Sunday, March 7, 2021

Better Is Relative, A Review

 

I need to start this by saying that I didn't buy the 2e because I wanted something to succeed my OnePlus 6 as far as performance goes. While I am a heavy user when it comes to data, I'm really not when it comes to gaming and processing; the only gaming I do on my phone is to while away the hours until I'm home again, sitting in front of my gaming computer. 

I bought the 2e because I'm tired of spending more and more money on devices that last two or two-and-a-half years, and then get thrown out because they don't work anymore. I hate the waste of it all.

That being said, I'm still going to review the 2e in regards to my first impressions, and if I remember, I'll look at it again in a couple years, when I'd be looking to replace any other phone, but still holding my 2e and looking to keep it for a further year or two or longer.

Performance
There's one thing I like about getting a new phone, and that's battery life. There's nothing so nice as a battery that really does last all day. Fortunately, the battery in the 2e is end-user replaceable, so when it starts going, I don't have to take it to a shop or worry about cracking the shell to put in a fresh one. 

In terms of gaming, all the games I've taken for a spin so far have run just as well as they did on my 6. Though, that's not much of a surprise because the processor is just about the same between this brand new 2e and my 2+ year-old 6.

One thing I have noticed is that the Bluetooth drops out for one to two seconds at weird intervals. It's the same buds I used on my 6, so that shouldn't be the problem; I've tried my exercise wireless headphones, and they have the same problem. It's not a big deal, just a minor nuisance and annoyance, and only seems to happen when the phone is in my pocket; if it's on the desk next to me, it doesn't do it. 

If it happened when I received a notification (either silent or audible) that would be one thing, but it's just happening whenever, no notification. It's almost like it's a buffering issue... but why does it stop when I turn the screen on? If anything, there should be more traffic on the processor when the screen is on than off, so that's no the reason either.

The other thing that I'm finding frustrating is the typing-lag issue that started on my 6 after upgrading to Android 10... it's here too, though less prevalent. Is it just an artifact of Android 10? I'm not seeing much in the way of anyone else talking about having this particular problem. It also sometimes manifests during scrolling, where the screen doesn't update when scrolling through a website, even though it does scroll (because it catches up, no matter how many things I do to it) once I get the screen to update.

Accessibility
I don't know why, but all my status bar icons have black text when I'm looking at the home screen. Open an app or pull down the status bar, and the text turns white. Switching off dark mode makes no difference. The problem only goes away when I switch to a light wallpaper, and there you can see that the notification bar is black text on a semi-transparent black background; yes, even when dark mode is turned off.

The screen-off shortcuts are gone. Flashlight (V) and Camera (O) were the two that I used most, so they're the ones that I miss most, but I miss the audio controls (next, pause, previous) as well.

The 2e claims to have a feature to double-tap the power button to launch the camera, but more often than not, it just turns on or off the screen, regardless how quickly I double-tap it. It works more reliably when the screen is on first, but I don't really need it then when there's a camera shortcut on my home screen. Not implemented well at all.

I also seem to be missing some notifications. I missed a meeting a few days ago because I didn't get a pop-up from Outlook, but a less important Office Calendar reminder came through just fine a few hours later. Some Teams (work) chat alerts come through, and some don't. I'm supposed to be getting prompts from Daylio every hour on the hour (12 per day); in the last couple days I've gotten maybe six.

Sensitivity
The tilt sensor is incredible. I barely have to start to turn the phone and it's rip raring to go and change the orientation. On the 6, sometimes it just wouldn't go. Unfortunately, when the battery saver turns on, auto-rotate turns off (yes, it's supposed to do that), but when battery saver turns off again, auto-rotate doesn't auto-re-enable. That's just... weird. 

The 2e also only support one finger touch at a time. I think my 6 was rated for four. So if you're dragging something on the screen and accidentally bump it with one of your other fingers or your hand... you're going to lose whatever you're doing.

I haven't tried Navigation or Compass yet, and I'm not hopeful. None of my OnePluses could ever find north, and they weren't even consistent in which direction they were pointing (if they always pointed, for example, north-west, I could remember that and adjust, but they weren't even consistent in their error). It's annoying, driving down the road, and the phone isn't smart enough to figure out that I"m probably driving forwards; usually the orientation icon is pointing off at an angle, and sometimes it's pointing away from the direction of travel.

Other Features
There's an FM Radio app, but it requires wired headphones to use as the antenna. Except, I don't have wired headphones anymore. I'll probably buy a cheap set for my bug-out bag just in case, but otherwise never use it. Honestly, I live in an area so inundated with radio signals, I literally removed the external antenna from my last car, and noticed no difference in quality. The radio won't even try looking for a signal without something in the 3.5mm port, which is frustrating.

There's a microSD expansion slot... but as long as my old phone keeps on ticking, anything that I really want to save I'm just Pushing to my 6. I may use it eventually, but it's too early to tell.

The Scheduled Power On/Off feature is unreliable. I had it set to trigger in the early morning when I have no expectation of ever being awake, it helped me keep my 6 limping along a little longer and that got transferred over to the 2e when I copied the rest of my settings. The Scheduled Off has worked completely reliably; unfortunately, the Scheduled On has failed a couple of times. For a device that serves as a backup alarm clock, this is not good.

There's a dual-SIM slot... something I anticipated using on my 6, but never did. The only thing I don't like about it on the 2e is that I have to pop the battery cover to access the SIM slots.

Opening the back of the phone is pretty easy, once you have a trick for it, but the instructions are completely useless on that respect. It tells you just to pull up on the two notches... but there's nowhere to hold the phone when you lift, and without a way of holding the phone down, all you end up doing in lifting up the phone.

Here's how I got in:

With my screen facing down, I pulled out my SIM swapping tool (that little poking thing that almost everybody loses almost immediately--thank you KableCard) and put it in the USB-C port at an angle towards the screen. Then I lifted from the notches and was able to get a lip that I could slip my fingernails into and prise open the phone.

Final Recommendation
If you don't use your phone for work, for high-performance gaming, for decent-fidelity music, for an alarm clock... for much else other than spending time on the internet, social media, and a little time-wasting gaming, then you should get this phone

Or better yet, get it for your retired boomer parents who don't want to upgrade, who want to keep using the same tired old phone with the cracked screen and EOLed operating system because they don't want to learn how to use a new phone. And when you get tired of wincing every time they complain about the damn thing (and yet refuse to do anything about it), you can fix or upgrade it without changing the exterior or the feel.

If you do use your phone for work, where it's important that you receive every single notification, or for listening to and streaming music, or for high-performance gaming, then you should stay away

Stick with your thousand-dollar-plus flagship, and when you're ready to upgrade, please don't throw the old one away (or give it back/trade it in to the provider). Instead, wipe the data and sell or donate it to someone who needs a phone, and doesn't care about the new-phone smell. Because that's the real selling point of the whole Teracube brand: reducing electronic waste.