Author Topic: What cell phone should I buy?  (Read 3267 times)

MayDay

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What cell phone should I buy?
« on: October 30, 2015, 07:17:55 AM »
I have a 3 year old smartphone that is dying fast.  We are currently on Cricket and may switch to Ting at some point.  I am open to used, i guess, but sort of not really, because every phone I have had has had significant battery life drop off within a year. 

Budget:  I don't know, up to 300$ maybe.  Less is better.  More is possible.

Priorities: 
1.  Good camera (I use it as my only camera and have little kids so take lots of photos)
2.  Will last 3 more years.
3.  Battery is good and/or battery is replaceable if needed.
4.  Larger screen is better but this is at the end of the priority list for a reason.

My current phone is an HTD Droid DNA.  It was ~600$ new 3 years ago, so I am used to a nice phone (or what was nice 3 years ago).  I tried a free Cricket smartphone (Moto G) and it is ok, but the camera majorly sucks, and H's is giving him problems after 11 months of use. 

I am not a techie person.  My goal is not absolute cheapest phone solution (our monthly service costs are 20$ per line so that is well optimized).  My goal is to have a phone that works well, takes great pictures, and that I do not have to mess with for 3+ more years. 

I read I.P. Daley's phone guide and understood very little. 


TheGadfly

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2015, 07:38:24 AM »
LG Nexus 5

I bought mine on eBay for $275. The Nexus 5 is discontinued so you can't buy it directly from Google anymore so buying it used (or new from a third party) is the only way to go.

It easily meets all of your criteria. I use mine on Cricket and it's been great so far.

Daley

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2015, 08:19:14 AM »
First, I'm going to mention that the Droid DNA battery is replaceable, just not easily... though, it's not for the faint of heart and technically handicapped. Manufacturers want you to pay big bucks to replace batteries or buy new phones instead of replacing your own battery. It's just another form of planned obsolescence.

Second, I would definitely recommend staying away from the Moto E/G/X line for many of these reasons now, especially due to battery life and the difficulty to self-replace for most folks. I had hoped for better from their batteries, but time has only reinforced my pessimism. Used should be perfectly fine if the phone's been well cared for or refurbished, and it's a model with a user replaceable battery.

If you want a "good" camera (which is pretty subjective from a smartphone standpoint), you need to stick with high-end "flagship" phone models, or the big expensive name brands that get advertised on TV - Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, etc... except most of those don't have user replaceable batteries.

Now, regarding the carriers mentioned... I'm guessing you're thinking of switching to Ting GSM (T-Mobile) and not Ting CDMA (Sprint), correct? The following bit of advice will be tailored to that point.

Key AT&T network service bands:
850MHz CLR (band 5) & 1900MHz PCS (band 2) 2G GSM bands (end of life January 2017, already offline in many parts of the country)
850MHz CLR (band 5) & 1900MHz PCS (band 2) 3G UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA bands
850MHz CLR (band 5), 1900MHz PCS (band 2) & 1700/2100MHz AWS (band 4) 4G LTE bands (secondary LTE bands for non-700MHz LTE markets)

Key T-Mobile network service bands:
1900MHz PCS (band 2) 2G GSM band (limited coverage in most markets)
1900MHz PCS (band 2) & 1700/2100MHz AWS (band 4) 3G UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA bands (3G AWS bands are being taken offline in all markets to be refarmed to 4G LTE use in 2015/2016)
1900MHz PCS (band 2) & 1700/2100MHz AWS (band 4) 4G LTE bands (LTE bands are actively being built out and replacing all connectivity on the 3G AWS bands)

Why share with you all this information? So you know what to check for to get the right band support for both AT&T and T-Mobile MVNOs. It gets really messy and complicated getting into high speed data and the 700MHz LTE spectrum between providers, so we'll focus on the most important baseline to work with to ensure reliable phone reception and decent data speeds with both networks: 850MHz and 1900MHz UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA (3G GSM). (This last part in bold right here is really the only major thing you need to remember from all those bands, numbers and abbreviations.) Most all carrier unlocked AT&T branded phones will work well, as will most carrier unlocked T-Mobile branded phones manufactured 2013 and newer, but it never hurts to know the specific bands to aim for as well.

