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Looking for a new phone

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May. 18th, 2016 | 03:13 pm

I might be in the market for a new mobile phone.

The reason's simple: people I know in real life are starting up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch, and I don't want to be left out. But my old Nokia 5800 running SymbianOS doesn't do WhatsApp, and while there is a desktop version it requires you to have it installed on a phone as well. (The desktop version will display a QR code that you will have to scan using the WhatsApp app on your phone. If you don't have a phone, or if your fun doesn't have a camera, or if it can't run WhatsApp, you can't use WhatsApp on the desktop either.)

So, what do I get?

Last year at CFz a Danish fur (you know who you are :)) showed me his new Blackberry Passport, which I thought was a rather nice phone — I've always liked physical keyboards on phones anyway, all the way back to the Nokia 9210 Communicator (which I personally never had, mind). Leinir also noted that the Passport runs Android apps, which is a plus, even though WhatsApp is also available as a native BlackBerry app. The downside? The phone's very expensive, going for 400-500 EUR at the moment, without a contract. Yowch.

There's other Blackberry phones with physical keyboards, of course: the Classic (~300 EUR), Q10 (~175 EUR) and Q5 (discontinued). They should all be suitable for WhatsApp, as well as email etc. (which is what I'd really want; I don't care about playing games or watching movies on a phone), but cannot run Android apps.

On the other end, there's the Blackberry Priv, the first Blackberry actually running Android rather than Blackberry OS — a rather fancy phone from the looks of it, but even more expensive, going for about 650 EUR. Double yowch.

This leaves me in a bit of a bit. I'd like a phone with a physical keyboard, which I think is uncommon with other brands, but let's face it, Blackberry OS is a dead-end at this point, just like Symbian. Worse, while WhatsApp is available for Blackberry OS, e.g. Telegram is not; I might want to use that at some point (I think there's a CFz staff group, for instance), and I'd rather not have to buy another new phone a few years down the road. OTOH AFAIK the Priv is currently the ONLY Blackberry phone running Android.

So it seems like my requirements, namely basically

  • physical keyboard,
  • runs Android,
  • affordable

are mutually incompatible. Meh.

I've mentioned contracts before, and that's of course something else I'd have to look into. In fact I might get the phone for free then; OTOH I'd pay more for the contract than for the phone. (Contracts for the Priv, say, appear to start at 50 EUR/month, running for at least 24 months.) But OTOOH, I'd also have to pay with a prepaid card, so it's unclear to me right now how the numbers would work out in the end. (My gut feeling is that a contract would, all things considered, be more expensive despite being designed to appear cheaper.)

So, any ideas?

Perhaps I should just drop my "physical keyboard" requirement (I'll admit that's really just for the "cool/unusual" factor anyway). Or perhaps I should be looking for a used phone first.

Actually, I might as well as ask here. Since there's presumably people who have contracts and get new phones every few years reading this, do any of you have any older phones (Blackberry or not) lying around you'd like to part with?

If so, let me know! :) I'm sure we can work something out.

Alternatively, if you have other thoughts or recommendations, let me know below, too.

EDIT: I've since learned two things: one, there apparently is a Symbian client for WhatsApp after all; and two, both that and the Blackberry version will be discontinued at the end of 2016, whatever that means in practice.

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Comments {8}

Lucius

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from: ducktapeddonkey
date: May. 19th, 2016 12:07 am (UTC)
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If you go with a keyboard/case option instead of a physical keyboard on the phone, you'll have a lot more to choose from.

Definitely not the same as a real keyboard. But, with real lack of choice otherwise it might be worth considering.

I'm still getting on fine with the Nexxus 5 I have. They're blowing them out for nothing now and for the right price I'd buy another for sure.

After I loved my Nokia 810 so much, I figured I would probably insist on a keyboard, or at least a case with one for my phone. But so far the swipe keyboard has been good enough for me.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: May. 19th, 2016 09:44 am (UTC)
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Ah, that is a great idea!

I've taken a look at what some of the local electronics superstores have on display, and physical keyboards are indeed — well, non-existent. One store had the Blackberry Priv on display, but that was the only phone with a keyboard.

Having looked at what's available I've refined my requirements, and also started a list of potential candidates. The Samsung Galaxy A3 (2016) looks nice, for instance, as does the Galaxy S5 mini.

Fortunately with my use case – take notes, listen to music, schedule events, use email/WhatsApp/Telegram/... – it shouldn't be difficult to find a phone that's both good at its job, and affordable. I don't intend to watch videos, play games etc., after all.

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Lucius

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from: ducktapeddonkey
date: May. 21st, 2016 03:45 pm (UTC)
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My partner has a Galaxy S5 at the moment.

