Mobile Phones

Mobile Phones

As the discussion of mobile phones came up briefly in #lobsters, I thought I might finally write down some thoughts I've had for a while.


Important things first. I am not a phone person. I like to have a small computer in my pocket when I am not at home or near a desk, but that's about it. My main uses are:

  • listening to music
  • using (Google) Maps (trialing GraphHopper atm)
  • some random web browsing
  • some messaging
  • (not voluntarily) mobile banking and MFA for online banking/payments

And my main decision criteria are:

  • not too expensive
  • high chance of long upgrades
  • not too big

Before getting a new phone this summer I thought about it for a few months, especially if I'd stay with Android or get an iPhone. I've never owned an Apple device before, but I've had a work iPhone for a year now. It usually sits in a drawer but whenever I used it it felt perfectly cromulent.

Spoiler: I stuck to Android.


Let's look at a list of all the smartphones I've owned and ignore the dumbphones in the years before that:

  • 2009-12 - HTC Tattoo/Click - 307€
  • 2011-09 - HTC Desire Z - 239€
    • massive upgrade over the Tattoo
  • 2015-09 - Kingzone N5 - 110€
    • display stopped taking touch inputs reliably
  • 2016-07 - LG Nexus 5X - 280€
    • was still perfectly usable until it died with a boot loop error, reflow fix didn't help
  • 2020-02 - Motorola moto X4 - 190€
    • it still works fine, but never received any security upgrades :(
  • 2023-08 - Google Pixel 6a - 340€
    • too new to have a real opinion

So that's my sixth smartphone in just under 14 years, which means the average lifetime of the first five comes to 32.6 months, or 2 years and 8.5 months.

That's a lot better than getting a new one every year, but not the 3+ years I'd hoped.

In total I paid 1126€ for those first five phones (excluding replacement batteries), which comes to about 83€ per year, or about 225€ per lifetime.

I am hopeful that I'll get 4 years of security upgrades out of the Pixel (don't care about feature upgrades), if it doesn't die before that.

2/5 replaced because they were too old/slow, 2/5 replaced because they were broken, 1/5 replaced because of the software.

I do know I could have put a different OS on it and I checked availability when I bought it, but with all the MFA stuff I have on it and the current state of viability of custom ROMs (especially regarding the Play Store) being unclear to me, I didn't take a chance. When I have successfully migrated to the Pixel I will probably try a custom ROM on the moto X4 and keep it as a spare or for mountainbiking or concerts or other activities where I have a bit of anxiety of damaging or losing it.

Do I regret any of the purchases?

HTC Tattoo

Android was pretty young and I still wasn't one of the real early adopters. This device wasn't perfect but it was an affordable option and it worked mostly fine. The touch screen was not great (resistive) and pretty small (2.8"). I think it only ever ran Android 1.


HTC Desire Z

This one was awesome, I loved the keyboard. Only problem was that it had gotten slow after 4 years (technically 5 because it was released in 2010). I think it ran Android 2 and then later I had some custom ROM on it.


Kingzone N5

It was cheap, it was a gamble, and it broke after a year. I don't regret it per se, but it would have been smarter to wait a bit with the still functional Desire Z, I guess.

LG Nexus 5X

This was basically the perfect phone except that it died too soon, and with the exact problem that many of them seem to exhibit. Still, 3.5 years.


Motorola moto X4

I have nothing bad to say about this phone's hardware, it's awesome. The problem is that the software (Android 9) wasn't updated after about 2.5y after it's release, and that's when I bought it in the first place. This is about security upgrades, not Android versions. Apparently the deal was too good to be true.


Google Pixel 6a

I've not used it much, I'm in the progress of migrating right now. It feels a little worse than the X4 (it's also a bit taller) but that could fix itself by getting used to it. We'll see. I'm not overly stressed out about different Android versions, my main gripe right now is the "swipe from bottom to show all apps" which somehow seems worse in Android 13 than it was in Android 9.


Bonus history

Here's a less detailed list of my dumb phones because I had it handy.

  • 2000-08 - Nokia 6150 (the red one)
  • 2002-08? - Siemens ME45 (sahara beige)
  • 2006-08? - Nokia 6230 (bluish-black)

I have zero memory how long I kept the Siemens and when I got the second Nokia, but I am moderately sure I did not forget one inbetween, so I must have had that last one until 2009 which makes a purchase around 2006 or 2007 realistic. Also I had those (very typical for Germany) 2 year long contracts for quite a bit, so replacing them in 2002 or 2006 would make sense.


Not sure what to make of this post, except it was interesting to run a few numbers. I suppose the choice of models at their respective prices is a good indication of how much I value phones. Can't say I'm not glad that I have one with me, but they're tools and not lifestyle products. Unlike with computer hardware (or bike parts?) I am very much not enthusiastic and it just needs to work.

So basically nothing new or insightful for me, but I am even more confused about people dropping 1000€ for a new iPhone every year now, that was a bit of a surprise.