Derrek Lee's Top 10 of 2023

Holding the Motorola Razr+ in hand
(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

As 2023 comes to an end, we at Android Central are taking a look back at some of our favorite moments of the year. Whether it's tech-related or just some of our favorite moments and things from life, these are the things we want to highlight that have shaped or influenced our year in a positive or interesting way.

This was quite a significant year for me, and a big part of that had to do with the fact that I became managing editor for Android Central. This year was also filled with plenty of travel, new experiences, and a lot of personal and professional growth. To say that 2023 exceeded my expectations is a bit of an understatement, and while there were many challenges, there were also plenty of moments that I really enjoyed this year.

Here are some of my most significant moments and the things that really stood out to me this year:


A mountain in Hawaii

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

I'm not someone who has had much opportunity to travel. I started writing for Android Central toward the end of 2020, and it would be a while before people would really start traveling again. This year was the first time I got to travel for work, starting with the Motorola Razr Plus launch in New York City, and I'm fortunate to have traveled to a few other places and met so many of my colleagues for the first time. To say that I'm grateful is an understatement.

And I didn't just travel for work. I went back to San Diego (where I'm from) for Comic-Con (more on that, later), checked out a few states over the summer for a little vacation, and I'll be popping over to Hawaii with some college friends to celebrate New Year's. I've done more traveling this year than I'm used to, and it's both exhausting and incredibly fun!

I got to play with flip phones

The Galaxy Z Flip 5, Find N3 Flip, and Razr Plus side by side

Left to right: Galaxy Z Flip 5, Find N3 Flip, and Razr Plus. (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

This was the first year that I got to play with foldable phones. It started with the Razr Plus, but I also got to review the Galaxy Z Flip 5, OPPO Find N3 Flip, and the affordable Razr "Minus." I've always been a fan of the idea of the modern flip phone, and companies really showed up and showed out this year.

Which was my favorite? Well, when comparing the Razr Plus to the Galaxy Z Flip 5, I found that while the Galaxy is the more powerful model, I just prefer the experience of the Razr. That said, the Find N3 Flip has an impressive camera system, while the Motorola Razr "Minus" is the cheapest foldable option you can find in North America. There's something for everyone if you're looking for a flip phone, and I can't wait to see what 2024 brings!

Meeting one of my favorite singers

Ollie Wride performing

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Over the past few years, I've become a huge fan of retro wave/synthwave. I first became aware of the genre in 2021 after hearing a song from The Midnight (who I saw live in 2022), and I've become obsessed ever since. Ollie Wride is another artist whom I absolutely love, and during his tour this year, I got to see him perform live and meet him in person!

It's been months, and I'm still freaking out! This man has an incredible voice and such an electrifying stage presence. He's also incredibly nice, and you can tell he really appreciates his fans. I also just love that he dances like no one's watching, something I should probably do more.

If you're not familiar with retro wave or synthwave, you should definitely check out Ollie Wride. The music has a very 80s feel but with a modern take, and it's simply phenomenal. Definitely listen to "Running in the Night," "Back to Life," and "Wild Ones," to name a few. You should also check out songs from The Midnight, such as "Jason," "Days of Thunder," and "Deep Blue." You're welcome.

Finally got a new laptop

The ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 OLED open and closed

(Image credit: ASUS)

I've been rocking a pretty old Surface Pro (2017) for more than a few years now. It was decent when I first got it, but it really started showing its age recently. Not to mention, the touch screen was busted, and editing videos was an absolute chore. I knew I needed to get a new computer, but it was always so hard to choose a good one for my needs that was within my price range.

Finally, after years of back and forth, I finally settled on the ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 OLED, which I bought during Black Friday weekend. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have a laptop that can run Windows 11, do basic tasks without freezing up, and allow me to edit videos with Premiere Pro. The 2.8K OLED display is gorgeous, the laptop has all the ports I need, there's plenty of horsepower, and the trackpad has a built-in dial that's quite helpful for editing. And all this was surprisingly more affordable than other similar options.

Meeting my family 

Derrek Lee with father and grandfather

Left to right: My dad, my grandfather, and me. (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

While I was doing all that traveling over the summer, I visited Chicago, Wisconsin, and Missouri. The final stop on the summer tour was for a family reunion, where I met my dad's side of the family for the first time. I wasn't sure what to expect, but they turned out to be loud, rambunctious, fun, loving, and incredibly welcoming. We danced, we laughed, we drank, and I got to really bond with my uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandfather.

It was also a chance for me to spend time with my father. We're fairly close, but we hadn't seen each other in person in 13 years. Altogether, it was all incredibly overwhelming, but I hadn't felt such a sense of family in a long time, and I couldn't have been happier.

