Looking for a new phone…

I’ve had 4 phones in the past 4 years:

– Samsung Focus in 2011, which was my gateway to try Windows Phone.
– Nexus 4 in late 2012, which was my gateway to try Android 4 (and I gave the Focus to my mom as her 1st smartphone).
– Lumia 620 in mid-2013, after I decided I hated Android and missed Windows Phone.
– Lumia 920 in early 2014 after I gave the 620 to my mom (who desperately needed to ditch WP7 and move on to WP8).

The first three phones were always temporary. I was trying systems, seeing what I liked (I had had an iPod Touch with iOS 4 before the Focus so I knew that system well already) and what I did not. With the occasional fall, my usually not-too-useless hands did a good job at not dropping these puppies too much. They all survived well, with some nicks in the back or sides but mostly fine. And then I decided to get serious with Windows Phone and buy a 920. It had a great camera, great screen, 1GB RAM, fast CPU… I was excited. The happiness has lasted for 6 months in which I enjoyed WP8, the creation of the Dev Preview program and finally the incredible quality jump that is WP8.1 with Cortana and Cyan firmware. I was certain I was going to keep using this phone for 1-2 years, easily, since I knew it would be upgradeable to WP9 when Threshold becomes official in Spring 2015. And then… it happened.

DSC02017

Well, of course. The phones I really didn’t care about that much, the cheapo ones that I didn’t really make much effort to protect because I could just get new ones from Amazon immediately, those survived perfectly. The one I was intending to keep for 2 years? That’s when I’ve lost my “virgin” status in phone cracking. What’s hilarious is the way it happened: while my cheaper phones fell out of my hands and into the ground and lived to tell the tale, I innocently left my 920 on a bathroom’s sink surface. Well, apparently that darn thing wasn’t as perfectly perpendicular against the ground as it seemed, and exactly 20 seconds after I let the phone rest, I heard a SMACK! I had no idea what the noise was, what could’ve caused it, until I saw the phone, screen down, laying on the bathroom’s tiled floor. That’s impossible, I thought, I left it securely on that flat surface, it couldn’t have slipped unless a ghost pushed it. I lifted the poor 920 and there it was: a glorious mega-crack extending through the upper left corner. Upon further examination, I realized that this crack was exacerbated by a previous tiny, microscopic nick caused by a light drop months ago. This tiny nick evidently created a weak spot and when the phone smashed onto the ground that weak point surrendered to the forces imposed by gravity, originating the huge crack that expanded through the upper left area of the screen.

Incredulous, I inspected the bathroom surface I had left the 920 on: no water to facilitate phone-suicide, but upon lowering my eye-point I noticed the damn thing was indeed not fully flat. It had just the slightest curvature to it towards the edges, precipitating my 920 early demise. I cursed bathroom designers everywhere and after my initial denial and anger phases, bargaining kicked in to accept the loss and I raced to acceptance (I skipped depression because, let’s face it, it’s just a phone and I have a life, so this isn’t such a huge deal. Huge enough to make me write a blog post about it to entertain myself, though). I can’t avoid the thought that, had this phone not been a unibody design, it would have survived without a hitch: non-unibody frames tend to “shatter” upon impact, opening up the case and separating the case, battery and the rest of the phone. Much, I repeat, much of the impact energy is released on this separation process, minimizing damage to all three components. Unibody designs don’t have this advantage: on the contrary, the impact energy travels from the shock point through the body frame and cannot be released anywhere, thus exacerbating the pressure on the body’s materials and releasing un-suppressed energy in the only way it can: by breaking material for energy to be let out. Hence the huge crack in my 920, facilitated by the tiniest nick that created a weak point. Had this been my 620, it would have shattered in 3, I would have put all three parts together again and voila, ready to go without a scratch.

This is why I tend to prefer non-unibody phones. Besides, there is the matter of price: a 620 would cost about a third of a 920. However, there are other extras: the 920’s camera is brilliantly excellent and I’m now spoiled as I’ve gotten used to having a great camera in my pocket at all times with which I can instantly share through LTE. The 620 had no such great camera nor LTE (the latter I can live without, though).

So, now, I’m faced with a choice: upgrade sooner than I had planned or keep using the cracked 920 – it is completely, perfectly functional, after all, but the cracked area is quite annoying as it obscures a good %15 of the screen. There are now three considerations: price, camera and construction. Queue the announcements of the 730 and 830 just 3 weeks ago and the decision making process gets quite muddy:

920: Expensive. LTE. Great camera.                                        VS      Unibody. Thick, heavy, old. No health tracking.

635: Cheap. Non-unibody. Health tracking. LTE.                       VS      Bad camera. No front camera. No ambient light sensor. Low-res screen.

735: Semi-unibody. AMOLED screen. LTE. Decent camera.        VS      Price? Health tracking?

830: Health tracking. LTE. Great camera.                                 VS     Unibody. Price? Health tracking?

So, the decision seems to be centered around the 635 and the 735 as they have the least compromises. The 635 is quite hampered in the camera and sensor departments… but the thing is literally $99. With no contract. That’s no money, at all.  The 735 has a high-res AMOLED screen which pretty much guarantees it’ll be beautiful to look at with great color and deep blacks. It has 2 decent cameras, front and back. LTE. The only question is, how much will it cost? If it releases at around $250 this would be a no brainer as an unlocked device. If released through Tmobile as no-contract, $200 is the max I’d pay (keep in mind the 635 is going for 99 as no-contract so it’s hard to justify more than $100 price difference). Any more than that and we have a problem: if the 735 gets closer to $300, then a) this is unjustifiably expensive for a mid-low range device using a mere Snapdragon 400 and b) at that price, the 635 becomes 1/3 of the price and one has to seriously evaluate if the shortcomings are such a big deal for the ridiculous $99 price.

So, that’s the quandary I find myself in right now. Not wanting to upgrade but not wanting to use a cracked phone, not being able to decide on what would be an appropriate upgrade path. Anybody cares to weigh in? I even made mockups for both phones to see how they’d look (seems like I’ve settled on the orange models). Which one do you like best?

Lumia 635

Lumia 635

Lumia 735

Lumia 735