Selecting an Android model.

Perhaps a dumb question but...   I have lived with a dumb phone for years and to be honest, it does what I need it to.  I ran across Ting and liked what I saw, business-wise.  My wife has been wanting a smart phone, so we or considering our options.  Majority of our use will be voice, some texting, emailing, some Internet, no gaming, picture taking  & probably very few videos.  As far as difference between a $100, $200 or a $400 phone, besides the obvious (screen size, better display, faster processor, slower browsing, more memory) what are the differences that someone (not a cell phone junkie) would see on a daily bases?    I know this is highly subjective and may not be easy to answer.  My gut would say middle of the road but would a $100 model be pretty lacking?   PS:  One use I may want would be GPS & marine charting & weather forecasting/internet-radar viewing  capability.

I would guess, even the lowest cost models would produce better pictures than our current Nokia flip phones?

Also, would the version of the operating system be a deal killer for some applications? (are there versions to avoid? I have read some seem less trouble prone.)  

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  • For your needs, I would suggest the LG Optimus Elite. It's one of the more inexpensive phones offered by Ting and does all the phone basics very well. If you're willing to wait a while and check some of the reviews for the Kyocera Rise, it might also be a good choice. On the whole, I would say it's better to spend a little more on a phone than to spend a little less. The Optimus S is a solid phone but really   struggles with newer apps due to its low-powered processor (even some very lightweight, basic apps) and is extremely limited in on-board storage for apps. The same goes for the Kyocera Milano. As for the Samsung Transform Ultra, while it does basic tasks well, it's very bulky and beeps every time it loses its signal (a rather annoying aspect to the phone). 

    For basic tasks, you'll probably see little to no additional benefit from dual-core processors, GB's of RAM, and 720p displays. Android 4.0 is nice on a new phone but is definitely not needed for the basics. The Optimus Elite looks to be a great choice for your needs.

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  • The only thing I would add to Cathy's remark is that if you plan on taking a lot of pictures you want to last for years and years, and the goal is to replace your existing camera on vacations, then you want to get a really good camera. The S3 has a fantastic camera, but then you're spending more than $500 on a phone for a $100 camera. The LG Optimus Elite's camera is going to be good enough for Facebook pics or just sending a random photo of something funny, but if you're planning on taking pictures you want to treasure in 20 years, it might be worth an upgrade.

    Coming from feature phones, you need to brace yourself that it's considered good if you get a full day of moderate to heavy usage on one charge. Going days and days without a charge will be a thing of the past.

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  • Hi Mike,

    The Optimus S might be good for your needs, though I agree with Ken that you will want to consider the camera before making your final decision if you're planning to take a lot of pictures with it.

    I'd like to add that I always personally recommend reading third-party reviews before purchasing any form of electronics that are over $100, particularly when it comes to something that one might use as often and for as long as one does a smartphone. Amazon and other similar sites are great for finding out what other people's experiences with particular models of phones. Even a quick Google search with the word "review" included can be helpful.

    Cheers, and we're looking forward to having you join us.

    Andrew

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  • Thanks for the feedback so far. As far as the camera function, it would be more for posting pics, not so much for high end stuff.  I would tend to use a "real" camera for that.  

    Back to an earlier question, are there versions of the Android operating system that have "issues?"  I have read some complaints but I'm not sure how much of the problem was with the OS and how much was with the App or user.

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  • Most complaints I've seen are that a particular version doesn't do what someone wants.  Typically it's someone that has a phone that can't update to a newer version and there's some feature they really want in that's in that newer OS.

    One other suggestion I would propose is to go somewhere (Best Buy, Costco, Sprint store, etc) and just play with a bunch of the phones for a while.  See what the difference really is and look for the functions you really need and/or want and see how they operate on each phone.  Other than a bit of speed difference and flashy interfaces on the higher-end models, I'm betting you probably won't notice enough of a difference that would really matter to you that would justify the price of the higher end models considering you're coming from flip phones - but you never know ;-)

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  • The biggest single problem with lower end android phones (specifically the Milano/Optimus S on Ting) is that they have a pathetic amount of internal storage (shown as ROM on the device pages). Even though you can add an SD card, this internal storage must hold Android software, most of your downloaded apps and a few odds and ends such as contacts and text messages. I'm no app fiend, but I've found that having only 512 ROM requires far more "space jockeying" then I have any interest in doing.

    Specifically for you, a bigger screen will be very nice if you plan to do anything heavy with maps (though you'll want a way to charge it on the go!).

     
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  • I like my Transform Ultra. I don't think it's bulky at all, unlike some of the bigger flat phones, that look like they will snap in half if I sit wrong. The Transform is a good fit in my hand, and feels solid, something I was worried about being a slider. I also like the keyboard. It more than makes up for the smaller screen (which is a hair bigger than the Optimus). In general I find the screen size adequate for most things. More so than I thought. 

    I started with the small SD card it came with, and found the apps filled it quickly. I simply copied the contents to a much larger card, and now have plenty of space. (try that with an iPhone) 

    One of the weak points of Android below ICS is the Chrome bookmarks not syncing, but CMarks takes are of that pretty well. 

    The camera is fair. Not vacation photo quality, but great for preshopping, scanning, and ideas. 

