Another 'Yet Another phone thread'

Critique
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For six months I have now been contemplating a new phone, after the contract on my current phone ended in June. I've been on Pay and Go since, which I am finding a slightly awkward experience as I keep forgetting to top it up and cannot be bothered to set it up to do it automatically online as it is/was supposed to be a stopgap.

Coinciding nicely with me being tired of a stopgap is the fact that the phone itself seems to be nearing the end, as it has an incredible ability to not hold a charge, and of course software-wise the last OS update was probably around a year and a half ago due to Android manufacturers neglecting their top-end phones OS-wise far too quickly by not updating them or by taking an age to release the updates.

I *think* I would like an iPhone (something I have said for about 4 years on this forum now), but I am open to the idea of a new Android phone or even a Windows Phone, as long as they're supported for a decent lifespan, unlike HTC and my One S! Here are my qualms with each platform:

- The iPhone 6 is still expensive, with no happy medium in regards to cost/data (e.g there are low monthly contract prices but these are all on Vodafone's 1 byte of data a month packages. Also I know I will feel obsolete when the 6S or whatever they call it comes out next year.
- I'm still concerned about Windows Phone 8 and the perceived lack of apps. The OS update cycle also appears to be much bigger than Android or iPhone, and whether current phones will get Windows 10 is seemingly up in the air still, so I'm concerned I'd end up with an outdated phone that's no longer being supported properly. I also keep seeing a promo tweet for a Microsoft Lumia phone on Twitter which reads something like 'Cortana is truly personal!' which sounds annoying and is slightly putting me off.
- When it comes to Android I'm still concerned about update cycles for non-stock handsets, even if the situation is improving. I've never really been a fan of the Samsung Galaxy line, and I'm not sure if I want to stick with HTC considering the bitter emotions I still feel about being on Android 4.1.

I don't think I can get an O2 Upgrade 'deal' as my account now shows I am now a lowly Pay and Go customer, so I don't have any ties to any particular network, although I will be strongly attracted to the cheapest! Any opinions/suggestions/ideas/further synonyms would be greatly appreciated.
Alexia
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If you want to stick to the convenience of P&G, then I heartily recommend O2's Big Bundles. (£10, £15, £20 per month with 500MB, 1GB, 2GB data plus of course O2 Wifi)

I also heartily recommend the Moto G (lite on Android bloatware, available in 4G, gets Android updates relatively close to release date). Moto X available if you want bigger screen and/or 2ndGeneration MotoG (non-4G but dual sim) is quite substantial.
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WillPS
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Wildcard - how about a BB10 device? Pretty much every Android app happily runs on them now and from BB10.3 Amazon App Store is preinstalled for convenience. The OS feels really fluid and stable, in a way that Android never really seems to (to me at least) and iPhones are until their second major iOS update. Hardware is solid stuff - and can be had with an actual physical keyboard if that floats your boat. Battery life is pretty good on everything except the Z10.

I've been using a Blackberry Passport since September. It's not a device for everyone, but for me it's absolutely perfect (bear paws probably has something to do with it). I bought a Z30 as a gift for Christmas - and it's a really nice device for its price range too. Has the best on-screen keyboard I've ever used. £200 + a fiver or so to unlock it on ebay.

In terms of network - well, if you're going down the SIM only contract route:
3G Tariffs - 4G Tariffs

If you're wanting PAYG, and you're a low user, check out Three's 3-2-1 (3p/min, 2p/text, 1p/mb - no credit expiry), or if you go quick, get an EE SIM and use their 100mb/month for free forever deal - you can get an EE SIM on ebay for £1 with £5 credit too. EE have a good low usage bundle at £1/week (which includes 25 mins and 75 texts). £4.33/month for (sort of but not really) 108 minutes & 325 texts + 100mb of 4G data seems like a guddon to me.

If you like the hybrid PAYG bundles thing, obviously there's GiffGaff, but I'd probably go with Mobile by Sainsbury's and take advantage of this; initially at least.

