creative devices while also sparking larger companies to take more risks. “Some of it will fail. But ultimately, the smartphone market is going to be much more dynamic and we'll improve faster as an industry.”

Google makes it easier for your stuff to sync between Android phones and Chromebooks

Google is rolling out Chrome OS version 103, which includes features that will make it easier for users to share things between Chromebooks and Android devices. For one thing, as the company announced at CES, Phone Hub is getting an upgrade. From your Chromebook, you'll instantly be able to access the latest photos you took with your phone, even when you're offline.

When you take a picture with your phone, it will automatically show up in the Recent Photos section of Phone Hub (which allows you to control some of your mobile device's features from your laptop). You'll need to click on the image to download it, though it's a more elegant option than going to the Google Photos website or emailing yourself a photo.

Recent photos taken with a connected Android phone will automatically appear in a Chromebook's Phone Hub app.
Google

Also new is a way to get a Chromebook connected to the internet more quickly. If you're trying to link your laptop to a WiFi network that's already saved on your Android phone, you can use Nearby Share. Go to the WiFi network tab in the internet settings on your phone. After you select the Share option, you can tap the Nearby button and choose the Chromebook you want to get online. The Chromebook should then automatically gain access to the internet and save the login credentials.

In addition, Google revealed the Chrome OS Screencast app it announced earlier this month will start rolling out this week. You can use that to record, trim and transcribe video.

Later this summer, Chromebooks will gain fast pairing support for hundreds of Bluetooth headphone models including, of course, Pixel Buds. Fast Pair will save the headphones to your Google account, so both your Chromebook and Android phone can connect to them swiftly.

Google said it will roll out more features to make Chromebooks and Android devices play more nicely with each other later this year. The company is looking to take a page out of Apple's playbook with updates like these. Apple has long offered deep integration between its devices, including features such as WiFi password sharing and iCloud photo syncing, which helps it get people more invested in its ecosystem.