1. #1
    rexford112 is offline

    New York
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    Hello, all. Newbie here, who desperately needs some expert advice/recommendations.

    I need to buy a new smartphone, like, yesterday. I've been researching phones for several months now; but I just can't seem to find exactly what I'm looking for because apparently it doesn't exist --and probably never will.

    Let me start by saying I'm a currently on a T-Mobile prepaid plan. I plan to stay on it for the foreseeable future. So right off the bat that limits my choices to UNLOCKED or T-MOBILE compatible phones.

    Given those constraints, here are the features I'm looking for. (And from this combination of criteria my dilemma will quickly reveal itself.):

    1) High-megapixel camera with 1080P video - a no-brainer in this day & age. But here's the catch: it must have a quick shutter and take great photos in poor light, like the HTC One. I also want a centered pinhole, and not a large zoom shutter. I'll discuss why shortly.

    2) Removable battery - a rarity these days, which unfortunately eliminates the aforementioned One, the Nokia Lumia 928, and practically every decent phone that could satisfy criterion 1.

    3) Easily fits in one hand, and in a belt pouch - While I can somewhat understand the appeal of screens slightly over 5 inches, I don't see the practicality of owning a cell phone that can't fit readily in your pocket or belt pouch. Or that you can't grasp easily and comfortably. That's the reason why I want a pinhole camera. Some of these newer hi-megapixel camera phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Zoom, are so ergonomically awkward mainly because of their size (and in the case of the Zoom, its large, protruding shudder) that they lend themselves towards multiple drops. That *****s certain doom for even the sturdiest of devices. If I want a mega-zoom camera I'll buy an actual mega-zoom camera. If I want an I-Pad Mini or Amazon Nook, I'll buy one of those. I don't want or need a mobile phone with a six-inch screen. That's just too big. I shouldn't need two hands to hold it securely, and I should be able to carry it around without worrying about constantly dropping it or possibly losing it due to its overly large size & shape.

    4) Waterproof/resistant - another no-brainer.

    5) Sturdy build / drop resistant - Let's face it: sooner or later, every phone gets dropped. That's virtually a given. So, no sense at all paying hundreds of dollars for a gadget whose face cracks or whose circuitry goes haywire after the first or second mishap. Gotta have something that can endure a little punishment and keep on performing.

    5a) Stable/Reliable software - A corollary to criterion 5, worth distinctly mentioning because buggy software is precisely why products like the Sony Xperia Z won't fit the bill, either. Android or Windows based, it doesn't matter to me. I'm partial to neither. But stable, reliable core software is a must for any device, especially a smartphone. Constant camera freezing, sporadic phone lock-ups and quirky app behavior drive me absolutely INSANE. Any device possessing such characteristics I will therefore avoid at all costs.

    6) Simultaneous Apps Capacity - Specifically, the ability to operate the camera while listening to music. One HUGE peeve - among several! - I have with my current phone is, every time I stumble across a quick photo op the phone interrupts or completely shuts off the music upon camera activation! A truly smart smartphone should allow you to continue music listening while taking a quick photo, yes?

    7) Expandable memory, i.e. micro-card slot (that accepts ideally up to 64GB) - another difficult-to-find feature. Not absolutely essential, but highly preferable for similar reasons as criterion 2.

    And finally, some other preferences/niceties:

    • Hard QWERTY keyboard (almost non-existent these days, but one of the few things I actually love about my current phone)
    • Wireless Charging Option - for those inevitable moments when you need a quick charge and you're nowhere near home, the car or the office.
    • Headphone jack accepts any (meaning non-proprietary) mic/stereo earphones set

    So there you have it, folks. The impossible phone. From this list you can see why my search has yielded no clear winner. The three phones that come closest are the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Nokia Lumia 928, and I've pretty much decided that none of these will quite do.

    The Samsung best fits the seven major criteria except for #1 & perhaps #3. The phone's large size I could maybe live with but definitely not its sub-par low-light photos. That's a deal-breaker for me (otherwise I'd own the phone already), because poor low-light photos are another major hangup with my current camera phone (which, for those who are curious, is a Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Mk-16A).

