Sunday, November 10, 2013

I bought an iPhone 5c (over the LG G2) and stayed with my carrier, Sprint

There is always hope, but sometime, it's almost minimal.  That's how things are today.

Friday, I went back to the local Sprint store and traded my iPhone 4S for an iPhone 5c.  Everyone working at the store was wearing an LG G2 t-shirt.  I really thought about buying a G2 or the Google Nexus 5.  I wasn't 100% sure about either for various reasons.  They're both big.  The Nexus 5 didn't have Otterbox or similar brand cases, and it only came in a 16 GB capacity.  The G2 had 32 GB capacity but I was uncertain about operating system updates and the various complaints against the interface, even though it has the Sprint ID crap on top of the Sprint version--something I know that didn't get in the way too much.

You can call me cheap but the iPhone 5c fits my conservative feeling about technology.  I've already read too much about weirdness with the iPhone 5s, as I read about troubles with the iPhone 5 when it was new, and I generally don't go for the first of Apple's trial runs because I've paid painfully for being first.

The iPhone 5c is slightly more technically than the iPhone 5, in a newer design.  It has 2 bands for LTE, rather than 1.  If Sprint were deploying all 3 bands soon, and LTE was my main goal, then the G2 or Nexus 5 would have been better choices.  However, the 1900 MHz and 2500 MHz bands will do, with the 800 MHz band coming later.  The Sierra Wireless/Netgear mobile hotspot I have only does 1900 MHz for LTE and 2500 MHz for WiMAX, and only 1900 MHz for EVDO.  By the time I get my next phone, everything will be settled.

Still, US199.99 for the 32 GB iPhone 5c and a trade-in value of $143 for my iPhone 4S, made a difference of $56.99, which is a cheap price to switch a generation (or two, if you look at the timing).  Of course, I had to buy another AppleCare+ plan for $99.00 but that's not bad, and then, a cable with a Lightning connector.  It wasn't cheap, but for the quality, it wasn't expensive really.  Monoprice would have a better deal, but I didn't order it ahead of time and deals at Target or Best Buy were worse than Sprint.  I ended up giving all of my extra iPhone 4S accessories to a friend who still has his.  At some point, Lightning cables and accessories will become common, and therefore, inexpensive.

The only thing that doesn't seem a great deal is the Ottberbox Defender case for US$49.99.  Of course, it's changed for the new form.  What seemed sloppy in the iPhone 4S case is taut and what was taut in that case is now loose.  The screen protector is no longer hard plastic and there is a gap, so you must press the plastic against the display.  Does this protect it better?  I don't think so because dust can enter through the opening for the Home button and the speaker/front camera opening.  Oddly, the porthole for the Apple logo is not correctly placed.

The fit of the case is so much better overall and the Lighning port cover doesn't close accidentally as did the cover for the 30 pin connector.  The case is gray and white, so that seems a bit more appealing (at the moment) than the older, black-only case.  In fact, Otterbox has several color combinations available by special order.  I doubt retailers will carry them all.  (Update 2014.01.05: I've changed to the Ballistic SG MAXX, which has apparently been renamed Hard Jacket Maxx or something like that, plus added an Invisible Shield screen protector because the Defender screen protector made it difficult to work the phone.)

As far as usage goes, the phone feels faster, as it should stepping from the A5 processor to the A6 processor.  It would have been nice to get the A6x but it probably generates too much heat in a small package.  Besides, the cost was likely too much to add it and price the phone were it is.

I had a chance on Saturday to gauge LTE, when I was at a Panasonic photo/video workshop at a camera store in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.  I was recently at that store for a product introduction for Olympus, and LTE wasn't healthy.  At 0.75 Mbps, I found it mostly useless.  Sprintcare advised me that two towers were down and putting strain on single tower.  Saturday, a couple of months later, I got 1.0 Mbps, which certainly doesn't even look like 5 Mbps or 10, 15, 20, or 25 Mbps that this technology is supposed to allow.  Obviously, the buildout is still in its infancy.

Further into the suburbs, I got not quite 3 Mbps, and there were gaps in coverage along the way.  When I was in Greenwood Park mall, one end switched all the way down to 1xRTT (thankfully not the circle since iOS 7 but it's labeled 1x), but near the Sprint kiosk, there was LTE available, not that it worked very well, but it was present.

I was told to expect LTE here in 6 months.  Given my 60+ mile drive home, I have no doubt that it will be deployed along I-70, as it went quite a way, covering several small towns along the interstate highway.  It stopped in the middle of nowhere, not at an intersection along the highway, which seemed odd to me, but I'm not a communications planner.  With about 38 more miles to get to the town where I am now, it looks like progress is actually happening in a very backward area that only got 3G service in early 2009.

When I was outside Cincinnati today, in the Springdale area, I noticed the LTE indicator on the phone.  Cincinnati is not an announced area, as far as I know, and the WiMAX there is more overloaded than the 3G service, so it was surprising to see the results.

As for the increased resolution, there is room for an extra row of icons and using my backup from the iPhone 4S, it looks a bit lonely toward the bottom.  I wish that they would let me expand the favorite apps at the bottom into two rows.  It's not as though it's a hardship, but it could be more convenient.  Apple is learning, but learning so slowly that the rest of us need a class on patience.

