Smartphone experiences

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Dan Robinson, Jun 17, 2018.

  1. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I destroyed my 6-year old Galaxy S4 on the interstate after leaving it on top of the car on Friday. So, I am shopping for a smartphone.

    Since I have a car laptop and video/DSLR cameras, I rarely use my phone for chasing. So, there's no way I'm buying a thousand-dollar latest-and-greatest like the Galaxy S9 or Pixel. I am open to something maybe 2 or 3 generations old that can shoot decent stills and at least HD video.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?
     
  2. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

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    I have the Galaxy S9 and have been amazed with the results for both stills and HD or 4K video. That being said, I previously had a Galaxy S5 and was very happy with the results. It shot great video and images. I'm sure you could get an S5 at a reasonable price. 20160524_180836ad2MinneolaKSfor.jpg
     
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  3. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Since you're about to get what I imagine will be a whole thread hyping the newest Samsung and Apple offerings, I go the other way when discussing phones. Samsung seems lackluster, iPhone seems poorly designed, and they're both ridiculously overpriced for what they are.

    I use a Kyocera Duraforce PRO. This is one amazingly well built phone, and I have steadily watched the build quality of Kyocera smartphones get better over the past decade, having used the Torque, Brigadier, Duraforce, and now the Duraforce PRO. FWIW, the Torque is still in use today in my car as a spare phone/hotspot as well as for RadarAlive! Pro.

    On to the features.

    - The Duraforce PRO is a worldphone. It's capable of multiband operation on CDMA, GSM, UMTS, LTE, HSPA, HSPA+, and, well, I'm certain more. I almost never drop data or service at all, and I'm using Sprint with a T-Mobile backup.

    - Dedicated hardware button. I use mine for PTT operation, and it can be used for Zello, or pretty much anything you'd like, as it is fully reassignable.

    - It is available for all 4 major US carriers. It is offered as a front-line phone currently for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, and it can be had new from T-Mobile if you request it. Unlocked versions can also be used on Virgin Mobile, AT&T PrePaid/GO-Phone, Verizon Prepaid, Boost Mobile, and other prepaid carriers. Many of the carriers have cross-roaming agreements in place specifically for these types of phones.

    - Customary micro-SD slot for use of such a card up to 256GB.

    - Mil Spec 810G compliant and certified.

    - Shock-proof, drop-proof, dust proof, and waterproof. When I say waterproof, I'm not kidding. Not waterproof as in "it can stand a little rain", waterproof as in I tested it at a depth of 6 feet in my swimming pool yesterday. Waterproof as in I turned on a youtube video on day 1 and sunk it in a bathtub for 15 minutes, and it works fine. It's fully submersible, is what I'm saying.

    - Speaking of that, an actual underwater camera mode that turns off the touchscreen and utilizes buttons to operate the phone.

    - Buttons? Other than the dedicated hardware button, it also has a dedicated camera button which can be used to open the camera app, as well as operate the shutter. When in camera mode, the PTT/hardware button becomes a dedicated video button, too.

    - Video? Tons of different modes, including a mode that displays speed, G's, distance traveled, and other info, on the screen and on the video itself. I did a test with that yesterday.



    - Although the underwater camera mode locks out the touchscreen, the touchscreen will still work when wet or dirty.

    - The power button also contains the fingerprint scanner.

    - Comes with Android For Work enabled.

    - Crystal clear loud audio from dual front speakers.

    - Supports PTT apps like Zello, Sprint Direct Connect Now, Sprint Direct Connect Plus, Verizon Push to Talk, AT&T E-PTT, ESChat, Azetti, all Kodiak-based platforms, and many many others.

    - 13MP Rear-facing camera, 5MP front-facing camera, and wide-angle mode. Shoots video at 1080p/30fps.

    - Android 6 Marshmallow for Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile models. Android 7 Nougat for Verizon models.

    So, really, I'm not even kidding. If you don't get a Kyocera Duraforce PRO, you're cheating yourself.

    https://www.kyoceramobile.com/duraforce-pro/

    [​IMG]
     
    #3 B. Dean Berry, Jun 17, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  4. Michael Norris

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    Wow. Kind of making me regret my Galaxy S8 a bit. But I think this phone takes good quality photos and videos. Here is a lucky lightning shot I got with it. It's a still from a time lapse I did with the phone 20180606_211959.jpg
     
    #4 Michael Norris, Jun 18, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  5. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    Happy with my S7
     
  6. James Wilson

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    I use the Galaxy S8 plus ... here are a few examples from that phone. I rarely use my Nikon D7100 anymore while chasing because the phone does a great job.

