Poor Android Experience - Are Flip Phones the Answer?

Am I crazy, or are all Android phones really bad?

Since July of 2011, I’ve had six Android phones:

2 Droid 3’s from Verizon

2 LG Marquee’s from Ting/Sprint

LG Viper from Ting/Sprint

Samsung Galaxy from Nexus/Ting

Every sing one of these phones has been a miserable experience. Without going into too much detail, all of these phones suffered from a combination of instability, short batteries life (>6 hours on idle), malfunction buttons, poor screens and so on.

I’ve had my Nexus for about 7 weeks. The alarm no longer works (made me late for work today), it won’t sync any of my accounts, and I have to reboot if I want to use Wifi when I get home from work. The apps I do have constantly crash when in use. I’m lucky if the battery lasts until I get home as well. I haven’t installed a new app on this phone in about a month, I haven’t rooted it, I haven’t dropped it or cleaned it with salt water.

Is there some magical thing all other Android users do to keep their phones working that I just don’t know about? I’m seriously considering scrapping smart phones and just getting a flip phone. I won’t miss the apps because they never work consistently anyway. I get almost no coverage with Sprint data at home, work, or in-between so I won’t miss that either.

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Comments

24 comments
  • Battery life on any cell phone will be poor if you spend a lot of time in an area with poor cell signal.

    Otherwise, here are a few hints that may improve battery life.

    1. When you exit an app, use the back button to exit. When using the home button, the application keeps running in the background.

    2. If possible, set the screen brightness lower to improve battery life.

    3. Many people find that if Wi-Fi is set to "always on", battery life improves. Otherwise, the phone uses data when sleeping. On many phones, the data radio uses more battery than the Wi-Fi radio.

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  • I run Juice Defender in the most aggressive mode passable right now. Both data and wifi are turned off, and only turn back on when I unlock the phone. On good days (not using my phone during lunch) my Nexus will last 13 hours, ie it starts going dead an hour after I get home from work. Most days I have to charge it in the car on my way home.

    I have my screen set to auto, but because I get little to no data I never keep it on during the day anyway.

    I'll try using the back button and not the home button. I didn't realize there would be a difference.

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  • I use my phone mainly indoors and I find that on my Android phone, I can set the display lower than the "Auto" setting and improve battery life. YMMV.

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  • I'm thrilled with my Android phone, so "ALL" may a bit of an overstatement.  (Not that it helps you any...)

    Out of curiosity, if you check the internet (e.g Sprint Community phone forums,  Amazon, or others) for reviews of those phone models, what do you turn up?  If the customer ratings show a second peak on the low end of the ratings, there's a good probability that you're going to experience their problems too.  Instability can be hardware or software caused.  Any apps common to all phones?  What was the last thing installed before they started acting wierd?  [I've seen this when trying a GPS navigation program.  Things have been rock steady before / after uninstalling the buggy app.]  Have the phones been updated to the current version of the operating system?  [I've learned it helps to have a fetish for code updates.  All of my apps are set to auto-update.]

    Regarding battery life, what applications are you running in the background?  If you've got one of the voice recognition apps listening for a wake-up phrase, the constant computing will drain the battery in a hurry.  What are you running in the foreground?  Anything network and multi-media intensive?  Streaming video is a good way to empty a battery quickly too.  GPS + refreshed display + navigation & traffic data is another recipe for battery drain too.  As a comparison data point, my battery is down 12% after 12 hours of sitting in my pocket.  WiFi has been on, but not connected while at work. Reconnects seamlessly when I arrive at home.

    Regarding coverage - voice and text will roam on Verizon when Sprint is unusable.  Unfortunately, there's usually a difference between what you and the phone think is unusable. :-)

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  • Looking at Amazon and CNet, the reviews on the phones I've had all say that they're above average. The lowest rated was the Droid 3 on Verizon.

    I haven't installed any apps on the Nexus in weeks, hardly any since I got it. Outside of a few standby's (tweet deck, facebook and such) I don't really explore the app universe that much. I've found it's not worth my time as the Android phones I've had aren't stable enough to warrant investing time/money in apps. At some point, why even have a smart phone if you can't use software being developed for it?

    Regarding battery life, I try to keep as little in the background running as I can without rooting my phone and tikering. I killed all GPS location stuff a few weeks ago and that helped for a while. When I look at where my battery life is going, it says 29% is screen (for a phone I have idle in my pocket all day), 20% Phone idle, 20% cell standby, 11% "Media Server", then a few 1 and 2 percents. I looked up "mediaserver" and of course it's a known bug with Android 4.2.X that I'm sure it can be fixed by buying a brand new $500 phone every three months.

