Despite 2020 being terrible in general, it's actually been an exceptional year for smartphones and its accoutrements — a lot of cool gadgets were released. Apple gave us five new smartphones and whole new charging system. DJI announced a couple really neat consumer drones that you can control with your smartphone. There's been a host of accessories that turn your smartphone into a bonafide gaming console. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Microsoft Surface Duo
Microsoft's flagship two-screen phone is the product of two long-term projects. On the software side, it's the pinnacle of Microsoft's long undertaking to abandon making its own mobile operating system and instead integrate its suite of various services — Word, Outlook, OneNote — seamlessly into Google's Android. On the hardware side, it's the culmination of the hard-fought journey to produce a line of Microsoft-made computers that rival Apple in fit and finish and fit Windows 10 into a slick and distinct physical form. The result? The Duo is on the bleeding edge of dual-screen Android technology.
Apple iPhone SE
The 2016 iPhone SE was a big hit—though it seemed like a one-time deal for Apple to make use of some spare components. But the 2020 iPhone SE appears to cement Apple's commitment to the excellent value of the SE brand, in a different and larger shape. It sports some now-antiquated features, like a Home button, and a less-than-incredible screen. But the 2020 iPhone SE is startlingly competent in other respects: it's kitted out with the same A13 Bionic processor as the iPhone 11 and a terrific camera, adding up to a great bargain that brings iOS into reach for a whole new tier of user — hopefully for good.
Nomad Base Station Pro
With the Base Station Pro, Nomad has accomplished something few brands dare to dream of: succeeding where Apple failed. This hefty leather-and-metal wireless charger is more than a pretty face, it's the futuristic, frictionless wireless-charging future Apple's ill-fated AirPower never delivered. Able to charge three devices placed any which way across its entire surface, the Base Station Pro builds on the well-established charging technology in a way that could scale to entire desk and table surfaces. For now, the single pad is magical in its own right — if you can afford it.
Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro
The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, its most advanced keyboard accessory ever for the iPad Pro. It basically takes the best features from the Air’s new keyboard — scissor switches, click-anywhere trackpad, backlit keys — and puts them in a form factor that works for the iPad Pro. At $299 and $349 for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, respectively, it’s an expensive add-on to an already expensive machine, but it’s really the only accessory that’s designed to make the iPad Pro feel like a Mac. And it does.
Belkin Wemo WiFi Smart Plug
The best smart-home gadget is the one you only think about when you’re taking it out of the box. With a tiny profile that won’t block adjacent outlets, compatibility with all three major smart-home ecosystems and a slick multi-platform app, Belkin’s Wemo WiFi Smart Plug has everything you need and nothing you don’t. And like any great appliance, it does an excellent job of immediately fading into your daily life. In fact, you’ll barely even remember to appreciate it.
Mophie UV sanitizer
In a year where we've been exceptional paranoid about germs, the UV smartphone sanitizer has been one of the most important new gadgets. Mophie’s entry into the space takes about 5 minutes to clean your phone with UV rays. But unlike it’s competition, the Mophie UV sanitizer can also wirelessly charge your phone. The only catch is that the unit’s wireless charger is on the top of the device, not inside the cleaning space, so it cannot clean and charge your phone at the same time. Still, it’s an extra feature that will make it extra worth the space on your desk.
The LG Wing is an incredibly innovative smartphone. It has a dual-screen, but it's very different from Microsoft's Surface Duo and Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip. Instead of having dual screens that fold inward on each other like a book or a laptop, the Wing's dual screens rest on top of each other, with the top screen able to swivel horizontally to give you a T-shaped smartphone. It looks, well, kind of like a wing.
The Razer Kishi is a gamepad accessory that effectively turns your smartphone into Nintendo Switch-esque portable console. It plugs directly into your iPhone's Lightning port, which is great because it means no latency issues like that you'd get with Bluetooth controllers. The Kishi also adds pretty all the buttons and controls you'd find on an Xbox controller or Nintendo Switch. Heck, the two joysticks even click in.
Belkin Soundform Elite
What if your Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker had a built-in wireless charger for your phone and was engineered by a high-end audio company like Devialet? That's exactly what the Belkin SoundForm Elite is. There are few gadgets like it on the market.
DJI Mavic Air 2
The Mavic Air 2 both is and isn’t an entry-level drone. It’s small and lightweight, and its foldable design could fool someone into thinking that it’s just a toy. But it’s also decked out with a serious camera and sensor so you can pull off some pretty spectacular photo and cinematic 4K videos at 60fps. Additionally, the Mavic Air 2 can do several things that DJI’s other Mavic drones (entry-level or high-end) can’t. It’s the first one that can shoot 4K video at 60 fps and 120 Mbps. It’s the only one that can capture 48-megapixel photographs (although this is limited to specific modes, most modes shoot 12-megapixel stills) as well as taking 8K hyperlapse videos (although there are limitations to this, too). And it’s the only one that can fly up to 34 minutes, which is pretty impressive. Basically, no other drone under $1,000 comes close to touching this thing.
iPhone 12 mini
The iPhone 12 mini is the first tiny smartphone that Apple has made in years. Its basically the same size as the iPhone SE that it announced earlier in 2020, but its display takes up the entire front of the phone. Aside from size, the iPhone 12 mini is identical in very way to the iPhone 12. Same display. Same cameras. Same MagSafe compatibility. The only tradeoff is its battery life, which is still pretty decent.
Apple MagSafe Duo
The MagSafe Duo is Apple's fancy new 2-in-1 wireless charger that has a foldable design and can simultaneously charge any model of iPhone 12 and an Apple Watch. It's integrated with Apple's new MagSafe charging system that allows it to charge any of the new iPhone 12 models faster than any other non-MagSafe wireless charger you can buy. It's also one of the few wireless chargers that works with MagSafe and can charge your Apple Watch as well. It doesn't come with a wall adapter, which is unfortunate, and Apple recommends pairing it with a 20-watt power USB-C adapter that supports Power Delivery (PD).