• Stephen

The joy and inevitable disappointment of buying a new phone

Since the current situation leaves me with time on my hands, I’ll jot down a few thoughts on the subject of mobile phones, specifically why buying a new one is a bittersweet experience. I’m assuming that like me, you already own and largely rely on one and that you have it set up pretty much as you want it. This is kind of key.

Specifics: I’ve been running a Huawei Honor 9 Lite for a year or so. Nice phone which I bought because I was tired of my Moto G5s Plus failing in the basic task of being a phone. If you haven’t suffered with this model, it had an inherent flaw which reduced the earpiece volume to barely usable and Motorola (Lenovo) never found a cure for it. That and it’s ability to demolish Micro SD cards.

The Honor 9 was a perfectly fine phone. I don’t game, I do take loads of photos. I don’t need a monster but it was just a bit meh. So after pondering for some weeks, watching and reading reviews, I bought an Oukitel WP5. A what?! The WP5 is a Chinese made rugged android phone with an 8,000 mah battery, a so-so processor, four gigabytes of RAM, 32 Gb of internal storage and either dual SIMs or an additional Micro SD card. It is, in short, a small tank.

I was attracted by the looks, the stupid battery, the price (£115 GBP) and a couple of video reviews during which it was tossed out of first floor windows without ill effect.

It arrived promptly via Amazon and I don’t intend to review it, suffice to say it is far nicer than the cost suggests or, alternatively, other phones are way overpriced for what they are. Setup was simple, it runs a very clean Android distribution with the promise of Android 10 at some point. Screen is good, the camera is sufficient; it’s all good.

I’m still enjoying it and have no regrets but, and here’s the thing, when you buy a new phone, any phone, you tend to recreate what you had. The platform changes, but the functionality doesn’t, unless the new phone has something you didn’t have before. For me with the WP5 it’s a certain robustness, the lack of finding and buying far too many cases and screen protectors. It works really well, for my needs. The camera opens much faster than the Honor and there is nothing to choose in terms of resolution. But the suite of apps I have installed is almost identical to what went before. They all run well and I have plenty of space for them. Do they run better than on the Honor? Yes, a little. Is the difference significant? No, not really. Do I prefer it to the iPhone 6s I gave to my son? Yes I do, although I have no issues with iPhones (other than their price and Apple…)

I didn’t expect my world to be rocked as I have possibly done in the past. That’s a good thing because I suspect for the majority of users they know what they want from their phones and as long as they deliver, they’re happy. Globally the sale of the newest and shiniest handsets seems to be slowing and I wonder if in part that has to do with too much hype about things that don’t actually matter and simple economics. If your current phone works well enough, why change it? Prior to buying this phone, I was also using an old 16Gb Moto G5 I have. It was stuck forever on Oreo and had only two Gb of RAM. Certain apps would fall over as they struggled for the limited resources but it was, and still is, entirely usable. As far as I can make out, Oreo is now the most widespread iteration of Android in use worldwide, as Android 7 increasingly fails to cope. That’s a long way from the shiny promise of 10, or even 11, but it is also the reality of phone use - while the new will always be newsworthy - the majority of users generally get along with what they have.

Geeking out over mobile phones is frankly a niche pastime, one of which I am guilty, but like so many niche interests, it has little to do with much else in life.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t had that moment of “aaw, it's all the same apart from the handset”, maybe I have finally realised that the hardware, the name, the brand, just doesn’t matter that much.

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