AndroidFilter - Recommendations for an iPhone replacement?
November 4, 2010 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend me an Android phone? I've got a family member with an old iPhone that's on its way out, and since we have no desire to sign on with AT&T for two years of punishment and fees, I'd like to go with an open solution. Detailed requirements inside.

Requirements:
  • similar in size/form-factor to the iPhone
  • must be available in an unlocked, un-branded configuration (price is no matter)
  • must not be restricted/crippled by a carrier (i.e. I must be able to flash with CyanogenMod or any other alternate distribution of Android)
  • must be a touchscreen phone
  • must be GSM
I've been looking at phones from HTC, but since I've never owned an Android phone (HTC or otherwise), I'd really like to hear from MeFites who have. Thanks!
posted by -1 to Technology (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you want a truly open phone, the best choice is to get the Nexus One, which you can still get as a "developer phone" (at least as far as I know).

Also, check out the Google Phone Gallery which will show you all the options, which have varying degrees of openness.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:14 PM on November 4, 2010


must not be restricted/crippled by a carrier

This point will probably cross the Droid X and 2 off your list, which have locked bootloaders.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:16 PM on November 4, 2010


nexus One is probably your best bet.

i have an at&t galaxy S (aka captivate). I've been able to flash it to a different rom as well as root it. a samsung branded froyo is available, but i believe the cyanogenMod is still in beta and i haven't heard about stock android, but it's likely out there. people seem to remark that its screen is as good as the iphone4's screen. it's also noticeably lighter than the iphone4.

here's a link to the unlocked/unbranded version:
http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Unlocked-Smartphone-Touchscreen-Slot-International/dp/B003NCX6ZS
posted by maulik at 4:22 PM on November 4, 2010


T-mobile is GSM and 4g, and will unlock your phone for you (after a few weeks), and will sell the phone without any contract.

Their new mytouch 4g seems to fit your criteria, but it was released yesterday, so you should probably wait a few days to see if there are any reports of difficulty rooting it.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:27 PM on November 4, 2010


I adore my rooted, de-Binged Samsung Fascinate (Verizon's Galaxy S). There are GSM variants available (Vibrant?), whether they are carrier locked or not, I don't know. Battery life is incredible, mine goes well over a day between charges with HeyTell, Google Voice and Trillian always on, and the phone checking my email every 5 minutes, along with frequent texting and websurfing. If I start watching videos, battery will last about a day.

The screen is absolutely gorgeous, and has to be seen to be believed. I have a couple friends with iPhone 4s and they are jealous. The multi-touch screen is very precise and responsive.

My one beef (other than that Bing bullshit, which was easily remedied) is that the recessed power button is directly opposite the volume rocker, and as a righty, I am constantly hitting the volume with my index finger while thumbing the power button. But for a phone this slim, sleek, and sexy, I can live with it.
posted by xedrik at 4:30 PM on November 4, 2010


T-mobile is GSM and 4g, and will unlock your phone for you (after a few weeks), and will sell the phone without any contract.

IIRC, T-Mobile doesn't offer any 4G whatsoever, just HSPA+ (which is 3G).

That's beside the point though. I don't want to buy a carrier-locked phone on the hopes that the carrier will unlock it. I want to buy an unlocked phone so that I'm not limited to a specific carrier even from day one.

So far I've got the Galaxy S and Nexus One on my list of candidates. Thanks for the recommendations so far, and keep 'em coming. :)
posted by -1 at 4:40 PM on November 4, 2010


Given your requirements the Nexus One is the obvious choice. I'd ditch the Galaxy S option.
posted by gtr at 5:22 PM on November 4, 2010


My understanding is that there are no unlocked Android phones available in the US right now, and you won't get GSM at all with an unbranded phone. The Nexus One is your most recent option for pre-unlocked, but again...no GSM unless it's a TMo N1.
posted by rhizome at 5:23 PM on November 4, 2010


I mentioned t-mobile will unlock your phone for you because it demonstrate that unlike AT&T and ilk, it is their policy to help and work with people using unlocked phones, and not try to lock them in. I was not suggesting suggest you must rely on them to do your unlocking for you - obviously you don't.

