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Thread: [RESOLVED] Cell Phone Recommendations

  1. #1

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    Resolved [RESOLVED] Cell Phone Recommendations

    People might be surprised, but I still have a particularly ancient flip phone, partially held together by JB Weld.

    However, the time has probably come to move into the somewhat more modern times, but my goals are very peculiar and specific. I make few phone calls, and live and work in an area where coverage is usually unreliable, so calls are a small thing for me, and texting...well, considering my phone, I think I've sent three....EVER! That will change, but the point is that texting isn't a big thing in my life.

    What I'm going to do, though, is spend about a month biking through some pretty remote areas. I'll be carrying a Surface Pro so that I can code in my tent, at times. Therefore, my biggest goals for this phone are these:

    1) Being able to display a map, since my route will be...interesting.
    B) Tethering, such that I can get to the web for research when camped in those areas that have service (there will be a few).

    Things like waterproofness are nice, but not essential. I won't be streaming videos, or anything like that, the tethering will only be for coming to sites like this one while in remote areas. If I can get to WiFi, such as at a hotel, then the Surface Pro will be what I will be using, not the phone.

    I'm also not terribly interested in spending a whole lot of money for the phone. I don't need cutting edge options and really don't care. I'm more likely to destroy the phone than most people, so disposable is kind of a thing.

    So, any recommendations?
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  2. #2
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Well.

    What you are describing seems as a very basic smartphone that you can get with around 200$ but since you haven't given a price range l'll be guessing something between 300-600 Euros, It's 250-550$ over there?
    So THANK GOD NO IPHONE! And probably no 5G as the signal won't be available over the mountains.
    I'm also guessing google maps so unfortunately Huawai is out unless you want to hack stuff (Huawai P50+ will possible be my next phone in a couple of months).

    I can't write anything about Motorola, we don't use em that much in Europe but maybe it would be cheaper in US with close specs to what I'll suggest.

    So from best to worst:

    For the middle phone:

    OnePlus 8T for close to 600$
    Xiaomi MI 10T Pro from around 500$
    Readmi Note 9 Pro for close to 230$
    Samsung Galaxy A72 for around 400$

    Lower price and close to your specs:

    REALME 7 PRO around 250$
    Readmi Note 9 Pro for close to 230$ (again)
    Samsung Galaxy A42 at around 270$


    The first 2 mid phones are top of the middle line to refresh rates, CPU, cameras etc, the others are basically what you are asking but if you are willing to go up a little Oneplus seems to be the best choice.
    If you find it cheap at US, (I wouldn't ever buy one as I hate the design and the "google" logo but,) Google Pixel 5 at around 400-450$ but not worth to give more for it.
    Also note that Readmi Note 9 is a great phone but Xiaomi (it's their brand) are said to break at the lower price range. That is not confirmed by anyone that I know to have Xiaomi but I'm just saying so I don't wake up in the middle of the night sweaty, receiving a negative rep of an angry mountaineer

    Edit: Seems that new Realme 8 Pro price fell to 300$, so I would recommend that after the Oneplus but I'm not sure if it's available at the time in US.
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    Last edited by sapator; Apr 1st, 2021 at 08:27 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    It seems the biggest cost are the plans. That will be the largest expense over the years.
    I used to use just a flip type phone I bought many years ago, it was a Motorola, and it was bought as part of tracfone (which now is actually merged with a number of the other pay as you go type phone services, e.g. net10 and straightTalk). Since I only used the phone while traveling, I used it very little and the minutes built up on it over the years.
    I had bought a plan that automatically doubles the minutes any time you bought a card to add minutes, and would generally just buy a card once a year that added 400 minutes (which was doubled to 800 minutes at no additional cost because of the pre-bought option years earlier) which was good for 1-year.

    So, each year, got about 800 minutes for about $100 so cost $8.30 per month.
    Since I didn't use the phone much, the minutes piled up and also after one trip I misplaced the phone and couldn't find it for my next trip.

