New Android Phone Bleg

I recently wrote a detailed post on what’s in my laptop bag and the focus is predominantly on travel technology.

Thanks to reader input, I updated my camera (to Canon S95) and my laptop (to a Lenovo u300s), and months later I’m thrilled with both decisions.

But at the time I punted on the phone. And so now I’m coming back to y’all again for help.

I’m still working off a Blackberry Bold 9700, it’s long been out of contract. I’ve been a Blackberry guy for years because my primary use is e-mail. Ever since 2006 I’ve found it to be a workable enough phone, so I condensed that way, I haven’t had a land line in about 10 years either.

I know that Blackberry has been supposedly working on their next generation operating system, to compete with iPhone and Android, but it’s been delayed and I don’t have high hopes for it. I feel like it’s a dying platform, and the world is passing me by. I’m ready to make the switch, but I need advice, because I don’t know the best device for my situation.

I live off the thing, so I’m not scared of buying a top-end device. Put a different way, I’m not looking to sacrifice quality or performance for $100.

On the other hand, if it’s more likely that the ‘right’ device will appear in the next few months if only I wait, my Blackberry still works fine, I don’t have to pull the trigger immediately.

  • I’m looking for an Android, not an iPhone.
  • It has to work well as my primary phone, not just as a handheld computer.
  • The #1 use is e-mail, far more than media or social networking.
  • Currently the only app I use is with Twitter, though I’d love to be able to upload photos to Photobucket (where I store my photos and host them for my blog) and also post here from my phone.

Battery life is important. Weight matters. I’d love a big screen and comfortable browsing experience, I hate the browser on the Blackberry and do anything I can to avoid using it for anything but the simplest tasks.

Mostly though I don’t know what I don’t know, don’t know what I’m missing, since it seems as though I’ve missed out on generations of functionality. Hence the need for a consensus answer among my travel savvy readers. What do I want?

Thanks in advance!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Reeder you should check out the new cameras on the HTC one series and the new Galaxy S3.
    “I think with the HTC One series it’s time to add HTC to the short list (Nokia, Apple) of smartphone vendors doing more than just integrating a module into their smartphone platforms.” Full review here:
    @Alessio I have had the iPad 1 got it a couple of weeks after launch, sold it when eBay offered the instant buy for $219 (suckers!) then upgraded to iPad 2 used off of eBay but still under warranty. Dad got the iPad 3 on launch day he played with it for 5 days and had me return and stuck with his HTC Flyer 7” tab from last year. I mainly use the iPad to watch movies or to shoot off emails if I am in the lounge and don’t need the full laptop. I could do that on my phone but bigger screen is better to read and type on. Trying not to go blind since I just got LASIK a few years ago. The iPad is the best out there in the tabletsphere so I got it. That may change when Android tablets come out later on but who knows. I always have my phone next to me though because there are some pages that don’t render right on the iPad but come out right on the Android stock browser. Plus it is deceptively heavy so if you are going to use it for a while find a table to set it on. Good for the British Parliament I guess. But I wouldn’t want to run a government with a closed system like iOS especially since the source code is not transparent. The US Army adopted Android.

  2. @Neil it is not theory. Can you watch flash content on the iPhone? Can you scroll through your email list without having to launch the mail app on the iPhone right after you unlock the phone? The iPhone UI is the same grid of icons launched in 2007. If that’s your cup of tea you can set it up that way on Android as well. More intuitive? Will someone using iOS for the first time know that you can Morse code your way into the “open” apps menu? On Android you hit the app switcher button and all the recent apps pop up. Tap to open or swipe away to close. There is a learning curve for each platform and the one for iOS may be shorter but that corresponds with the number of features. No widgets on the iPhone because Apple doesn’t allow it. I don’t customize my phone like most people. I just want to do what I need to do in the quickest way possible. I might get crazy and put on the live Christmas wall paper come December. The wall paper app is really cool because there is a fireplace burning and you can put pictures of your family in it along with stockings with the names of your family members on it above the fireplace with a nice big tree and snow falling in the window! Love that app which is not available in the App Store. I have my email widget on the home screen, flashlight app, facebook app and calendar shortcut. In my dock I have a phone folder with the dialer app and three direct dial shortcuts of the three numbers I call the most. Iphone does not have that. One touch to open the phone folder and another touch of the shortcut and the phone dials that number. The AA app comes with their widget which will display at a glance the current conditions of your flight unlike iOS where you have to open the app to get the info. Can’t wait to use it now that I have been matched to EXP! I will occasionally swap one out for another base on need but I don’t really use more than the home screen. Text, phone and email, everything I need on one screen.

