connectivity update and thoughts

Google Project Fi - Nano SIM Card

Several months ago, I blogged about my lack of phone connectivity and the various remedies I’d tried to resolve the problem. I figured it was about time I report on how things turned out.

The short version of the backstory is that wireless coverage in my neighborhood is pretty spotty regardless of carrier, and my fancy phone was misbehaving.

As soon as Apple Tech Support (in-store and online) finally admitted that they had no idea what was going wrong with my iPhone 5s or why it had become little more than an expensive iPod Touch, and that they’d happily take a look at it if I sent it away to them and paid them $249 (even though the company had previously fixed out-of-warranty phones with the same issue for free, or even replaced them), I visited the Google Play store to purchase a Nexus 5X phone and sign up for Google’s Project Fi service.

That was in January, and I’ve been a pretty satisfied customer — phone and service — ever since.

This is my first Android phone, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My initial reaction was how sleek and powerful the Nexus 5X is compared to the older iPhone 5s, which just looked clunky alongside its replacement. I thought there would be a noticeable learning curve involved in getting used to a new mobile operating system, but pretty much everything in the 5X’s pure form of Android is intuitive. It just makes sense.

Not everything about the phone is perfect. Some apps — like FitBit and the native Camera app — are a little buggy, and there’s been some weirdness with Hangouts as a text messaging app that has been well documented by other users.

But . . . It just works. The phone more than meets my needs for daily communications and takes beautiful photographs to boot, which means I can carry less equipment with me. The Nexus 5X doesn’t sync perfectly with my MacBook and iPad, but it’s good enough that I’m not complaining about it.

I’m also happy with the Project Fi service, which defaults to WiFi whenever a signal is available and otherwise will connect me to either the Sprint or T-Mobile network (whichever is stronger). I like having control over my data usage — I’m pretty stingy and use very little cellular data if I can help it; while this means that I’ve voluntarily given up amenities like streaming music to save on data while I’m away from WiFi, I feel like this self-imposed limitation has also given me the freedom of not being focused on my phone all the time.

I also like having a monthly wireless bill that’s just about half what it had been.

Granted, phone call quality still sucks in my neighborhood. But that’s apparently just the situation here for everyone. At least now I’m able to place and receive calls, which I wasn’t able to do at all before.

So I’m a happy Android user now. I thought I would suffer, at least initially, from iPhone envy, as lots of people around me were upgrading their Apple handsets around the same time that I made my switch, but I haven’t noted any particular longings to return to the iPhone.

Actually, my biggest complaint about the Nexus 5X has more to do with its form factor than its OS or supporting wireless service: the phone is too large to fit in some of my pockets, and when I have the phone in my back pocket and am sitting down, I often have trouble getting back up again because the protruding phone will catch the lower edge of the back of the straight-back chair. (If you’ve had this problem, too, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.) Technically the iPhone 5s sometimes did this, too, but the problem is more noticeable with the larger 5X. There’s been no damage to the phone so far, but I worry.

Creative Commons photo: “Google Project Fi – Nano SIM Card” by Tony Webster.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral.

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