The Pleasures of a Cheap Phone

When it comes to phones I am a cheap guy. I don't buy expensive phones, I don't buy flagship phones, I don't even buy "cheap flagship-like phones". I don't buy unknown chinese brands that make amazingly cheap but awesome phones, I don't buy mid-range phones, I don't buy mistery phones. I buy cheap phones. Or at least that is the plan from now on.

My previous phone was a former flagship, a LG G4 which had awesome specs ... for 2015. Of course I bought it in 2017, but still, it was like, nice? The camera took good pictures, and all the apps ran smoothly and the battery sucked and dropped to 50% before I had finished my commute.

I hated that phone's battery life. It made my life 10% more annoying. So I decided to try an experiment. I considered what the hell I wanted of my phone. And here is the full list, not in priority order:

  1. I want it to have Internet
  2. I want it to play FM radio (no data usage!)
  3. I want it to take pictures, but not necessarily awesome pictures. I am more inclined to do things like taking a picture of a funny street sign than anything else.
  4. I want a large-ish screen because I watch Netflix on the train sometimes, or read books in the Kindle app. No need for super-high resolution. Honestly, 720p is just fine. I know because I checked.
  5. I don't want to worry if someone steals it. Insurance here is totally worthless. I had it on a previous phone: it was more expensive to use the insurance than to just buy a new phone (really).
  6. I wanted a metal back. Why? I like how metal backs feel. Glass backs are idiotic.
  7. I want apps to run. I don't mind at all if there is an occasional slowdown.
  8. I want a battery that doesn't aggravate me

So I took those parameters and considered all the phones available. And I bought a phone most people consider a piece of crap. And I love it.

Let me introduce you to the glory that is the Moto E4 Plus (by Lenovo)

Let's cover all the items in my list.

I want it to have Internet

Because this phone comes in a "world version"by default, it supports pretty much every band out there. I get 4G and it's plenty fast. Or, fast enough? It does have a small problem in that for some reason it doesn't see my office's WiFi network but who cares. I have enough data.

I want it to play FM radio

It does! It sucks, but it works. Good for emergencies?

I want it to take pictures

It has a camera. That is about as much as you can say about it. It even has two cameras! Front camera has flash! They are both hot garbage! It's barely good enough for me.

I want a large-ish screen

Maybe 5.5 inches is not a large screen for you, but it is large for me. It is, in fact, about as large as I can use single-handed. So, yay. It's bright, and it's 720p resolution is not awesome but who cares? I can see what's in it even in direct sunlight, so all good. A bit of a fingerprint magnet.

I can read fine, Netflix pics look good. That's it.

I don't want to worry if someone steals it

This thing costs $120 (US) or so. Do I mind if someone steals it? Yes. Do I just walk to the next store and buy another one if it happens? Yes too. So, yes yes yes. In fact, considering it's last year's model it's probably worth even less now. So I may just buy a E5 plus now that it exists and give this one to my son. Or not, since it works fine.

I wanted a metal back

Yes, it has a nice curved aluminum back. It's a bluish grey and I think it's pretty.

I want apps to run

They do run! Ok! Most of the time! Sometimes (once every couple of days) things get slow for a second. Then it fixes itself. Sure, the Kindle app takes a second or two to start if I have not used it in a while. So? What can possibly be the problem with having a app that contains every book I bought in the past 6 years (and that's several hundred books) available in my pocket to read and reread at any moment taking 2 seconds to open?

I want a battery that doesn't aggravate me

Behold my battery graph a while ago. I had a heart attack and was in a hospital por 3 days, which means charging the phone was pretty hard (no USB ports on ICU beds) but the phone was the only way to be connected to people or not be bored out of my skull, so on 4G network and using it most of the time.

It says I have 6 hours of battery left. It's actually underestimating it a little. On normal usage it lasts two days. Two whole days. TWO DAYS. Not two working days, not two days on standby, but two whole days of just using it normally for smartphone-like normal activities like one does, playing games, using twitter, taking a picture of two, watching a movie on Netflix, reading on Kindle, checking email, streaming music to a bluetooth headset, making calls, and so on. TWO. Not one, but two days.

Did I forget to plug it at night? Who cares, I will plug it tomorrow.

The charger even lets you get 4 or 5 hours of usage by charging it for 15 freaking minutes.

I am in love with this phone's battery. I want to marry this battery and have little electric children that will run and run and run and never shutdown.

You don't know how much your phone's crappy battery (and yes, your phone's battery is probably crappy) stresses you until you are relieved of the concern.

Random Nice things

  • It's water resistant!
  • I dropped it on the floor a few times and nothing happened!
  • It has a fingerprint sensor that works well!
  • It can use the fingerprint sensor for controls and then you don't need on-screen buttons, so your screen is "bigger"!
  • It has pretty much stock Android, even though it's a version that is now a bit outdated.
  • Even though it's a bit thick, it's thinnest than your fancy thin phone after you put it in a sleeve because you care about it.

Random Not Nice Things

  • The speaker is garbage
  • The FM radio tuner is garbage
  • The cameras are garbage (yes, I already said it, but they really are)

Implications

I absolutely love this phone even though several of its components are garbage. It gives me peace. The battery gives me peace that it will work. The price gives me peace that I don't need to worry about it much. It does what it has to do. It feels good in the hand.

But why do people buy expensive phones, or new phones? If I were to buy an Iphone X, that costs about 8 times as much as this one, what would it give me that this one doesn't? Nicer pictures. Prettier screen. Not much else.

But it would make me feel like I spent a substantial amount of money on just that. Sure, one spends a lot of time using the phone, so it makes sense to spend money on making that time more pleasant, but ... the iPhone X is more expensive than my bed. And I spend 9 hours a day there.

And I would worry about that phone.

And I would care about that phone.

What can it give me that pays back even 2 minutes of worrying?

Nothing.

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