I’ve been slow to upgrade my Nexus 4 as I’m an old fart these days in the IT world, and old farts don’t like change. I’m so pissed off with Windoze 10, I can’t even write about it (someday, I may blast out about that, it would be a long frothing at the mouth rant). I’m happy to report my experience in the Android world has been much more positive since I got the Nexus 4 phone and Nexus 10 tablet. They just work. They upgrade without breaking my programs – mostly – my RBC Mobile app just disappeared one upgrade, no longer compatible with either my pad or phone. I was pissed off early on when a major upgrade totally change the icons, replacing the back arrow with a triangle, and the home icon with a box. That has to be one of my worst IT WTF moments as as when I turned on my phone after the upgrade and had no idea what these new buttons were. Hey, in the old IT days you upgraded your OS, in new Soviet IT world, your phone upgrades itself. You figure out after upgrade, comrade.
Both devices are still compatible with most apps – pretty good for a pad that I wrote about 4 years ago. Both are getting a bit pokey on performance at times, and crash a bit more than they used to – but I expect that for devices that no longer get the latest Android upgrades; just relegated to maintenance/security fixes. Space is an issue – have to keep the game count down on both devices, and the phone really can’t have any videos on it, just a bit of music to cover my offline entertainment outside of offline games. The rest of the space is all software on the phone – apps are quite a bit bigger now, over a gig for many, so when you only have an 8 gig phone… The pad is 16gb, so still has room to put a few videos on it for offline entertainment.
Overall, I’m going to have to say the Nexus 4 phone has been my second best phone so far. My favorite phone is still my old Nokia 5110, a rock solid phone that had great ergonomics, easy to use, long battery life. Just only ‘snake’ in terms of games I played on it, so it’s not a totally fair comparison I admit. But hey, I’ll weasel word the Nexus 4 into the category of best smartphone I’ve ever used. I’m still holding onto the Nexus 10 pad – like the big screen, don’t need more games for that one, as it’s more for media consumption, most of which is from my local server anyways. I tried a Windoze 10 mini-laptop/pad “LaPad” from ASUS – hate it as it just wants me to wait for upgrades, meanwhile I just load the video I want to watch on the Nexus 10, and forget about the Windoze 10 LaPad. Repeat a week later, and before you know it I have not used LaPad for a month and it wants MAJOR upgrades now. It’s too bad, as the ASUS hardware is quite nice really. That is just the tip of my Windoze 10 rant, so let’s move back to the phone upgrade.
What prompted me to upgrade? I’m not seduced by the new and shiny – too many new and shiny things have burned me with IT problems over the years. I’m mostly rational in terms of new features, or “improvements” – overall, there is nothing new I thought would really improve my phone experience. It came down to space and battery life. When I’m using a computer to play music (not enough space on the phone) and thus can’t hear the phone’s reminders or rings, that is strike one. Strike two, the battery is getting weak enough now that a misstep on my part on battery life management will result in an unexpectedly dead phone. Strike three, my cell carrier Freedom mobile upgraded their cell network to 4G, and definitely degraded the 3G network coverage (Nexus 4 is still only 3G). Not unexpected, why put a lot of effort into maintaining a 3G network when they are all cheap old farts like me who won’t spend the money on a shiny 4G device. For good measure, a forth strike, since this is not baseball – SMS has gotten flaky – can’t rely on it anymore. Time to retire the Nexus 4 and move up (by my reckoning) 3 generations of phone to the Pixel 2!
Why get the Pixel 2? I used to support cell phones for a living and saw the Samsung phones a lot. Nice hardware – certainly as good a quality as the LG built Nexus 4, but the crap that Samsung adds to the phone pissed me off. I want a clean Android OS experience, and in my opinion, that clean experience I had on the Nexus 4 left me with a more reliable device. Doesn’t hurt either that my Google phone was first in line for any upgrades and patches. Any other brand has to deal with OS and crapware updates at the same time – more problems result. If I was tight for money I would get a cheap Chinese brand older phone in the $300-$400 range- good enough for 3 years and certainly more “disposable” than the $1K Pixel. Since I can afford it, I’m going with the Google phone again to get me that clean Android feel, with 1st class upgrade service to my OS. I expect to keep this phone for at least 4 years again, so that takes the sting of the price out a bit, but honestly, if you are just looking for a cheap phone, research for the best off-brand “older tech” phone and replace it after 3 years. iPhone you ask? I love bugging my iPhone friends about all the things my Android phone does that their iPhone doesn’t. But seriously, if are in the same boat as me and have the money, go with the iPhone if you like that user experience – it’s more about which flavor you like rather than feature comparison these days.
