I have had my current flip phone since about 2007, 10 years. I got it used from Susan when she upgraded to a smart phone for work (I had helped her pick it out originally). It has been incredibly durable and reliable and has saved me a bunch of money by never having to upgrade the phone. Since that time I have been part of Jeb’s Verizon Wireless family plan and as phones in his house got broken and needed an emergency upgrade, he could use the free upgrade available for my phone to get a free upgrade on another phone on the plan. I had a Palm that I used as a smart phone (without the phone) until 2010 when I got an iPod Touch, which set off some upgrade issues as I had to abandon my favorite Palm apps to migrate to Apple’s iOS apps. For music I had originally bought the 20 GB Archos Jukebox in 2002, which was a great way to listen to music on the train on the way to and from work. In 2003, Susan gave me an iPod and I have had an iPod ever since. At first the iPod was just for music, but when I got the Touch in 2010 that served double duty as a PDA and a source of music. I had used my last Palm to watch TV shows and even movies ripped from DVD’s by loading them to the memory card and the Touch was even better for that. So for a while I had a phone and Palm (and iPod), then I had the phone and iPod Touch, up to this week.
The hinge on the flip phone has been getting wobbly and Verizon Wireless is trying to push people to go to smart phones. So while at one point I think it was only $10 extra to add my line to Jeb’s family plan, now it is $20 just for my line, plus some share of the overall plan. A smart phone would be nice, but I had just gotten a new 6G iPod Touch in 2015 and it is going strong, running the latest iOS and still quite snappy with performance. This year I got an iPad so I started watching movies and TV shows on its bigger screen while on the train. So the phone was getting more expensive and texting on that thing was terrible with only the 10-key interface: I couldn’t even read some texts that weren’t compatible with my phone. My big problem with a smart phone was always the high monthly fee. Verizon Wireless only charges $15 per month to add a smart phone line to a family plan, but the data is shared and not cheap: 10 GB for $64 split among 3 users (4 if I joined in). So I went looking for a new phone plan, okay with keeping a dumb phone, but hopefully able to find a reasonably priced smart phone plan. I found out about MintSIM which has a $15 per month unlimited phone and text plan with 2 GB of data. They use T Mobile’s network, which probably isn’t as good as Verizon (especially at work where they added Verizon boosters all over the building since that’s the provider for all the work phones). I haven’t actually started that service because the SIM card won’t arrive until tomorrow.
But I did get my phone today. T Mobile uses a different cellular language (GSM) than Verizon (CDMA) so you have to get a phone that speaks Verizon or everyone else. MintSIM is currently selling two types of phones, basically unsubsidized since their plans are so low already: an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy J3. The J3 was $150 while the iPhone SE was $429, so that Galaxy was looking good. $150 seemed to be pretty much the going price for that phone unlocked. It gets decent reviews and is an updated 2017 model of a 2016 phone. There are other budget smart phones and eventually I found Motorola’s Moto G4, a 4th generation Moto G that came out in 2016. For $130 shipped from B & H Photo I could get a bigger screen and more built-in memory than the J3 with a higher resolution camera. Both have SD memory card slots and I have a 64 GB card already that I’m not really using (bought for my Windows tablet so I could carry more movies before I got the iPad). That’s nice because Apple charges about $100 for 64 GB of additional memory and they don’t have slots to change it. The storage is key because I like carrying Wikipedia offline (20 GB), plus my music collection (18 GB). And even though with a smart phone I won’t be offline as much, I still go through tunnels on the ride to work and I want to minimize my data usage to 2 GB per month (though for $20 a month, which is still cheap, I can get a plan that has 5 GB of data; we’ll see how all of that goes). Also, the Moto G4 can work on either of the two cellular languages in the US, so if MintSIM doesn’t work out I can still look for other options and not worry about my phone not being compatible. I could have gotten a 16 GB Moto G4 for $109, but felt like the upgrade to 32 GB was worth it. For another $20 I could have upgraded to the Moto G4 Plus which has a fingerprint scanner, but I opted against that even though I do like having that on the iPad.
It was nice to get the phone today so I could get it set up and updated. It came with Android Marshmallow, but updated itself to Nougat (Oreo is the latest version of Android’s system software). Plus there were some updates from Motorola (now part of Lenovo). I downloaded a few apps that were free. I decided not to get any pay apps until I make sure the phone actually works. I had loaded my SD card earlier in the day with Wikipedia and my folder of music (takes a while to move all of that to the card) so I put the card in and a music app called Phonograph organized all of that and seems to have downloaded some artwork, but then I added more artwork with an app. So music was actually fairly easy though I haven’t checked into moving purchases from Amazon and iTunes over.
My bigger problem is moving my notes over. On the iPod I eventually settled on using NoteMaster which let me categorize notes (put them in folders basically so I don’t have to look at 500 notes at once) sort them by name or date, password protect a folder, and kept everything in sync with my Dropbox account. Unfortunately it converted all of the text notes which I had been carrying around since the Palm days, into docx files. It has been hard finding a good notes manager, but I am pretty sure I will need to convert the docx files to txt at some point, so now I am looking for a batch converter that can do it all at once. The good thing is it was really easy to download all of the files in a zip archive from DropBox.
I also manually moved all of my contacts from the old phone to the new one, so that is ready to go. Since Android is by Google, it should sync all of that with my Google contacts.
After I got the SIM card and the phone number ported over and everything was working, I bought HandBase as well as Docs To Go. I had used both of these on the iPod (and Palm too maybe) as a database and a way to view spreadsheets. For spreadsheets I thought about trying to use Microsoft Excel’s Android app, but I think you have to pay for it unless you have Office 365. I have legitimate copies of Office 2013 and 2016, but I’m not sure that counts. Everything could sync automatically using Microsoft’s OneDrive, which I’ve never used. But Docs To Go always worked fine even though it doesn’t sync automatically. It can sync Word documents, but I mostly use it for Excel spreadsheets tracking investments, utilities, and mileage.
HandBase doesn’t seem to have particularly active development, but I was able to move my databases over in a few minutes. I use these to track my DVD collection, charitable contributions, computer and stereo equipment, flashlights, and my collection of quarters. So this is one of my most used apps.
Still trying to figure out a good notes app with no obvious winners yet. I’ll write separately about that. I really need a good notes app, but all the old notes are at DropBox, so at least I have access to those as long as I’m on a network.