Is the internet always bad on smart phones?
February 27, 2017 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Used to a laptop, i'm on my first smartphone, a Windows-running antique. Is the internet always this bad on smart phones, or is it worth buying a better one? Or is Kindle as good?

Used to a laptop (Ubuntu and Windows) with multiple browsers & thunderbird, i'm on my first smartphone, a Windows-running antique. Oh it is foul. Everything stops loading immediately as soon as you select another app/task. Opera Mini was working fine but now isn't, so i go to the 'store' to get other browsers but you while you can see their star rating you can't read the reviews by clicking on this, unlike on the normal internet. (Example of typical limited webpages via apps.) Is the internet always this bad on smart phones, or is it worth buying a better one? One of my main needs is rural bus timetables, only available as pdfs online, yet i had to google extensively to find a complex method that actually worked just to get a pdf to store on my phone, no simply clicking and downloading on a smartphone like on a computer. Finding documents means opening browser, going to 'downloads', selecting solely by scrolling through history.

Are other mobile phones like laptops, you can just install whatever programes you want, use Thunderbird, download pdfs and find them using a file directory like 'downloads' in windows explorer, use whatever browser you like keeping all tabs open etc? I tried downloading stuff like imitation Kommander type 2-screen file explorer, but these apps don't work, most don't. Maybe it's just Windows has hardly any? Is it a problem caused by having 'apps' for everything, but there is a phone option that resembles a laptop? Is it just as good to buy an expensive ereader / Kindle and use that for the internet? Sorry for long dumb question, thanks.
posted by maiamaia to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
Modern Android or iPhones provide a much better experience than what you describe. They're still not as "open" as a computer OS, and they still have a weird model where your files are kind of hidden, but web browsing is fast and downloading and viewing PDFs is easy.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:54 PM on February 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

Is the internet always bad on smart phones?

Nope, but it used to be, as you're discovering with the Windows-running antique. Also, mobile devices tend to show their age faster, so the lack of memory and processor speed may be exacerbating the issue.

Are other mobile phones like laptops,

Not exactly, but downloading a PDF from a link is not difficult on a modern iOS or Android device.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah Windows Phone=garbage. Get a decent android, pay attention to specs, reviews, etc. There's a reason so many people buy samsung, even tho they do crank out some (not many) low-end stinkers (mostly for boost/virgin mobile/etc).
Cell reception/data is rarely as fast as wifi, so that could be an issue as well.
Borrow a friend's phone for 5 minutes of web browsing and you'll see how fast most phones are these days.
(Also windows phone is likely to be discontinued soon...they have less than 1% of market share)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:57 PM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Windows-running antique

Your web experience with something you could describe that way on PC would probably also be kind of awful, but phones definitely get out of date much faster and you probably don't want anything but either Android or iOS if your priority is smooth running.

It won't be the same as running a laptop, but you definitely got one of the worst possible ways to experience how mobile's supposed to be used. Do you have a friend who'd let you play around with a phone or tablet a bit? That'd be the best way to see if the modern mobile experience is something you could get used to. It's definitely not always that bad, though.
posted by Sequence at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

One way to improve the pretty terrible experience is to find the setting that prevents the loading of images. Sure, it won't look pretty, but it'll be slightly less worse.

Best way is to buy a new phone, there is a reason why everyone went nuts over the web browser in the iPhone when it launched in 2007. Nowadays, both iPhone and any decently priced ($300 upwards) Android phone will do browsing pretty well.
posted by mr_silver at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2017

My younger son uses a Nexus 7 (gen 2) tablet to play games, watch cartoons on YouTube, research Minecraft tutorials, and look up pictures of Godzilla monsters and so on. The Nexus 7 is four years old. He has no problems browsing the Internet. You can buy any number of phones now that are superior to a Nexus 7 tablet (I have the Nexus 6P).

It literally hurts my brain to think about the user experience you have described.
posted by My Dad at 2:22 PM on February 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

You can buy a decent android new for 200 US, used for a whole lot less. My 4 year old android is find for browsing and for reading books, though I still don't screen-type well. I have not heard good reports about Windows phones, certainly not older versions.
posted by theora55 at 2:37 PM on February 27, 2017

I find that internet on my phone is better than my laptop. New iPhone, new macbook.
posted by greta simone at 2:45 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Internet on my iPhone is super fast. This is your phone model.
posted by bearwife at 3:30 PM on February 27, 2017

I have a pretty old smartphone (iPhone 4S, probably 2011-vintage), and I still prefer to use it to the Windows 10 laptop I have from work. The only time I really use the laptop is if I have a lot of typing to do. If I'm just browsing, the mobile experience is pretty good, assuming you're on wifi and not dependent on 4G. A newer phone would be even better. I read PDFs all the time. Your experience sounds terrible and you should definitely upgrade. I don't even think you need to get fancy. As I said, mine is several generations out of date. Find the oldest iPhone you can that will run the current version of iOS (iOS 10), and you'll be good to go.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:42 PM on February 27, 2017

I have and use several android phones. Internet speeds on my work Pixel are as fast or faster than my laptop. My rooted OnePlus One now that I flashed LineageOS also is speedy and can be customized. THe file system on the Android is actually similar to windows in that with root and the right file explorer, I can see the folder system completely and move files around etc.

