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Which smartphone should I buy?

Last change: 2019-09-05 – Copyright © 2018-2019 Hans-Georg Michna


Since I updated this article the last time, the smartphone landscape has completely changed. I used to buy used smartphones on eBay and refurbish them with the latest version of CyanogenMod and later LineageOS. I picked smartphones with an excellent performance/price ratio and was thus able to use relatively powerful smartphones for a very low price.

Now the situation is that quite powerful smartphones are available as new for very good prices, so it makes no longer much sense to buy used ones. Therefore I will recommend a few smartphones that seem particularly attractive to me. As before I do not like Samsung phones because of their poorly programmed bloatware and because even their hardware is not always very good.

  1. OnePlus 6T – Available with 6 or 8 GB RAM (or 10 GB RAM for the €699 McLaren edition) and 128 or 256 GB internal storage (no Micro-SD-card slot), it comes close in capability to much more expensive flagship phones. It is mostly free of bloatware, and OnePlus has shown that they provide the latest Android versions to their phones for three years. (Both the 3 and 3T, which are now 3 years old, will get Android 9 "Oreo".) Its price swings around €600, depending on memory sizes. It has two SIM card slots. Meanwhile, its successor, the OnePlus 7 has appeared in three different versions, and the 7T is around the corner. These may now be the better choice. Check all OnePlus phones here. I do not recommend older OnePlus phones, neither new nor used, because they are too expensive for their age.
  2. All new Nokia phones – Check the versions 6 and above, but even the latest Nokia 3—a low-priced phone (around €150) with an excellent performance/price ratio—may warrant a good look. I do not recommend phones with low performance, but if your budget is very tight or your demands are very low, the latest Nokia 3 may be your best choice. What makes the Nokia phones enticing is their good quality, their lack of bloatware, and their use of Android One, which should make system upgrades easier than on other phones, raising the hope of timely and long support from their manufacturer, HMD Global. (They bought the Nokia name, but their Nokia phones are still good.) These Nokia phones have two SIM card slots, one of which can alternatively be used for a memory card. Check the specifications for the maximum memory size, which can differ between types of Nokia phones.
  3. Google Pixel phones. Most of them are very expensive, but Google has issued two budget phones in 2019, the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL. They are still comparable in price with OnePlus phones and have somewhat lower performance, but the general quality is excellent, particularly that of the camera, which is the same as in the more expensive Pixel phones.

Both OnePlus and Nokia phones used to have a tendency to kill background apps in a misguided attempt to make the battery last longer between rechargings. If you don't need background tasks, this does not need to concern you. On the OnePlus phones they call this, "Battery optimisation", and you can avoid this behavior by exempting (whitelisting) those apps that you want to run unimpeded in the background. Nokia is seeing the light also and has removed the responsible system apps; see https://9to5google.com/2019/08/27/nokia-adaptive-battery-android/. Please write to me if you know more or have news.

Both OnePlus and, even more, Nokia, not to mention the Google Pixel phones, are at the top of the list of product lines that get Android updates for two years or more and then some security updates. This may be the decisive advantage of these phones. See here for details.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Hans-Georg Michna.


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