    So, while on that trip, I bought a replacement TCL smartphone from the tracphone rack at a local pharmacy for about $30 bucks. I called tracfone from the hotel and had them transfer the phone number and the minutes from the old flip phone to the smartphone.
    Because it was a smartphone, the old "minutes" of talk time were converted into the same number of minutes, plus a scaled amount of text and data.

    Since I've built up a surplus of each of the three categories, what I did a couple of years ago was simply buy the smallest amount of minutes you can buy, which cost about $20 bucks for 30 days added to my expiration date, and then payed $50 for a 365 day time extension (no minutes involved). So for $70 (plus tax) I have 395 days of prepaid service, which works out to around $5.80 per month I've prepaid for my smartphone service.

    The prepaid services don't advertise the buying of minute cards like they used to, they want you to buy smartphone plans, but these still can be relatively inexpensive, slightly less than $20 per month, but that is a limited amount of data (12 GB for the year).
    If data is your primary use, and you don't use a lot, but may need more than 12GB, you can buy just data for $10 per GB for when you need it.

    For me, the less than $6 a month is what I'll stick with for as long as I can. I haven't added minutes or time to my phone since early in 2020. The airtime looks like it runs out 7/19/2022.
    Since I sometimes forget, I also signed up for the expiration safety option. It didn't cost anything up front, but does allow tracfone to charge me about $7 per month to automatically extend my service for a month if I let the service time run out without buying more. That way I won't loose my phone number or service just because I forgot to buy more. And when I do buy more service, then that option is just lurking in the background not costing anything unless I let my service expire and it will kick in again.

    I would do a search for best smartphone plans/rate where the research has already been done, and you can make an informed choice. Tracfone works for me, but something else may work better for you.
    Last edited by passel; Apr 2nd, 2021 at 11:01 AM.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    In Greece there are plans for 1500 minutes per month for 20 euros.
    I don't really pay attention to the plans , as I have a company phone that is free of charge.
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  5. #5

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    I've been studying plans. There are a bewildering array of them, though I've been looking lately at USMobile because they have a build your own plan, which looks pretty good. Still considering things, though, which is why I asked on here.
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    The cell phone market is pretty annoying.

    I actually use mine as little as possible, primarily either for travel or as a configuration tool for home automation (pretty much nobody makes a full-featured Windows application or I'd use that). As such I've kept my costs at rock-bottom through a prepaid "plan." Days I don't use the phone or texting cost me nothing. If I "touch" those services I'm debited $2 and get unlimited talk and text for 24 hours. For data I exclusively rely on WiFi, home or freebie.

    As long as I "top up" prepaying $100 a year my balance rolls over, leaving me at around a $275 balance right now. So my total cost (after buying the phone) is just $100 per year.

    Since the carrier wants to phase out 3G support I'm in the market for a phone myself. They don't make it easy though: the current phones they offer me are all crap.

    I have my eye on one that might be a decent compromise. In theory I could just buy an unlocked phone supporting the carrier's network and just move my SIM. Sadly my current SIM is micro and new phones take nano SIMs.

    So I've tried a few go-rounds with the carrier's "help" line, the carrier's local store, 3rd party stores. Still no hard commitment that I can be sure won't leave me at square one holding an unlocked phone I can't use. If only they'd just sell me a replacement SIM for my current account... but it seems like this idea completely escapes them.

    I'll probably have to buy the phone and grit my teeth, then take old and new into the local store and hope they'll clone the old SIM to a blank nano SIM I can use.


    Another reason I need a phone upgrade anyway is app bloat. They just keep getting hungrier, both in RAM and space taken up on the internal eMMC/UFS storage. Most of those crapps won't allow you to install them into the microSD card storage because they "thump" it so hard during execution.


    Navigation, you say?

    Yep, it can be done without a phone data plan. I just download offline maps from Google Maps and plug into the car with Android Auto and I have all I need on the in-dash unit.

    Sadly Android Auto began to refuse to run on my old (current) phone last month. So a 3rd reason it is "time to buy more."

  7. #7

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    The cell phone market is pretty annoying.

