Thursday, November 7, 2013

14 days until end of mobile phone contract (solved and switched)

It's been a very long time since I wasn't on a contract with my mobile phone provider.  At that time, I had a Motorola StarTac, which served me really well, and I got the phone at a huge discount, considering it cost me $9.99.  These phones had been something like US$3000 when they first arrived on the scene.

Since then, I've gone through a number of phones, as technology changed, especially with the 3G data access.  I ended up wanting a fast phone, and then, I wanted to be able to tether it to the computer, so I would have internet access anywhere.  As I progressed and started to send text messages, I wanted a full keyboard.  Lastly, I wanted a smart phone, and then, I wanted one that worked well.

That brings me to today, 14 days away from the end of my contract.

While there is not much wrong with my current phone, I would prefer to have dual-band LTE (compared to 3G only) capabilities, and some extra performance wouldn't hurt.

The choices are:

  • Apple iPhone 5c
  • Apple iPhone 5s
  • LG G2
  • Google Nexus 5

I was told yesterday that Sprint should have LTE capabilities in town in 6 months, as was told to this person by the network technician who services the towers.  Considering that it took the company over 2 years from when I was using 3G elsewhere, that's not bad, if it turns out to be true.

Apple only support two bands at this time.  I'm not fully versed in LTE bands, but I gather than the phones support 1900 MHz and 2500 MHz, since those are the earlier bands Sprint will have everywhere they have LTE.  They started with 1900 MHz, but Clearwire (which they acquired) has held the 2500 MHz frequency and has outfitted for LTE there.  As Sprint de-commissions iDEN at 800 MHz, LTE penetration into buildings will become much easier.

The LG G2 and Google Nexus 5 support all three bands.  I'm a bit skeptical about any Android-based phones, given the developers' abilities to support so many different configurations.  I've seen loads of requests from users wanting a certain game or application to run on their phones, which isn't unreasonable.  That makes me nervous, though.  Google is supposedly addressing the problem with fragmentation through their software design, but it's not there yet.  As I've said in the past, Android version 4.0 was a good place to start a production operating system.

The Nexus 5 would be the easy choice.  It will get the latest, greatest version of Android and related apps.  However, the Sprint version is 16 GB only, and as Android has been increasingly porky, it might seem constrained at some point.  Certainly, anyone who used the 8 GB version of the 2012 Nexus 7 tablet can confirm that it didn't have enough storage to be entirely useful.  That leaves the LG G2, which is rather big, but has the 32 GB of storage and 17 hour battery.

I've had three LG phones, an LG TV, and an LG 3D Blu-Ray player.  They seem to leave a lot undone, although the feature phones were less buggy than Samsung's.  The Blu-Ray player freezes far too often, and the TV isn't always working correctly.  Now, they weren't premium devices, and I don't expect them to give the highest resolution output or the best sound but I expect them to work without having to be unplugged.  Still, the LG G2 is hardly an economical device, and I would expect that it will work well, as long as they've worked out their touch screen threshold.  I really don't feel like stabbing the display to get it to respond.  However, the full HD display may be worth it.

I'm inclined to go with the iPhone 5c, as it's fairly economical, and there are Otterbox (and Ballistic) cases for it, although I would have to order a Ballistic case or anything other than the very standard Otterbox Defender.  Thankfully, the cases are thinner than the case for the iPhone 4S.  The Defender on the iPhone 4S is uncomfortable at times.  The phone itself has the polycarbonate shell over a steel infrastructure, not unlike my 2009 MacBook.  The big question is: How outdated will it be in November 2015?  Will I want a higher resolution display?  ($200 for the phone + $50 for the case + $100 for AppleCare+ and then, there is additional tax and the activation fee, but it's probably still cheaper that way rather than the "helpful" finance the phone plan.

The iPhone 5s has the greater enhancements; unfortunately, they are giving the greater growing pains.  The 64-bit-ness of the processor is apparently causing some problems with the way things work.  I think I'll wait for the next one or two.  I wasn't ready for the iPhone 5 for the same reason--growing pains.

I know that I should just wait to see what happens with the network, but I probably won't do that.  I even looked at going with a prepaid feature phone to save money and then, I would use the current iPhone 4S with the mobile hotspot.  I doubt I'd last long with the inconvenience of that arrangement.  I'd probably find my 12 GB limit limiting.

If I wait until the contract has been finished, will Sprint be more pliable?  Would they offer me the cradle for my mobile hotspot as an incentive to stay?  I know that it sounds selfish, but I've seen people walk away with accounts requiring minimal payments, phone upgrades, and more.  The best I've ever been offered by the company was to buy a phone early at full price, and I'd been a subscriber for 8 years at the time.  They always seemed to appreciate new customers more, even after they introduced their "New for You" campaign.

Update 2013.11.08: 2 years remaining on contract now.  I traded my iPhone 4S for a iPhone 5c, giving me a credit of US$143.  I bought an Otterbox Defender case, which was an extra $49.99 and suffers from a poor design compared to the case for the 4S, which I kept, as they wouldn't give me anything extra.  AppleCare+ is still $99.00 for two years.  I also bought a 6 ft. Lightning cable since they're difficult to find.  I had checked several stores before buying the phone but only Best Buy had short, expensive cables.  $24.99 for 6 feet isn't as good as Monoprice's $12.98 but this seems a bit more sturdy.

It took a while to move 2200+ songs and 130 apps from my computer to the new phone, but it was simple.  iTunes asked if I wanted to use the current backup, so then, it was just a matter of waiting for it to finish, and then, to download the operating system update.

The Otterbox Defender case fits better around the phone but the transparent sheet in the front is not tight or close enough to the display, plus the porthole for the Apple logo, silly as it is, is in the wrong place.  I still don't see the reason to flaunt that you own an Apple product, but whatever.

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