Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nexus 5

To make a long story short, I have a new phone that I bought a few weeks ago: a Nexus 5 from Google. I bought it as it was released - actually ordered it before it was released - which is pretty unusual for me.

A lot of people are all about Apple: they always keep up with the latest iPhones, iPads, laptops, whatever, get all excited when Apple announces their next thing, and have stayed loyal to Apple products for years. That's fine, but me? I've never owned an Apple product of any kind - not a Mac, an iPod, anything. Instead, I'm all about Google. Gmail is my primary email, Google Calendar is my primary calendar/to-do list, Google Drive is the place where I keep all my notes and statistics and curling league standings and stuff, and Android is my smartphone operating system of choice. (And, of course, I use Google for web searches and Google Maps for anything map related, but even Apple users do that, right? If you don't, then you really are all about Apple, I guess.) So, a phone you can buy directly from Google, with all kinds of Google gizmos on it? Sign me up!

So, recall that T-Mobile does wireless plans a little differently now. Instead of giving you discounted rates on phones plus a two-year contract, T-Mobile charges full price for their phones (which you can pay over a 2-year period), but also has no contracts, and offers lower monthly fees, which makes T-Mobile cheaper in the long run even factoring in the higher cost of their phones. The idea behind this is is that you can upgrade phones more frequently than two years if you want to. Generally, I think this move has worked out well for T-Mobile.

But...it means that there's really no benefit to buying a phone directly from T-Mobile anymore, versus a third party, provided the phone is "unlocked". T-Mobile marks up the prices of the phones they sell directly, sometimes by a lot; last I checked, T-Mobile still charges more for the Nexus 4 than I paid Google for the brand new Nexus 5. So, buying an unlocked phone from a third party seems like the way to go. The Nexus 5 isn't the best phone out there, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than the latest Samsung Galaxy or HTC whatever. It's also nice to not have all of the extra crap that T-Mobile puts on all of the phones they sell.

The best thing about the phone is just that it's a LOT faster than the phone I had been using. Smartphone processors are getting faster and faster very quickly, kind of like PCs were doing 15 years ago. This means that if you have a 2-year-old smartphone, the latest versions of most apps will run very slowly on it, because they're all built for faster smartphones. If you're a heavy smartphone user, upgrading every 2 years is almost a must. (That's one reason why I went "cutting edge" this time, instead of buying a phone that was already 6-12 months old.) The Nexus 5 also supports LTE, which my previous phone did not. LTE is really fast compared to what I'm used to; it's even faster than my home wifi, or at least it seems like it. (But I still use wifi at home, for reasons I'll get to.)

So, let's talk features. Google's answer to Apple's Siri - ask a question out loud, get an answer - is...well, I don't know if this thing has a name. But you can say "Okay Google, [question/command]", without pressing any buttons, and it'll do what you say. Sweet! I turned off the "Okay Google" voice recognition part of this, though, because I read that it's not kind to battery life. I can still give voice commands, I just have to press a button first. I'll trade that for some extra battery life.

Google also has this thing called "Google Now", which supposedly tracks your Google searches (through anywhere you have Google Chrome installed, including your PC and phone), movements via GPS, that sort of thing, to try and give you useful information - i.e. tell you there's a traffic delay on your work commute, before you even leave home - without you asking for it. I decided I'd give it a try, although to be honest, I haven't really gotten much of a benefit from Google Now yet. I turned off all sports-related updates, since I watch the majority of my sports via DVR (since we basically live on Marla's schedule), and so I don't want to know what the score of the Carolina Hurricanes game is right now. I'm still 30 minutes behind! The work commute information isn't all that useful for me, personally, since I have a pretty short commute that pretty much never has delays. And the other stuff - Google Calendar reminders (stuff I already check), "hey since you're away from home here's a nearby restaurant with good reviews"...nothing groundbreaking, really. I won't turn Google Now off, but I haven't gotten a whole lot out of it, yet.

Here's one thing that the Nexus 5 does which I really like. Through Google+ (which I don't use all that much - pretty much the only Google thing I haven't latched on to, really), it automatically uploads all of the pictures you take with the camera to an online "backup" server when you're connected via wifi. So should something happen to your phone, all your pictures are preserved, even if you hadn't transferred them over to your PC yet. Also, let's say I want to post a picture from my phone on my blog. I don't have to manually transfer it from my phone to my computer first. Instead, I can just upload "from my phone" on Blogger, and there it is, instantly.

"

(That's from a random rest area in Ohio. I don't know why I took that picture, but hey, at least I can post it to my blog instantly!)

Speaking of wifi, now that most (all?) wireless providers cap the amount of data you can use in a month, wifi is pretty much a necessity if you want to stay under your cap, especially if you're going to take advantage of things like automatically-updating apps and photo backups. In hindsight, it's hard to believe I went so long - April 2010 - before hooking up my house with wireless internet. On the other hand, it also took me quite a while to even get my first smartphone, compared to most people...but regardless, if you have a smartphone, you should really have wireless internet, too.

So, after all that, I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface of what this phone can do. Hopefully it won't become obsolete too quickly.

1 comment:

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