When I bought my Galaxy S7 Edge a couple months ago, I somewhat lamented the fact that there was nothing else in the $350-500 price range that had the mix of features I wanted plus a cleaner-than-Samsung build of Android. Some options have emerged since then that give me pause, but not quite regret.
Here is my overly-exhaustive OCD review of the Galaxy S7 Edge that I updated behind the scenes several times after posting it as I discovered new quirks that I either liked or disliked, and here’s my similarly OCD review of the Moto X Pure Edition it replaced.
One of the big things that I got all hung up on during my phone search that eventually led me to the Galaxy S7 Edge was being compatible with Verizon. I was on Total Wireless which was a super cheap prepaid plan that uses Verizon’s network. But yesterday I switched to T-Mobile.
My job is in a part of town that inexplicably has crappy Verizon coverage, even though generally Verizon has the second best network here in Madison, behind U.S. Cellular. My office building has some unique cellular signal-killing properties, and when I moved offices, I stopped being able to make any calls.
Enter T-Mobile, which is the best carrier at supporting wifi calling on unlocked phones. I’m all in on the unlocked phone bandwagon. Thankfully, my unlocked Galaxy S7 Edge supports T-Mobile wifi calling. The Moto X Pure it replaced doesn’t, and actually the unlocked LG V20 that I briefly tried but returned also doesn’t. Score one for the S7E, since it let me switch to T-Mobile and use wifi calling.
There are a couple other fancy unlocked phones that have recently dropped into or soon will be in the same price ballpark as the $475 I paid for my S7E, both of which feature cleaner-than-Samsung software. Each time I found out about them, I was like, hmm, should I have gotten that instead?
First up, the Essential PH-1.
Started by Andy Rubin, the guy who invented Android, Essential has had a rocky start. The phone when it first launched had an awful camera, and various other glitches, but Essential has done a lot of software updates and tweaks to improve the camera and performance in general. At the time I bought my S7E, the PH-1 was selling for $699, way more than I wanted to spend. But it recently dropped to $499, and actually Best Buy and Amazon have it for $449.
The PH-1 has a fashionable bezel-“free” screen, but in the standard 16:9 aspect ratio, not 18:9 like the other phones in this style. It basically ticks every possible box for me including Verizon and T-Mobile wifi calling compatibility, but it has one glaring issue. There’s no headphone jack, and it doesn’t support aptX or any other high-quality bluetooth codec. I use aptX headphones at the gym and without aptX support, they’d sound noticeably worse with the PH-1.
The other contender is the soon-to-be released OnePlus 5T. It’s basically like the OnePlus 5 but with a tall, mini-bezel screen, and maybe some kind of better camera. It’ll be announced in another week or so.
The regular OnePlus 5 was out of stock when I was buying my S7E, and while it ticked all my boxes, it didn’t have Verizon compatibility. The same will apply for the 5T, but I’m on T-Mobile now, and probably will stay on them as long as I’m with this company, and OnePlus supports T-Mobile wifi calling. Supposedly it’ll cost the same $479 as the OnePlus 5 did.
This one is a little more interesting to me, but it still won’t work on Verizon if I were for some reason compelled to switch back, and to get it, I would have had to stick with my Moto X Pure with a dying USB port and no fingerprint reader until probably the end of November or early December.
If I really want to limit myself to phones that support both Verizon CDMA and T-Mobile wifi calling, that’s a very short list. It’s basically only iPhones, Samsung flagships, Pixels, and Motorola’s E, G & X series low- and mid-range phones.
So I still don’t think I’ve made the wrong choice per se, but who knows?