The Legion of Scalzi Smartphones

I upgraded my cell phone yesterday; as with the previous times that I upgraded, the former phone was left in my custody. So here is the entire history of my smartphone usage, going back to the Blackberry Storm, which I acquired in late 2008, followed by the Droid X, the Nexus 4 (which died an early, ignominious death), the Droid MAXX, and now the Droid Turbo. Seven years, five phones. That’s about right.

Clearly I have a thing for the Droid line, and I will tell you why that is: Battery life, as in, the Droids can go an entire day and more without needing to recharge, which is very important to me because I travel as much as I do and occasionally am not in the vicinity of a wall outlet to recharge (I also tend to carry a ridiculously large backup battery with me much of the time, but the point is with the Droid line, that’s a “belts and suspenders” tactic). I also like Motorola’s implementation of the Android OS, which is basically to leave it alone except for a few actually useful apps (Verizon, my carrier, on the other hand, loads the phone down with crap apps, the lone exception being their almost miraculously good messaging app).

The Droid Turbo is basically a nice level up from the Droid MAXX: A screen with four times the resolution (I can’t see the pixels anymore, and neither can any normal human), more RAM and storage, better processor, and better front and back cameras, the latter of which, at least, I’ve already taken some decent pictures with:

I understand the phone also takes 4K video, which seems excessive, but then what seems excessive today is substandard tomorrow, so, okay. In all, it’s a nice upgrade and as far as I can tell after a day of having it, I’ll be pleased to own it for the next year or so until I upgrade again (I’m on Verizon’s EDGE plan, which allows me to do that).

If you’re with Verizon and are looking for an Android phone, I can happily recommend the Droid line. They’re not necessarily the sexiest phones out there at the moment, but a sexy phone with a dead battery isn’t very sexy, in my opinion.

48 Comments on “The Legion of Scalzi Smartphones”

  1. but a sexy phone that a dead battery isn’t very sexy, in my opinion.


    Nice photos!

  2. Battery life has improved a lot with my upgrade to a Galaxy S5 a while back. I could get an S6, but I’m fine with what I have now.

  3. Have you considered donating your old phones? A lot of places donate them to battered women’s shelters or the like, set up so they can access emergency numbers even if people don’t have a cell plan. Or does that not work for smart phones?

  4. History determines whose Science Fiction came closest to bullseye. This holds with hand-held computer/phone, phablet thingies.
    I still think that Isaac Asimov had the record, with his descriptions of handheld computers/calculators — which came in Civilian Blue and Military Gunsteel.
    Bill Gibson admits that his early Cyberpunk utterly failed to predict cellphones.
    I have several million words online that paint a VERY detailed look at the evolution of Notepads wirelessly networked to the HoloWeb.

  5. @MNGWA

    If you prefer to keep your old phones (or if smartphones can’t be used as emergency-only phones), you might be able to turn one into a citizen-science observatory. E.g., Cosmic Rays: I know the PI of that effort, and he says it *should* work with old phones. I am in the queue to be a beta tester.

  6. Don’t most phones have a battery that lasts all day now? I use iPhones and for the last several models (3-4 years) I’ve had no problem with that at all despite heavy and frequent use. (I’m a software developer for phone software and am always testing something.) Battery tech is getting better (slowly) and electronics are requiring less current. And with the phone size increase, the batteries are bigger now.

  7. I’m surprised you haven’t tried the Note line. I have a Note 3 and get about 2 – 3 days of battery life from one charge. I had the original Droid and loved it, but I have to say I like the Samsung phones better.

  8. Clears throat, shuffles feet, admits to explaining to the nice chap in the shop that my daughter had ordered me to buy the cheapest phone they had because it was irrevocably doomed.

    She was right, but I have my pride so I bought the second cheapest phone in the shop; it’s survived 3 weeks so far but I haven’t yet worked out the way to text somebody.

    It does have a very long battery life, though, and a flip over thing which prevents me from accidentally dialling Timbuktu. All in all I’m probably not the right person to discuss smartphones with….

  9. CAT:- ‘Does my tail look big in this?

    DOG:- ‘If it’s not edible forget it!’

  10. 4K video might seem excessive/impressive, but my guess is the framerate is at most 30fps at that setting, which leaves things herky jerky. And herky jerky is no good regardless of the resolution.

    I just got a Aquos by Sharp. A good android phone with an amazing display. Like you I spent the first hour uninstalling my carrier’s apps.

  11. O! M! G! Scalzi is forcing his Army (the S.A.) to buy one brand of phone and conspiracize the cell phone industry. It’s not FAIRE!

  12. I have a Samsung Galaxy SIII. One of the major factors in my choice of a smart phone was the ability to swap out the battery. I have three spare batteries and a desktop charger for them. If I’m traveling, I can go several days without needing to find a plug.

  13. This site ( is quite good for comparing battery lives of cell phones. You can re-compute the numbers based on how you use your phone. Your new phone looks pretty good but there are some that are better.