    I actually use mine as little as possible, primarily either for travel or as a configuration tool for home automation (pretty much nobody makes a full-featured Windows application or I'd use that). As such I've kept my costs at rock-bottom through a prepaid "plan." Days I don't use the phone or texting cost me nothing. If I "touch" those services I'm debited $2 and get unlimited talk and text for 24 hours. For data I exclusively rely on WiFi, home or freebie.

    As long as I "top up" prepaying $100 a year my balance rolls over, leaving me at around a $275 balance right now. So my total cost (after buying the phone) is just $100 per year.

    Since the carrier wants to phase out 3G support I'm in the market for a phone myself. They don't make it easy though: the current phones they offer me are all crap.

    I have my eye on one that might be a decent compromise. In theory I could just buy an unlocked phone supporting the carrier's network and just move my SIM. Sadly my current SIM is micro and new phones take nano SIMs.

    So I've tried a few go-rounds with the carrier's "help" line, the carrier's local store, 3rd party stores. Still no hard commitment that I can be sure won't leave me at square one holding an unlocked phone I can't use. If only they'd just sell me a replacement SIM for my current account... but it seems like this idea completely escapes them.

    I'll probably have to buy the phone and grit my teeth, then take old and new into the local store and hope they'll clone the old SIM to a blank nano SIM I can use.


    Another reason I need a phone upgrade anyway is app bloat. They just keep getting hungrier, both in RAM and space taken up on the internal eMMC/UFS storage. Most of those crapps won't allow you to install them into the microSD card storage because they "thump" it so hard during execution.


    Navigation, you say?

    Yep, it can be done without a phone data plan. I just download offline maps from Google Maps and plug into the car with Android Auto and I have all I need on the in-dash unit.

    Sadly Android Auto began to refuse to run on my old (current) phone last month. So a 3rd reason it is "time to buy more."
    I liked every single word of that post. I totally share your frustration with the cell phone market, which is why I've been sticking with my flip phone for all these years. Still, the time has come when I totally need to shift over.

    Navigation is a thing that I feel quite ambivalent about. After all my adventures, I have a really good sense of direction and navigational ability with map, compass, and dead reckoning. Cell phone navigation degrades that. For that reason, I hesitated. In this case, though, I'll be following a track through deserts and a maze of forest service roads. The number of turns, according to Google Maps, is on average once every mile, or two. Having a display on the handlebars would be really nice, as opposed to breaking out the Surface for that.

    However, the real goal is tethering. Cell coverage in the back country is...spotty, but not completely absent. This year has really brought home how little I need to be in the office. Being able to work from my tent would REALLY open up some interesting options. The reason I'm looking

    So, might I ask which service you are using? I'm leaning towards the Motorola Power G for one simple reason: Battery life. I already have a good battery with a solar charging system, which is powerful enough to charge the Surface (12v rather than the 5v used for phones, and enough size to recharge the Surface completely).
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Shaggy, I am using two Moto G8 Power and their battery life is great. First one replaced the "great" Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, which has much faster CPU, more RAM, better (amoled) display, insane camera but.... I don't like charging phones every night. Also I bought two G8 Power for friends and no one complained until now. Mi 9T Pro went as gift and all I hear is not about superior features but complaints about battery life.

    Motorola phones are giving almost clean stock Android experience (thanks to Google deal before they were sold to Lenovo). What I like in G8 Power is the display works well in very bright outdoor conditions, good and powerful sound, the gestures system (one of the few customizations to the stock Android) and "3 days without charger" that . Almost 2 weeks (11-14 days on average) with screen turned on for 12-16 hours - this on dual SIM without 4G or WiFi turned on. The other phone (main one with turned on 4G and WiFi and used everywhere) - charge every 3-4-5 days when battery is about 45%.

    The newer G9 Power and G10 Power seems worst deal as their displays are lower resolution and lower brightness. You can find some good reviews on GSM Arena site - old and well known one in the mobile phones world. They have also some comparison charts like battery life one, as this is the main feature I am interested in new phone.
    Last edited by peterst; Apr 3rd, 2021 at 01:45 PM.

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    I'm using AT&T's Prepaid offering, carried over from the earlier AT&T "GoPhone" $2/day pay as you go plan. Been using this maybe 5 or 6 years now. I don't see it offered on the AT&T Prepaid web site but this "plan" may still be available through their stores.