If you want to get a traditional contract, first work out which phone you're after then plumb it in to one of the many contract comparison tools - I normally use Money Supermarket. If Carphone Warehouse are in the mix, bare in mind that you can often negotiate a discount in store. Which network you choose is down to you. I avoid Vodafone and O2 generally as I don't like them.
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Critique
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Thanks for your suggestions so far.
Alexia wrote:If you want to stick to the convenience of P&G, then I heartily recommend O2's Big Bundles. (£10, £15, £20 per month with 500MB, 1GB, 2GB data plus of course O2 Wifi)
Yes, that's the Pay and Go setup I'm on at the moment, as just the £10 bundle worked out much cheaper than going onto a rolling contract! I don't want to stay on Pay & Go as it means I'd have to buy the device outright which would cost too much in one go for the most part (although looking at it the Moto G could be an exception!). As Will points out Three's 3-2-1 plan is very good value too, but I'd have to get my current device unlocked to benefit from it, and the cost of that and the fact it'd be short-term probably doesn't make it worthwhile.
Alexia wrote:I also heartily recommend the Moto G (lite on Android bloatware, available in 4G, gets Android updates relatively close to release date). Moto X available if you want bigger screen and/or 2ndGeneration MotoG (non-4G but dual sim) is quite substantial.
I have been looking at the Moto range, as they do seem to be pretty decent handsets from the brief period of time that Google owned Motorola (I can't quite believe that Google sold it on so quickly!). Looking at reviews and the camera on the Moto G hasn't recieved that much praise - I want a decent camera for when I'm out and about, although I'm not expecting DSLR quality(!) would you say it's an okay camera? Otherwise, the version of the OS the Moto G and X is running looks to pretty good and it seems well supported, so it's definitely a contender, thanks! I've also looked at the oneplusone, which seems to have top specs but budget prices, but equally appears to be quite difficult to get hold of quickly.
WillPS wrote:Wildcard - how about a BB10 device? Pretty much every Android app happily runs on them now and from BB10.3 Amazon App Store is preinstalled for convenience. The OS feels really fluid and stable, in a way that Android never really seems to (to me at least) and iPhones are until their second major iOS update. Hardware is solid stuff - and can be had with an actual physical keyboard if that floats your boat. Battery life is pretty good on everything except the Z10.
I did wonder if someone would suggest a BlackBerry! The BB Curve (5520?) was my first smartphone four and half years ago, and despite my love/hate relationship another BB isn't entirely out of the question. Thankfully the OS looks to have came on a fair bit since OS 5, along with the camera etc, and the proper support for Android apps is something I wasn't aware of before, but makes it much more appealing! I did hear that the Playbook would be getting Android app support when that came out a few years ago, but I can't remember anything about that actually coming to fruition, so I didn't expect anything similar from the BB10 devices.

The Passport does seem to generally be getting positive reviews, but with the shape of the device being such an important part of it I think it's probably important I go and see one in the flesh. Meanwhile, the Classic does, as the name suggest, look like a BlackBerry from two or three years ago, right down to the trackpad! Whilst the trackpad and keyboard were oh-so nice on my Curve, and I can only imagine will have improved on the Classic, I'm not sure I'd want to sacrifice a nice large touchscreen to have them back. Also, I do wonder if getting a BlackBerry, only then to emulate (if that's the right word) Android apps makes the most sense for me - as I've said I'm slightly dubious about switching back to a keyboard, but even if I got a fully touchscreen BlackBerry I do wonder if there's any point in getting one vs an Android handset unless BlackBerry have a killer feature? I will definitely look further into a BlackBerry but for whatever reason I'm skeptical of getting one!
Alexia
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Guess it's OK for snapping around and about.

This is inside a pub on rugby day without flash. Picks out the detail on the head of the Brains Black quite well. Bit blurry on the shiny tabletop.
http://up.metropol247.co.uk/Alexia/IMG_ ... 09_HDR.jpg
woah
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How about an LG G3? Good reviews, great specs and screen size and I know of a couple of people very happy with them. And it's here at a pretty astonishing £19 a month with a similar amount of minutes/data/texts as you have with O2 at the moment.