    Streaming? HA! I'd have to maintain a Wifi or Data connection for more than a couple minutes at a time to stream anything. The phone won't maintain connection to any public wifi, work wifi, or my home wifi. Here at home, my wife's iPod touch is using the internet fine as is the dell laptop I'm typing on. 

    Regarding coverage, I receive maybe 20% of the txt's I'm sent and half the calls I make drop.

    I've always read that Nexus products were the unofficial official phones approved by Google. if this is so, I'm not impressed. I already wrote Ting to see if I can downgrade to a Samsung 370.

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  • Also, listening to music via the headphone jack injects clicks and scratches into the audio. I've tried the default music player, winamp, and double twist. I've tried four sets of ear buds. No fix.

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  • All the Android devices I have owned have been pretty rock solid with the battery lasting at least a full day unless except under custom ROMs that are not well developed yet (but I have never owned a galaxy nexus). 

    Are you in an LTE region? 4G is a notorious battery drainer... if so it might be worth it to turn off 4G for a day or two and see if that helps.  I suspect since you have poor data signal that is the main thing that is draining your battery - probably the best thing you can due is use something like Juicedefender or Tasker to automatically turn off mobile data (including 2G/3G/4G) the majority of the time so that it only tries to get a data signal every 30 minutes or so (whatever you think will work for you) to get new email, app notifications, etc.

    However, if you are even having trouble connecting to WiFi and issues with audio playback that is very odd... maybe you have a bad device?

    But, just for general power saving tips I would try the following if I were you:

    1. Hard reset back to stock everything
    2. Download Juicedefender and set it up according to your needs/usage.
    3. Turn off 4G except when you need it
    4. Turn off GPS unless you are using navigation/maps
    5. Turn off WiFI except when you need it (home/work)

    Good luck, hope it works out for you or you can find something you like. Its most likely that since your signal is poor that is what is causing the problem.

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  • Hi Garrick,

    Did you buy the Galaxy Nexus new, directly from Ting? I don't have one myself (...yet... :-) but the problems you're describing don't sound at all like "normal" features (or "bugs") of that device - it sounds to me like the phone you have may be faulty. Obviously I'm only guessing, but it certainly seems to me like it might be worth seeing if you can return that device under the factory warranty (I think it has a 1-year manufacturer's warranty).

     

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  • My Galaxy Nexus was brand new, it’s only 7 weeks old. And yes, it came from Ting.

    Just a few hours ago the touch screen stopped responding. There it was, sitting at the unlock screen and me unable to draw my doodle to unlock the phone. The power button worked, but to reset it I had to remove the battery as I couldn't touch the Power Off option. This thing has been a mess since the second week I had it.

     After six consecutive Android phones failing my needs, I've decided either Android is an absolutely horrible platform or my standards are far too high for the platform to satisfy in its current state. Ting wrote me back and I have a flip phone on the way, straight out of 2005. Even if this phone isn't  amazing, it’s  $49. There’s no expectation of greatness.

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  • It sounds like you should call or email Ting support so they can replace it under warranty.

    Your list of apps installed from Google Play is saved in your Google account, so you should be able to re-install them on a new device.

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  • I kind of get where you're coming from, as flip phones always did their job just fine for me as well.

    My experience with smartphones has been pretty different, though - I have not a bad experience with the Android platform at all. Now, it's possible that I've just been more lucky than you, as my Android experience has been entirely on just two devices so far - an HTC Evo 4G (the original A9292/Supersonic model) and then the HTC Wildfire S (CDMA, I forget the codename on this one). The Evo was very reliable for me for over two years, until I accidentally left it behind on the subway. (Doh!!!) The Wildfire S is pretty poor as smartphones go, by comparison (weaker processor, smaller screen, less memory) but still works passably for me. I intend to get a newer phone, probably a Galaxy Nexus on Ting, as it happens, in the near future, and honestly I don't anticipate having any problems with that either (knocking on wood! :-) - I can see why you'd not bother at this point after going through so many devices with such poor experiences, though. But from your description of the Galaxy Nexus problems, it definitely sounds to me more like a "factory busted" device that you got, rather than systemic issues. I don't know if you had similarly poor luck with the others, though, or if they were just typical of their types.

    In any case, thanks for sharing your story, it was interesting to hear!

    Josh

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  • Just for the hell of it, here is the full list of my Android phones and what went wrong.