    After posting above I bit the bullet and ordered an unlocked Moto G Power (2021 model) which is on the AT&T "still supported next year" list. It's a Hulk to me (almost 6" long) but what isn't any more? I have to make a move since I get repeated "your phone turns into a pumpkin next year" messages "to improve service" now. These are supposed to support WiFi tethering, as long as your "service" plan permits it.

    Set up and use Wi-Fi Hotspot - moto g power

    Just to make it more fun, phones tend to come in subtle submodels as well as changing from manufacturing year to year. I bought model XT2117 but I'm not sure which one yet (it seems to exists in both -2 and -4 subsubmodels).

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Got the phone, turns out it is a -4 mode. Scuttled over to the AT&T Store.

    Guy made a good effort to chop my old SIM down to nano size but he couldn't get it to sit in the little card-carrier that the Moto G Power uses to hold the SIM and microSD cards. He had to sell me a new SIM for $5 and activate it for my old account.

    Got home, went through a million hoops to get things set up. Weirdly I cannot find a way to import my contacts I had exported to a microSD file. But I kept the old phone and was able to clone stuff over via Bluetooth through the "Google" app without using Google Drive as far as I can tell. Got my contacts over and it even cross-installed some apps I'd had on the old phone (including an FM Radio app I didn't know the new phone supported). Not sure where it got the contacts info though. I thought those were on the old SIM which is now long gone. Some recently deleted contacts came back, so I'm not sure what source it used. All the important ones came over though.

    So... still some deckchairs to arrange, but basically operational. I'll need a new USB cable for the car since this phone demands USB-C (because change sells new crap).

    Jumped about 4 Android releases, so I'll have to figure out where they've moved all the acorns to. But it seems to be a basically clean stock Android UI, which is something. I don't see a ton of unremovable bloatware either.

  11. #11
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Seen the specs of Moto G Power I would get whatever of the phones I suggested if they are in the same price or if you can afford a little extra.
    Also careful as from what I've read the Glass in not in the same category as the Gorilla Glass and going hiking is ought to be dangerous for phone somersaults .

    Also read here the nano sim issues. I'm not sure what US phone companies do but here you will get a nano replacement for free if you have a contract or a 5Euro charge if you have a prepaid card phone.
    Also copying the contacts if you don't know how will be free on contract and 5Euro charge on prepaid card (that is 5 total on sim replacement + contacts).

    My second phone that is a lovely Nokia N72 has a BIG sim card, the only issue I have if I am to cut it down and use it in a newer phone is that it does not support 4G and up.
    I must have kicked that phone accidentally more than 50 times and it works perfectly with just some small marks. The durability is better than any Gorilla or Godzilla glass.
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  12. #12

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    That's an interesting point. I hadn't considered durability. In general, I'm usually pretty good with equipment when hiking, but weight could be an issue with hiking.

    Being a flip-phone person, I haven't dealt with sim cards at all. If you have a sim card, then couldn't you get multiple handsets and just swap the card around depending on your current activity? So, I could go with long battery life for some activities, lighter weight for others, and so on?

    Having asked that, I will now promptly vanish for a week.
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  13. #13
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    You could swipe card or have phones with dual sim and have an all in one. I don't know how practical that is tho, because in order to swap you would carry 2 phones, so the weight is increasing on your pocket.Or you mean leaving the one at home? Also most of the phones now are in nano sim so it's easier to have a nano and have an adapter for bigger sims rather than the opposite.
    Having said that I will now promptly vanish for 58.5 minutes!

    (Greek facts. Micro sim comes from Greek word "mikros" means small, Nano comes from Greek word "Nanos" means midget - dwarf ) .
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    Got the phone, turns out it is a -4 mode. Scuttled over to the AT&T Store.

    Guy made a good effort to chop my old SIM down to nano size but he couldn't get it to sit in the little card-carrier that the Moto G Power uses to hold the SIM and microSD cards. He had to sell me a new SIM for $5 and activate it for my old account.