    I was an Android fan for a long time but finally went over to the dark side for one reason – Apple stores with their wonderful Genius Bar support system. And I really hate Apple the company for many reasons so it was no easy decision.

  14. I’m glad you like your new phone! I’m a long time Apple user, but I’m actively glad that other people use other things, since competition keeps companies and carriers on their toes.

    I finally got an iPhone last summer (couldn’t face a 70$ a month phone bill but finally found a carrier that was month-to-month and much cheaper.) I love having a smartphone! Before that I used my iPod for some of those functions but it lost 70% of its intelligence when I left the house, which was suboptimal.

    I notice that phone size is steadily creeping bigger–even my 5S is too big to lie comfortably in some of my pockets, when my iPod Touch was ideal. Is anyone else having trouble with that, or is this just a women’s pockets issue?

  15. He really is a gorgeous kitty. I can only imagine how many FTU* he puts out.

    But don’t you think that outdoor litter-box is a tad large ?

    *furr-based thermal units

  16. I’m on my third phone in… 12 years, and they’ve all been dumb. I kinda wish I’d never gotten rid of my no-camera B&W display phone. Talk about battery life, that thing lasted forever.

    Old phones here either get shipped back to the manufacturer for recycle, or given to the women’s shelter. In the US, every phone is required to be able to call 911 even if it’s not on a data plan.

    Excellent photos of Loppy, though. In the one from yesterday, he really lives up to his name.

  17. I gave my old phone to a women’s shelter, it was unfortunately a dumb phone, but it was in excellent condition and I just put a new battery in it. the requirement of a data plan may make it more expensive the next time now that I have a smart phone. but the way I make a piece of electronics last, by the time that happens a data plan will be cheap as dirt, i hope.

  18. As others have mentioned, please consider recycling or donating your old phones.

  19. The force of your cat’s disdain appears to be able to kill vegetation around it. Either that, or he really REALLY pongs.

  20. I upgraded my Droid MAXX to a Turbo the second day they were available. Aside from the reasons you mentioned, I chose it because it was upgradeable to Android 5. Apparently that didn’t mean it would ever actually be UPGRADED though — just that it COULD BE. Maybe someone with a large enough audience could get Verizon to actually update the thing, if you’d care to try… [smile]

  21. I’m on my third phone since 2000. All just phone phones though. (Better battery life than smart phones and lower monthly costs.)

  22. My work phone was recently upgraded from blackberry to my choice of iPhone or android. I chose android because it is what I have already so no learning curve – I THOUGHT! The work POS is a Samsung and every app that came on the stupid phone is triplicated, droid, Samsung and Sprint. That was not a problem with my old Galaxy nor was the endless rattle of spam for super-duper new apps from the “Sprint Zone” or Samsung. CUrrently I would gladly return this phone for the BB, which, while clunky & old fashion, did what I wanted & only what I needed.

  23. That’s not a decent photo, it’s a _gorgeous_ one. Much better than I used to be able to take with a German 35mm camera that probably cost three times as much as your apparatus… in 1950s dollars, yet.

    The cat looks interesting, and the dog looks absolutely delightful, by the way.

  24. Someday John will explain just how the Lopsided cat achieved that; I’m leaning towards a worldwide plague, which, lacking the assistance of a First Lady to personalise it, had to be rebuffed by one cat standing there, alone, in the face of the enemy, on the enemy’s ground, refusing to surrender.

    I think I will go away and listen to ‘The Impossible Dream’ since I’m in the zone…

  25. I didn’t like the droid we had at all. I found the battery died so quickly. Not only does my iphone keep a charge longer it also charges up faster. Maybe I had a defective phone…

  26. I have a Nexus 4, which was the first smartphone I ever owned. I like it, except for the mediocre camera, the fact that the battery has started dying on me in mid-afternoon, and the ridiculously large size. I have taken to wearing vests just so that I have a pocket to stick my phone in. Your new phone looks even larger than the Nexus 4.

    Dude pants come with properly sized pockets, and I keep waiting for women’s pants to start adding a cell phone pocket somewhere. NOPE. I carried it in my hip pocket for a while, then realized that sitting on my phone was giving me back trouble…

    If you’d asked me in 1985 what sorts of problems I thought I would be dealing with in 30 years, I probably would not have said, “My pocket computer doesn’t fit properly in my pocket, which is annoying. Also the built-in camera is not as good as I would like and I have to carry an extra rechargeable battery for when its battery dies. I would like a shiny new pocket computer but that would cost me like $600 — that’s like $275 in 1985 money, so you know, less than a VCR….”

  27. I recently upgraded to a smart phone (my old Nokia mobile had always had a problem with the “6” key being hit when I was talking, no matter how carefully I held the thing, or which ear I held it to; this was just the most obviously grating issue for me, but monetary considerations had held me back from purchasing anything new for a while there). My biggest whinge about the smart phone (a Samsung Galaxy Trend) is the recharge frequency.

    My old handset, I used to recharge about once a week, if that. (I use my phones for receiving calls. No, just that). The new one, I have to recharge it every 26 hours or so – at least every second day. This, to me, makes it appear the phone has the electronic equivalent of a bladder the size of a pea…

    Clearly I have unrealistic expectations.