So, off to Google’s store to buy a phone. Yes, I bought the phone outright – I’m not going to get into phone finances. Same experience as last time. Make a few choices, do a bit of research and find that if a add a second charger to my cart, it will be discounted %100. Thanks Google! Lesson from that: always do your research, even if you know what you want to buy. I learned my lesson from the Nexus and went with the bigger storage 128GB version this time, I figure I actually could put every episode of M*A*S*H on there and still have enough left over add Red Dwarf to the list as well. Protip: You don’t need HD quality on these tiny screens – SD quality is plenty good for small screens. Do you really want to use 4X the bandwidth/space for a nice sharp paused screen?
Now take a deep breath, and submit that credit card info. That’s a lot of money to be carrying around in one’s pocket, can’t say I’m too happy about the doubling of price since a brought the Nexus 4. But wait! The new phone is so much better than the Nexus! Or is it? I’d be waiting a week to find out via Canada Sloth Post. My phone arrives on a conveniently timed snow day – convenient in that I was able to stay home to take delivery of my oh so expensive slab of screen and silicon. I open the non-nondescript delivery box to find a nice cardboard box with the phone in it. It’s reminiscent of a good chocolate box in that you lift off the top which comes out like a piston being lifted out of a cylinder. Too bad I had the thing upside down and had the whole thing plop out on the table, ruining Google’s intended initial impression of “OOOH, SHINY!” That aside, I pull out the phone and marvel at the light thinness of it. But then again, when I take the case off of my Nexus 4, it’s really not that much different – in fact I’d rather have the Nexus 4’s overall smaller size when it comes to carrying it around. That was just the first of many moments of “it’s not that different from my old phone”. I end up having to wait through one last Android upgrade on the old Nexus phone – like it doesn’t want to give up without a fight! Then, plug the two together (make sure your old phone has a good charge) and let the transfer begin. Pretty seamless – got my stuff and most of my settings – a few things missing here and there, but no biggies. Takes a while to install apps on the new phone – has to suck all that back off of your wireless – I estimated about 3GB on my tiny storage space. There was the inevitable “WTF, this is different” cranky old guy moments, but not too big a jump. Where did the battery discharge graph go? Had to download an app to replace that! Overall, about as seamless as it can get for upgrade.
So, what did I get for my money? The phone is a bit perkier now – apps load a bit quicker and lag less often. Not a huge gain, but the Pixel feels as responsive now as my Nexus did when new. The screen is a bit bigger, no better quality. I’d trade that screen in a second for my smaller Nexus 4 phone. I hate the lack of a headphone jack on this phone. The adapter works, but what a pain. Can’t even charge the phone while listening to music, which I was doing with the Nexus phone at work. The battery life is much better now, from a few day’s use, I would estimate it at about double the Nexus 4 – that I think says more about how good the Nexus 4 battery was still after 4 years of use. I messed around with the camera a bit – definitely has improved in quality – but not a high priority for me – I may use it a bit more instead of the pocket camera I keep with me now. The 4G network from Freedom has WAY better coverage now for me – looking at my new GSam Battery app which also graphs phone signal strength, I have not dropped below “medium” the whole day, compared to previous complete drops of signal and weak coverage at work, even before the 4G upgrades. I’ve had all of one phone conversation so far – about the same as my old phone – the thing works, but phone sound quality is not a priority in any of these devices in my opinion – my old Nokia had them all beat in that department. So far, one app crash in 3 days use – not enough to totally go on but compared to my regular game crashes on the old phone, much more stable.
What I got was pretty much what I expected – I was right to not upgrade until my old phone’s functionality started to fail. Smartphone technology is mature now; changes are incremental. There is no big improvement in upgrading three generations of phone, never mind one generation. I’m sure the phone manufactures are hoping more people don’t catch on to that! No, the manufacturers or cell phone review sites certainly will not agree with my assessment – they’d all be gone or with diminished business if everyone approached smartphones the way I do. But what about the extra space and 4G improvements you ask? “Planned obsolescence” I say – new networks, yet more bloated apps all encourage you to upgrade to the latest phone network, and bigger memory in the next generation. I don’t mind the extra space, but if I’d gotten a 16GB Nexus instead, even that would be a minor point. If battery replacement is supported, then even less of a reason to get a new phone. Same thing happened in the desktop computer market – technology matured to the point where upgrading every 2 – 3 years became unnecessary – but there is a lag in consumers realizing this. Eventually there will be contraction in the smart phone industry too – just going to take time for people to realize and demand phones that can go for 5 plus years. Or, we start paying way less for a phone we keep only three years.
A final note: This time around, I immediately went shopping for a case and a plastic protective cover. No scratching the screen of my new phone in the first week like my Nexus! There is definitely an economy around phone accessories these days. Between case and protector, I spent another $35 and I’ll probably get a car charger and adapter for my old chargers, and at least one more headphone adapter. That is why every mall has several cell phone accessory kiosks, and every gas station sell chargers – always need more!