I'm sure someone out there thinks that I'm ridiculously stupid for staying with a CDMA phone.  Here is my reasoning: There was a demonstration of how you could use a $15 phone and a little bit of knowledge to fake a GSM tower and listen to conversations.  It's not that I make a lot of conversations, secretive or otherwise, but it's ridiculous to open yourself up when you give that credit card number over the phone and a third party is listening.

They call CDMA old, but GSM goes back to the 1980s--further than CDMA really.  I'm excited about VoLTE--voice over LTE technology, where we can give up both GSM and CDMA but it's going to be later in the decade.

Update 2013.11.26: Two weeks have passed already?  The phone has proven itself.  LTE, where available, works well.  I don't see that the phone can fix communications problems but at least, it's not making them worse, as it seemed to be with the iPhone 4S or the LG Optimus S.  Perhaps, Qualcomm is better now or it's just that the antenna configuration is much better.  I'm holding the phone the same way as always.  For a moment yesterday, I was thinking of my Sanyo PM-8200 with the pull-out antenna.  That phone had amazing sound but flip phones could be thicker then.  Having a phone that sounded better than a landline phone was incredible at that time.  It was only when I got to the premium Samsung A900 that my expectations went down.

I was going to say that my problem with compass interference had completely gone away, but I can only say that it's minimized.  I haven't seen the actual message about compass interference, but I find that the map is looking the wrong way occasionally.

I haven't seen anything terrible, which is both great and expected of what is mostly a 1 year old phone with some enhancements.  When iOS 7 is more mature, I expect that it will be as good as a phone can be.

My 2013 Google Nexus 7 tablet will fill my need for Android.

Update 2013.12.06: My pro rata bill came and that's always a time for panic as it is big.  The bill was almost exactly the same, except for the US$36.00 activation fee and AppleCare+ for US$99.00, and of course, there was additional tax because of those two.  It's a bit more (~US$60+) than my bill from two years ago when I got the iPhone 4s when they started charging the smart phone premium data fee but I don't recall much about the changes.

Service has been unhappy and great in alternating cycles.  LTE is still months away, though it works in the small town of Eaton in Ohio about 12 miles away, though no longer in the Cincinnati area.  It would be great to have a really good response from the devices, although the iPhone 5c generally works better than the mobile hotspot.  How any carrier buys products to work with their supplied connections, and they don't really work together well, I will never understand.  All the carriers seem to have the same problems and it's never their fault, just like the cable company.

Update 2014.01.05: I am definitely not pleased with service lately.  It's likely because of holiday shopping and ongoing upgrade work, but service at  home is unusable at times.  I don't mean that it's pathetically slow.  I mean that it's time to shut off the phone slow because nothing is getting data.  The mobile hotspot is worse for whatever reason.  Checking the website shows me that cows and horses about 6 miles east of here have LTE service and it's arriving from all sides, but when tiny towns have the service and a town of 35,000 doesn't, it makes me wonder what the priorities are.  The phone is great however and hasn't disappointed at all.

Update 2014.03.26: After spending several months with the latest version of Android (4.4.2) and recently updating the iPhone 5c to iOS 7.1, I couldn't be more pleased that I didn't get an Android-based phone.  There is always something just a little bit off about Android.  Thankfully, the tablet isn't bad as its 2012 counterpart was.  I like the 2013 Nexus 7, and it's a much better piece of hardware than the iPad mini but it would be good if Google fixed the operating system, so it wasn't a pig and the battery wasn't half depleted if I leave it off the charger all night.

The iPhone 5c has recently taken up mobile hotspot duties and it works well enough, but there seem to be some flaws in the functionality in iOS 7.1.  Otherwise, the phone is quite good, which should be expected since it is a warmed-over iPhone 5 with dual band LTE.  LTE works quite well, and I've seen over 12 Mbps with it.  However, at home, I'm still struggling with service.  I suspect the technician is the same one who couldn't get 3G/EVDO working on schedule, and can't keep the network working consistently either.

I'm no longer using the Otterbox Defender case.  I switched to a Ballistic SG MAXX case, tossed the screen protector, and bought an Invisible Shield screen protector.   It was a lot of money, but not wasted.

Update 2014.11.26: It's been over a year with the iPhone 5c and it's still a good phone.  Thankfully, the rather broken iOS 7.x has been replaced with the somewhat broken iOS 8.1.1 finally.  I think Sprint is still my biggest hurdle, but I don't see good alternatives.  My service is only really bad at home.

Given that I'm using the SG MAXX case (and they've changed the name of that model), there have been no destructive drops.  I'm pleased that the case is both strong and that I can remove it easily.

If there is one odd problem with the phone, it's something that seems to have happened recently.  Syncing with the computer has become flaky.  I switched from the long, Sprint-supplied cable to the original, short Apple-supplied cable and it is more reliable, but not 100%.

However, part of the problem could be that I upgraded to OS X 10.9.5 about the same time as I upgraded the phone to iOS 8.1.  It could also be that my MacBook Pro is often in the backpack with me, but that shouldn't loosen just the USB ports.  I'd expect that it would loosen practically everything.

32GB seems not to be quite enough, possibly because the apps are arriving in 32-bit/64-bit combos with enhanced artwork for the upgraded resolutions for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.  I have a little bit over 16 GB of music (256 Kbps mp3 encoding), so the rest of the storage is related to apps.  Asphalt 8 and Galaxy on Fire 2 (HD) take a lot of storage for data.

In any case, I'm still pleased with the iPhone 5c.

No comments:

Post a Comment