That actually works out at £100 less overall than buying the phone outright at £300 (also a bargain) and spending £10 a month for two years.

Oh yes, and the Lollipop update is already rolling out in some countries.
cwathen
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Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

- When it comes to Android I'm still concerned about update cycles for non-stock handsets, even if the situation is improving. I've never really been a fan of the Samsung Galaxy line, and I'm not sure if I want to stick with HTC considering the bitter emotions I still feel about being on Android 4.1.
I think Android updates (or lack thereof) are perceived to be a much bigger deal than they are. A new Android handset, even it doesn't come with the latest Android at that time, will come with a version new enough which will easily see out the useful life of the device. My S4 has had a few updates since it came out, and it probably will get Lollipop too, but honestly the updates have changed very little (the most recent one seems to have broken the camera but that's another story), and app support would be pretty much the same even if I was still running it on the original firmware.

The same happened a few years ago when everyone started panicking about being left behind if their device wasn't going to get Gingerbread when in reality Gingerbread really didn't make that much difference and I'm not aware of many apps which wouldn't be just fine on Froyo. Even when Android 4.x came in, 2.x was still supported by most apps for a long time afterwards. At present, as long as you're on some version of Android 4 you'll be fine, and you'll continue to be fine for a fair old while even if it's not the latest and even if your handset won't get Lollipop. As the handset ages It's far more likely that other factors will hold you back (such as the processor, memory, screen, battery etc) long before the version of Android that's on it becomes a problem.
- I'm still concerned about Windows Phone 8 and the perceived lack of apps. The OS update cycle also appears to be much bigger than Android or iPhone, and whether current phones will get Windows 10 is seemingly up in the air still, so I'm concerned I'd end up with an outdated phone that's no longer being supported properly. I also keep seeing a promo tweet for a Microsoft Lumia phone on Twitter which reads something like 'Cortana is truly personal!' which sounds annoying and is slightly putting me off.
I would say Windows Phone will be one to watch next year once Windows 10 has been released. The promise is that modern apps will be cross-platform, all available from the same Windows store and being just as happy on a PC, a tablet or a phone. If Microsoft pull this off, it will offer Windows Phone an edge no other mobile platform has which could finally see it take off.

If they don't, or if it turns out not to be as desirable a feature as it is perceived to be, I doubt Windows Phone will ever knock Android off it's perch. That said, there was a time when Symbian seemed unstoppable...
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WillPS
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Critique wrote:
WillPS wrote:Wildcard - how about a BB10 device? Pretty much every Android app happily runs on them now and from BB10.3 Amazon App Store is preinstalled for convenience. The OS feels really fluid and stable, in a way that Android never really seems to (to me at least) and iPhones are until their second major iOS update. Hardware is solid stuff - and can be had with an actual physical keyboard if that floats your boat. Battery life is pretty good on everything except the Z10.
I did wonder if someone would suggest a BlackBerry! The BB Curve (5520?) was my first smartphone four and half years ago, and despite my love/hate relationship another BB isn't entirely out of the question. Thankfully the OS looks to have came on a fair bit since OS 5, along with the camera etc, and the proper support for Android apps is something I wasn't aware of before, but makes it much more appealing! I did hear that the Playbook would be getting Android app support when that came out a few years ago, but I can't remember anything about that actually coming to fruition, so I didn't expect anything similar from the BB10 devices.

The Passport does seem to generally be getting positive reviews, but with the shape of the device being such an important part of it I think it's probably important I go and see one in the flesh. Meanwhile, the Classic does, as the name suggest, look like a BlackBerry from two or three years ago, right down to the trackpad! Whilst the trackpad and keyboard were oh-so nice on my Curve, and I can only imagine will have improved on the Classic, I'm not sure I'd want to sacrifice a nice large touchscreen to have them back. Also, I do wonder if getting a BlackBerry, only then to emulate (if that's the right word) Android apps makes the most sense for me - as I've said I'm slightly dubious about switching back to a keyboard, but even if I got a fully touchscreen BlackBerry I do wonder if there's any point in getting one vs an Android handset unless BlackBerry have a killer feature? I will definitely look further into a BlackBerry but for whatever reason I'm skeptical of getting one!
I can totally understand the skepticism - there is almost no buzz around them and they have only themselves to blame for that.

