I’m in the last few weeks of my 18-month phone contract, so I’ve been busily researching the different contracts and handsets on offer at the moment. I must admit I’ve found the process fun, and somewhat more interesting than may be deemed healthy.
Around 18 months ago, for €40 a month I got a contract with:
Unlimited calls and texts to anyone on my network.
150 minutes and 150 texts to other networks.
2GB data limit.
And an HTC Desire for €179.99 as part of the contract.
I’ve been delighted with how my Desire has performed; despite the countless times I was clumsy enough to drop it (with or without cases) or get it soaked in the severe rain, it still works really well. The build quality is amazing and, despite a few small scrapes, it’s nearly perfect. I did have one issue early on when I dropped my phone on a beach causing some small granules of sand to get it behind the screen. This was a pain, though they seemed to fall out over the following few months.
It was this awesome quality of manufacturing and the all-round good feeling I got from using my Desire that made me consider the HTC Sensation XE. It looks to be a few steps up from the Desire – the same kind of handset but with a bigger screen, thinner body (just 9mm!), and greatly improved camera, processor and memory capacity. It’s a phone that I’m confident will last me for another 18 months.
However, I do have my worries.
Something that played a massive part in making my Desire awesome was the developer support for it. Unlike iPhone – where there are only a few versions of the OS and even fewer phones to test against – Android has a countless number of compatible phones, and no developer could be expected to test their apps or ROMS against all of them. Yep, it’s the same old Android problem of fragmentation.
Developers have proven great at providing support for many devices from what I’ve seen, though. But the Desire, was a different kind of phone: not only was it one of the best phones out there, it was one of the most popular phones (I know these two points are connected!), owned by many developers. It’s my belief that this gave the Desire a massive amount of support from developers. Although it’s still a great phone, it’s getting old, and most developers and Android fans will be trading up soon if they haven’t already.
So although the Sensation XE has excellent specs, and although the hardware would certainly satisfy me, I would like to get the next big popular phone, the one that the developers will have in their pockets. But what make or model would this be?
My Decision, and Resulting Frustration
I don’t have much to work on when trying to figure out what this phone would be. It’s really only speculation; there’s no way of telling for certain in advance. Sure, we can look at specifications and reviews to get a good idea – and in that case, the Samsung Galaxy S2, the aforementioned HTC Sensation XE and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus are strong contenders.
I asked my editor; he believes it’ll be the Galaxy Nexus, as it’s Google’s current flagship, the first phone with an official Ice Cream Sandwich release, and a very nice phone in its own right. Agreeing with him, I decided that could be the phone for me!
But here’s the problem: it’s not available on my carrier. I could change carrier and get it, but although I’m not tied in by a contract any more, I am locked in with them since most of the people I text a lot are with them. And that’s not even considering the long-term customer benefits that carriers often provide. The Galaxy Nexus isn’t worth switching to a different network.
I know it’s business, but does it really do Android any good having phones only on specific carriers? One would think that the “official” flagship would be made available to as many people as possible.
Still, I’m not too annoyed at missing out on a phone. The Galaxy Nexus may turn out to be the choice of developers, but the HTC Sensation XE is still amazing. And therein lies the good side of fragmentation: I had an alternative.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to re-read every review of every smartphone. Just to be sure I’m right, you understand, not because I’ve grown obsessed.