    1 Motorola Droid 3 (New) Verizon: After three months random reboots, one every other day. Screen developed several dime sized bright spots near the center and dark spots near the edges. Large amount of dust found its way between the screen and glass. Slide out keyboard became unresponsive on right side. Multiple factory resets solved none of these problems

    2 Replacement Droid 3 (New) Verizon: Exact same series of events as before.

    3 LG Marquee (refurb) Ting: Extremely short battery life, sometimes three to four hours on idle. Google Marquee battery life. Also suffered from several reboots a week. Sent in for replacement

    4 LG Marquee (refurb) Ting: I never turned this phone on. It came damaged, like a dog had chewed on it.

    5 LG Viper (new) Ting: Short battery life, made the phone unusable. Would play random music from my song library at random times at random volume during the day. The office is quiet, and suddenly Ice Cube is dropping F-Bombs from my pant leg. Again, random lockups and reboots, about one reboot every two days.

    6 Samsung Galaxy Nexsus (New) Ting: All the problems I’ve described here already.

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  • You're not crazy. Android reminds me of old Windows 95 & 98 where you would have to nuke the system like once a year to keep it running smoothly.

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  • I received my Samsung M370 this week! I'll have to manually add my contacts as the internet hasn't discovered a way to easily import them. However that's a small price to pay for a phone that actually works as a reliable communication device.

    I was using my Nexus today at work, listening to a podcast and wondering if I made a good decision. Since then my Nexus won't send e-mails, the camera software keeps crashing, and it still won't stay connected to wifi. So yeah, I won't miss it. I have a Sandisk MP3 player I can use for audio.

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  • Unfortunately that matches my experience with mid-range Android devices also.  My Ting Marquee was unusable due to horrid battery life - it couldn't complete a basic phone call by mid-afternoon of standby operation.  The replacement Marquee unit was hardly any better.  My previous Samsung Galaxy Exhibit on T-Mobile had excellent specs on paper but was unreliable in the real world, with random reboots and hangs.  Two trips to the Samsung service depot didn't fix the reliability problems.

    On the other hand my daughter's Optimus V on Virgin Mobile had limited features but always remained functional, and her current HTC One-V has been good.  So Android phones just seem to be a bit of a crap shoot, sometimes they're fine and others are dogs.  I don't think Android vendors ever bother to fix or update problematic units - they just churn out a new model to replace the EOL'd dogs.

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  • The Galaxy Nexus isn't Mid Range though. It's a Nexus, the purest distro of Android Google makes. It only cost a few bucks less than the Galaxy SIII, but behaves like some bootsy knock off MP3 player.

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  • SUCCESS! I got my downgraded flip phone in the mail this week and switched to it last night. This morning my wife sent me two TXT messages and I received them both without issue!! I was then able to reply without incident! The phone didn't crash, play a random MP3, lock up, or stop responding to my input.

    I've never been so happy  to be stuck in 2005!

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  • I am glad you have found success with a flip phone.  I am currently happily using a Galaxy S III, but you may want to look in to the windows phone options when they become available here at Ting.  I am a former Windows Phone user and love the platform.  In many ways, it is a more user friendly operating system than Android.  The only reason I left it was that it was unavailable on Ting and I have transitioned to using Google voice to save money.  Not surprisingly using a Google operating system works far better than a Microsoft operating system for that purpose.  good luck.d

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  • "You're not crazy. Android reminds me of old Windows 95 & 98 where you would have to nuke the system like once a year to keep it running smoothly."

    Including Android 4.x?

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  • Chris,

    While I am not sure of your definition of a feature phone, your definition of a smart phone is truly strange.

    I have a supported Sanyo Katana II flip phone on Ting. I am not sure if it even meets the level of a feature phone, but it is definitely _not_ a smart phone!

    There are definitely non-smart phones on the Ting white list. See https://help.ting.com/entries/22567167-Bring-Your-Sprint-Device-to-Ting-A-List-of-All-Supported-Devices

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  • I love my Transform Ultra. Have had few issues. Certainly no more than average.

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  • Sounds like some people who didn't bother to learn the OS

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  • That list of the ones you posted that are "our most common devices" are the ones for which Ting has gone through and worked out and published a guide with exact step-by-step instructions.  The rest of the list below isn't just "take your chances".  That is the list that Sprint has given to Ting of the devices that are OK to bring over.  Ting doesn't have exact instructions to give you, but they should work fine.  Fortunately, simpler phones are usually simpler to bring over because the basic talk, text, and 3G settings can get themselves updated automatically over the air usually.  The multimedia messaging address is sometimes difficult (near impossible) to change on some flip phones because they weren't meant for the user to have access to change them, but picture messaging usually isn't a big concern for most people.

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  • Garric, interesting list of issues you have had.  Considering the millions of well functioning Android phones that are in use, it sounds your experience is in the minority.  Keep in mind when viewing these forums, you usually only see people having issues, you rarely see the other side,  people not having issues.  I had also thought about getting "dumb" phone when I switched to Ting because it being more complex and slightly larger.  After having it for 6 months, I couldn't really go back.  One of my phones is also a Marquee. (original battery even)  Good luck on your M370.

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