Greetings and welcome to Dinosaur Bear,
I have a slight interruption to your regularly scheduled series of posts (recently that would be each Monday – a trend which should continue for a few more weeks) for another installment of my long-running, albeit infrequent, series “The Odd Things.” It’s been a good bit of time since the last Odd Things post, but it’s not like there is a time limit on these things. In fact this might also just be the least odd item I’ve posted about in The Odd Things series, at least when compared to say… scissors. This time I want to talk about getting a new phone.
Lots of people get new phones every day – and some people upgrade their phone every single year (or even more frequently than that). While I think our upgrade cycle for phones is quite problematic in and of itself, I also tend to hold onto things in general. As such, you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve had one smartphone, ever. Further, if not for law school, I probably would have held out on adopting a smartphone even longer than I did. Yes, despite holding two degrees in computer science and being what I would consider at least decently tech-savy, I did not get a smart phone until August of 2014. Prior to that I’d stuck to normal phones, or as SB came to refer to my final non-smartphone, “old people phones.” Though in fairness to her, my last “dumb” phone (Pantech Breeze III) was legitimately marketed toward the elderly. Until my most recent acquisition, I could count the number of cellphones I’d owned on one hand.
So, with 1L looming I decided to make the leap over into smartphone land. I’d been consistently made fun of in both undergrad and law school admission events (because law students are basically high schoolers who are even more narcissistic and undergrads aren’t even worth commenting on), but getting made fun of is scarcely worth dumping money into a thing – at least in my book. However, what did finally make me jump on board the smartphone train was how terrified I was about 1L in general and feeling like I would need the phone. Turns out being terrified of 1L was not without its merits and the phone proved imminently useful (and frustrating until I set boundaries) – though “necessary” was probably a stretch. Either way, my trusty Samsung Galaxy S5 proved to be a very good phone for over 4 years.
That said, with the OEM battery and age it had gotten… very slow in the past few months. Slow enough that sometimes the phone would crash before it could open a single email. More complex apps were often so frustrating to use that I just well, didn’t use them. Further, after over 4 years the battery (which started out very nicely) was getting pretty poor. For a phone that started out lasting me an easy 2, sometimes 3 days, it had gotten to the point where charging it 3 times a day was not unusual. Further, the camera was beginning to grate on me, namely its HORRENDOUS low-light photo quality. Now, the S5 had a good camera overall for its time, but even by 2014 standards it featured a terrible camera in all but spotlight-level lighting conditions. SB had a S6 (which she got after having an S4) and it was far, far better in low-light conditions than my S5 despite being only one generation newer.
Yet, in spite of all that frustration I had resisted upgrading my phone. I had good reasons. Namely cost, phones are stupidly expensive anymore (thanks Apple for starting that trend), and also I was no longer linked to any contract and hadn’t been since 2015. Not having to pay for a phone or be stuck in a carrier contract was quite nice. After leaving our parents’ plans (in a certified blow to our millennial badges) we changed over to low-cost short term plans (which, for the record, are objectively better in Europe). However, once settled in NM, we wanted to get NM numbers. Turns out that anymore most carriers let you import numbers, so we knew we’d be able to port over the NM-based numbers from the no-contract provider we’d been using – so that was nice. However, my phone was slowing to a crawl, SB’s phone’s WiFi was eating it, and we knew we were on borrowed time with at least my phone. So we started looking at the mainstream providers such as AT&T (that we used to be on), Verizon, etc. and quickly determined that the phone contracts are – just like phones – stupidly expensive.
Take Verizon for instance, with two new phones and all their forced fees, we were looking at $150-175 per month for a basic (not unlimited) package. That’s insane compared to what we had been paying in Iceland. Yet, feeling like we didn’t have a whole lot of options we’d factored that into our budget. We were initially set on getting Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+ phones (given our track record with Samsung phones) but then I got to reading about the Google Pixel line. From there, I also learned that Google has its own cellular service called “Fi.” Fi technically piggybacks on other provider’s networks, but the service itself is through Google and unlike AT&T, Verizon, et al., it is a “pay as you use” service – meaning that for low data users like SB and I, we could end up paying as much as $90-105 less per month for our phones. Fi was also running a “BOGO” event with the Pixel 3s, which was a pretty substantial savings. We didn’t know anyone with a Pixel, let alone anyone using Fi, but we decided to go for it. And so, the person who had used a smartphone for over 4.25 years became one of “those people” who pre-ordered a phone as soon as it was launched during a live event. In fact, SB and I were some of the first mass-market people in the U.S. to get the Pixel 3.
