Mid-range phone

time

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#1
Although inspired by Tannin's efforts to find a high-endurance phone with a large screen for US$250, I think I need something a little more upmarket.

My wife and I currently have Samsung Note 4 phones. There are 3 main problems, compared to how they were when new:
1. Responsiveness is often poor, with short freezes.
2. The camera is poor. Color accuracy just isn't good enough, low-light performance is pathetic and auto-focus is way too slow.
3. Battery runtime is increasingly bad. We replaced one battery (pretty easy in these old phones that still have a removable battery), but the other sometimes dies when less than 40% and put under load. While I realize that this is probably partly due to long-term software bloat, it is not easy to fix with a semi-closed system like Samsung's.

Rather than drop a couple of thousand bucks on two new Note 8 or S9+ phones, I am thinking a reasonably fast mid-range phone with a good camera and decent battery runtime. Except there aren't that many contenders that tick all the boxes.
 
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time

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#2
I have relied fairly heavily on review sites such as GSMArena, as well as PhoneArena etc. The low-light photo samples ruled out most of the Chinese products that were not expensive flagship models.

One thing I can't help but notice is just how amazingly good Samsung has become with photography - in their premium phones. The A series and J series models suck in this regard, as well as being under-powered (not even up to the level of an old Note 4).

We have 3 Galaxy S7 phones in the family and my colleague has an S7 Edge. Compared to 90% of what is available today, these are still awesome at photography and videography. The auto-focus is fast and the camera is unfazed by poor light. My daughter showed me footage that she recorded at a concert - always tricky with wild fluctuations in lighting and sound - and the results were way better than most efforts from handycams that I have seen in the last couple of years on YouTube.

Many phones are not realistically available here - the OnePlus 5T is a conspicuous example.

Bearing in mind that I don't want to spend more than about US$400-450 per phone, I came up with these two that seem to offer reasonable performance, good low-light photography, and decent battery runtime:

LG G6 and Nokia 6 Plus.

My main concern about the G6 is the battery runtime. Of course, it is not a new phone, so the Li-ion battery may already be a third of the way through its useful life.
The Nokia has less grunt and seems to over-sharpen photos. Otherwise, it might be the best mid-range phone to be released so far this year.

Any comments on the G6 would be greatly appreciated. I realize that the V30 is out now, but that is 50% more expensive here.
 

timwhit

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#3
I've had multiple LG phones that break down after 12 - 18 months including two LG G5s. I wouldn't buy another LG phone.

How much would an S7 or S8 cost you?
 

time

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#4
Locally, S7 is about US$545 and S8 about US$680.

With the age of the S7, I would be concerned about the condition of the Li-ion battery.

Also, we would need S7 Edge or S8+ to support our longsighted vision (as Tannin pointed out).

Thanks for the warning about LG longevity - that is my major concern.
 

sechs

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#6
I've heard a lot of positive things about the OnePlus 6.

It's clearly not as good as the Galaxy S9+, but considerably cheaper and, therefore, a better value.
 

LunarMist

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#7
If you buy a new S7, wouldn't the battery be essentially new and unused as well?
Do you think the S7 is still in production? I'd expect that there is a stockpile made a year ago or so.
Maybe they are still making the S8.
 

Handruin

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#8
I have owned the LG G6 since July last year. Overall the phone operates fine and the battery life lasts more than a day for my general usage. I am disappointed in the cameras on this phone. I formerly had an LG V10 and the camera in that phone easily took better pictures than the G6. Even in bright daylight there is something going on with the way the G6 processes the photos or maybe there is something wrong with the camera assembly. I'm also disappointed in the serious lack of Android updates for this phone. I'm guessing Android P will be out before I even see Oreo. The lack of updates is commonly complained about in the G6 subreddit that it's a joke at this point.

Due to the numerous reports of bootlooping from prior generations of LG phones (like my V10) they offered a 2 year warranty on the G6. The phone has held up well otherwise.
 

timwhit

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#9
Samsung seems to do a better job of providing software upgrades, at least for their flagship models. My S8 has Android 8.
 

Handruin

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#10
If the One+ 6 had official water resistance certification and a microSD slot, I think it could almost be the best new phone available on the market. Aside from that, I want to like the Pixel 2XL but the high price, lack of headphone jack, and questionable screen quality makes me feel like it's a better phone at a $500 USD price point. I like what the Galaxy S9 offers but I don't want Samsung's crap on the phone or Bixby. I'm glad they fixed the fingerprint scanner location in the S9 vs S8.
 

timwhit

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#11
I like the fingerprint scanner location on the S8.

What I don't like is my S8 battery is definitely degrading from when I purchased it about a year ago.
 

sechs

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#12
I'm not a fan of the location of the fingerprint reader on the S8. It's awkward, and I regularly stick my finger on the camera.

I prefer to use the iris scanner. It's quicker and more convenient.
 

