Moving On Part 2: The Nexus 4 and the Magenta Giant [T-Mobile]

By now I’m sure you’re up to speed on my Sprint and Samsung debacle. If not, go do that. I’ll wait. OK, good.

After my return from the weekend getaway that was anything but relaxing (for more reasons than just my shitty phone service, but I don’t know you well enough to tell that story), plans were set in motion to escape Sprint’s big yellow prison. The LG Nexus 4 had been release only a few weeks prior and it was getting rave reviews, and subsequently was impossible to get thanks to high demand on the Google Play store. T-Mobile had partnered with Google once again to offer the phone through their stores/website. I immediately pursued this option, but hit a brick wall when T-Mo wanted a $200 deposit before I could sign a contract. Hell naw.

Flash forward to the week before New Year’s. A Craigslist search showed multiple people in the Atlanta area selling unused Nexus 4s at a markup that was less of a screw than any in the state of Alabama. As it turned out, a friend and I had been considering the idea of ringing in New Year’s at some Atlanta hot spots. The fact that I could come back unshackled by Sprint cemented the idea.

nexus 4

The entire day seemed to be a work of serendipity. We checked into the Georgia Tech Hotel, walked across the street to the Barnes and Noble where the seller suggested we meet and, after the exchange and a very pleasant conversation with the Craigslist dude, sauntered across the opposite street corner and into the T-Mobile store, where I walked out with my new Nexus happily alive on a $30 a month prepaid plan with all the data and text I could devour. And for those who say that the Nexus 4 is crippled by lack of LTE support, let me tell you that my data speeds were topping out at just over 20Mbps, quite a bit faster than what my friend was getting on Verizon’s LTE at the same time. Yes, I agree that LTE is the future of cellular technology, but it’s still in the early stages of life, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not having it, especially since Verizon is the only carrier so far to have major deployment.

The phone itself is a gorgeous piece of work by LG, trumping anything Samsung has tossed out to the public in…EVER. I’m not going to go in-depth on the actual hardware; there are plenty of reviews out there that do a better job than I ever could. Just know that the phone definitely lives up to the hype.

On New Year’s Day we decided to spend a few hours at IKEA, inside which I had a full, super fast signal the whole time. I was even able to fire up Google Maps and use their indoor mapping feature because, you know, IKEA is one huge rat maze of awesome. That’s something I would have NEVER been able to do, not just with my Galaxy Nexus, but on the Sprint network in general.

It’s been nearly 2 months since I made the switch, and it’s like I’m living in another world. One where I’m unhindered by contracts and shit cell service. I suddenly find myself able to actually use my phone in the ways it was meant to be used. And amazingly enough, my friends say I’m much less frustrated all the time. It’s amazing what changing your mobile provider can do for your attitude. Though I guess that’s another point for the side that says smartphones are the new detriment of society. But screw it! Mobile data is my Prozac, man. And besides, Google Glass isn’t that far off.

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Moving On Part 1: The Sprint and Samsung Fustercluck

Sprint_Galaxy_Nexus

Several months ago, driven by the love of Android 4.1+, I switched from my EVO 3D to the Sprint version of the Galaxy Nexus. I craved the latest Android OS to exist not just my wonderful Nexus 7 tablet but my phone as well. So I hopped on eBay, found the cheapest listing ($300) and a few days later my new Nexus was at my door.

The first few days were a mad love story. It was so thin! The unfettered Android experience was better than ever and the improvements in android 4.1 were a joy. Then after a week, the romance started to wane. I would unplug the device in the morning, go to work and 5 hours later my battery would be screaming for a recharge. What’s worse, the issues I had with Sprint’s services before were amplified. Having lived a year and a half with weak signals and slow data, the hardware in the Galaxy Nexus picked up cell signals even worse than they already were, killing the battery even faster as the phone desperately heated up while trying to capture a clear signal. What’s more, the WiFi antenna had a tendency to drop signal mere feet from any router. As it turned out, the GNex suffered from the exact same issues as the Nexus S (read: Samsung’s shitty build quality), something I’ve already documented some time ago.

How could this be possible? Had a year and a half really taught Samsung nothing about proper quality control? Obviously not.

The Galaxy Nexus’s battery issues are already well documented, and the inclusion of LTE on the Verizon and Sprint versions exacerbated the issue immensely. Sprint even went so far as to give free extended batteries to anyone who registered their GNex on their Sprint account. Guess what I did. And guess how much that fixed the issue (not at all).

For weeks I dealt with the issues, all to have the latest OS in my pocket, even going so far as to buy one of those Mophie travel battery chargers to give my Nexus a daily I.V. of extra life. My frustration grew in the face of Sprint’s horrifyingly slow data speeds. Months of speed tests in various locations in my region showed that I was lucky to ever net a download speed of 1Mbps, usually netting an average speed of 300kbps. That is egregiously BAD, Sprint, and inexcusable in the current mobile market.

The final nail in the coffin came after an impromptu trip to Atlanta for a weekend getaway. I was excited to finally experience an LTE service area, thinking that the experience would be so much better than my 3G woes that I would be given a boost of confidence big enough to wait out Sprint’s LTE rollout. I was so, so wrong.

At first, my phone connected to the LTE network just fine. I ran a quick speed test and averaged 3.4Mbps. Not at all the fastest when it comes to LTE carriers, but leagues better than what I was experiencing (for reference, I was with someone connected to Verizon’s LTE network, which has an average down speed of 14Mbps). Then the crap hit the fan. Not only did my phone drop it’s 4G signal, but it lost data altogether. Multiple times. Sometimes it would flat out drop all signal, both data and voice. For the rest of the weekend, my phone would latch on to a 4G signal for all of 30 seconds then revert to 3G and no amount of hard resets alleviated the issue. In short, my phone was rendered practically unusable and my battery averaged 3 hours per charge.

By the time we were headed back to Alabama that Sunday, Sprint and Samsung’s phones were dead to me forever more. I’ve given both companies more than their fair share of chances and been burned badly every time.

Where did all this lead me? Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out.

Dear Samsung, Do Better [Galaxy Tab 10.1]

Just over a year ago, I posted about my very unhappy time with the Samsung Nexus S. It was plagued with wifi and cellular connection issues and had about as much build quality as a dollar store Barbie doll knockoff. Because of that unpleasant experience with the Nexus and two Samsung phones I had owned previously (the Sync and the Eternity), I forswore buying another Sammy product, lest I should live through that aggravation again.

Then I went a little crazy and bought the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Cheap plastic parts aside (I know it LOOKS like metal, but trust me, it ain’t), I didn’t have that much buyer’s remorse afterward. Hell, I would say it was the first Samsung product I actually liked. That is, until Samsung decided to be tight-assed about updating the damn thing. Continue reading