Tmobile android phone recommendations
December 27, 2012 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Jumping into smartphone world for the first time.…..i) I would like advice on an android phone that works on T-mobile 4G for email/websurfing/productivity. ii) Would also like advice on buying used phones in general.

I have the tmobile value plan which is cheap and requires me to bring a smartphone of my own...I want an android phone.

Phone advice - In order of importance
the phone must:

0) Be reliable hardware*

i) Run smoothly, without crashing, on at least some version of ICS (Android 4.0+). Don't need highest graphic speed/gee whiz, do need RELIABILITY and SMOOTHNESS (would rather have a basic visual interface that works quickly than one with the most cool UI w/beautiful animations). Can't deal at the moment with uploading/beta testing nightly builds.

ii) Is possible to use with 1 hand: I have a long thumb(!) and would like to be able to use w/ one hand. Either swiftykey's new gizmo or swype look like I could actually type on it with the thumb too.... so no giant 5" phones.

iii)  Is international - works with UK sim cards and frequencies for phone

v) Has removable storage and removable battery

vi) Has a decent camera


Buying used phone advice

Advice request: I'm a little paranoid about buying an unlocked GSM phone off ebay or swappa (or craigslist!) only to find that IMEI is locked, or about to be locked, or the phone is a dud.

I have an active tmobile sim….

If you buy in person off craigslist, what simple tests can you do on the phone in person?

If buying online, what can you look for?

Bonus: Have the galaxy S3 handset death rumors been put to bed?
posted by lalochezia to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think the Galaxy Nexus ticks most of your boxes. It supports TMO 4G bands, works internationally, has removable battery (but no removable storage... if that's a dealbreaker, your options shrink considerably), 16 GB of storage, decent camera, and can be used pretty well with one hand. There are rare times where it's a bit tricky for the far extreme corner, but it's not too bad for me at all.

Swappa forces users to enter ESNs which they check on the blacklist to ensure the phone isn't stolen. They also push the Paypal Buyer Protection angle pretty hard as a recourse, and I've heard generally good things about Swappa.

Here are their unlocked GNs. Make sure you don't inadvertently buy the Verizon version, for obvious reasons. You'll also want to ensure that any accessories you buy are for the right version, as the VZW version of the phone differs in small ways that can make other accessories not work.

The GN unlocked also has Jelly Bean and runs like the wind, generally speaking. The 16GB of storage is all-in-one, meaning it's not split like it used to be on phones with removable storage. On the Nexus One, this was infuriating as, even with an 8GB card, I would quickly max out my "internal storage" of which there was barely 200 MB, and once you drop under the 20MB threshold, your phone stops working correctly. Not fun. The GN is one big bin for all of your stuff.

Plus, plenty streams nowadays. All of my photos are automatically backed up to Google+/Instant Upload and Dropbox. Music is streamed via Pandora and Spotify, with me offlining a fair amount via Spotify for patchy cell service areas. Other than that, the removable thing wasn't terribly important to me, since I can always plug it in and drag stuff to and fro quite easily.

The GN is extremely good hardware. I've had it since launch and I have had zero problems with the build quality of the device. It's fantastic, and a pleasure to use. The screen is 4.65" so just on the lower end of "quite big" displays, but it's also a gorgeous 720 HD screen and you can reach; it's not like a 5.5 Note 2 or something insane like that.

For testing phones, make sure it boots, clearly. You should be able to boot straight to the initial Google setup screen. You won't be able to proceed further if he's wiped it without signing up. Pop a SIM in and make sure there's nothing crazy; it should pick up your SIM and show a network banner, but I can't remember if that's available without signing in first. You can ask someone if you're meeting in person to leave the phone set up until they meet, but that's unlikely.

You can also boot into the bootloader, but it's not going to tell you much. (Power + vol down whilst booting.)

If the phone has an unlocked lock icon under the Google text when booting, before the boot animation, then they've unlocked the bootloader. Not a big deal, not even a bad thing, but the phone may no longer be stock and you may want to ask about that. All stuff that can be fixed, though.

If the boot animation is a glowing Nexus X, then it's on JB. If it's a weird shimmering rainbow tortoise shell thing, then it's the stock ICS build that came with the phone. No problem again, since a factory reset could drop it back there, but it depends on how they reset the phone.

The unlocked GN is AOSP, which means it's wildly ahead of the curve with updates and the like. It's a solid choice with great wireless performance, cheap spare batteries, and a great build quality.
posted by disillusioned at 1:26 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I believe that you can get used/refurbished phones through TMobile. That would be one way to make sure it's not stolen.

I have an SGH-T959, whatever that means, and it is running Android 4.04 and Apex Launcher perfectly fine. I was complaining about it last night mostly to be a butt; it really has been a pretty solid phone as long as I don't try to have 5 screens with movement-sensitive animated backgrounds of snow falling running 24/7. I have delicate, ladylike hands and can run it one-handed. The camera is fine but it doesn't seem to have a flash.

Can't help with UK compatibility, unfortunately.

I also have dropped it, banged it, had it eaten by a toddler who has smashed it, and otherwise put it through its paces and it's still working. Pretty bombproof for a smartphone.

Hope that helps.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:33 AM on December 28, 2012

Entirely anecdotal: I have nearly exactly the same requirements as you and my used HTC One V fits the bill perfectly.
posted by katrielalex at 8:08 AM on December 28, 2012

Nexus 4 satisfies all but the removable storage and battery options. It is a little too wide for my taste, but not in the comically large category. Excellent unlocked price too from Google. Very fast on T-Mobile's network in my city.
posted by zippy at 8:29 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have some advice for buying used phones. I would pick craigslist over ebay because you can meet them in person and see the phone before you hand over the money. I suppose someone with lots of positive feedback on ebay would suffice as well.

When you buy it from someone on craigslist, make sure they have a box. That way, you can check the phone's IMEI with the box to make sure it wasn't stolen or something like that.

Also, if they claim it is a recent phone, ask for receipts to verify warranty information. Open up the box and check the phone. Put in your card and make sure it works.

In addition, I try to meet people from craigslist at their workplace. I also ask to get a photocopy of their driver's license or something like that to verify their identity and to make sure I can get a hold of them if I needed them for anything.
posted by cyml at 9:57 AM on December 28, 2012

After experiencing the freak show that is non-Nexus Android devices, do yourself a favor and get a Nexus 4. (Unless you're comfortable with the process of loading hacked firmware, in which case buy whatever reasonably recent phone you can get a good price on) If you really need removable storage, get a USB OTG adapter and a USB stick. Or get a Galaxy Nexus if you absolutely require a removable battery.

Also, you're not required to bring your own phone. T-Mobile will sell you a phone with a down payment plus a monthly fee that works out similarly to the regular cost. (unless you mean Monthly4G, which is indeed prepaid)
posted by wierdo at 10:53 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Good answers all. Thanks.
posted by lalochezia at 8:24 AM on December 29, 2012

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