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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

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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