The killer feature is the BlackBerry hub; the way messages your emails, texts, FB messages, Twitter DMs, BBMs, WhatsApp messages and notifications from apps are all combined together in to one view which is reached easily from anywhere inside the OS using one gesture (swipe up and to the right - up and hold not all the way to right works as a 'peek'). Along with that you have a very clean OS which flows beautifully. Security and that as well.

Emulation is probably not the right term. BlackBerry developed BB10 from QNX (core) in such a way that third party runtimes/kernels could be incorporated. Both Android and QNX have a Unix-like system at their core so emulation proper (e.g. one system mocking the environment of another) is unnecessary. The long and short is that when apps work, they work perfectly. When they don't work (and that's normally crappy apps with in-app purchase options) they work perfectly after you've fiddled with them a little. For me, I've had to do that with Plants vs Zombies 2 and Snapchat, which both bugger up when trying to 'phone home' to Google Play for their in app payments - in the case of Snapchat, I found an unofficial app does a much nicer job.

I can totally relate on the screen front. I loved my BlackBerry's keyboard (I'd had a physical QWERTY keyboard in some form for 6 years) but I was totally ready to let go in favour of screen. I had actually decided the Moto X would be my next but when I saw the Passport I knew I wanted it. The only downside I see with it over 'normal' touchscreen phones (Blackberry Z10/Z30 included) is that apps are normally developed for rectangular aspect ratio screens, and they adjust to the square with differing results. Starbucks and BK squash and shatliff awkwardly, but are usable. Gremlins and some other games run with black bars top and bottom. Other games simply crop the left and right off - which works fine with, say, Sonic 2, but means the first column on Plants vs Zombies 2 is almost unusable.
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Critique
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cwathen wrote: I think Android updates (or lack thereof) are perceived to be a much bigger deal than they are. A new Android handset, even it doesn't come with the latest Android at that time, will come with a version new enough which will easily see out the useful life of the device. My S4 has had a few updates since it came out, and it probably will get Lollipop too, but honestly the updates have changed very little (the most recent one seems to have broken the camera but that's another story), and app support would be pretty much the same even if I was still running it on the original firmware.
Upon first reading this part of your post I had a minor existential crisis when I questioned whether I'd been thinking about the Android update cycle in a weird and wrong manner, but ultimately I think the lack of Android updates has been a big deal/still is an issue. I will agree that the OS present on an Android phone at the time of release will generally be perfectly competent for the time the device is used, but new OS updates are still introducing nice new things. As I've said already it is less of a big deal than previously, but this is primarily because Google saw the difference in release-times for OS updates between devices was a problem and so stopped linking things to the OS so people would be able to use things like Google Now without having the latest version of Android.

Whilst the flagship devices receive decent support for a few years, any devices which aren't top of the range seem to be ignored. I've banged on about it enough so I won't mention my own phone again, but a quick Google and the 2013-released Samsung Galaxy Core (to be fair I've never heard of it) remains on Jelly Bean (4.1.2), whilst the S4 and various spin-offs are on KitKat (4.4.2). Jelly Bean is still a competent OS, but it doesn't benefit from any of the new APIs, power-saving tweaks, security updates. and various other things you can see listed in this handy version history. On the other side of the argument, a big part of the latest OS (and a few other OS releases) is the refreshed UI, which most won't see because manufacturers put their own UI on instead, like Samsung TouchWiz or HTC Sense, so I do see that having the latest OS on Android is less important than it would be on other platforms like the iPhone, where the latest OS is more closely linked to new features etc.

