Phone freak

I decided a little while ago that I was going to get a new phone for the new year so I have been doing a little research.

I don’t actually work my phones that hard — I don’t use many apps(1), rarely take photos and hardly ever make calls but I do have a few specific requirements;

  1. I like to own my phones rather than enter in to contracts with telcos — this is after ongoing annoyances with Orange and Vodafone
  2. I have an upper price limit — I dislike the idea of carrying something wildly expensive in my pocket everyday as I am both clumsy and forgetful
  3. The battery life has to be decent — I spend a lot of time on trains & buses that don’t have power sockets (I do carry an Anker battery as well but wish I didn’t have to)
  4. ..and this one is apparently the deal breaker for the most recent generation of phones — I want a phone that easily fits in both my hand and my pocket comfortably and doesn’t feel like I’ve got a bloody baking tray in my trousers!

After years of being an Android devotee I was seriously tempted to switch to an iPhone 5S this time. I know it is a couple of years old but the spec still seemed decent enough and the price seemed OK. Mentioning this on Twitter though led to a flood of iOS fans telling me that it wasn’t worth it and I should just get an iPhone 6S if I wanted to really experience the best of the operating system. Given my preference for smaller phones this was a non-starter and to be honest put me off.

So I’m back looking at Android. The Nexus 5X(2) was recommended by a couple of people and the Nexus 4 was my favourite ever phone so I checked it out. Size wise it is on the limit of what I am looking for but unfortunately the common thread in reviews is that the battery life is weak at best. The benefit of having access to pure Android without telco junk and early OS upgrades is nothing to sniff at the though so it is still a contender.

The OnePlusX(3) is a real contender — at 5” the screen is just about OK for me and the price is certainly compelling. The reviews seem mostly positive but I do wonder about the sustainability of the OxygenOS(4) and how that will effect the few apps I do use and the ongoing upgrade path. I have to be honest I am also a sucker for the bamboo rear covers — love the look of that.

The lead contenders at the moment are the Sony Xperia Z3(5) or Z5(6) compacts. They are both less than 5” and don’t seem to compromise regarding the specifications particularly. The Z5 is pretty much at the limit of what I’m willing to spend on a phone though so the likelihood is I’d go for the slightly older Z3. The battery life on both is praised in a number of reviews as is the build quality — the Sonyified version of Android is a bit of a minus point but I could probably get used to it.

So at the moment I think it is a straight fight between the OnePlusX as the underdog and the Sony Experia Z3 Compact — any thoughts on the phones or any contenders I have missed out in my deliberations?

(1) Chrome, Echofon Pro, Spotify, Kindle, Guardian, Facebook, Inbox, Google Maps, Slack, Evernote.






Nexus4 the win?

Despite my travails with my Nexus7 (that blog post still accounts for most of my traffic!) I took the leap and ordered a Nexus4 as soon as it was released. In fact I ordered it on my Nexus7 while shivering on a platform at Bristol Parkway station which was  a neat join up I thought 🙂

Once again the delivery wasn’t without its problems. I returned home from work to find a package just left on my doorstep. As it happens it was a rare day it wasn’t raining and as the entrance to my flat is at the rear of the building it wasn’t in plain sight but I do live in a slightly dodgy area (recently I awoke to someone trying to break into my flat by climbing in my bedroom window while I was asleep in there!) so that could of easily ended poorly!

However it didn’t and I was able to have a little ‘unboxing’ ceremony straight away. My first thoughts on the phone were that the build quality was better than the 7 and that it was a little bigger than I expected (though weirdly also lighter.) The screen is very crisp and is very responsive – better again than the 7 I think and certainly than my current HTC Android phone. As usual the integration and syncing with my Google account made things pretty painless (but clearly this is a sign I am pretty locked in to Google as a ‘vendor’ – that is OK for me now but needs thinking about.)

I’m not really someone who gets overly concerned about things like OS versions (I am writing this on a Mac running a long unsupported version of OSX) but it seems like Android 4.2 (Jellybean) is another nice step forward – though the idea of ‘widgets’ on the lock screen isn’t something I really understand the need for. I also much prefer this ‘naked’ version of Android before the telcos get their paws on it.

I only use a handful of apps – still being a web browsing dinosaur for the most part – and they are all present and correct. They feel a bit more natural on a phone (apart from the Kindle app) which I think says more about the haste in which they were converted to tablet scale than anything else.

The lack of storage is a bit odd. My phone only comes with 8gb and has no capacity for that to be extended. As it happens for me that isn’t much of a problem as I still use an iPod for my music and like I said before don’t go big on apps but it seems like an error to me and is better too much on the idea of streaming and cloud storage. I guess I’ll need to look at Google Music at some point though.

The Nexus4 requires a microsim – something I didn’t have so all my initial experiments were on wifi. After a quick Twitter survey I ordered a sim from GiffGaff and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then I got fed up and ordered again and that one showed up straight away thankfully.

GiffGaff certainly represent value for money but it does all feel a little budget. Spelling Android wrong in the welcome email didn’t bode well;

Then there was the fact that neither the internet nor MMS works out of the box and instead requires quite a few changes to your settings – and only talks about working on up to version 2.2 of Android which is pretty old now.

As it happened all of this was pretty straightforward and I was soon connected – my signal so far has been pretty variable but to be honest I was paying double to Vodafone than I am  to GiffGaff and I get more for my money. Plus connectivity was never great with Vodafone locally anyway.

I’m interested to see what the battery life will be like – it has been an issue with every smart  phone I have ever owned but at least I only need to carry a single charger for my phone and tablet.

All in all I am pretty impressed – it is certainly the best phone I have owned – but it has been a while since I owned an iPhone!