  3. @Chris totally agree they should have put a better processor in the Nexus but did you close all the programs that you opened? If not they run in the background and eat up system resources. Android does real multi-tasking whereas iOS freezes apps in the background when you switch to a new one. That’s why there is always that delay when you switch between apps on iOS. The last known state on iOS has to be loaded into the memory first before you can use it. Only exception is the streaming radio in the background. It seems though with the introduction of the S4 Snapdragon chip that is shipping with the One X and US version of the Samsung S3 that the hardware has finally caught up with the Android software. My brother just got the One S, the baby brother of the One X, and that thing is literally two times faster than my Galaxy Nexus! In order for it to lag he had to install 5 programs at the same time while downloading and setting up his screens and widgets and only then there was slight lag. Awesome! Finally as smooth as the iPhone but with more features. The camera has a good sensor, but 5 megapixels is not enough sometimes. It doesn’t do well in low light. You have to tap the picture to focus. Was the one you got on 4.0.2? Mine was updated to 4.0.4 a few weeks ago and it is running much better now. That’s another flaw of the pentile HD display they used in the Nexus, it can look grainy if you turn down the brightness. The One X doesn’t have that problem because it is using a RGB HD display which is the same as the iPhone 4S except on a bigger screen.
    Lastly has anyone thought that maybe Gary doesn’t want the iPhone because of the way people are perceived with the iPhone? When I see people with blackberry I think professional corporate. Just a thought.

  4. @UnitedEF, you said “Lastly has anyone thought that maybe Gary doesn’t want the iPhone because of the way people are perceived with the iPhone? When I see people with blackberry I think professional corporate.”

    I work for one of the largest banks on Wall Street. Everyone here uses an iPhone. Every employee is given a choice between Blackberry or iPhone and most choose iPhone these days. No Android in sight – our IT department doesn’t allow use of Android for corporate email due to security reasons. I am not saying this is right or wrong. I am just saying that iPhone has became the standard corporate phone in financial services industry. Same goes for an iPad.

  5. First off I truly can’t believe all the iphone fanboy hate of android when most of you have never used it andare only going by what the dead man tells you about andorid.

    To Gary: those recommending the galaxy nexus are spot on. I have the vz version but the gsm is my goal for a travel phone. google is selling it 100% unlocked and no contract required for 399 now. no need to spend more on it. if you choose, get a contract model with att for less. it will do all you ask and more. milepoint has a section where android apps are discussed and you can get answers to your questions.

    any one telling you to get an iphone when you said screen size is important simply didn’t listen. ios has its place. but what you want there is no need for having your power of choice removed.

    googd luck with what ever you choose.

  6. Tenmoc – I had previously purchased an Android when my iPhone 3G started showing it’s age, but alas, after two weeks with the Android I was longing for my iPhone, and therefore, switched back. The Android was pallid in comparison, and the reception was terrible. It dropped a lot of calls. My brother also recently purchased an Android as his first smart phone, and has had nothing good to say about it. At times, he sends texts and they don’t even show up on the receiving phone. Once in a great while I can see this happening, but not once a day. He too will be making the switch after tinkering with my iPhone to get a feel for what it’s all about.

  7. Gary – my vote goes for an iPhone. It is a sleek, unfussy piece of brilliance that makes our lives much easier. It is packed with some amazing technology. And some of it feels like magic. Apple has earned its fiercely loyal following.

    UnitedEF – this FoxNews article you posted does not reflect my own experience. Military personnel and their spouses are literally in love with their iPhones. At the moments that my husband was deployed or even gone on training expeditions, I never left the house without my iPhone, or at least not very often. If I did happen to walk out without it, or leave it at the bottom of my purse while in the grocery store I would panic for a minute, worried that I had missed his call. Even though they had explained to us at a briefing to not stress if we miss a call, they stated that the reality is there would be more. But in the situation that we were in I was worried that we may not get another call.

    So I would say that for those times that my husband is away, especially the past 12 months, I was truly in love with my iPhone. I was in love with the voice I heard on the other end, I was in love with the FaceTime feature where I could see his face, I was in love with the emails I would get to read on the go, and I was in love that for a moment that phone reassured me that he was safe for right then. So thank you iPhone, you were a great love affair to have for a short time in my life.

  8. @Gary My advice. Get an iPhone.

    Even TSA is planning to complete transition to iOS platform over the next three years. According to TSA “Apple hardware and software are deemed critical to meet a variety of TSA operational, programmatic, and mission specific requirements.”

    Interestingly, TSA said that nearly every government organization focuses all efforts exclusively on Apple’s iOS. According to TSA statement, many of the 106 publicly available government-written apps, like Smartraveler, FBI, FCC and EPA, are only available on iDevices.

    With the iPhone you will get more than just a good phone but largest ecosystem of apps available in the mobile space. My vote goes for an iPhone.

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