Some awesome games

Hogwarts Legacy Hogsmeade entrance

(Image credit: WB Games)

This was a fantastic year for video games. I have a PS5, and while I don't play a ton of games, the few I have played through have been phenomenal.

I was cautiously optimistic about Hogwarts Legacy since there was so much hype (and controversy) around the game. However, the game turned out to be just as good as I had hoped, maybe even better. It's a shame it wasn't nominated for anything at The Game Awards. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was a great follow-up, and Spider-Man 2 was even more fun than its predecessors, which says a lot.

Of course, there were so many other good games this year that I haven't had a chance to play yet. There's always 2024, although there will also be plenty of other games to play.

San Diego Comic-Con

Derrek Lee taking a selfie at Comic-Con with people dressed as Tekken characters

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

I used to go to San Diego Comic-Con just about every year, but the pandemic sort of messed up my Comic-Con plans for the past few years. It was great to get back to it over the summer, although it was a little different. With the writers and actors on strike, there weren't really any big names or panels to look forward to, so the exhibit hall was busier than usual. That said, it's always fun to go to, and it's something my mum and I enjoy together.

It's not easy to get tickets to SDCC, but if you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend it. It's a fun opportunity to get one-of-a-kind merch, check out exclusive content on movies, shows, and video games before others, and possibly even see your favorite celebrities. Plus, the cosplaying is superb, and I really want to dress up one year.

Wear OS is finally having a moment

Close-up on Pixel Watch 2 sitting on keyboard

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

I've talked about my excitement for the Snapdragon W5 Plus chip before, but that was right after the chip was launched. Now that it's finally available in smartwatches, we've been able to see what it's capable of, and it hasn't disappointed. The TicWatch Pro 5 has proven to be quite capable, and the Pixel Watch 2 is a big improvement on the original. Honestly, the fact that Google even switched from an Exynos chip to the Snapdragon is a big deal for Wear OS and Qualcomm, and I can't wait for other companies like Fossil to launch their own devices with the chip.

Not only are we seeing better chips for Wear OS smartwatches, but Google is actually giving Wear OS more attention. Apps are getting better, the software is snappier, and we're seeing more capabilities arrive. With all this attention, it looks like companies are finally getting on board with it. Xiaomi launched a new watch, and it's rumored that OnePlus could have a watch in development. Thus, I have a feeling 2024 is going to be a big year for Wear OS, and I can't wait to see what smartphone OEMs besides Samsung do with it.

Confronting my thalassophobia

Derrek Lee sitting in a kayak

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Something I hadn't really talked about much until this year is my thalassophobia. Basically, I'm afraid of large bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans. It sucked as a kid living in San Diego, a city that was all about the beaches. I would cry every time my family would try to get me in the water, content with just playing in the sand. This year, since I knew I would be in Hawaii for New Year's, I figured I would work on trying to get over this fear.

So, this year, I've joined my friends a couple of times at a lake north of Seattle. It's a pretty large lake, big enough that even thinking about it makes me anxious. However, with my friends by my side, I've managed to actually go into the water, at least waist deep. Any further made me nervous, but this was already the deepest I had ever gone into any natural body of water (pools are fine with me). I even took a kayak into the middle of the lake, which made me incredibly nervous.

Baby steps, but I count that as progress.

Becoming a social butterfly

Derrek Lee with colleagues at Motorola Razr Plus event

This is a good photo that few others would have taken. (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

It may come as a surprise to many, even people who have known me for a while, but I'm actually pretty introverted, and I'm a huge homebody. But that's something I've been trying to change lately, especially after being holed up during the pandemic, and it was my goal to both travel and go out more often this year. As I mentioned at the top of this article, I got to do more traveling this year than I have before, but what surprised me most was just how much I've changed. Even my friends and family have noticed the personality shift.

Sure, I still prefer to stay home and rewatch my favorite shows like Fringe and The Nanny, but throughout the year, I've noticed that I'm much more willing to go out and spend time with friends, go on adventures, check out shows, and experience new things. I'm constantly telling myself, "I don't know who this person is, but I like him!" I'm truly pleased about the person I'm turning into, and I can't wait to see what comes in 2024.

Derrek Lee
Managing Editor

Derrek is the managing editor of Android Central, helping to guide the site's editorial content and direction to reach and resonate with readers, old and new, who are just as passionate about tech as we are. He's been obsessed with mobile technology since he was 12, when he discovered the Nokia N90, and his love of flip phones and new form factors continues to this day. As a fitness enthusiast, he has always been curious about the intersection of tech and fitness. When he's not working, he's probably working out.