I switched to Android. It was really hard to figure out which phone to buy though. Here's a look at the top contenders and what I actually went with.
Apple totally flummoxed me by removing the headphone hole on their latest iPhone. Wireless headphones? Not this guy.
I've had iPhones since the very first one and would have been happy to continue that trend into infinity. Except I really can't imagine life without an HH. So before I blindly accept Apple's version of the “future,” I've gotta give Android a shot.
Problem is: choosing an Android phone is hard.
Choosing an Android phone is like trying to decide which of your skin cells is your favourite.— Angus Woodman (@angusw) October 6, 2016
I had enough trouble choosing between the 5S and the 5C when they both came out at the same time. (I flipped a coin.)
One reason the Android choice is so hard: there's no clear hierarchy of quality. Here’s every Android phone review on well-SEO’ed review sites boiled down to 15 words: “This phone is really great, but also kinda sucks. Buy it if you want to.”
If you dig deeper and deeper into page 27+ of Google search results you might find one non-Chinese result that actually explains what a given phone is like to live with.
Fortunately, after all the digging required to get a handle on the selection, I found lots of reasons Android phones might be cool to own. There were more than I expected.
Why you might want an Android and not even know it:
- Corded headphones w/out an adapter (obvious)
- Notification LED so you don’t have to press any buttons to see if you missed a notification during that long stint on the toilet which hit you with such urgency that you couldn’t grab your phone on the way
- Two SIM card slots for easy travel or having two local numbers if you deal drugs or have two wives or something
- Expandable memory. My 16GB iPhone 6 was fine at first but now it’s always always full. I’d keep it for longer probably if I could upgrade the storage
- IR blaster so you can use your phone as a TV remote. Because some of us still have TVs and are proud of that and still point our couches at them and will until we die
- FM Tuner so you can … listen to the radio? Who the f*ck uses that? (Also what young people say about owning TVs)
- Use the same cord to charge it as your laptop (USB-C) or Kindle (USB—the-tiny-one)
- Wireless charging
- Lanyard-attachment holes for that ever-fashionable Wiimote look
- Dedicated camera-shutter button
- Colour! The world doesn’t have to be in silver, gold, black or more-black
Of course all of these things don’t come on every phone so you’ve gotta choose. Ahhh, choice.
Now. When choosing a car, I found it really helpful to list all of my options here and write about them. So maybe that’ll work with phones also?
Can’t hurt and you’re still reading so let’s do this thing.
The obvious choice: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Doesn’t this one blow up? No? Okay. Are you sure? Samsung pretty much means explode now, right?
Assuming it doesn’t blow up, I like the concept of the Edge. Wraparound screens are quite unique. And the Samsungs are the top-of-the-line Androids supposedly. So the latest would give me the closest approximation to an iPhone. Right?
Sure. And like the VW Golf, this is the one I should buy. But I can’t own a Samsung phone. I really find the brand off-putting. Samsung. Yeesh. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if they didn’t brand the front of their phones like cattle. I don’t mind some brands slapping their logos around, but looking at the word SAMSUNG all day every day? I don’t know about that.
The no-bullshit choice: OnePlus 3 (or 2)
This seems like a great choice. Looks great, only costs ~$500, has all the things you need, easy to order online, and their Oxygen OS is pretty close to the stock Android UI, which is apparently what you want.
Maybe I should stop for a moment and mention that another reason I don't like sticking with Apple phones is the cost. I buy all my phones unlocked and don't have contracts. There's no significant financial impact of doing it either way, I just like to buy them up-front. But a new iPhone? I paid somewhere around $600 for my iPhone 1. And that was a lot. Then the 4 was somewhere near $800. Now, you can spend $1300 on one ... before tax. WHAT?? That's so much. Even if you get the older model, the 6s, it starts at $800.
That said, I don't even really mind the cost given what a phone is -- the first step in becoming cyborgs -- but I don't want to have to spend that much. I want some options.
So a OnePlus at ~$500 seems like a great option. You can even get a OnePlus 2 for $400! And that ain't no pile of donkey butt.
They're missing a few things you may want like colour and expandable storage and an FM Tuner (how dare they!) but they are otherwise a solid choice.
In fact, this was feeling like a no-brainer choice but then I noticed that it has a 5.5” screen. That’s big. I think the iPhone 6 is kinda big and that’s a 4.7”. In fact, the closer I look, all these Andy phones are effing massive. Androids are big apparently. That is just how they come unless you pick the only one that is small.
The only one that is small: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
It’s small, I say, but it’s still the size of an iPhone 6. Still big enough to make your peen look tiny. And it’s really the only game in town as far as small-ish (powerful-ish) Androids go.
But oh yes, it comes in Yellow! Now we’re talking. I loved the Windows phones that came in yellow many years ago. Lumia 1020 I think.
My biggest complaint looking at photos of the Z5 was that the UI looks a little ugly. What's with the two-line time? And what’s that, you notice, it says Sony on the front? Well, unlike Samsung, I don’t mind the Sony brand. Sony makes good things that go in your hand. They make the best remotes and best controllers (PS hatas come at me, brah) so why not let them make the thing that’s in your hand all the time? No, not that -- your phone.
