Reliable Android Smartphone?
February 13, 2016 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Ms. Zombiedance's Samsung Galaxy SIII has recently died, and she's looking to replace it. She was happy with the Galaxy up until it stopped working, but the fact that it lasted only 3 years makes her hesitant to buy another Samsung (say, a newer Galaxy). Are there significant differences in reliability among Android phone brands, and if so, are there particular brands/models that are more reliable?

She's not the sort of person who upgrades phones frequently, so she's looking for a replacement that will last several years. We realize that the traditional two-year upgrade dictates expected phone life, but prior to the Galaxy she owned a Nokia for 8 years which still worked fine when she finally decided to upgrade to a smartphone, and she would like the next purchase after this to be dictated by obsolescence rather than failure. Other salient points - She's not tied to any plan, but would probably be using it on one or another prepaid/monthly service. We're located in San Francisco, CA.
posted by zombiedance to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is how it is with smartphones. My pre-smartphone flipphone lived for years with just the new battery every 18-24 months. Smartphones are thinner and more demanding on batteries. iPhones, Samsungs, Motorolas, and Google Nexus phones all.
posted by zippy at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a OnePlus phone that I use with T-Mobile a non-contract plan. I have unlimited talk and text and 10 GB of data a month for under $60 including taxes.
The OnePlus is a tough sell because there is almost no customer service and if you need repairs you'll have to order the parts yourself, versus a common phone where a shop would have the parts on hand.
But it is CHEAP and robust.
posted by k8t at 2:59 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, my previous HTC Droid Incredible 2 worked quite well for several years until it began to have reception problems (much like my former flip phones both did). My Samsung Galaxy S5, on the other hand, has felt "broken" periodically in various ways since I got it, despite being allegedly the top-of-the-line product. I'm hoping to go back to HTC for my next phone. For instance, the home button isn't working for some unknown reason right now, but it'll probably resolve itself shortly. I would not recommend Samsung anymore.
posted by limeonaire at 3:09 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I decided to buy cheaper to get around the lack of shorter lifespan and how the cell phone companies have changed their pricing. I had a HTC and a Galaxy S4 before. I brought a Acaltel Idol 3 4 months ago and have been impressed by it.
posted by bluesapphires at 3:13 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with LG phones. My last phone was getting kinda old and buggy but worked for over five years until I fell down while being stabbed in a fake opera* and landed on it. The one time I didn't get an LG and got what was "cool," I regretted it. Though apparently there's going to be an even newer and fancier LG coming out this month, so if you want to wait a few weeks on that, that's an option.

* oh, improv
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:36 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Smartphones are all obsolete within four years tops due to the OS (android or ios) moving on and leaving them in the dust. Applications update automatically and stop working right (or super slow) or don't get updated because of your old OS and stop working properly.

Best bet is to buy an affordable phone $100-$200 and realize you'll be doing it again in 3 years...
posted by noloveforned at 4:00 PM on February 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

We give out smartphones to a lot of employees at work. It's a good testing ground. I've never had an HTC One just break. They either die in a horrible accident through no fault of their own or people replace them. I have at least 5 or 6 older ones at work because they keep giving everyone new ones every couple years and I am hoarding with the old ones for.... something. As far as I'm concerned they are the Nokia 3310 of smartphones.

The Galaxy's otoh, do not seem to be made well.
posted by fshgrl at 7:18 PM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Did it stop working or stop charging? If it's the latter, a new battery is around $8 on Amazon, or it could be that the charging port needs to be re-soldered. Take it to a phone repair shop that does microsoldering, I had this done on my SIII and paid around $30 for it to be fixed. It was fine for over a year, and still works. I decided to upgrade to a $200 used S5 recently though, and I'm pretty happy with it. The SIII is fine, it's just a bit slower than I'd like. You can just pop your old sim into the S5, so it was an easy upgrade for me.
posted by ananci at 8:05 PM on February 13, 2016

For hardware integrity, i agree with the HTC one recommendation above. For software lifespan and general non-obsolescense i'd recommend the nexus 5x. It's easy as hell to upgrade the nexus 4, from 4 years ago, to the current version of android. It's not official, but it's like, 5 steps of instructions.

Basically every android manufacturer has disappointed me with updates, even motorolas track record is faltering. But the nexus phones are a consistent bet on that.

The left field suggestion would be something like an LG G4 where you can swap the battery without disassembling the phone. Many smartphones can handle 4 years fine... But the batteries cant. More than once i've upgraded phones because the battery life had gotten terrible and although i could swap the battery(i'm a very experienced hardware tech) i was beginning to question the entire thing, or other minor hardware issues were surfacing. Whereas removable battery phones are like laptops*. You buy another $15 battery and keep using it until the entire thing falls apart.

Basically any modern phone will have significantly better build quality than an S3. Samsung really built phones like crap back then, and apple, htc, and eventually others really pushed the standard of what was acceptable up a LOT since then. Even the current samsung phones are pretty damn solid.

If you primarily want "longest lifespan without software getting outdated without hackery" though, buy a nexus 5x. They're built pretty reasonably and with a modest case it should survive most things. You'll probably end up having to pay one of those "repair phone while u wait!" storefronts to swap the battery in say, 2018 though unless you're technical folks.

My snarky answer would be "get an iphone", since the iphone 4s has outlived every android phone from that year and is currently in it's 5th(!!!) year of running current software relatively well. But, you asked android. But really though, that's usually my answer to people/friends/family/clients who ask about longevity of devices and software. Iphones also have very, very easy to swap batteries even though they're "sealed in".(No stupid plastic snaps, no complicatedly routed delicate cables overlapping the battery, etc. It opens like the hood of a car and you just unhook it and pull it out)

*Although, grumble grumble, my stupid laptop i bought a few years ago has a super glued in battery deep within the chassis.
posted by emptythought at 1:41 PM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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