One of the cool features he found was Ultra Low Power Mode. It's shuts a bunch of "useless" stuff off with just one setting, and now battery time is in days instead of hours.

I think the footprint on his phone is a little big. My Nexxus is bigger than I wanted originally. The S5 mini was my other choice....but the Nexxus was on sale the day I went to the store.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: May. 22nd, 2016 04:41 am (UTC)
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That sounds pretty useful. I generally do charge my phone daily overnight, but I've also seen other people who constantly need to plug theirs in and/or use power banks to avoid having it run out.

Does the S5 mini also have that, or is it just the "full" S5? For that matter do you know if other Galaxy models have it?

Never seen the Nexxus at any store I don't think. Is it good?

Edited at 2016-05-22 04:48 am (UTC)

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Aurifer Salavor

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from: aurifer
date: May. 19th, 2016 08:16 am (UTC)
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You might be best off getting a Bluetooth keyboard. There are some that fold up really small, too.

Phones have finally reached a point where you don't need the latest to get a good experience. Make sure any Android phone you get is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, or can be upgraded. Every phone seems to need special coding by its manufacturer, so you're counting on their support. My Note II, for example, was updated to the version of Android that followed its release, but not to the versions released two or more years after.
Marshmallow allows you to deny requests for some permissions, so you are no longer forced to give crappy apps your ID whenever they request it. There have been some apps I just stopped updating because they now require my personal information. There was a stretch of time where Google Maps decided it needed access to make calls and see who was calling me. (Part of the problem there was that several permissions were rolled into one, so it needs access to incoming calls if it wants to be able to start calls to locations I'm tapping on.)

The general idea behind contracts is that you're financing your device, and they're reclaiming at least that much money in the long run. You're almost always better to go without the contract, because you don't have to worry about a two-year-old plan still charging for a phone that you've since paid off.

Contracts have a knock on effect that makes it so people don't understand the value of phones, which means you might be able to get a year-old one used for less than half its real price.

The Chinese flagships being sold abroad (like Xiaomi) seem to be pretty good for their price. The new Samsung phones are horribly expensive.


I'm still using my Note II from the end of 2012, so I don't have anything extra. I'm not sure when I'm going to upgrade, but there were some nice ultra-thin phones for $200 that aren't the best but are still better than three-year-old tech (especially for the processor).

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: May. 19th, 2016 09:53 am (UTC)
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Heh, you really like Bluetooth keyboards, don't you? :) I'll add them to my list of accessories to look into.

Yeah, good point about Android 6; I've been thinking the same thing. The model that's at the top of my (very early) list right now, the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2016), runs 5.1, but Samsung has stated that they will roll out Marshmallow for the entire Galaxy range. Claws crossed!

You're right, though, with Samsung you're paying for the name. I've been shying away from the "funny names" so far; wouldn't want to end up with a genuine Sorny, Phanaphonic or Magnetbox. Are there any brands (or phones) you can specifically recommend, or recommend against?

Re: Android again, I can't believe it took them until now to allow people to refuse specific permissions to an app, too, but that's another story.

Yeah, good point about contracts. I've never had one with any cell phone of mine — always just had prepaid cards, and I've been happy with that. I've taken a look at that market already, too; looks like I'll have to pay special attention to SIM card form factors, though. Standards are great, especially when there's so many to choose from, eh? :P

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Aurifer Salavor

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from: aurifer
date: May. 19th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
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It's completely pointless trying to type long-form on phones, so a bluetooth keyboard helps when you need to. In reality, it's not like you'll find yourself in the need, if you aren't focusing your work on it.

You can get an On-The-Go (OTG) cable that'll let you connect a USB keyboard to the phone's USB port. That would be the cheapest emergency solution. (It would also allow you to connect a mouse or a flash drive, if the mood strikes you.)

As a general rule, I'd assume a manufacturer isn't going to update their cheaper phones, and will drop support for their expensive phones as soon as they think they can get away with it. In the Android space, that tends to run a year or a bit more. I've always had those problems with Samsung. They even refused to fix something that was actually broken.

SIM cards aren't hard. It's all the same standard, just with different sizes. If you end up with something too big, you can cut it down. If you end up with one too small, you can put it into an adapter. I think they now give you a tiny one inside a couple adapters, and you can punch out whichever one fits.

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: May. 19th, 2016 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Good idea about the OTG cable. I will look into that.

Samsung has promised updates. The proof is in the pudding, of course; there's always a chance they'll renege on that, until the update's actually been rolled out. But I think it's an acceptable risk, and the A3 at least is not just a current phone model but also a fairly new one, so you'd expect it to get updates for a few more years at least.

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