By Joe Levi | February 20, 2013 12:06 PM
Those of you who are regular readers probably remember that my “old” Nexus 4 met with what I like to call “premature end-of-life” caused by a “gravity-event”. Many of you probably have an old smartphone laying around like I did. Switching back to it while I waited for my replacement was fairly simple: pop the SIM out of the broken phone and into the old one, boot up, and done!
For my temporary phone I opted for my (very) old T-Mobile G2 running Gingerbread. It wasn’t terribly fast and it wasn’t very pretty. It was a bulky brick, but it did virtually everything that I needed it to. That got me thinking: if my very old phone could get me by and my only hangup was how fast (or slow) it was, do those who have a functional phone now need to upgrade?
We all want the “latest and greatest” device on the market, it’s human nature — but it doesn’t have to be. Looking at new phones they usually follow the same equation: faster processor, more RAM, bigger screen, thinner, and/or lighter. That’s pretty much it — unless you take into consideration the version of Android it’s running. Let’s leave that out of the equation for a moment, shall we?
Faster is almost always a good thing, but you’d be surprised how much quicker your current device will run if you simply perform a factory reset, then do not select the option to restore all your previously installed apps. Try it! It’s like having a brand new phone. Installing all those apps not only takes up space, but may of them include services that run in the background, slowing down your phone or tablet.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, rather, if you don’t use those apps and they’ve just been automatically included on your device since the first time you installed them, it may be time to clean house. The reward will probably be a noticeably faster phone or tablet.
Of course there’s a down-side. As apps get fancier and include more features they require more oomph to run them. In this case, an upgrade may be your only option to recover the lost speed — that or an ample dose of patience.
RAM goes hand-in-hand with speed. The more RAM you have, the more apps you can fit in memory. When an app is in RAM rather than “on disc” it’s significantly faster.
A downside to “speed”, as exemplified by our friend the cheetah: speed comes at a cost. Not only does it take significant amounts of energy to run at high speeds, those speeds can’t be maintained indefinitely. Computer technologies aren’t that different from our four-legged friend. In our devices speed takes electrical power and puts off heat. When the limits of either are met, it’s time for a rest.
Big, high-resolution screens are beautiful, you’ll get no argument from me on that point. I thought going from a Nexus 4 with a 720P HD screen down to a G2 with its significantly smaller and lower resolution display would take some getting used to. It did, but only for a few minutes. After that the user interface was familiar and appropriately sized for the screen. It worked. Sure, things didn’t look as pretty, but I didn’t “need” them to look pretty, I just needed them to work. And it did!
An advantage to a smaller screen is generally longer battery life. Your CPU and GPU don’t need to work as hard to display all those pixels, and the panel is smaller so it doesn’t require as much power to light. All in all, my G2 lasted quite a bit longer than my Nexus 4 in regular use.
It seems like manufacturers are in a race with themselves to make their devices the “thinnest” or “lightest” on the market. Ironically, most people I talk to don’t really care. The majority of phones on the market today are already sufficiently thin and light. To many, “thin” and “light” translate into “fragile” and “small battery”.
If you’re one of the people who cares about thin and light I’m not going to discredit your opinion. You have a right to it. I’d just like to propose an experiment: borrow a phone from a friend, family member, or co-worker and pretend it’s yours for a minute or so. Don’t turn it on, just hold it. Other than the “unusual” feel in-hand (because you’re not familiar with it yet) does it feel any lighter than yours? Does it feel any thinner? I don’t want you to pull out a scale or ruler, I just want you to casually observe. If you notice a difference, does it matter to you? Is it a deal-breaker for you that would cause you to pass over that particular phone?
Those I’ve subjected to this experiment usually end up not noticing — or not caring. If your reason for wanting a new phone is thinner or lighter, you may want to re-think your decision factors.
Something New is “Just Around the Corner”
A lot of people I talk with tell me their reason for not upgrading is because there is a “new version of the operating system” or “faster hardware” just around the corner, all they have to do is wait a few months. You’re absolutely right! Unfortunately, when that point in time comes you’ll notice that there is another “corner”, and right around it is — you guessed it – a “new version of the operating system” or “faster hardware”.
This is one reason, in my opinion, you shouldn’t use when considering an upgrade. Before you jump all over that in the comments, hear me out. Unless you are looking at a specific piece of hardware, or a specific update to an operating system, you’re chasing generalities, and you’ll never catch “the latest”. If, however, you’re waiting for a certain device, or a certain version of an operating system, then I’m with you.
Now it’s your turn! Head down to the comments and let us know what Android-powered smartphone or tablet you have have now, how long you’ve had it, and why you aren’t upgrading to something new… not yet anyway.