Welcome to the Answers section of the seventh installment of the Droid Life Q&A Sessions. Much like every other week, we had some great questions come in from the community, so we took our time to go through them and pull some of the good ones. It seems that many are curious about the DROID DNA, Verizon’s data plans, and why on Earth Samsung and HTC won’t get it together with those on-screen buttons. See what all we had to say down below.
Reminder: K is Kellex, T is Tim, R is Ron, and E is Eric.
What’s your opinion on big players like Samsung & HTC not using on-screen buttons and ruining a consistent experience?
K: While I’m a big fan of on-screen buttons, but I’m glad that we have choices. As you can see from the poll we ran last week, people haven’t fully bought into on-screen and still love hardware buttons. The beauty of Android is that you can find a phone that meets your needs and you aren’t stuck with one phone, one button, one build, and one skin.
R: For me it isn’t a big deal. There are pros and cons to both designs. The reality of the situation is that companies like HTC and Samsung design phones a year or two in advance, so even though Google implemented the new on screen button design a year ago, companies like HTC weren’t privy to the change and even if they were (like Samsung) they wouldn’t be able to alter that kind of design that late into the game. I imagine we’ll begin to see more phones with on-screen keys in the coming months.
T: It’s frustrating! I am hoping we won’t have to deal with it too much longer. These older designs are finally out of Samsung and HTC’s books and we can move on to hopefully a more uniformed design across OEMs. Although, I could see them pull some bs about how they want to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers. Either way, I want them gone!
E: As much as I’d like everyone to hop on that bandwagon, it’s really up to the OEMs to decide if they want them or not. Google provides a platform with the Nexus devices and says “this is what you can do,” but doesn’t hold them to actually mimicking every design choice. HTC and Samsung’s capacitive buttons are iconic in their own right, and they are just keeping a consistent experience on their own brand.
Do you think Verizon will take away the unlimited data from those grandfathered users who aren’t on contract anytime soon?
R: I think they’ll continue to push users into tiered plans, although they’ve already made it extremely difficult for users to keep unlimited plans. It wouldn’t surprise me if they forced users off of them in a few years.
T: There is no doubt that will come down sooner or later. The only question I think people should be asking, is “When?”
K: Yes. I don’t know when, but at some point they are going to force us to change. Whether it be the next time you activate a phone or they set a date for it to happen, it’ll likely happen. Their new money-making scheme is all centered around shared data plans, so they’ll figure out a way to end our fun. The good news about that idea is, that you will then be free to join whichever carrier you want. Unlocked GSM phones for the win!
Galaxy Note 2 or Droid DNA?
K: Ooh, tough choice there. I’d say Galaxy Note 2 because the software experience crushes everything that HTC is doing with Sense. While HTC may have incredible hardware, Samsung has both great hardware and the best software suite in the business. With Android, it’s about more than just specs, in my opinion. Until HTC innovates on the software front as well, it’ll be tough for them to top Samsung on any level.
R: Need battery? Galaxy Note 2. Want the best screen ever? DNA.
E: Depends on what you want it for. If you’re gonna use the stylus and dual-screen features then Note 2, but if you want just a phone with amazing specs then the DNA is going to be better.
T: If you follow my opinions on anything it is that I care deeply for the One series devices from HTC. The Galaxy Note 2 is just too big for me and I think the DNA will offer just the right amount of space. Although, that battery size is seriously lame sauce on HTC’s part. Come on, HTC!
You probably get lots of tips from readers, some great and others not. What’s the most ridiculous or out-there “tip” you’ve ever gotten from someone?
T: Well, we appreciate all of the tips and suggestions from readers. I think the most silly thing we get is hate mail. People take the time out of their busy lives to tell us how much they hate us or we suck. I think it’s great that our work has such a massive effect on these people’s live. It’s a great feeling.
K: At least once a day, we get emails from people who think we are Verizon or Google or Motorola. They want to know why we haven’t refunded the expensive Play store app that their kid just bought or why their phone is now garbage because of a recent update and that we should fix the situation. It’s comical.
A year or so ago, Motorola said they were basically going to calm down and pump out only one or two solid phones per year. I think some other manufacturers fell in line with that. With all the phones released in the last/next two months, do you think things will be idle until this time next year now? In other words, is it finally safe to pull the trigger on a new phone?
R: The best time on Verizon is usually around the holidays. For off-contract buyers I’d say get something now or wait for Mobile World Congress.
E: Unfortunately you’re never safe in the Android market. I feel like there will be some decent phones announced at the tech conferences coming up early next year. But with the Nexus 4, DNA and Galaxy Note 2 out there right now you could do a lot worse.
K: It’s probably safe to pull the trigger. I’d guess that January through March will be slow and that we’ll be waiting for HTC to drop the new One Series line. Samsung won’t have anything until the Spring, and Motorola is still trying to figure out what it’s doing. You also have to remember that buying phones is a lot different today than it was even a year ago. Specs are sooooo good, that even if a new phone comes out in a month, you won’t be disappointed with what you just bought.
T: Being an Android fan is hard. There’s something new every couple of months, so my suggestion is if you see a phone you’re happy with, just go for it.
What is your most important feature on a phone? Is it the manufacturer, OS, battery life, screen resolution, etc?
K: Battery life, display and camera for me. I’m not sure which one comes first, but if any of those three aren’t top notch, I usually need to find a new phone quickly. I can deal with skins because Android lets you block most of them out with 3rd party apps. But a crappy camera is always going to be a crappy camera. Same with a display and battery life.
R: For me I want stock Android, an excellent camera, good battery life, and an incredible display. If I had to pick one feature it would be stock Android.
E: I love me a nice screen. Ever since I upgraded from the Droid 3 to the Galaxy Nexus I’ll never go back to a bad display. However, I can’t live with a bad skin on top of Android so whatever the device is, I need to be able to root and hack it.
T: To me, I think stock Android and a good camera take the cake. And out of those too, a really good camera could lean me towards any device. The One X has Sense, but I still loved it very much thanks to that ridiculous camera.
Even with it’s shortcomings and the fact that it’s a year old, would you still recommend the Galaxy Nexus on VZW?
R: No. The screen and camera are really bad. I’d wait for something else or get off of Verizon.
K: At this point, no. The display tech is a year old and way behind new phones. The battery life is still atrocious. And Verizon has proven that they do not care about this phone for a second, so it’ll never be up to date with the rest of the Nexus family. It’s a stepchild phone. There are also way too many good phones out to look at a phone that’s a year old any longer.
E: Only if the person is alright with unlocking it and flashing a ROM. I did that day 1 of my Nexus and haven’t had half the problems that other people have reported. It will probably get 4.2 before a good number of phones if you have it unlocked.
T: Sure, if you love rooting and hacking. But if you’re looking for a work phone that won’t let you down, you might want to stay away. Go grab a new phone instead!
*The rest of our Q & A sessions are all available at this link.