We usually write about how smartphones help improve our lives one aspect at a time. Sometimes we review apps, sometimes we give you tips on how to make the best of what you already have. Today we have a different kind of tip for you. Have you ever considered why we need smartphones that badly? I posit, we don’t, at least not badly. A recent series of events made me reconsider my dependency on smartphones, which led to some realizations. Here is how that experiment went.
Why high-end phones?
A flagship device comes with it’s own persona, it is intoxicating. Even though practically I was upgrading horizontally (same specs, different package), it certainly felt different. There were minor advantages of owning one flagship over another. Samsung offered better cameras (in the days of yore), HTC and Xperia offered better UI, Nokia offered stunning devices, iPhone offered a tremendous app library and a colossal hole in the pocket. Every device had some competitive advantage. Intoxication and addiction go hand in hand, I was addicted.
What I was willing to sacrifice
With this habit of jumping from phone to phone, averaging 3 a year, and spending a small fortune on the endeavor; I grew weary of the process with each iteration, realizing just how much I really cared about these premium features of flagship phones. Not a whole lot, as it turned out. I had spent far too much time and money on a mere phone, when all I really needed was a phone with Internet, WhatsApp and Evernote. Everything else was a bonus that I could just as easily have lived without.
High end games are not a conclusive factor for smartphones, I’d like to play them, but I am not going to change my mind if a phone can’t run Asphalt 8 at 60fps. Popular mobile games don’t have heavy hardware requirements anyway (Angry Birds, 2048, Flappy Bird, Where’s My Water, even Clash of Clans), so that throws processing power and that GPU gobbledegook out the window. Watching movies on a phone is not something we take time out of our lives to do either. That is a need based activity, so display quality was also not a factor. If this process of elimination sounded cavalier, that’s because it was exactly that, I had to be precise. Now the search began for a phone that met my minimum criteria.
Why the Nokia X?
If I am being honest, I had my eye on the Nokia X since my phone hopping days. Its design has certain qualities that make sense, in a very humble way. I have always had a thing for black, so that is the one I chose. My other option was green, which I personally did not fall in love with. It did not hurt that the phone was cheap and that I was going to get my hands on an Android/Windows Phone hybrid. So, Nokia X it was.
The Adjustment Phase
I did not have high expectations from the device going into this experiment. This turned out to be a good thing since the Nokia X was the epitome of underwhelming. A dual-sim version at that. Sim 2 does not support 3G connectivity, and that expresses my emotions more than poetry.
I played with it a while and I realized that I actually needed Google sync, otherwise I would have had to resort to the archaic manual transfers. So, logically, I gained root access to get a more closer Android experience, everything but the launcher. I regained access to Google contacts and my Clash of Clans progress. I still had to import contacts using a CSV file, but they synced automatically after that one time. It even added an image of the contact’s initial for those without display images. That made things a little interesting, just a little though.
The camera… it’s a small camera, the surprise would be if it was a great camera. It wasn’t terrible in decent lighting, the colors weren’t accurate but I don’t think that was a priority for this device. The touch response also had lag but it wasn’t an interruption (at least not immediately).
Had this been my first foray into mobile devices, I might have liked the Nokia X, but I clearly had my issues, a lot of them stemming from flagship withdrawal. It was cheap (but not flimsy) and it had everything I needed and then some. Practically, I did not need anything else. It had expandable memory in which I put in a 32 GB card (might need music). It makes perfect sense for its target demographic. In a week’s time, my withdrawal symptoms had diminished and I was ready to analyze the Nokia X.
The battery life was on the lower side with WiFi turned on. I had a 24-36 hour window to operate it. It would get very hot very quickly (may have been a byproduct of rooting), there was some lag in apps, even browsing. So far, I had the battery life of a flagship device and the performance of a…well Nokia X. Sometimes, I would take a call and the proximity sensor would turn the screen off and simply refused to turn it back on; I had to take out the battery to fix it. The default mail app was very inept, I had to use the gmail app to restore normal functionality. Calling a contact was no longer simply a matter of tapping a name, now there was a whole secret handshake involved. There weren’t widgets either, I needed that to fully use Evernote. So my options were either to use a launcher or forget the widget. I went with the latter.
Was it worth it?
Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. I learned that Evernote is more useful for me if I use its widget. I found myself yearning for iOS’ messaging app, I missed a Blackberry’s QWERTY (why aren’t extendible keyboards common anymore?) and I missed apps that would install quickly. I didn’t feel like checking my phone the first thing after I woke up and the thought of interacting with it became a necessity rather than a habit. I would take calls on it, send some texts, sometimes read e-mails; otherwise I stuck to my computer for communication. At this time I was yearning for a phone that did not exist.
The Nokia X did not cure me of my addiction, as I am addicted to staying in touch. I did however, end up learning a crucial lesson. I have spent more time on smartphones than smartphones ever could have saved for me. I do feel like I should have gone with a slightly more powerful, but still not high end phone. Like the Sony Xperia SP, or perhaps The Samsung Galaxy Duos (though it’s name alone makes me flinch).
Would I recommend a low-end phone?
I would, but not to seasoned users. This is an introductory phone for someone who is new to the smartphone landscape or perhaps someone who needs some basic internet access but nothing beyond. I truly appreciate what The Nokia X is and what it can do. It delivered on its promises and put Nokia in the running for Android devices. Its success will pave the way for a new world of Android based Nokia devices and nobody can convince me that would not be awesome. However, at this time, it is a bit of a step backwards, but that is understandable.
We have to keep in mind that the smartphone industry is a business. Their interest is not to make your life easier, it is to sell you products upon products. You don’t need an 8k display screen, fire proof, sixteen-core, 1 gigapixel phone with hexabytes of storage (those are called supercomputers). What you need, is to make certain aspects of your life easier. In broader strokes, all current flagship devices are essentially variants of each other. You simply cannot have the best smartphone, it does not exist, it never will. Know what you want from your phone and get one that does that. If you don’t see yourself using extra features, don’t pay extra. Soon, curved/flexible displays, endless storage and wearable gadgets will be all the rave, perhaps you want to keep an eye out for how much of those you need in your life right now so you know what to think of them when they become all the rave.
We will soon be making a guide on what kind of a phone you will need depending on your level of activity. Sure, the grass is always greener on the other side, but we want you to make sure that you know how green your grass needs to be before you stop caring about it altogether.