Being a gadget nerd, I can’t help but pay attention to the steady stream of new phones being announced all the time. But I also try to ride out my gadgets’ useful life as long as possible.
Here are my must-have features:
- T-Mobile wifi calling and/or Google Project Fi
- Big screen in a not-huge overall package
- Above average processor with loads of RAM
- Wireless charging
- Fast charging
- Big battery
- Solid camera, especially in low light, for taking pretty pictures of food in dimly lit restaurants and posting them on Instagram
- No goddamn motherfucking screen notches
- High quality bluetooth codec support (aptX, etc.)
- Reasonably prompt security patches, but I’m more patient about full OS updates
- Always-on display of some kind (Samsung & Pixel are ok, Motorola’s still the best)
Here are my I’d reeeeaaalllyyy like to have features:
- Universal carrier compatibility
- Dark theme for UI
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- Extra camera gimmicks like portrait mode, dual lenses, etc
- Nice clean Android build (although I’ve mostly been able to clean up my S7 Edge to the point where I don’t gripe about Samsung’s Android skin)
- Scrolling screenshots like Samsung—I don’t use them a lot but it’s very handy when you want/need it
- Water resistant—you don’t need it, until you need it
Things I say I like but honestly can probably live without:
- Stereo speakers—they’re nice when I use them but I watch videos with the phone’s built-in speakers so rarely that it doesn’t matter much to me
- Headphone jack—I own many pairs of wired headphones but for the most part they only get used with my tablet for watching videos in bed, or on planes, or with the remote on my Roku. I connect my phone to my car with bluetooth and I use aptX bluetooth headphones at the gym
I’ve only had my S7 Edge for 6 months, and it ticks enough of these boxes that I’m not actually in the market for a replacement. But what phones could be replacements?
The Galaxy S8+ and S9+ are closest to checking every box on the list. The S9+ wins here because of its better low-light camera and the horrible placement of the fingerprint sensor on the S8+. Samsung sucks at putting OS updates out quickly, but my S7 Edge has consistently been getting somewhat recent security patches. The unlocked S9+ may or may not support T-Mobile’s 600 MHz network. The T-Mobile version does. Waiting on confirmation here.
The Moto Z2 Force, if bought from T-Mobile, can do everything on my list if you add a Moto Style Shell that clamps on the back to get wireless charging. T-Mobile is selling it for $375. But it’s unlocked/universal, and it has the stupid-ass ShatterShield built-in screen protector that you can scratch just by looking at it wrong.
The OnePlus 5T ticks most of the boxes outside of wireless charging, but lacks any Verizon or Sprint network support. I’m kinda unlikely to go back to Verizon but maybe I’d do it through an MVNO at some point, so I’d like to at least have the radio in there just in case.
The unlocked LG V30 doesn’t support T-Mobile wifi calling. The T-Mobile LG V30 supports wifi calling and T-Mobile’s new 600 MHz network. But it’s locked to T-Mobile. LG’s software is a mess anyway.
If I want to try out Project Fi, the Pixel 2 XL would do the trick, but I’d have to give up wireless charging. Womp womp.
So, hey, maybe in a couple years I’ll buy a new old stock S9+! Or maybe the Pixel 3 XL will get wireless charging and I’ll hop on Project Fi. Or maybe my phone needs/wants will have completely changed by then.