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  • Another question about the functioning of some androids.  With my current "dumb" phone (Nokia) in my contacts, I can have my contracts in different "groups".  I can also select different call "profiles" where I can set up different attributes.  One thing I can do is to allow my "family" calls to ring through anytime but I can also select to have "business" numbers  to go to my voice mail and the phone not to ring.  I would guess most "smart" phones would also be capable of the same thing. Right?  (I tried downloading some of the android models owners manual and they appear to be a little vague)

    Do most androids offer an easy way to block certain numbers or is there apps to do that that you download. (spam type calls)

    Would Google Voice be a better option? (select a call in a group to ring through or blocking certain number calls)    Does Google Voice lower the voice quality of calls?  

     

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  • I certainly haven't noticed Google voice degrading the quality of calls. They go through the cell network just like regular calls, not over data.

    On Android, you'd define your contacts in Google at google.com/contacts. With your normal Android phone, you can set individual contacts to go to voicemail or have certain ring tones, but I haven't seen the ability to do that on a group basis. Not to say it doesn't exist; I just don't see it.

    Google Voice does let you selectively screen calls based on groups though.

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  • In google.com/voice you can set up groups and use your Google+ Circles to  set ring tones, voicemail, blocking, etc.

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  • Kevin, where do you set ring tones?

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  • Just my opinion...

    I've run Google's turn-by-turn navigation on an Optimus S with no trouble at all. Screen is a little small, but clear, sharp and vibrant. Device feels good in the hand and is easily pocketable. Screen is scratch prone; screen protector is a must. Call quality is excellent. Camera is acceptable. Plays Angry Birds just fine, but animation is slightly less fluid than on a phone with a faster processor (if that means anything to you as a subjective benchmark). Yes, the on-board memory fills up fast. Some apps can be moved onto the SD card, but not all. I'd have no reservations recommending it to a light app user, non-technology nut. Also a good choice for someone who's likely to lose or break a phone. It's a very "likeable" phone, good quality, not cheap feeling at all.

    The Optimus Elite seems to improve on the S in every way. Very nice build. Again, feels good in the hand. Screen slightly larger, more like an iPhone size. Somewhat more responsive than the S; one notch better on the processor.  I haven't used one as much as I've used an S, but I was very impressed. If you can afford the $200 over the $100, I'd definitely go for this one. Has a bit more of a distinctive, premium phone feel to it than the S.

    The Kyocera phones don't seem to get good reviews in general. Samsung Transform, not so much either.

    The Galaxy S2 is really a great deal on Ting if you think you'd like last year's flagship Android phone and can warrant going up to this price tier. You won't go wrong here.

    I'm a gadget nut and long overdue for a newer phone, so I'm treating myself to a Galaxy S3 from Ting, although I believe I would also have been happy with the S2. I tend to buy my phones on the high end but then keep them for a long time.

    The Motorola Photon Q and the HTC EVO 4G LTC... unless you're really a loyal fan of one of those brands, I just can't see going that route over the Galaxy S3 right now. The Galaxy S3 is sort of a no-brainer on the high end.

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  • One of my issues with Ting was that, at the time that I bought my phone, there were no middle-of-the-road Android phones for sale. You had to either go low-end and get a slow phone with a small screen or step all the way up to the Galaxy SII, which cost almost $500. Now, around a month later, the SII can be had for under $400, which is not a bad deal.

    I bought the SII. I reluctantly got the white one due to the $50 discount, and then immediately afterward, the black one was discounted to the same price. It's not a bad phone, my biggest problem is the Sprint applications that bug you constantly and cannot be disabled or uninstalled. You'll probably get those on any Ting phone, though. I miss my Nexus One.

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  • @Charles, I believe the S2 is supposed to get an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, and if it does, you'll be able to disable most individual apps in the Settings screen.

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  • @Ken: the S2 comes with ICS (4.0). You can only uninstall the non-Sprint apps (e.g., NASCAR) and only some of the Sprint apps can be disabled. The one that bugs me the most is Voicemail. I use Google Voice, so I have no use for the Sprint Voicemail app, but at least once a day it blurts out a notification that I need to set up voicemail or that an update is available. I've asked Ting about it and they said there's nothing they can do. I plan to root the phone just to get rid of it.

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  • Oh it comes with it now? Looks like Ting needs to update their page:  https://ting.com/devices/Samsung-Galaxy-SII-Epic-4G-Touch

    If you can't disable voicemail, you could try just setting it up, and then ignoring it.

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  • On second thought, the phone may come with Gingerbread. But if I remember correctly it basically badgers you into an ICS update as soon as you activate the device.

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  • ICS is a very nice upgrade, so that's a good thing. Hopefully Jelly Bean w/ Project Butter is coming its way too.

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  • No choice between the Optimus S and Elite..

    The Elite has a better camera, faster CPU. (Spec'd at 800Mhz but every one I have seen is 1Ghz), more app storage, and slightly larger screen.

    ICS is a nice upgrade but is not a requirment unless you want the latest and "greatest", Gingerbread is quite capable.

    Add a Ballistic brand case to the Elite and you have a solid phone that feels awesome in your hand. Normally would say Otterbox but they seem to have stopped supporting the lower/mid range phones, unless its from Apple.. 

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  • Just to clarify, the S2 comes with Gingerbread installed, but you can upgrade it to ICS.

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