1 in a 1000: picking an android phone

What I do now

First I dug into all the things I do with my phone now, and tried to get as specific about it as I could.

It’s my alarm clock

Beyond just a standard alarm though, I also wear a Mi Band 2 at night that monitors my sleep activity. It will even wake me up early based on my sleep activity. I honestly feel like it’s more pleasant and less jarring to wake up like this.

Normal Usage

It seemed worth noting I use my phone one handed most of the time, even typing (swiping) most the time with only one hand. I also nearly never use the stock launcher or other apps on the phone, and prefer to swap that all out and customize the hell out of the phone. I’ve considered rooting and running a different mod before, but never gone quite that far. I’ve also used a 32GB micro SD card in the phone since getting it. I don’t own any other camera, and I even use this phone to record videos a twenty or so times a year.

Podcasts and GPS

I listen to podcasts almost any time I’m driving in the afternoon or evening, including commuting. I currently use a magnetic car mount that works better than any non-magnetic mount I’ve ever used. My car (a 2009 Nissan Cube) has builtin bluetooth for calls but not for media, so I connect my phone up to a 3.5mm AUX in as well as micro USB for power.

TV Remote and Chromecast

I use the IR blaster in my phone with an old tube TV in our bedroom nearly every day. It doesn’t even have any other remote. We also have a Chromecast connected all the time to our main TV that we mostly use for Netflix and HBO.

Less Frequently

On longer trips, I’m use my phone as a GPS for navigation, as well as stream music or podcasts. I also have a mobile charger battery I’ve used on a couple longer trips. I did drop and break an LG G3, so I should keep an eye on ruggedness. I replaced the battery once. Lastly, I do record some videos (discussing football) every year.

To summarize, I use

  • It should work with the Mi Band 2 fitness tracker.
  • Phone shouldn’t be too big to use with one hand.
  • Software should be easy to customize.
  • It’s camera should be good, and it should be able to record video well too.
  • It should work with a magnetic car mount.
  • I should be able to connect it to my car’s audio while charging the phone.
  • It should have an IR blaster and work with the Chromecast.
  • It be good if it was more rugged than the LG G3.

What I need

Removable Battery

I’ve personally bought and replaced the batteries in two of my phones. It’s a piece of the phone I know will wear down faster than most of the rest of the device. It’s also worth pointing out that my concern really solely about replacing a dying battery, not swapping in spare batteries while traveling or such (mobile battery packs serve that purpose easily.)

Infrared

Infrared have been built into various phones since at least Palm Treos (circa 2002.) I use infrared in my phone nearly every day at home to control a TV with a roku that doesn’t even have another remote.

The 3.5mm Audio Jack

I’m not attached to the 3.5mm port, but I am attached to being able to listen to audio from my phone while it’s charging. I use my phone to for music, podcasts and as a GPS while in the car on trips, and I want to it to be an issue if I have a 2+ hour drive one way, and have to worry about whether I’ll have enough battery to get home. Two usb type-c ports would work just fine; a usb type-c splitter that allows for charging and audio would be fine too.

micro SD

Every android phone I’ve owned to date has had a micro SD card slot. Every one of those phones I put a micro SD card in and used the micro SD card for storing media. Both Apple and Google charge $100 to go from 32 GB to 128 GB. I expect neither company offers a 64 GB tier to push more 128 GB sales. Looking at current micro SD prices and how quickly those prices drop, it’s hard to justify the increase in cost. Plus, I take some solace that if I completely destroyed the phone, the micro SD card would still likely be recoverable.

One Handed Use

The LG G3 is almost too big to use with one hand. I remember handing the Nexus 6P, and that phone was certainly too big. I know most iPhone users never really developed a habit of swiping on a keyboard so the idea of typing with one hand on a keyboard may seem foreign, but I’ve always preferred it.

Carrier Independence

The LG G3 predates any need for carriers to let you unlock phones, and Sprint (the carrier I have) is particularly poor about allowing unlocked devices. If there’s anything that iPhone users have been able to take for granted for years that android users still can’t, it’s that you can take iPhones as far back as the 5s/5c carrier to carrier, even if those carriers are Verizon or Sprint. It’s not a technical limitation either — many devices (like the OnePlus 5) are simply not allowed regardless.

OS Versions

Really digging into OS versions, the jumps in features really has slowed down. Beyond that, the LG G3 running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) is still on par or newer than ~%84 of the the Android phones out here. If the pattern holds, a phone current shipping with Android 7.0 (Nougat) will likely be on par or newer than half of android phones even when Android 10.0 (Q I suppose) is released. If It gets an upgrade to Oreo, it’ll probably still be fine through Android 11 (R??)

Conclusions

The LG G3 is a pretty good phone.

  • (~$300) Moto G5 Plus
  • (~$550) Moto Z2 Play (even bigger than the Pixel XL)
  • (~$670) Google Pixel
  • (~$700) Galaxy S8 (I’m concerned about one handed use without a case. Samsung’s notoriously slower about updates too.)
  • (~$750) Google Pixel XL (might be too big for one-handed use)

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Kevin Hamer

Kevin Hamer

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The Principal Engineer at Imarc, Erratic Author on Medium. Writing about web development and being a better web developer.