How I Chose the Best Android Phone of 2016 (and Bought it)

“The answers to our many dilemmas reside within our understanding about who we truly are” wrote famous spiritual guru Joseph Rain. Our understanding about who we truly are, I pondered. Over and over. Because I was in a real dilemma of my own. The one about buying a new phone, replacing the old with the new and not wanting to sell a kidney in the process.

Android Phones Confusion

As fellow tech lovers, I’m sure you can all appreciate the complexity. There are plenty of options, but no one phone feels perfect. In a country like India, where phones aren’t subsidized by carriers, we have to pay the full retail amount of that particular device. So naturally, iPhones are usually out of the question for most Indians. Me included.

Being in the Android environment for more than 4 years now had also made at least one thing easier. My next phone would definitely be an Android, but which one? With what specs? What brand offered the best after-sales service? There were plenty of questions racing through my mind, but answers weren’t easily forthcoming.

Know Yourself, Know Your Phone

Going back to Joesph Rain’s quote, I wondered what I really wanted out of my next phone. Of course, killer specs and great camera with good battery life are a given. But, aren’t there plenty of phones claiming to do just that? So, what did I really care about most? Form factor? Performance? OS upgrades? Ah yes, there it was. The answer presented itself after a few minutes of critical thinking. Why wouldn’t a tech writer like myself want his OS to always be upgraded quickly, so he can explore it and write about it?

Nexus 6 P

So, a new Nexus then? This is where things got complicated. We’re in the month of August, and the next Nexus may still be a few months down the line. Investing in the existing Nexus didn’t make much sense, especially since the one with the bigger display & better specs (the 6P) is pretty expensive. The one that’s affordable (the 5x) hasn’t convinced me enough.

Samsung products usually have good after-sales service and a good variety of products, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of TouchWiz. That didn’t bother me as much, as in knowing the fact that Samsung tends to make strange compromises in their budget phones (like leaving out basic sensors like ambient, haptic etc.) which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence while considering their midrange phones either.

The next set of phones to consider came from the Chinese. This is when things got a little more interesting.

Knowing and Believing are 2 Different Things

When you truly know what you want, there shouldn’t be any space left for doubt. Doubt that is seeded either by HYPE or advertising slogans that pitch the world and then some. Some Chinese phone-makers have been found of guilty of both, but that’s just the kind of world we’re now living in. Xiaomi introduced the idea of flash-sales, OnePlus took up arms with their invite system and not too many people liked that either.

If you believe the ad slogans are true about every product, you are digging a hole for yourself.

Both these companies have produced good phones, no doubt. Xiaomi’s Mi5 seemed pretty impressive to me, but somehow I can’t get used to MIUI. The phone itself feels sleek, but slippery, with Xiaomi rolling out updates for their own MIUI ROM rather than the Android OS itself.

Let There Be Hype

Which brings us to OnePlus. Their OnePlus 2 came in for a lot of flak for being billed as the 2016 Flagship Killer, but still had features missing for a 2015 flagship device. Thankfully, the OnePlus 3 came in with all the features you’d expect from a flagship, and even their own Oxygen OS was more refined with Android Marshmallow support.

Dissecting a Phone Before Buying

I spoke to India Head of OnePlus, Vikas Agarwal, about some burning talking points of the OnePlus 3. Most importantly about the design choices that led to the camera bump. He replied, stating

Every smartphone design involves a few necessary trade-offs, and this is particularly the case of an incredibly thin and a strong device like the OnePlus 3. Our team indeed discussed the camera bump and all necessary steps were made to ensure that the smartphone felt right in your hand when you hold it.

He also added that their team went a step further in incorporating a stainless steel ring around the camera module to ensure the very best of safety standards for their fans and consumers alike. We’ll have to wait and see how much that stainless steel ring helps, but leaving a glass component exposed as a bump always feels risky. I then asked about the decision to include 6 GB of RAM in the OnePlus 3, wasn’t that overkill? Vikas stated –

We don’t think it is an overkill. 6 GB of super-fast and efficient LPDDR4 RAM provides an implementation of the best of memory management practices while allowing consumers to enjoy true multitasking capabilities and user experience.

Additionally, he also explained how additional RAM in the OnePlus 3 ensures butter-smooth frame rates on the most demanding of games available on the Play store today and is future compliant with regards to memory requirements for newer OS releases in the future. Well, we’ve seen the issue of 6 GB RAM being under-utilized being discussed in forums and ourselves have written about the fix. Another omission that had people talking was no microSD card support. It seems the India Head had an apt answer to everything

While eMMC and external storage standards have a parallel interface that can only read or write at a time, UFS can perform both simultaneously thanks to dedicated paths for each action. And more importantly, UFS has a Command Queue feature that allows it to sort and reorder the tasks it needs to perform resulting in a stellar user experience.

There’s no doubting that UFS storage is much faster than traditional storage options. But with so much media, 4K video recording capability and the need to install more apps every month, an external storage would certainly have been the icing on the cake. Not that offering a 64 GB base variant should be balked, if anything I’d say it is definitely better than what most competition is offering.

Dash Charge Op3

Dash charging is another feature which I was excited about. We’ve already written a detailed article on it, so read that too. Even though the battery capacity of 3,000 mAh isn’t awe-inspiring, it’s on par with most of the competition. Which is why, after much hemming and hawing and going back and forth between plenty of phones, I purchased the OnePlus 3 earlier this month. And call me impressed. (Thus far).

What’s Your Dream Phone?

If this thought process has helped you in deciding your next phone then we’d consider that mission successful. Let us know what your dream phone is like in the comments. There’s no harm in dreaming, even if our wait for that perfect phone might never materialize.

The above article reflects the writer’s personal opinion and is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in the article.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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