    I had the Galaxy S5 before this and it did great too ... maybe get an older Galaxy like 6 or 7 to keep costs down and still have great shots.

    Good luck!

    Field.jpg
    SD.jpg
    CH.jpg
     
  7. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Resident meteorological expert
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    I had an S4 for 2.5 years. Like you, when it came time to replace it my intention was to upgrade only to the next generation, the S5, even though the S6 and S7 were available. When I went to the Verizon store to get that I was informed that basically there was no point in buying anything other than the latest gen phone, the S7, because the price difference between the S5, S6, and S7 was on the order of a few tens of dollars, but the difference in tech between them was way more than what $25-$50 (the range of price differences) was worth.

    My point is, even though you don't want to leap to the newest thing, don't be surprised if the prices aren't worth it to find an older phone (especially if you want to use it for many years...refurbished phones are definitely cheaper and should last for a few years, but you're not going to get anywhere close to 6 years out of it).

    Also, FWIW, I am not particularly impressed with the image quality that comes out of phones, regardless of the resolution of the shot. The sensor is just too small and cannot compete with that from a DSLR. My D40 can still take higher quality shots than my S7 even though my S7 photos are 12 MP and the D40 is 6 MP. I still primarily use my D40 for all chase photos (unless I specifically want to post something to social media quickly) and I plan to upgrade my camera as soon as possible to keep up with the advances in bottom-shelf DSLR technology.

    ***Don't buy a phone for the picture or video quality.***
     
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  8. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    Ya, you definitely want a good, proper DSLR, lens for low light or zoomed in work. For broad scenes with lots of light... cameras on phones are great.
     
  9. Brett Roberts

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    I might be a tad OCD about image quality, but this is spot on. Smartphone cameras have improved drastically since they came onto the scene ~10 years ago, but they're nowhere near even basic DSLRs, and won't be for a long time (if ever).

    A brand new Pixel 2 (likely the best phone camera on the market) will certainly take photos that look better at Instagram resolution than a Galaxy S4. However, once you start talking about medium to large size prints and/or low light situations, both will fall far short of DSLR images. I would argue that all the hype over smartphone camera improvements is only relevant to people who care about the first category: sharing 800x600, barely-bigger-than-thumbnail snapshots on social media for likes. That's a slight oversimplification, but not much of one. Generally, even the latest and greatest phones are not going to produce images worth archiving, selling, and printing.

    With that in mind, I'd suggest something along the lines of a OnePlus 5/6 if you're on AT&T. If you're on Verizon, your options for budget/unlocked phones are more limited by the CDMA network. The Moto X4 or G6 are budget options that will work, although their cameras may be lackluster enough to matter even if you just want decent social media shots (albeit probably as good or better than your old S4).

    I have to say, as someone who doesn't care very much about camera quality on my phone, that I'm unimpressed with the entire market right now. I'm still using a Moto X Pure from three years ago, and while I'd like to upgrade for better performance, USB-C, and some other features, there's no way I can justify $800+ for any phone, given my usage. The market for high quality phones in the $400-600 range has all but evaporated as Apple has continually pushed prices upward on a fan base who will pay anything, with Samsung/Google following their lead, and most of the other players failing to produce truly competitive and well-rounded options.
     
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  10. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Thank you everyone for the feedback! I'll always shoot storm photos/videos primarily with my DSLR/video camera, but it would be nice to have a backup device that can get something halfway usable.

    The Galaxy S5 would be right in line with what I'm looking for. The problem I'm seeing is that older model phones are very hard to find from reputable dealers. Amazon, Wal-Mart, eBay all have third-party sellers who have them "new" from anywhere from $100 to $200, but if you read the reviews, all of those dealers are super shady. Every 10th review has some horror story about the phones actually being shoddy refurbs, with the seller even shrink-wrapping old boxes to appear legit and phones that are clearly used (charger plug in counters reading 700 or more, dirty usb ports, etc). So much so that one has to conclude that all of the positive reviews are from people who don't know better or just shills.

    Has anyone bought older model phones from someplace trustworthy? That seems to be the challenge at this point.
     
