Found one!

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And its name is Lumia 635. The 735 was the real contender, the one I really wanted, but not at the $300+ price it released, that’s an insult. You may remember what I had to say about it a few months ago about its pros and cons:

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

So, why did I end up choosing this phone? Simple: the price dropped to a ridiculous $68 on December 20th and at that price, it was too good a bargain to pass. At this point a fully functioning modern smartphone for $68 wasn’t cheap, it was a steal and I’ve been enjoying it for the past 2 months. The non-unibody factor turned up to be no problem at all: this phone is crazy thin and light, whereas my 920 unibody was fat and heavy. The health tracking? Works beautifully and reminds me how little I walk everyday. The LTE is just as fast as it was on my 920. The 512MB RAM certainly isn’t as good as 1GB, but the phone works quite fast and feels speedy – similar to my 920 actually. I’m sure it’d be a bit more responsive with 1GB, but it’s not slow or feels sluggish by any means.

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The negatives get a bit more annoying, mainly the camera. It’s crap, period. It takes passable pictures, but they’re all bad honestly (coming from the 920) and only salvageable for social network posting after I’ve done a quick edit on Photoshop express, even pictures taken in daylight are dull. At least having a bad camera on my phone has rekindled my use of my Sony NEX 5N, so there’s some gain to be had here. Not having a front camera isn’t a problem %99 of the time – I’m not one to take selfies, but hey there’s always those couple times when you want to get a small group shot and it’s just easier seeing the screen… no biggie though. I can turn the phone around to use the main camera and the Lumia selfie app will beep (like crazy) to indicate we’re in the picture. Not perfect, but kinda works. For $68, I’ll put up with it. The lack of ambient sensor is something I thought would really annoy me… not so, honestly. I keep the screen at medium and it’s totally fine 90% of the day. When it’s bright and sunny outside, I switch it to High (I keep the setting on the action center so it’s easy to get to). What’s an improvement, actually, is in bed at night: my 920 turned the brightness down but it was always a bit too bright to be comfortable. With the 635 I can actually specify how low I want the Low level to be (or the mid, or the high) so I turned it real low and its now a pleasure to use in a pitch dark room, or on a car ride at night.

Talking about the screen – it’s beautiful. Sure, it’s no longer 768p like the 920 and that shows, I’m not going to lie: it’s fuzzier and less detailed. It’s also not going at 60hz like the 920’s screen. But hey, it’s still an IPS panel with ClearBlack, contrast is great and the color are actually better than what I was seeing on the 920. Well, at least they look better, deeper and richer to me. Don’t take my word for it, let’s compare (*Note: some shots show heavy fringing on the 635 – this is because the camera is picking up the pixel pattern and since it can resolve the detail it shows that distortion, but that’s not visible at all in real life):

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Side by side, the 920 looks better overall, but remember: I paid $250 for the 920 refurbished (which was already cheap) whereas the 635 cost $68, new. Locked to T-Mobile, sure, but just last week I called and they got my phone unlocked with no problem at all, so I’ll be able to use it when my husband and I fly to Spain this summer – and eventually give this phone to my mom for good while I’ll renew to a Windows 10 phone. So, essentially, it’s a liberated phone for $68. Beat that value, iPhone/any-Android-ever. I was never a huge fan of the original matte white case T-Mobile included so I spent $6 and got this blue case on eBay.

So there you have it: a good phone for anybody who just wants a nice, decent smartphone for normal use. It’s a stopgap for me as I really want a better camera and an AMOLED screen once Windows 10 phones are released, but it’s a perfectly fine phone that, for the price, is an amazing value.

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My phone history – updated

Well, it happened again.