    (Then again, the Galaxy Tab 4 I purchased to replace my e-book reader[1] seems to last for up to a week on a single charge.)

    [1] I wanted an e-book reader which wasn’t a Kindle (nothing against the electronics, just don’t like the corporate expectations bundled with them). This is apparently Not A Thing here in Australia these days. So I got a Galaxy Tab instead, and I’m finding it’s the long-awaited actual replacement for my old Palm m515, in that I’m doing a lot of things on the tablet I used to do on the Palm.

  28. @naomikritzer

    If you’ve started considering successors to your Nexus 4, I’d suggest the Xperia Z3 Compact. It’s a touch smaller than the Nexus 4 and probably is the only recent high-end phone that can make that claim. Among other things, it boasts a much better camera and substantially better battery life. It also has a microSD slot and is waterproof.

    On the other side of the scale, assuming you are in the US you can’t get it carrier “subsidized” (though it came out last fall so the price has come down a bit) and you can only use it with AT&T and T-Mobile, the magnetic charging port is fragile enough (especially when used with third-party connectors) that I’d advise against using it at all and you’ll end up fussing with flaps for everything but the headphone jack in the service of waterproofing.

    If none of those are dealbreakers, the Z3 Compact is a very good phone that is worth checking out.

  29. I love Droid phones, currently own last year’s Moto X (customized of course) and while it has a smaller battery than my modded out Bionic did, it still goes ~20 hours on a charge, with better performance in every other respect. I agree the Turbo is a great phone, tougher than anything in the Galaxy line. I buy a phone a year (my Mom is tech phobic and we’re eligible in alternating years so I do her legwork) and am seriously considering it over the Moto X 3.0.

    My wife has had all the iPhones and up until the new phablet 6+ my battery life always crushed hers. Now we’re pretty even.

    Is the Turbo’s bigger screen size a plus or a minus? Some apps my wife loves like Tweetcaster misbehave on a bigger screen.

  30. First, I like you background image. Where can I get that?
    Second, don’t let your old phones rot in your drawer. Sell them, there is money in them. (At the minimal least recycling value)

  31. I have a Droid Maxx, and am considering upgrading to the Turbo. I read the CNET review of it and was mildly concerned about their comments that the phone “gets hot fast”.

    Just wondering if John or anyone else on the thread who owns the Turbo has any comment on the (possible) issue. Thanks.

  32. I’ll never not own another Nexus. I love them. Had the 4, own the 5 right now, and when the 6 gets a bit more affordable, I’ll own that one, too. I’ll also never own a locked phone (one you get from the carrier) again, either. Never getting an Android update is horrible.

    What was the ignominious end to your Nexus 4?

  33. @guildenstern42, I’ve had the Turbo for a couple months now. It can get warm if you’re pushing it hard with a game or HD video or something, but it’s never been too hot to hold. The hard-case Verizon suckered* me into might help with that. Too heavy to hold may be more of a problem. The size, screen, and battery to support it all do make the phone pretty hefty. Almost 6 oz. according to the spec, which nearly an oz. more than my old Droid Razr MAXX.

    I haven’t seen anyone here mention it, but the Turbo uses one of the Quick Charge 2.0 spec to fill up that battery. I haven’t charged mine from empty recently, but I think it takes about 60 minutes to do so. Just 10-15 minutes on the charger gives a nice bump in charge state. The catch is that it takes nearly forever to charge if you’re using a USB port or standard charger instead.

    Other thoughts:
    -You probably want a case/shell. To me, it’s pretty weird to hold without one on account of how big and curvy it is.
    -I discovered Motorola’s free Migrate app switching to this phone. It makes migration laughably easy. Don’t know if it works to-from non-Moto phones.
    -The soft-keys are the old-style fixed keys BELOW the bottom of the screen. That makes more room for many apps, but they obviously don’t update/change based on the app, and the screen won’t do upside-down portrait orientation.
    -I’ve found the camera nice but slooow. I’ve futz’d shots moving the phone after I thought it took the picture already. Either John’s phone is magically faster than mine, or his subjects are more patient than my toddler and his younger brother.
    -The battery really does last a long time. I got the phone because I can sometimes kill lesser phones in less than a day, and I haven’t had any problems on that front.

    *The shell for the phone was perfectly fine, but the holster made it difficult to remove one-handed, unless I wanted to end up with an upside-down phone. And then it caught on everything getting in/out of cars and eventually broke. I’m currently looking for a better solution.

  34. @Kevin Sevcik, Thanks for the info! Sounds like I just need to go hold one in the store to see how I like the feel/heft.

  35. If you’re looking to recycle those and/or get money for some of them, you can sell them to an EcoATM kiosk. I don’t know if there’s one near you, but it may be worth checking out. If they can’t resell what they buy from you, they’ll just offer to recycle it safely for you.

    I’m a big Android fan myself, but I can’t do Verizon. Their network doesn’t have great coverage for me.

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