  11. Randy Jennings

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    I have a Galaxy S5 (as does my wife and son) and love it with one exception - Samsung has serious issues with the micro USB connectors that you charge or sync to a pc with. I had to replace my son's and it is a major repair, but there is lots of info online because it is an extremely common problem. My wife's cuts in and out of charging and will not sync to a pc. Mine works well charging, but has sync issues when connected to a pc. Camera does not work as well as it did when new, but still OK (has lots of focus issues). On the plus side, you can remove /replace your own battery and add your own storage. My understanding is Samsung took a page from Apple, and removed the ability for you to do both with the S6. Sounds like adding storage came back with the S7, but you still can't replace the battery without tools and a hairdryer from what I have read. After the issues I had with the usb, I swore to never buy a phone I could not remove the battery on (which is what my son had to do until I replaced his usb). I don't know what I will do when my s5 dies. I have looked at other vendors, but I can't stand their OS customizations.
     
  12. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I just went to the Verizon store to see what they had (waited in line for an hour). The earliest model they still stocked was the S7. From every indication I can see, there is no trustworthy place to get an older model phone - every single source is shady and runs the risk of getting scammed or at least ending up with a "new" model that has really been used by someone for 4 years. The "refurbished" ones are just as sketchy, with the hardware untouched and simply the screen and battery replaced. So frustrating.

    I ended up buying a Galaxy J3 just to get this over with - it's obvious that trying to find something better in an older model is going to be costly in either money or time.

    A thousand dollars is just an insane amount of money to drop on a mobile device IMO. Yet as I saw today, people are lining up to do it! For half of that, you can get a cheap smartphone and a tablet with a bigger screen, heck even a laptop.
     
    #12 Dan Robinson, Jun 18, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  13. TJKLECKNER

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  14. Mark Blue

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    I didn’t hear much about eBay for buying phones. I’ve purchased our last four phones there and every single one was in like new or mint condition. Funny story, Verizon is selling new Samsung S8+ models for $696.00 online. I scored a three month old model on eBay for $410.00 a week or two ago. After I swapped it out with my Galaxy S6 in my account, immediately a message popped up saying I was eligible to upgrade and they’d give me $282.00 for my S8+. What a racket they run with prices and so forth.

    I tend to look for private sellers who’ve been registered eBay users for more than 10 years and who have 100% feedback. I also look for sellers who have more than a sentence or two to say about the phone and have several high quality pictures to view. A sniping software program is essential if it comes down to an auction. If the “Buy it now” price is right I’ll pull the trigger right away. Anyhow, that’s my recipe for success on buying phones from eBay.
     
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  15. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I bought Ebay phones twice. The first time in September 2015, when we switched to AT&T, I got two Samsung Galaxy Rugby PRO's for $80 each. The second time, in June of 2016, when we realized we hated our Samsungs, I got two Kyocera Durforce E6560s for $100 each.

    Neither time did we have any problems at all with them.

    This time, we got brand new Duraforce PRO's from Sprint because we wanted the absolute newest in ultra-ruggedized smartphones.

    I don't count earlier phone purchases from multiple years ago when I was buying Motorola i465s, i560s, i455s, i355s, and i265s on ebay, because those were Nextel iDen dumbphones, and they'll pretty much always work if you put a valid SIM in them. The lone exception was a Motorola i1 Opus, the first iDen Android smartphone, and it was a turd anyway.
     
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  16. Mark Blue

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    I forgot to add that the seller on eBay has to provide the phone’s IMEI either by photo (of the box) or in the description, so it can be verified as clean and that it’ll work with my provider’s network. It also doesn’t matter to me that the seller has 500 or more positive feedbacks. As long as they have 25-50 positives (or thereabouts) and a decent longevity on eBay I consider them golden. There are some wireless shops that deal in volume sales. They can be a tad trickier but most of the time if they accept returns you are probably going to be okay. There are no guarantees on eBay, so carefully doing your research is paramount to coming out on top.
     
  17. cjflinn

    cjflinn Lurker

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    Dean do you have either of the Rugby pros or the the Durforce phones still? If so willing to sell them for a decent price?
     
  18. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I sold the Rugby's a couple of years ago on Ebay. My wife somehow managed to kill one of the Duraforce 6560's with an MRI machine, and I gave the other one to my sister.
     
  19. doeljon

    doeljon Lurker

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    I just got my S9. The video/photo quality is quite impressive. So glad I made the right decision.
     

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