Best Smartphones Right Now – Let’s say you want a smartphone with the highest specifications. Let’s say you are truly disgusted with the price of a flagship smartphone at this time. Amazingly, this is not a problem without a solution.
Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that usually has top-notch specifications and features while underestimating the price of most flagships with a serious margin, has a new sub-brand: Pocophone. And the first smartphone launched under the brand, Pocophone F1, is what you expect from Xiaomi – even a little more.
Best Smartphones Right Now
Launched in late August, the F1 Pocophone (called Poco F1 in some markets) has a very difficult job: It has to make people buy it even though all the powerful new smartphones that follow it (Phonetober still doesn’t exist) instead, so there are still many more to come).
After spending almost two weeks on the phone, I am sure that this will not be a very difficult task. The Pocophone F1 offers the best value in the smartphone market now.
First things first: The Pocophone F1 starts at $ 285, but you can set it up to $ 407. It comes in several different flavors, ranging from 6GB to 8GB of RAM and 64GB of up to 256GB of storage. My unit was somewhere in the middle: Armored Edition, with a Kevlar rear end, 6GB RAM, and 128 GB of storage.
However, visual details and storage are set aside, the units I tested do exactly like the cheapest F1 Pocophone, because they have the same amount of RAM and chips. Keep that in mind when reading this review; the performance that I describe can have $ 285.
Beautiful on Kevlar
I only hold a variant of the Pocophone F1 which is coated with aramid fiber (Kevlar), and I like the design. The back of the phone feels soft and very attractive – you won’t drop a lot of these phones unless you are really awkward. The dark gray pattern on the back is simple but very effective. I like the modern-but-somehow-how-also-retro look given by the cellphone. Among the many Androids that I have tested, this is one that I use without a case, only to show it back. This phone comes with a simple soft plastic casing that completely blurs the pattern on the back, making the device look much less attractive.
The telephone’s plastic frame is also dark gray, which sounds boring, but somehow it doesn’t. Maybe the red accent around the camera lens on the back or the silver “Pocophone” logo at the bottom that completes the design very well.
I only have two doubts about design. Fingerprint sensor is a bit too close to the camera; I blur the bottom lens all the time when navigating my finger to the sensor. And the chin of the phone on the front is a little bigger than you will see on most newer phones. I will not spend too much time in the notch considering that basically every other cellphone has it today. It’s very similar to the iPhone, which isn’t bad at all.
Very good display
The screen, 6.18 inches, 2,246 x 1,080 pixels is LCD, not OLED, but it doesn’t make a big difference. I compared the Pocophone F1 with the iPhone X and it was only slightly dim at full brightness. I have watched several dark videos to see how the screen will handle a very dark area, and yes, the iPhone X has a deeper black color and better contrast. But if I don’t have a superior screen to compare, I won’t have a problem with the Pocophone F1 screen. I have seen something similar on some Android LCD devices lately: LCDs in general have become very good, and OLED screens are not much better at all.
The way the content is displayed on the screen is another matter. On YouTube, extending the video to full screen will make the video round on the right side, and cut right below the notch on the left. Many applications will have important info obscured by notches. These types of problems are not unique to the Pocophone F1 – the most famous Android phones have them – but they are still annoying.
Software that goes out of your way
I don’t spend too many words on today’s brand-specific Android user interface. Almost every Android brand has one, and all are very similar, because most of them try to get the best combination of pure Android and iOS experiences.
For Pocophone F1, Xiaomi made the MIUI interface version special and rather minimalist. This experience is a bit more similar to Android stock – the app drawer is turned on by default, for example. Because I am not a stock Android counterfeiter, this is not a problem for me, but it might be important for some users.
Getting to know cell phone settings takes time. For example, to reset the shortcut that appears when you slide your finger down from the notch, you have to go to Settings> Notifications & Status Bar> Switch Position, and switching itself is done in a very unintentional way. But once I found everything I needed, using the Pocophone F1 was similar to using a newer Android phone. The phone comes with several levels of bloatware – including some Mi software and many Microsoft applications that I didn’t ask for – but nothing too aggressive.
One disadvantage: The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, not Android 9 Pie. Hopefully, it will be upgraded faster than later – Xiaomi promises it will happen at the end of November.
Brutal performance, long battery life
The Pocophone F1 has the best Qualcomm chip currently offered, Snapdragon 845, plus the Adreno 630 graphics chip. With 6GB of RAM on board too, this is fast. This is probably the fastest Android phone I’ve ever tried, which is especially noticeable after some PUBG games, which are completely free of distractions.
