good enough

I ended up with a new phone about a month back; I didn’t want one, didn’t want to spend the money and bought on price.

So how is it? Like the headline says, good enough.

Here’s what happened: I was coming in from walking the dogs and somehow – I have no idea how – jammed the on/off switch on my HTC 8x, the stylish Win 8 phone I’ve been carrying for several months. The thing sat in a spare bedroom and buzzed every 30 seconds or so for hours as it cycled between on and off, before the battery finally gave up. It’s a beautifully shaped and styled phone, but there really wasn’t much force involved and the fact that it broke so easily is disappointing.

Anyway, I was now phoneless, so I dug out the HTC Trophy I used a year or so back. It remains a surprisingly competent phone even though it runs the deprecated Win 7; I could get almost every program on it that I could on the 8x, which maybe also says something about how slow progress is on the platform. But I wanted 4G, which meant a new phone was necessary.

Obviously, I could have bought an iPhone or a top line Android phone, but that would have meant either handing Verizon several hundred dollars of my money, or giving Verizon another two year commitment. Since one of my goals is to get all the phones in our family off contract, I did neither.

That left me with three choices: buy a very old iPhone, buy a newer used Android phone or buy another Windows phone. I could have bought an iPhone 4s for roughly $150 on ebay, with no guarantee other than the likelihood that the phone has already seen hard use. Nope. That left Android or more Windows. If I shopped it, I could find a used Moto X for about $200. That’s better, because the Moto X is a very recent phone and got strong reviews, all of which said, basically, “This phone is a bargain, both on price and design.” I was tempted, but again I wasn’t going to get a guarantee, and given the fact that  I’d be gambling that the phone was both in good shape and cleared for use on Verizon’s network, I passed.

So that left buying another Windows phone. Because the platform isn’t very popular, you can get great deals on refurbs and excess new stock. I ended up with a Nokia 822, a phone that’s about a year and a half old, brand new in a Verizon box. The screen took a little getting used to; it’s not nearly as high resolution as the 8x. It’s also boxy and not at all stylish, and it feels ever so slightly loose, like you could rattle it a little. (You can’t.) However, it’s every bit as fast as the 8x and has two things the other phone didn’t – a memory expansion slot and a battery you can replace. Not glamorous, but nice.

Because the screen is wider, and the resolution is lower, everything’s a little bigger, which suits my eyes just fine. Plus, the Nokia is better at making calls – reviewers criticized the audio quality, but the people I call like what they hear from this phone better than the 8x. And because it’s a Nokia, the company (now part of Microsoft) most invested in the Windows phone platform, I have a better chance of getting updates and fixes. (The only problem I’ve had was today, when plugging in headphones, and the right channel wasn’t there. A reboot fixed it.)

And the price? $134 shipped, with guarantee. I avoid extending my Verizon contract, which makes this a very good deal for me. The larger point is – Win phones are the best value out there for ordinary human beings who just want a phone and who can compromise a little on app availability, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Microsoft seems committed to the platform – the company just killed what many people believed was a “Plan B” Android phone that substituted Microsoft’s online services for Google’s – but most of the growth is reportedly taking place in low end phones, and in “developing countries,” where cheap tech rules. That means we can expect a few more years of slow growth and bargain prices.

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