LunarMist

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#17
I mean the scans can be used for whatever they need the biometics to do. Then they commit the crimes and blame it one someone in Dallas. :D
 

time

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#18
I considered the OnePlus 6, but a) availability here is currently non-existent and b) I noticed at least one reviewer backtracking on their initial enthusiasm after spending a few days with it. The camera doesn't seem to be up to snuff, despite initial enthusiasm. The phone may be powerful, but battery runtime is no longer competitive in 2018. The speaker is crap. No attempt to rate either dust or water ingress resistance. All of a sudden, it doesn't look so special after all ...

I was tempted by its older sibling, the Oppo R11s. It's fast enough and has an OLED screen, and I wasn't as put off by Color OS as I thought I would be. Comes in about US$400 here. The camera is above average, but I wasn't convinced. Apparently, its predecessor, the R11, was better in low light.

I found that my requirement for reasonable low-light photography ruled out most of the possible options. Bear in mind that I already have an aging Samsung Note 4, which was supposed to have one of the best phone cameras around in its day. It does have Optical Image Stabilization, but I always found it useless in anything other than very well-lit situations.

After rejecting the Nokia (if that is typical of Android One, I will never buy one - ridiculous software), I considered the Samsung A8. I saw two examples and touchscreen responsiveness seemed a bit poor on both. I also realized that with the trend to narrow displays, it was just too damn small (I prefer to use the keyboard in portrait orientation).

Then there is the Huawei P20 Pro. I realize that the US has declared a fatwa on the company, but luckily, that doesn't extend to the rest of the world. It just blew us away, and that was before we read all the reviews. At US$750, including some bluetooth earphones, the price was excellent. I'm afraid that the Samsung S9+ at $900 didn't look so shiny anymore. In fact, I passed with a US$340 discount on the Samsung that was on offer if I signed up with a different telco.

Did I buy the P20 Pro? No, because I would have had to pay cash, and right now we have significant other outgoings. After agonizing for days, I decided to settle for last years model, the Mate 10 - I can get my telco to fund that one. Still has the same 4000mAh battery and the same processor, and at least one of the cameras is the same, for about US$550.
 

time

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#28
I didn't realize you could still get any phones with removable batteries.

I checked a review of the G7 before I pulled the trigger, but it seemed less impressive than the bleeding edge stuff we have come to expect from LG. It would be great to hear how it works out for you.
 

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#29
So far, so good with the Huawei Mate 10. This model has a 2560x1440 LCD display (I prefer 16:9 to 19:9), but it is so good that I don't reallymiss AMOLED - believe it or not. I tweaked the color balance towards slightly more yellow, which gave pretty much perfect skin tones.

The acid test for me with this phone is that the colors I see in reality are reflected in the camera's photos. They are, even in low light. The digital zoom is better than I expected - only the P20 Pro has the hybrid 3x optical + 2x digital zoom. Double-clicking the Volume-Down button wakes up the phone, launches the camera and takes a photo. Inside the house during daytime, that's about 0.7 seconds (according to the phone, that is).

With this model, the famed Night Mode is not sorcery. The image stabilization is nowhere near good enough to cope with my shaky hands for the 10-15 seconds it needs to capture multiple frames for ultra-low light processing - I had to rest the phone on something. But when I compared the results with our f/1.4 Lumix, I realized just how impressive the Huawei results were. In a very dim room at night, the Huawei resolved heaps more detail. Bear in mind though, that I didn't try an ultra-slow exposure on the Lumix - that may well have evened things up. In an almost dark room, the Lumix took an all-black photo while the Huawei Night Mode took a fuzzy picture but with reasonably accurate colors.

Of course, the advantage over the regular camera disappears if you take an ordinary shot with the f/1.6 lens in the phone. That's still literally night and day compared to a lesser camera like on the Note 4 though.

Speed is great. Battery runtime is great. The only fly in the ointment is that the notification LED is ludicrously small and feeble. You can't really see it under lights, let alone daylight. The OLED models have an always on function that makes this irrelevant, but that is not what I have. We will have to see if I can live with this shortcoming ...
 

LunarMist

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#31
A non-replaceable is unfortunate, but looking for one with a replaceable battery forces too many other compromises.
I just expected larger capacity by now. How long are replacement batteries available and what is the factory authorized cost?
 

stevan18

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#33
I'll have the new LG phone the day it comes out, my current has a spider-ed screen that is now registering phantom touches.
Just when I was thinking that the G7 ThinQ would for a moment satisfy my huge appetite for finer things in life, then I stumble across HTC U12+. Now this increases my appetite. Both are pretty evenly matched when it comes to their internals; both feature a Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 6GB of RAM, and great hardware features like microSD expansion and IP68 ingress. However, their physical dimensions, camera specs and battery capacity are not completely identical.

And in as much as LG is doing so much better in terms of sales, HTC U12+ is no sag!!
 

time

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#34
Just to translate for my fellow sags here, it's lifted from a current article on AndroidCentral:

The U12+ and G7 ThinQ are pretty evenly matched when it comes to their internals; both feature a Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 6GB of RAM, and great hardware features like microSD expansion and IP68 ingress. But from physical dimensions to camera specs and battery capacity, they're not completely identical.
...
HTC may not be doing as well as LG in terms of sales, but the U12+ is no slouch.
 
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