Android Phone Experiences...

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Portreve
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Android Phone Experiences...

Post by Portreve »

I've recently bounced between a couple different models of Android OS-based smartphone (almost the way one bounces between GNU+Linux distros) and what I thought of was going to be an "upgrade" actually wasn't, to my surprise (and disappointment) and so I thought I'd share my experiences with you. This is not a reclaim-old-hardware¹ thread, it's not a get-Google-out-of-my-life² thread, nor is it even just a total-control-over-hardware³ thread. Those are all valid cosiderations and goals, to be certain, but they have nothing to do with what I'm after here.

Last April (or thereabouts) my daily driver, a Google Nexus 6, died. For some time leading up to this point, I was starting to see what in retrospect was more and more flaky behavior. My best guess is that either it had some RAM problems or the flash media was starting to go. Either way, when I got to the point of doing a hail-mary nuke-n-pave, it failed such that it could no longer be re-flashed, and that was that. I kind of started sweating bullets because, up to that point, when I had looked at "latest models" of smart phones on the market, what I was seeing was either you bought a premium (and generally flagship) phone, or you bought something that was cheap (or should have been offered cheaply) which had low-spec hardware and 1 to 2 versions behind releases of Android.

After doing some pretty intensive spot research on brands, models, hardware specs, etc., I found that Motorola (who had previously been the manufacturer of the Nexus 6) had some new offerings out — the Moto G7 series — and they actually looked pretty interesting and compared reasonably well with the high end units out there (acceptable specs, current version of Android) so I trundled off to my local Best Buy to get a little hands-on with the different models I was looking at. Ultimately, I went with the Moto G7 and, as it turned out, I really liked the phone.

A few years ago, I had finally dragged my mother into the modern age. I had already gotten her off of Sprint, which was just ridiculous with their pricing at the time, charging as much for 450 minutes and no included texting as you would pay for a plan with a LOT more minutes, lots of or unlimited texting, and data. I'm a pretty happy Straight Talk customer, so to save some money I got her a phone directly through them. It was fine, it got her off of her flip phone, but it definitely was a low-spec phone, and also they NEVER pushed out a single update for it, OS or security or otherwise. And while Straight Talk is fine for cellular service, their tech support leaves an awful lot to be desired, so when I questioned them, I got the run-around, even at one point being told "You'll have to talk to Android". Yeah, not even "Go talk to Google"... Anyhow, time's passed, and even she, as minimal a user of the thing as she is, was bumping into problems brought about by having very limited RAM and storage space.

So, I started looking around with the thought in mind of giving her my Moto G7 and then upgrading to something even more current.

What I really wanted to do was get one of Motorola's new Moto G units, either the G Stylus or the G Power. (It's really weird. There's been the various Moto G series with numbers, up to and including the G7, then they put out the G no-number models, and they're also simultaneously putting out the G8 series, but that's not in the U.S.) Unfortunately, this has all happened when the Coronavirus has been going on, so whatever shipment dates Motorola was originally expecting from China have almost assuredly gone by the wayside, which means it's anyone's guess when these units will show up in the U.S. market.

Long story short, I eventually chose the Samsung Galaxy A50. They have a pretty good reputation, and I own one of their Galaxy Active2 smart watches (which I love), so I figured I'd give one of their phones a shot. Yeahhhhhhh..... no.

It had a nice AMOLED screen, definitely very high resolution, but there were other issues. First off, getting it to input finger prints was WORSE than pulling teeth. By contrast, the Moto G7 is insanely quick to both enter a fingerprint and then later to use it. The Samsung system uses a through-the-display scanner which is, in my experience, kind of flaky, but also kind of slow, too. Also, what many people accuse Apple of doing (i.e. dumbing down their user interfaces, blocking some choices) and what others accuse Microsoft of doing (trying too hard to make things technolgically gee-whiz-cool) I would say describes Samsung's GUI, along with some apps not being able to be replaced, like the Phone app. I'm used to how Google does a nice job of providing access to information and control without candy-coating it or snowing you under.

I kept the Galaxy A50 for 5 days, and at the end, I returned it to Best Buy (now by way of sitting in the parking lot... thanks, Coronavirus!) and swapped it for yet another Moto G7.


¹²³ These are goals normally achieved by using any one of a number of community-maintained/enhanced Android Open Source Project, or AOSP, ROM/app images manually flashed to one's phone.
⁴ Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of cell phone service providers. There are actual carriers which have networks and cell towers, and then there are Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs. Straight Talk is an MVNO which lets you pick between two CDMA carriers (Sprint and Verizon) and two GSM carriers (T-Mobile and AT&T). What you have access to depends on hardware support on your phone.
⁵ Motorola's back-of-phone fingerprint reader is so fast that I can pick the phone up and have it unlocked before the screen has fully waken up from standby and displays the log-in screen.
⁶ I managed to get both my thumbs set up, but only after a couple hours' effort, and I never could get any of my other fingers fully set up. Often, it would take two or three attempts to authenticate, and once it took so many tries that my company's time clock app balked at it and I had to log in manually.
Please be polite and remember to mark your fixed problem [SOLVED].

Presently running Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.3.

“The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.” — Ambassador Kosh

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