Either way, it doesn't look that great when a new phone ends up with an outdated OS after a short period of time, with the update taking a while to be released, and when released inevitably full of carrier bloatware.
cwathen wrote:I would say Windows Phone will be one to watch next year once Windows 10 has been released. The promise is that modern apps will be cross-platform, all available from the same Windows store and being just as happy on a PC, a tablet or a phone. If Microsoft pull this off, it will offer Windows Phone an edge no other mobile platform has which could finally see it take off.

If they don't, or if it turns out not to be as desirable a feature as it is perceived to be, I doubt Windows Phone will ever knock Android off it's perch. That said, there was a time when Symbian seemed unstoppable...
I totally agree that Windows 10 will be a defining moment for Windows Phone, as it really could change the playing field quite dramatically, but at the same time I am skeptical of whether it will work or not. Do people really want to use Modern apps on their PC? After two years of Windows 8 my personal answer would be no, as the UI on modern apps is generally big and suited to tablets and phones, so generally unnecessary when you have precise input methods on a PC. Apps like Facebook are also redundant on a PC as the website is easier to use, with more features, so whilst large-scale cross compatibility might seem great on paper, in reality I'm unsure as to whether it will really make a difference.
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I have three oneplus invitations that have 2 days left on them. If anybody is interested, PM me your email and I'll forward one on. £280 for a well specced 5.5" smart phone, rooted and running cyanogen (android 5 on it's way in the new year).
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cwathen
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Critique wrote:I totally agree that Windows 10 will be a defining moment for Windows Phone, as it really could change the playing field quite dramatically, but at the same time I am skeptical of whether it will work or not. Do people really want to use Modern apps on their PC? After two years of Windows 8 my personal answer would be no, as the UI on modern apps is generally big and suited to tablets and phones, so generally unnecessary when you have precise input methods on a PC. Apps like Facebook are also redundant on a PC as the website is easier to use, with more features, so whilst large-scale cross compatibility might seem great on paper, in reality I'm unsure as to whether it will really make a difference.
At present I'm trialling Windows 10 and I make absolutely no use of modern apps either, but then at present they are still just silly little phone and tablet apps running on a PC either in full screen mode or scaled down in a Window. I would agree also that I see no point in apps which simply replicate functionality which could be delivered perfectly well on a website, and never ceased to be amazed at how many major companies have developed apps for phones which have no obvious need to exist when a mobile website would (and often does) do the job just as well for less hassle (I'm thinking Argos and National Rail Enquiries here for starters). That said, never underestimate the pulling power of the latest silly little phone game being directly portable between a full size PC and a phone without the developer needing to invest any time into doing so.

Microsoft is going to great lengths to make modern apps take off to deliver the kind of cross-platforms support they desire - it's also the only strategy they've got for this, as they are unlikely ever to achieve genuine hardware compatibility across platforms, with PCs being so firmly ensconced in the x86/x64 architecture and likewise mobile devices being so heavily ARM-based.

Little touches going into Windows 10 to make modern apps more suitable for manipulation with a non-touch device (like letting them display dialogue boxes) does make me wonder if by cross-platform app support, they don't literally mean exactly the same version running across all devices (although this will be possible). Perhaps what is envisaged is that the front-end UI could be different depending on the device whilst the back end code is common, this could be a huge time and money saver where developers would only need to write the lion's share of the code for their apps once, and then simply produce a UI suited to each platform. This could be very attractive to corporates who could cut time and money spent on development significantly with this approach.

All of that said, any developer embracing this approach at the expense of the far more established iOS and Android platforms will need balls of steel to bet the farm on it, yet that is exactly what will be required in order to make Windows phone desirable enough to achieve any kind of ubiquity.

Still wouldn't rule out dramatic changes to the current Android/iOS duopoly though - in 2006 almost 75% of smartphones ran on Symbian, by 2011 that was down to 25%, by 2012 it had dropped to 4.4%, and by 2013 all development has ceased - from near-ubiquity to death in 7 years. Neither Android nor iOS has ever achieved the market share Symbian once had, it certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility that they could fall if Microsoft sufficiently raises their game.
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