Equally important: The phone isn’t too hot when I play games. I hardly experience extra heat at all. This is probably due to Xiaomi’s LiquidCool technology, which uses heat pipes to dissipate excess heat from the processor. This is a big problem – too many cellphones today have very large specifications but get very hot after you throw something a little heavier on them.
Battery life in F1 is very good. I can regularly squeeze heavy use for two days, and most users will likely be able to use it for two and a half days without charging. This is easily the best cellphone, the wise battery, I’ve ever tested; only larger Huawei phones are approaching. Quick Charge 3.0 is supported, so you will be able to charge your cellphone quickly after the battery finally runs out of juice.
A few more tidbits. F1 has a headphone jack and stereo speakers. It’s not the loudest around, nor does it wrap the punchiest sound, but at least it’s not distorted at full volume.
What is missing? Also, a bug
I will not call the Pocophone F1 train, but I experienced more than one bug during my use. When I first turned on the camera, the camera fell so badly that I had to restart the cellphone to fix it. Also, fingerprint sensors sometimes don’t work. Not in the sense that it will not register my fingerprint correctly; it stopped working completely until I unlocked the cellphone manually. Most of the time the phone works well, but on calls that come out in August, this shouldn’t happen. On the bright side, I received two updates when completing this text, one of which said this improved the stability of the camera, so at least it seems like Xiaomi ironed the kinks.
Although not a bug, I don’t like how the Pocophone handles automatic screen brightness. It was always too bright or too dim, prompting me to switch to manual adjustment after a while.
For some reason, my version of the Pocophone F1 does not have the ability to unlock, even though this is on the phone. Face unlocking on F1 is definitely present in some markets, so it looks as if Xiaomi launched it slowly, market by market, for several reasons.
Also, there is no water resistance or wireless charging. To be honest, I don’t expect this on the phone to be cheap, but if this is important to you, you should look elsewhere. Finally, there is no NFC, so if you plan to use Android Pay … sorry.
The camera is fine
The 12-megapixel main camera Pocophone F1 will produce great photos most of the time. I was impressed by how fast it was; I can usually turn it on and take a shot of a decent moving target, which is not always the case on Android phones.
I’m not a big fan of photography aided by AI, and it’s all gone berserk lately. I did not object to the introduction of the scene assisted by AI, but I objected to the photos produced, which were usually too processed.
The Pocophone F1 does this too: See unnatural blue water in the photo below – of course, it looks good, but the greenish water of the day, not blue. Luckily, you can turn off AI with easily accessible buttons at the top of the camera UI.
However, if you don’t mind the color difference, the two photos are pretty good. I can consistently get beautiful photos with F1, as long as I have enough light.
Secondary, a 5 megapixel depth sensor is available for bokeh-style shots, but they are mixed bags. Unless you are at the right distance, and your subject is still, you will get a very bad and unnatural shot.
At night, F1 sometimes takes pictures brighter than my iPhone X. But zoom in closer, and you will see the photo is very soft and opaque. The reason for this is probably another feature that F1 does not have: optical image stabilization. You will survive without it, but this is not the best cellphone to take night photos.
Take the two photos above. From afar, photos taken with the Pocophone F1 look brighter and livelier. But the color is fake; iPhone X takes far more realistic photos. And see the details below; The boat and the edge of the hill in the distance are very dirty, making photos taken with F1 look like watercolor paintings.
The 20-megapixel selfie camera will take large and detailed selfies. They will look good during the day, but don’t expect miracles in low light.
Overall, while the camera will not be the main reason why you are buying this cellphone, most of the time F1 will take photos that can refrain from a much more expensive cellphone.
The best bang for money
The Pocophone isn’t perfect: It can be buggy, the camera is mediocre (though only if you measure it with the best out there) and it doesn’t have certain premium features such as OLED screens, water resistance and wireless charging. But in terms of performance and battery life, it’s probably really the best cellphone around. Plus, additional features such as liquid cooling technology and Kevlar-coated back (in the Armored Edition) make it feel special.
Now, for the best part. Based on prices in India, where F1 was first launched, the 6GB / 64GB version of the device costs only $ 285, partly because the Indian rupee lost its value compared to the dollar in recent months. The 6GB / 128GB variant costs $ 326, the 8GB / 256GB variant costs $ 394, and if you want Kevlar to return on top of that, the price is $ 407.
Regardless of what version you get (provided you can get it where you live), it is truly extraordinary. The old question “should you buy a mainstay” or “if you buy three Xiaomi phones with approximately the same price at the same price” has never been more relevant.
And even if you compare the Pocophone F1 with other price-mindful flagships like OnePlus 6 or Oppo F9, the Pocophone F1 is still cheaper and faster. Unless there are some specific details about F1 that really make you angry, it’s hard to argue that it’s the best deal on the market today.
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