There’s something satisfying about the square design and frosted glass back also. So much nicer than the gentle curves and arched-top-and-bottom design of a Samsung, or LG, or HTC, or others that didn’t even make the short list.
The bigger version of the one that is small: Sony Xperia Z5
If I’m gonna get an Android phone to test the hypothesis that I’d be better suited to having them in the long-run, I might as well get a phone in the size that they are all gonna be in the future. If only one maker is making small phones and that maker is the future-uncertain, we-don’t-even-make-laptops-anymore Sony, well, best get used to the full size.
Sure, it doesn’t come in yellow, but the full-size Z5 is quite the looker.
Plus the thin-ness adds a little bit extra to the square design that’s missing from the compact. And as sexy as the white looks, it also comes in a weird blue-green color! I do love green phones.
But that UI. There's gotta be a nicer one out there.
The adorable import: Xiaomi Mi5
Winner for most adorable interface is the Mi5. It’s a Chinese phone that isn’t sold in the parts of the world where I hang out. It also doesn’t speak the same language as our main cell networks here in Canada. So, 3G only if I get this phone.
Before iPhones were a thing I had a Motorola SLVR. I didn’t get the flip-version RAZR like those cool guys on Entourage ‘cause I always preferred the candy bar style phone. But I had to import my SLVR (thanks, eBay!) from Europe because you could barely find them in Canada. The seller was nice enough to include a circle-to-straight power plug adapter so I could actually charge it.
I like the idea of buying unlocked phones from faraway lands. It’s like driving a RHD Nissan Skyline. The effort to select and obtain them makes them a little more special, even if you can’t go through drive-thrus as easily.
But a Xiaomi? How about something a little more pronounceable. I struggle enough reading English-to-Chinese book translations.
The convertible: The Moto Z
(Naming a phone is just picking rando letters and number, I swear)
The Moto Z is a normal phone with an average design but one standout feature: Moto Mods. You can remove the back and slap on a bigger battery or better camera lens or a projector. How cool is that?? When you’re travelling you slap on a bigger battery so you don’t have to charge it in the airport, and then when you arrive you slap on the better camera lens to take better photos. Then at the campsite you slap on the projector and watch a movie on the inside of the tent.
The commercial writes itself.
This phone-transformer looks like an amazing concept. But, like anything, you have to look closer.
No headphone jack.
What?? Next. I'm sorry I wasted your time.
The wannabe: Google Pixel
Last on my list is the phone by Google that is apparently a big deal. It has nice hardware with stock Android. And that's enough to be a big deal in the Andy world. I may mock, but it seems perfect for an Android testing experiment, right? Except: why did they make it look exactly like an iPhone? And I mean, it's exactly the same. Right down to the antenna line placement.
Well, they did move the home button to the back so you can practice your blind-finger dexterity. Handy for teenage boys working on their bra-removal skills. But with the home button gone the bottom chin just looks ... lost. I took to Twitter immediately to rectify the problem:
Penguins in unnecessary white space, Google Pixel edition. pic.twitter.com/PYkIywfMhw— Angus Woodman (@angusw) October 4, 2016
I do like the limited-edition blue-backed version though. I always thought the iPhone 5C would have been better with white fronts instead of black and I think this shows the potential.
Another downsize besides the obvious design ripoff: they also ripped off the iPhone's price. Hmm.
I've made a choice!
When trying to decide, a chap on Twitter spit some of my own advice back at me:
Good point. Time to make a call.
At first I went to buy a OnePlus 3. But you ... can’t. It said out of stock. No idea how for how long or if they’ll ever be buy-able. I put my email address in to be notified. Apparently they are invite-only sometimes. Other times back-ordered. Not sure what’s going on. I know people who own them though so it is possible. I don't love it enough to wait forever. I have needs.
Then I took a serious look at the Google Pixel in blue but they are US-only, were selling for over $1000 on eBay, and there was no indication of when or if Canada would get them. Hmm.
Well what about the Mi5? I seriously thought about it and hunted for one on eBay. Elsewhere though, I found some sketchy information that said to be careful if I buy one (or any from a list of Chinese model phones) because they could have spyware installed by the exporter. To be safe, international phones should be re-formatted before you use them. And that is, apparently, a difficult process for a Mi5.
Shit, buying an Android is hard. Huge props to the Apple folks for how easy it is to buy the phone you want, or know when you can get it if you can’t get it immediately.
I checked my carrier next for good Android phones and ... they didn’t have any. And then it would be locked anyway. I want it factory unlocked.
I shopped around a bit more but I decided to go for the one I knew I could get: an Xperia Z5 Dual in white. It’s a sexy lookin’ thing IMO and I got one brand new on eBay for less than $500.
Apparently it's the classy, rugged, elegant choice. Just look at this man:
He would never use an iPhone. He's too effortlessly cool for the try-hard Apple lifestyle.
Anyway, I should get it next week and I may even blog about it. In the meantime, I guess I have to pick out a new watch.