Now, here are the two phone finder tools that I know of that tells you if the battery is user removable, or lets you search by that criteria:
http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/finder.php
http://www.phonearena.com/phones/full

Make sure to use the advanced search tool with both, but don't feel obligated to check everything off. Just look for the features that matter most, and either select the AT&T and T-Mobile carrier options or specify the key service bands mentioned above. Phone Scoop lets you search by user replaceable battery, but does not have a granular band search tool. Phone Arena has a granular band search tool, but only lets you search for "non-user replaceable" batteries, so you have to leave that option deselected and check the overview to see if you can replace the battery or not.

Speaking of, since Gadfly mentioned the Nexus 5, its battery is not easily user replaceable.

As for future support, make sure the phone can at least run Android 4.x for the sake of security updates.

Why teach you how to find a phone on your own instead of just recommending one or two? You know exactly what you want, we don't. Also, self sufficiency is useful. Heap on the fact that user-replaceable batteries are becoming more rare, it's best to just show you how to find weird exotic combinations of features in a smartphones on your own.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2015, 08:23:52 AM by I.P. Daley »

acroy

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2015, 08:39:29 AM »
DW and I rocking Moto G
Mine is pushing 2yrs old. $175 new.
It may not be enough POWA! for a power-user; I don't know. It's my first and only smartphone and I like it a lot.
It has a 'non-replaceable' battery design, but you can replace it DIY if you want to bad enough.

Roots&Wings

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2015, 11:00:46 AM »
I just got the Blu Studio C Super Camera unlocked GSM which was recommended on Bogleheads and very happy with it so far.

Kroaler

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2015, 11:10:47 AM »
I have a nexus 5. Really like it.  The battery is non replaceable, but its actually just 5ish screws. Ive replaced mine after 2 years.   Ive also heard good things about the moto G phones.   

I bought a 50$ pre paid phone once while I sent mine off for warranty repair.  Was something like this, but the ZTE version for 50$.
https://www.att.com/cellphones/motorola/moto-e-prepaid.html#sku=sku7641144

Surprised the hell out of me.  It wasn't my nexus 5,  but it wasn't a huge downgrade either that I noticed, especially for the price lol.

llorona

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2015, 01:06:38 PM »
I  just bought an unlocked BLU Energy X phone for $125 and I'm really happy with it! The screen is 5.5" and the battery life is long. Haven't tried the camera yet so can't vouch for that.

http://www.gsmarena.com/blu_energy_x_plus-7449.php

elaine amj

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2015, 01:12:30 PM »
I'm in the same boat - my husband needs a new phone. His Galaxy S2 (bought when it was the latest and greatest) is dying fast. Looking cheaper though since he doesn't need a good camera...hope to get away with $150 or less. Been eyeing a used Moto X although he is tempted to stick with a Galaxy S4 or something like since he is used to it. He's iffy about the Motorola line (mostly because ppl don't talk much about it). Still not sure what to get so scanning ebay a lot.

Also, looking for a strong camera phone for myself to share with my kids. After endless discussions, we are sticking with the iPhone and are looking for a used iPhone 5S. That said, another thread pointed out AT&T's Credit Card - which offers a new phone up to $650. I figured out the costs (annual fees, taxes, monthly plan) will be about $200. We primarily use wifi and only need tiny amounts of phone/text/data so we have a Truphone prepaid plan.

elaine amj

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2015, 01:18:46 PM »
I  just bought an unlocked BLU Energy X phone for $125 and I'm really happy with it! The screen is 5.5" and the battery life is long. Haven't tried the camera yet so can't vouch for that.

http://www.gsmarena.com/blu_energy_x_plus-7449.php

Hmm..very interesting with good specs. Will be researching this more. DH would absolute love the crazy battery life.

tooqk4u22

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Re: What cell phone should I buy?
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2015, 02:51:39 PM »
Second, I would definitely recommend staying away from the Moto E/G/X line for many of these reasons now, especially due to battery life and the difficulty to self-replace for most folks. I had hoped for better from their batteries, but time has only reinforced my pessimism. Used should be perfectly fine if the phone's been well cared for or refurbished, and it's a model with a user replaceable battery.

If you want a "good" camera (which is pretty subjective from a smartphone standpoint), you need to stick with high-end "flagship" phone models, or the big expensive name brands that get advertised on TV - Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, etc... except most of those don't have user replaceable batteries.

Just curious...what's wrong with some of the $50 cell phones that are out there under no contract plans....I see the Moto E at this price...is it really so bad or so much worse than a $200-650 phone....I mean for $50 it and others seems to have quite a bit to offer.

I need to replace mine too and just seems like another form of spendiness to go for higher phones...like honda vs. BMW.....is it not?