My kids use iPhones and they seem to do well with the internet or there would be no way they could use ~10GB each per month.
posted by AugustWest at 3:50 PM on February 27, 2017

All phones are awful in comparison to computers. We've all convinced ourselves it's not that bad, but yes, it really is.

Yes, your phone is probably old. And yes Windows phone is probably bad (I have no idea). But don't for a second think that buying an $x00 fancy phone is actually going to make it a really enjoyable experience compared to a computer.
posted by so fucking future at 4:48 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you have to use this specific phone, I would take screenshots of the bus schedule PDFs, which would save them to the photo gallery and they would be easily available whenever you want.
posted by danceswithlight at 5:11 PM on February 27, 2017

The only thing computers are better at than phones for personal stuff is typing and multitasking. As far as getting simple stuff done, or especially just consuming information/media, phones are better.

I ride public transit every day where everyone just reads on their devices and I have never, ever seen a Windows phone. I did not know they existed.

As a biz owner I see buying a phone the same as buying a laptop at this point. I have no issue with spending ~$1000/year on a top of the line iPhone. It's a tool and they have gotten really good.
posted by bradbane at 5:32 PM on February 27, 2017

You wouldn't expect to get a good modern web experience on an antique computer.

I have no issue with spending ~$1000/year on a top of the line iPhone. It's a tool and they have gotten really good.

I strongly disagree with this though, $2-300 every couple of years is plenty - a Moto G4 is cheap and extremely good, or any iphone later than a 5s.

I've written thousand word short stories on my phone while waiting for the bus, once you've got your head and fingers around the form factor, they're close to a laptop in functionality.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:13 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

You don't need a super expensive phone for what you need. I have a Moto G4, and it's a great budget phone that'll let you browse the internet and view pdfs easily. It's not like a laptop, but the app selection on Android is a thousand times better than the Windows Phone app selection. As noted above, Windows phone has less than 1% market share, so most app developers don't even bother with it.

That said, multitasking like what you describe is always clunky on a phone. More expensive phones are slightly better at it, but in my opinion you might as well just get a laptop and a cheap phone, because even on an iphone or a newer samsung, multitasking (multiple programs and apps open, multiple tabs in chrome, etc.) is still a bit awkward. It's simply not worth it in my opinion to spend more than $300 on a phone unless you just live on your phone and rarely use a computer at all.

For your question about a Kindle, if i was going to advise you to get a tablet, I would not advise a Kindle, and tablets in general are just physically larger phones. They run the same operating systems and have the same closed app system.

In short, what I would suggest for you is to stick with a laptop for the more heavy duty multitasking stuff, and then a cheap Android phone for calls, quick internet tasks (checking mail, social media, web searches, etc.).
posted by katyggls at 3:10 AM on February 28, 2017

With regards to the web experience on a Kindle, it probably depends on the model. The basic, bare-bones Kindle Fire is a pretty remarkable device for $49, but the one I bought about a year ago is clunky compared to a contemporary iPhone or iPad - the Kindle web browser works fine, but interactions in general can feel a bit slow and laggy.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2017

For your specific use case, ie checking rural bus timetables on your phone, you should immediately install the App UK Bus Checker if you can (link goes to the Microsoft App Store, which hopefully implies that it will work).

This App is also available for Android & iPhone and in my experience has been much better than trying to hunt down timetables from bus companies online.

You will probably also vastly improve your mobile web browsing experience by installing an ad blocker if possible.

But everyone else is correct: if your phone is (say) 4 years old that’s a long time in smart phone development & recent phones are a lot better.
posted by pharm at 7:23 AM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm actually glad i had a free, awful phone to start with, because i learned what i do want in a phone and what i don't mind. I'll definitely get an android phone because i want replicant (i've switched off tracking on this one and that seems to work great). But i'm used to constantly reinstalling new operating systems and just trying any programme that takes my fancy - i browse and search for new ones to try out stuff i haven't heard of - and just clicking .exe's in windows or unzipping tarzip files in Ubuntu. I love constantly changing everything. I'm finding i can't do that in this mobile, partly because i can't download anything in the background it switches off (all mobiles do this right?) and partly because it's not clear how you get into the file system and click on, move, reallocate etc files. For instance, if i want to associate all file types with one programme, i can do that in a phone but it's clunky, and disabling features is a chore.

I mention the Kindle because my old wifi-only paperwhite has awful internet, but not much worse than this phone, so i realised that a Kindle with 3g (an option i never understood the appeal of before now) is probably faster - if all phones only show one thing at a time - hidden tabs don't load etc - is actually no worse!

Thanks for all the mentions of models, i normally buy my phones on ebay (because i hate touchscreens and thumb-qwerty - i touchtype, wtf is qwerty with fingers for? takes For. Ever. - so need ones not made any more) but am unwilling to spend over £20 on 2ndhand electronics, so i'm going to go to the used-phone dodgy place in town soon, but i won't be able to try them out:) Thansk a lot!
posted by maiamaia at 4:24 PM on March 2, 2017

NB the existence of a Midnight Kommander type file-handler app proves that these work on mobile phones: does anyone use such an app, and does it work well? I've never learned dual-pane file handlers, like modern calculators (old ones followed operations order, new ones run left to right) i just can't crack how they work and have no-one to show me, but i want to learn. Thanks
posted by maiamaia at 4:27 PM on March 2, 2017

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