    Similarly, the HTC & Nokia fall short primarily for failing criteria #2 & #7. With adequate (32 or 64GB) internal memory I could probably do without the micro-card slot, but NOT being able to change the battery is something I really cannot justify. Remember, I'm on a no-contract T-Mobile prepaid plan. So I have a very low monthly bill, and I can switch any time I want, but I have no insurance (which experience has taught me is pretty useless anyway) and thus no protection against a catastrophic battery-killing event. Assuming it happens under warranty I could send the phone in for repair, sure, but then I'm without it for however long. I'd much rather keep an extra battery on hand and voila, base covered.

    Does anybody out there know of any other possible alternatives? By that, I mean, phones you may not necessarily find in a Best Buy or even a T-Mobile store because they aren't the latest and greatest. Maybe older models (like the Galaxy SIII just to name something that's still available) or something made by less popular manufacturers like LG . These would be devices that do essentially what I want and may lack other popular features I could care less about, such as Beats stereo sound from the phone speakers or the ability to play the latest games or use the newest apps.

    Put it this way: if I didn't list it above, I ain't looking for it so I won't miss it. Given the choice between the latest, fanciest phone that can supposedly cook my breakfast but doesn't let me change the battery? Or a slightly older / less popular yet durable & reliable workhorse that doesn't freeze up, takes great pictures in all kinds of light while letting me listen to music thru headphones, has expandable memory, a changeable battery, and a hard QWERTY keyboard as a bonus? I'll take the latter any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

    Barring that, I'll take any suggestions on ways to mitigate the shortcomings of the three forerunners (Galaxy 4, One, Lumia 928).

    Either way, I need to make a decision very, very soon. Please help!

    See More: T-Mobile/unlocked smartphone recommendation??

  2. #2
    tavenger5 is offline
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    Re: T-Mobile/unlocked smartphone recommendation??

    Have you considered the Galaxy S4 Active? The link is to the international version, but you could also try finding the AT&T version and getting it unlocked.

    I realize it has a 5" display, but there is really nothing out there other then this that is durable/waterproof AND has the other features you mentioned, especially the camera and software (the software on the casio Android phones is a bit clunky, for example).

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  3. #3
    rexford112 is offline

    New York
    4 - liked 1 times

    Re: T-Mobile/unlocked smartphone recommendation??

    Once again, thank you for the response, tavenger5!

    I'm looking into your recommendation. I dunno, though...from what I've read so far about the S4 Active, its low-light camera performance isn't any better than the S4's. (Remember, poor low-light shots are a deal-breaker for me. They're what stopped me from pouncing on the S4 in the first place.)

    I keep hoping to find a review that shows a way around that. I even briefly thought that perhaps the Active's Aqua Mode might make a difference, but if I understand correctly, the Aqua mode disables the touchscreen feature, which would render taking pictures more difficult due to the phone's size. And I haven't seen any indication that it would necessarily improve the indoor or dim light quality anyway. But I'll keep checking.

    While I'm at it, I'll also look into those Casio phones you mentioned. If the software bugs don't really affect the features I use the most, (phone, music, texting, camera/video) I might be able to live with them. Obviously, if I can't wait then I'm gonna have to choose where to take the hit, right?
    Last edited by rexford112; 08-31-2013 at 10:13 PM.

  4. #4
    rexford112 is offline

    New York
    4 - liked 1 times

    Re: T-Mobile/unlocked smartphone recommendation??

    One correction: upon further research, I find that I was mistaken about the Active's Aqua mode disabling the touchscreen function. Supposedly, it does so only under water. (Can anybody confirm this?)

    Ergo, in Aqua Mode the Active should be no harder to use out of water - where I'd be using it 99.9% of the time. I'm not a big swimmer, and I certainly have no intention of becoming one just for the sake of taking underwater pictures!

    Whether this feature could improve the camera phone's low light performance is another matter, though. But, onward...!
    Last edited by rexford112; 08-31-2013 at 11:10 PM.

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