It had been so long since I’d set up a smartphone that SB was a full hour ahead of me during the initial set up. Though in fairness to me I was trying to figure out how to transfer something over from my S5 (in particular an app that was no longer supported – it didn’t end up working, for the record) but in general SB also knows just as much if not more about phones than I do – as she has owned many more of them than I have. 😛
Once I had it all ready to go one of the first things I did with it was take a photo. The Pixel line is known for having a good cameras, and so I was pretty excited to see what the camera could do in comparison to my old S5. The first thing I took a photo of was a massively exciting can of air. Yep.
In fairness it was the closest thing at hand and it was also a good way of looking at how much carpet detail the phone grabbed. Of course, all of the photos here on the blog are compressed by 50% in both quality and dimension, so naturally they aren’t going to look as good as the uncompressed photos do. A better comparison that shines through despite the compression is a “low light” photo. For that I used my trusty models, the Boys.
In this first photo we have Pig and Tristen sitting on a bench in a low light setting.
The photo above is from my old S5. You can tell the photo is grainy and full of shadows. Sure, you can tell what is going on and see detail, but most of the textures are lost. Now, for the same photo in the same lighting conditions, but with the Pixel 3.
Here’s another example. This time its Valentino sitting on our couch in the same low-light conditions. Valentino is obviously bright, but our couch is dark brown, so lots of contrast in this photo. Here’s the S5.
Again you’ll notice a huge difference – and way more detail – for instance I doubt you even noticed that Valentino was wearing a necklace in the first photo. Further, you can see lots of detail in the couch itself, as opposed to just a big black space.
Here’s two side-by-side photos of Valentino a little closer up, I think you’ll be able to guess which comes from which phone.
What’s even more crazy is that the “night mode” for the Pixel 3’s camera isn’t even released yet. The mode, officially called “Night Sight,” isn’t due for release via update until later this year. For reference, the S5’s photos in the above photos were using the phone’s “night mode” whereas the Pixel 3 doesn’t have that mode yet, but the photos obviously look far better. That’s a testament to how far phone cameras have come in 4.5 years – and the gap will broaden more once the Pixel 3 gets its “Night Sight” mode.
Of course adopting a brand new – as in, pre-ordering it and getting the first wave of shipment new – does have its downsides. For one, within 2 days I had to contact Google’s support and factory reset my phone. To make matters worse, the factory reset only temporarily fixed the issue (and also caused me to lose about 8 hours of setup time) but the good news is that the glitch – once I understood it – is extremely minor and I honestly wish I hadn’t reset the phone. There have been a few other quirks, but fortunately nothing really wrong (some people have dealt with memory issues, loose speakers, or oddly tinted screens on their Pixels – though essentially every new phone ever released has had some sort of issue in the first [and sometimes second.. or worse] release waves). There have also been some app related quirks given how new the phone is, but those are more on the developer than the phone itself.
While I had a “teeth cutting” period with my Pixel 3, I’m growing more happy with it. SB for her part had less issues, so it’s probably just as much my resistance to change (good or bad) than anything else. Also, this is only my second smartphone ever, so my entire frame of reference was my S5 and not only did I change manufacturers, I also jumped 3 entire Android versions since the S5 had stopped getting updates years ago. Plus, with the low cost of Fi and the BOGO deal, it makes it much easier to force myself to adapt, yea though my Taco brain does so resist it. 😛
Anyways, that’s about it. I got a new phone. I’m oddly melancholic about getting rid of my old phone (something that is definitely not unprecedented for me) and even though I’m going to sell it (and SB’s old phone too) there’s still a part of me that had a lot tied up in the ole’ S5. I think because of when and why I got it, there is a part of me that is a bit more attached to it than I might have otherwise been. The S5 also provided a load of the photos on this blog, probably even more than our DSLR camera, all things considered. So any post between this one and this one almost undoubtedly featured the S5’s photos. I would say that now that I have the Pixel 3 the photo quality will go up, but then again I’ve significantly compressed all the photos here for the past few years to save server space – because Meem told me I was using too much. 😛
Also, I have a few queued posts that I wrote before getting the Pixel 3, so honestly there probably won’t be much of difference for a bit anyways. Regardless, consider this post the changing of the phone guard, even if the actual results are still a ways off. 😊
Until next time,