Before we get onto the meat and potatoes of this story, let’s time travel very briefly to 2017 when I was still living in China. My phone began to act… wonky. That’s about the best description I have of what it was doing1. I couldn’t explain why, I couldn’t give you specifics as to what it was doing, it was just behaving in a weird, wonky fashion. I didn’t ignore the problem, I registered it and said to myself “Boy, my phone sure is acting funny. I should get a new one post haste. Oh well, I will leave China soon and I will purchase one then, when I will be safe from phones full of Chinese bloatware2.”
Well, my phone didn’t last long enough. One day I just ceased turning on. It was really only at that point that I realized that my ‘minor’ issue that made my phone seem ‘wonky’ was the fucking swan song of the stupid fucking device.
Now, I found myself in China for a few more months and needing a new phone. Still not wanting to purchase one there, I got a cheap-o temporary substitute for a little bit of time before moving back to the USA.
Were something to happen to my phone right now, I would be massively, MASSIVELY inconvenienced. To a point where recovery would be painful. The urgency of the post below stems from that fact. I am not sure I have the time for a correct solution.
Someone once said that they would be more concerned with a person getting into their phone than into their brain. I once parroted the sentiment to a friend, a friend who ironically enough has a memory like a sieve, and they disagreed with me whole heartedly – making me feel like I was correct in my assumption. Your phone is an intimate part of you, whether you like it or not. It is frighteningly more precious than anything else you are going to own. If you do have a memory like a sieve, than your phone will remember that desperate 6am Craigslist hookup well after you have forgotten it. You’ll forget that you once actively tried to cheat on your girlfriend (perhaps unsuccessfully) – and it won’t. This is why you need to choose your phone with some god damned diligence.
And this is the beginning of our problems. Our choices are shit. It really feels like making a choice between which mafia you are going to pay fidelity to. That’s pretty bad, but it is no excuse to throw your hands up and give up. You can still try to make informed decisions about the mafia you buckle under.
Here are a few quick thoughts that helped me make my choice.
Apple – Fuck these guys. Fuck their thoughts on repair. Fuck their business practices. Fuck their premium prices on mediocre products. I am already entrenched in the android ecosystem, so I have extra incentive not to get involved with the yahoos.
Asus – I am sure these guys have the same shitty business practices as many others. However, as a company I think they are actually working towards some pretty damn cool things at a hardware level, and thus are deserving of some props. That being said, all these things that they are working on amount to little more than toys. So I can move on from these people.
Huawei – Hey! I don’t live in America! I can actually buy one of these. This company gets a bad rep from the US govt, but at the consumer level there isn’t much wrong with them that isn’t wrong with any other company. Maybe more bloatware and other shit.
Librem 5 – Purism’s phone. A pipedream. You’d do better whittling yourself a phone from a block of wood.
OnePlus – I had a OnePlus, and I liked it. Back then it was affordable. But now it isn’t. These guys pissed away their one virtue. I was tempted to give them one more chance after, not too long ago, they retracted a decision to add bloatware to their phones when their user base revolted against them. If nothing else, they are still a company small enough that they can’t fuck with their fan base too much. But I sent an email to them to see where their phones were shipped from, in order to avoid hefty EU fines. They weren’t able to answer the question. Fail.
Oppo – They exist. See Huwaei or Xiaomi
Pinephone – Purism’s slight more competent older brother. Still a pipedream.
Pixel – The google phone. My current phone is a Pixel. It was… ok I guess. Burned out a year after purchase and had to get a new one on warranty. Not impressed. And considering how the one I currently have is dying on me at an alarming clip, I can’t say I am overly pleased. Google did some pretty intelligent things with this from a business point of view (eSIM is a pretty great and convenient idea, not going to lie). The OS upon install felt super clean and kind of nice.
Samsung – So, I had a Samsung phone way back when, and I don’t recall the experience being great. There was a whole hell of a lot of bloatware on it. It makes sense. Samsung’s true competitor isn’t Apple (you are a fool to think so) – it’s Google. Samsung serves up android as an OS, but they are trying to move to an ecosystem going apart from Google. They have a good chance of doing this, considering that Samsung literally makes everything. You can control your Samsung refrigerator from your Samsung smartwatch. It’s an advantage of sorts.
Sony – Did you know these guys make phones? They do, and they actually make pretty damn good phones from all that I have heard. But they just don’t have a foot in the game. Crying shame, really…
Xiaomi – I gave this some pretty good consideration. Decent phones at a decent price. They have a variant of android that pretty much functions like stock android if you purchase it outside of China. That being said, it is notable for being filled to the brim with bloatware. I am glad it comes last on this alphabetical list, because it can help me transition to…
HERE’S WHAT MATTERS
None of those hardware choice make much of a difference. Sure, there may be something fishy somewhere along the hardware supply line, but like you or I could do anything about that. Let’s be real, if there is a problem in that field, we just have to take it. What choice do you have?
Here, instead, are the two significant questions one should be asking before purchasing a phone.
Can I get stock Android on it?
Can I get myself root access?
It’s more of an
I will go into this more in a future post.
SO WHAT PHONE AM I GOING TO GET?
Whatever I find on sale.
1 Well, no. When you consider that ‘wonky’ is the only accurate word both me and my brother have ever been able to use to describe our acid trips, no maybe this isn’t the right word.
2 Why all this brouhaha? Why so much concern about getting some hardware in China? A friend of mine purchased some laptops on the cheap while he was there, and he constantly got ransom-wared on them. Even after I nuked the hard drives from orbit and put linux on those machines. I don’t think it was the websites he was visiting, as I do some shady-ass shit with my computers. I think it was the fact that he bought them in China.
That is half an excuse, to be sure. But I like to say that I follow tech pretty closely, and I don’t see a lot from Chinese business practices that I necessarily approve of. China isn’t unique to this – there is more than enough from Google, Apple, Amazon et al that I scorn at too. That is, in short, the point of this post.