    Got home, went through a million hoops to get things set up. Weirdly I cannot find a way to import my contacts I had exported to a microSD file. But I kept the old phone and was able to clone stuff over via Bluetooth through the "Google" app without using Google Drive as far as I can tell. Got my contacts over and it even cross-installed some apps I'd had on the old phone (including an FM Radio app I didn't know the new phone supported). Not sure where it got the contacts info though. I thought those were on the old SIM which is now long gone. Some recently deleted contacts came back, so I'm not sure what source it used. All the important ones came over though.

    So... still some deckchairs to arrange, but basically operational. I'll need a new USB cable for the car since this phone demands USB-C (because change sells new crap).

    Jumped about 4 Android releases, so I'll have to figure out where they've moved all the acorns to. But it seems to be a basically clean stock Android UI, which is something. I don't see a ton of unremovable bloatware either.
    USB-C has been around for a long time....but then again, we've both been around for far longer. I remember the issue MS had with putting a USB-C port on the Surface Pro: People would think they could use a phone charger to charge the Surface Pro, which wouldn't work, since the Surface required 12V, and phone chargers supply only 5V, which is enough to light the LED, but not to charge the device. People would think it was charging, but it wasn't. MS felt people wouldn't understand that. They're probably right. Still, that was the issue back around the Surface Pro 4, which was a while back.

    I haven't been able to charge my phone in my car for YEARS, because the car charger I had, which was utterly proprietary, failed a while back. Considering my ancient phone, I couldn't find a replacement, so I just didn't charge the phone while in the car. I guess I can move into the semi-modern era, since I'm mostly talking about charging while in my tent. Not going to add a charger on the bike. I looked into those, and don't feel it's worth it.

    Also don't have to worry about where they moved the acorns, cause there aren't any on a flip phone. It'll all be new, to me.
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    It depends on your car.

    I have a 1.5A USB port for phone charging and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay links to the Android-based "infotainment" system and display. There is a second 1.0A USB port that only works for charging low current devices or connecting something like USB flash drives containing MP3/WMA files.

    I bought a good quality USB 3.0 A to C cable and the phone and Android Auto seem happy. Google Maps navigation comes up on the car's display just fine.

    I suppose you can always buy a "cigarette lighter" 12v DC charger fairly inexpensively for your new phone though.

  16. #16

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Do I even have a cigarette lighter?? It seems like they wouldn't remove them entirely, considering how many plugs use that, but offhand, I can't think of one on my car. It does have the USB ports.

    With my old phone, I had to use the cigarette lighter, but the phone plug was so proprietary that once the cable failed...that was that.
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    My car doesn't have a cigarette lighter, but it does have a flip-capped 12v outlet based on the classic appliance.

    Name:  Outlet.jpg
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    12v Outlet, right-hand view of center console outlets.
    1.5A USB "phone" outlet to its left.
    Last edited by dilettante; Apr 15th, 2021 at 10:29 AM.

  18. #18
    Hyperactive Member Peter Porter's Avatar
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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    Shaggy, if you haven't brought a phone yet, check-out the Samsung A51. That's what I have after I retired my dinosaur of a cell phone a couple of months back. I mostly use the phone for calls, which is about a 1 or 2 a week, but I have installed Whatsapp to join my wife's family group. I brought it in Euros, but in dollars it's around $265.

    What ever smart phone you get, to keep it snappy, permanently disable all the bloatware running in the background. There are plenty of instructions on the internet about disabling and uninstalling software, boasting performance with other tweaks, and making it more secure and private.

  19. #19

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    Re: Cell Phone Recommendations

    I did buy a phone. I got the Moto G Power. That's a good suggestion about bloatware, though.
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    Re: [RESOLVED] Cell Phone Recommendations

    While probably obvious, turning off WiFi and Bluetooth when not needed can extend battery life quite a bit. I last charged my phone 10 days ago and the battery is now still at 50%.

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    Re: [RESOLVED] Cell Phone Recommendations

    BTW: Moto G Power 2021 has an LCD screen, not OLED. So there are no power savings from selecting doofy "dark mode."

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