$300 for a new phone, or $700? The answer might surprise you.

A while ago Chris Ziegler wrote a post that in the end he recommends an iPhone to someone asking his expert advice. Recently, I, an expert-at least more to the Ziegler side of things than the lay folk-had to make this choice for myself.


Alright, Nexus 4, there I said it. It seems obvious: an only slightly too large screen, pure android, large resolution, amazing processor, and that price, the one factor that steps on all the twos of all the other phones out now. However I knew this required a little more thought.

What factors in a phone do I need?

  • A phone without charge left is useful for nothing, a good battery
  • I have a DSLR and eyefi, a large screen and resolution
  • I'm a student, this one is more complicated

What factors do I know about myself

Engadget covered android quite a bit before it came out I wasn't interested until about a week before it came out. I got the sdk, used the emulator and realized how incredibly useful having google in my pocket would be. So I picked up the G1, and I was right. I still miss quite a few aspects of the G1 3.7 inch phone and the thick sides made it the easiest device to grip ever. Every year phones get thinner and more rounded making them harder to hold and more slippery, what the hell. Anyways the natural progression of having the G1 is of course the Nexus One. I've been rocking the Nexus One ever since, with quite a bit of pride. However, as of late the 128mbs of storage and a slightly broken usb port were really starting to wear me down.

How the perfect phone met its end

I had my phone laying on the bed charging I rolled over and the charging port got bent. Since then the port will eject the cable like it has a spring in it. I had to use a cable that is bent 90 degrees so I could put a rubber band around the phone to hold the cord in. Then as Apps are updated and updated they get bigger and bigger, to the point that the 128mbs of space was filled with Google's core service apps and newsrob and doggcatcher (my favorite way to consume news on the verge) I had to give up dropbox and Google Drive, astrid, tasker, many others.

How the nexus fell from perfection

When gingerbread was released and I waited a month for it to find its way to my phone, THE NEXUS ONE! I lost a bit a faith and installed CyanogenMod. That crack in my nexus faith lead me to tried the HTC sensation. It had an increased resolution, a camera that could do 1080p recording (I didn't have my DSLR at the time so I was quite happy for a better camera) however, Sense was driving me nuts and cyandogenmod couldn't use the camera. I was switching constantly. Flashing a rom takes quite a bit of battery too by the way. I sold the Sensation and went back to the Nexus. The experience gave me the impression I needed stock android. However, Cyanogenmod is not stock android, but I didn't understand this until recently. I thought I had to have another nexus. I never was able to raise the money to get a Galaxy Nexus. Mr. Ziegler and Mr. Savov had a disagreement about nexus VS skinned android. I sided with Savov at first. Now, I know that Sense is just bad and some skins can be good, especially if you have a good hardware underneath. Cyanogenmod is a skin after all, and Ziegler wrote that the nature UX was a completely acceptable skin of android.

Where do we go from here?

I mentioned earlier I have a DSLR and eyefi to zap pictures to my phone. I had this dream, one I never pursued for obvious reasons. I wanted to go downtown Portland on weekends and photograph people who looked like they were on a date or having a good time and then approach them, offer the picture (for free) to them over email, and encourage tips via Square payments. I knew this inevitably would land me in the back of a police car.
Despite that, those values are still important to me. I know a large screen isn’t the answer for displaying pictures, but I was going to show these pictures to normal people who don’t really care or notice pixel pitch. When at school I may want to share internet to another device; a battery intensive task. I knew everything would feel twice as fast as my nexus and then some; the processor holds little weight in choosing my next phone, with one notable exception; the snapdragon S4 dual core being great on battery life and very fast.
I’m fully entrenched in the Google ecosystem: Windows phone, iPhone. Sorry no go.
Some candidates I had brewing in my mind for a while: The GS3, Galaxy Note 2, Nexus 4. It was easy to eliminate the GS3 and many other android phone by just being another android smartphone, when for software updates only the Nexus 4 is a better bargain. So that left two competitors. If you follow my Google+ page I flip flopped often. An Individual breakdown of features from either phone left them neck and neck.

Breakdown

GN2|N4

Battery

+1| -1
Screen

+1|+1
Materials

+1|-1
Price

-1|+2

Overall

+2|+1

Battery

Engadget’s review of the Nexus 4 left the battery wanting, while the GN2’s 3100mah battery made clear by Mr. Savov was a champion.

Screen

Screen sizes of 4.7 and 5.5 are both too big. The Nexus 4 tiptoeing ahead with 46 vertical lines of resolution isn’t worth noting, basically a wash here.

Materials

Mr. Topolsky’s review of the Nexus 4 with a cracked back isn’t what bothered me. What bothered me, was this path had been taken before. The iPhone 4. Glass back and all are in the history books. So why Google (or maybe LG I don’t know who made the call) walks down the very same path? I’m disappointed a company making billions of dollars by learning everything about... everything. Willingly chooses a known mistake, and its not skin deep, it gets worse. iFixit’s teardown of the Nexus 4 left a lot to be desired: nonremovable battery that requires tools to replace and could irreparably damage your phone by doing so, a lack of impact cushion zones, and a glass back afterall is a negative in of itself.

Price

This one is so easy its weighted on my comparison. The N4 is less than half the price of the GN2. Wow, well done.

We don’t need more factors, we need a combination

This has left us with the GN2 at +1, not enough to make a clear decision.
I considered a list of factors as one and what they implied. The Nexus 4 has a nonremovable battery, materials that break, a smaller battery that will require more charging, and a lesser internal build design which lead me to believe it may have a shorter life span. Would it even last as long as my Nexus One? Would it break leaving me only to have to buy another which would bring the cost very close to the GN2. The Nexus One lasted me two years. I have hopes the GN2 could last me four. Bringing the cost per two years $350 for the GN2 and $300 for the Nexus 4.
In my opinion LTE isn’t real, with subtypes that are incompatible, over different frequencies; a total mess, however for some, its a key feature. My coworker has a GS3 on AT&T we both did speed tests. My T-mobile hspa+ beat AT&T LTE by 1mb down, 0.1mb up, and 30ms ping difference. This pretext leads to me my next combination though. If I am to share internet a battery intensive operation. The device with LTE and a bigger battery wins against a device that shares internet without letting the carriers know. Despite being evil. The carriers do have to make money, and selling their services sounds like a pretty good way to do it. It is evil to charge you twice for the same data though.
The Spen would be very helpfully for multiple reasons: explaining a complex concept with visual aids, taking notes at school, Square payment signatures. A really minor advantage but enough to be noted(SPOILER: until I discovered the Spen for myself, too which is an indescribable bliss to take free form hand written notes, with the power of wolfram alpha and google built in.)

Concuslion

Now as I’ve destroyed the climax. Here it is; I bought the Galaxy note 2. Off-contract for $700 at a T-mobile store, switched my plan to a value plan to pay less than $80 a month for two phones (no hotspot included, I can add it for an extra $15 a month, or root the GN2, or use a bluetooth keyboard and try passing up a laptop entirely for school). I wanted another htc nexus, and LG seems to have come up so short on this nexus, that paying $700 is a better option for me than paying $300.
Next time you’re deciding your next phone, don’t just think of features and compare a list, but compare how those features work together as one.