As happy as I am with my Lumia 620, the truth is that my mom’s Samsung Focus WP7 is now about 4 years old and she is completely outdated. While she likes the phone, WP7 development has been virtually abandoned as WP8 is completely based on actual Windows 8 and not Windows CE (which is not really Windows at all) like WP7 was. So, in preparation for her next birthday, I’ll be giving her my like-new 620 so she can leave the past behind and come back to present modernity. Of course, most likely she’ll half-joke half-complain that I’m giving her a used phone that I no longer want (which is untrue) while not realizing this will be the most expensive and high quality phone she has ever owned, but oh well… such is my destiny and I’m used to it. At least she will stop complaining that Whatsapp/Skype and other apps don’t work properly (obvious, since they haven’t received updates on WP7 since the beginning of time…).

Anyway, I was waiting for MWC2014 in Barcelona this end of February to see what WP8.1 devices Nokia/Microsoft release, most likely quadcores with 2gb RAM. I was on the fence about what I would upgrade to, the new devices or just last year’s 920 since it has that fantastic Pureview camera. If I were limited to be with one carrier, I’d get the 1020 with its 41mp camera and not look back, but since I travel back and forth to Europe, I need to be able to swap microSIM cards, which means I need unlocked devices. Which are WAY more expensive than locked ones. Since what’ll be announced at MWC won’t be 64-bit SOCs – those won’t be coming until the fall – I figured it wouldn’t really matter what I decided to buy. Coincidentally, as I was doing this process in my head, WPCentral released this article about 920s being available on eBay, unlocked, for a miserly $200. I couldn’t order one fast enough, this is a crazy good deal. Last year’s phone, sure, but also last year’s flagship phone, which means it’ll still be supported pretty much for the next year or maybe two. Even when it gets to the cutoff for future OS updates, its camera will still laugh at 95% of what the market offers. So there you go, 920 is on its way towards me from California, refurbished (so basically new, while technically not exactly “new”, yet legally has to be sold at as-used price). Queue the obligatory update to my phone history for the annals of history:
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This 920 should last me at least 2 years, great phone, flagship specs, best-in-class camera (let’s face it, that was my main draw, photography), support for at least 1/2 years. Other than discovering an unknown love for all things matte, this situation also made me think that I/people in general buy phones at a much faster rate than before. My 1st phone lasted 3 years, 2nd phone another 3, same with the 3rd phone… had the 4th for 1 year, 5th for 1/2 year, 6th for 1/2 year… though the last 2 don’t really count as I hated the Android OS and the 620 will be handed to my mom, those are exceptions (if mom didn’t need a new phone I’d happily keep using the 620). I don’t think we can blame this on consumerism as some do, although it’s certainly a factor in this accelerating trend.

I’d say the main factor is that technology is getting much better much faster. My Alcatel, the brick that vanquished my fears of being mugged at night because it essentially constituted a weapon, lasted so long because screens didn’t get any better for a while. Sure, the Nokia 3310 was a welcome upgrade but the increase in resolution wasn’t THAT big a deal, the main thing with that one was the lighter package. The 6500 was even smaller and had a color screen, but note how that more noticeable change took about 10 years to occur. From then on, technology has improved at a much faster pace. The Samsung Focus had a brilliant AMOLED screen but lacked in resolution. 2 years later the Nexus 4 had a great HD screen. 1 year later the Lumia 620 was the upgrade to WP8 that I wanted since the unlocked 920 was crazy expensive. I’m positive the WP8.1 devices in MWC2014 will absolutely trump and laugh at my 920, but the trick here is that the 920 is already beefy enough to withstand an upgrade to WP9 if that happens next year. Yet, as you see, everything is getting so much better so much faster, which is welcome news, but we need to try to calm down with the purchasing rate/pace. If the 920 supports WP9 as I fully expect it to (other 512MB RAM Lumias I’m much more doubtful about…) and it doesn’t die (meaning I drop and break it), I expect to be using this device for a long, long time, 2 years minimum, 3 years probable, 4 years unlikely but possible (by then we might have flexible 2K resolution AMOLED IGZO panels and, as Steve Jobs used to say, you don’t even know how much you really want them yet).

To conclude, here’s a couple shots of my new best buddy to help me traverse the treacherous waters of life:

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