(HSPA+ also seems to be markedly superior to the "real" 4g options, so it's a hair I don't see much point in splitting.)

When I went android, my priority was basically the same as yours - freedom at any price. The most freedom I could find in the insane USA telco mess, was with T-mobile. I expect your experience will be the same. If you are stuck with a particular carrier, that may become a bigger issue than which phone you choose.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:24 PM on November 4, 2010


Unfortunately, because of the 3G frequency situation in the US, even if you buy an unbranded, unlocked phone you are still going to be limited to a single carrier by your hardware choice, because no device (that I know of anyway) supports both the 850/1900 (AT&T) and 1700 (T-Mobile) bands for 3G at the same time.

At best, you get a situation like the Nexus One where you could order it in either an AT&T or T-Mobile compatible version, or something like the Galaxy S where you have the Vibrant for T-Mo, the Captivate for AT&T, and the i9000 for the world, all 99% identical. (Incidentally, the i9000's 3G bands are 900/1900/2100, which are not sufficient to support *either* US carrier.)

Of the two I would also suggest T-Mobile as the more friendly and open choice -- they're good about unlocking, they love Android, and HSPA+ is nice and fast. Also, they have an alternative to the typical 2-year lock-in, in that you can get a postpaid plan with no contract and a discount if you bring your own device (or buy one from them outright or on credit).
posted by robt at 7:33 PM on November 4, 2010


because no device (that I know of anyway) supports both the 850/1900 (AT&T) and 1700 (T-Mobile) bands for 3G at the same time.

I think the phones that t-mo marks as "international phones" support both. I don't know how reliable their specs are, but the band specs for the mytouch 4g for example lists "850 MHz;900 MHz;1800 MHz;1900 MHz;UMTS: Band IV (1700/2100)"

(They list a similar range for the Galaxy S Vibrant.)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:47 PM on November 4, 2010


There's a rumored follow-up to the Nexus One scheduled to be announced on the 8th. It should be fully open and independent. Keep your ears open.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:53 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, because of the 3G frequency situation in the US, even if you buy an unbranded, unlocked phone you are still going to be limited to a single carrier by your hardware choice, because no device (that I know of anyway) supports both the 850/1900 (AT&T) and 1700 (T-Mobile) bands for 3G at the same time.
Aye, of this I'm well aware. (Blame T-Mobile for getting to the FCC's bidding party late in the game...)

Fortunately, the user in question would have no problem using EDGE (he doesn't stream music/video, and his data usage is primarily e-mail, chat, and other text-centric tasks), so it's not a big problem if UMTS/HSDPA isn't available.
My understanding is that there are no unlocked Android phones available in the US right now, and you won't get GSM at all with an unbranded phone.
If needs be I can import one. Price really isn't a problem.
posted by -1 at 9:10 PM on November 4, 2010


Seconding ch1x0r, wait for the 8th when they announce the rumored Nexus S
posted by stew560 at 10:19 PM on November 4, 2010


If you can, get a T-Mobile version of the Nexus One. Beautiful phone, and completely open platform. I have this phone, and I love it.

No idea why Google stopped selling them, but you may be able to find one used.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:06 AM on November 5, 2010


Quick question: does it HAVE to be Android, or would you be okay with Maemo/MeeGo? The N900 runs Maemo, will eventually run MeeGo (as I understand it), both of which are very open, and I have friends who use it with T-Mobile.
posted by brainwane at 5:03 AM on November 5, 2010


And the Nexus S got announced this week. T-mobile, latest version of Android. Best Buy is selling them unlocked for $529 US.

I honestly don't know whether it's easily rootable and flashable. But it does everything else on your list.
posted by GuyZero at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2010


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