Verizon Moto E 2015 PrePaid

Motorola released the second generation of their Moto E in 2015. I was curious about this device because of its near-stock Android experience. Best Buy has this phone in its prepaid flavor for $69. I thought I would give it a try. The Verizon store also has the device but they will not sell it to you unless you activate it before leaving the store.

Unboxing

The package is simple, nothing fancy. The phone is enclosed in plastic. It comes with a sim card and wall charger. It also comes with a manual and information about the radio frequency. Two things right off the bat I had a hard time with. The first is taking off the plastic screen protector advertises some of the phone’s feature. A trick you can do is peel it from the top where the speaker is. If you try to peel from the bottom left as it suggest, you will have a difficult time. The second is removing the plastic band was a little tricky. Once you remove it though, you will find the sim card slot and the micro SD card slot.

unboxing

Box contents

Hardware

For the price, the phone is a good deal. It has a Snapdragon 400 quad core processor running at 1.2GHz with 1GB of ram. You shouldn’t have issues with basic gaming. It comes with 8GB of storage but approximately 5GB of that is useable. With the microSD slot you can add an additional 32GB of storage. It has a 4.5″ qHD (960×540) with Gorilla Glass 3 display. It also has Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC support.

Software

You get near-stock Android experience. As of May 2015, you get Android Lollipop 5.0.2. Motorola has announced an update to 5.1 soon to be available as an OTA. The latest is 5.1.1, but at least you have a newer version than many expensive flagship phones out there. There are some Motorola apps preinstalled as well as some from Verizon. You can disable them but they still use up storage resources. Based on my searching, this model (XT1528) has a locked bootloader. Hopefully in the future it changes. The phone is also locked to Verizon even though most of the LTE smart phones come unlocked.

Camera

The phone comes with a 5MP camera and 0.3MP front-facing camera. I have taken some shots indoors and the outcome is not that great. At full view, it’s a bit grainy. I’m not sure if I’m just used to view photos taken at higher resolution or I had higher expectations on the camera.

sample1

4.9MP | 2560×1920 | 551KB | f/2.2 | 1/19 | 2.471mm | ISO640

sample2

4.9MP | 2560×1920 | 508.4KB | f/2.2 | 1/30 | 2.471mm | ISO640

The video can capture up to 720p at 30fps.

Conclusion

The phone is affordable and the specs are reasonable for the price. On top of that, I was able to activate as a postpaid device – without waiting for the 6 month period. I just called customer service and provided the IMEI and SIM number.

iPhone 6Plus

I finally was able to pick up a brand new 64GB iPhone 6 Plus off contract and wow it’s pricey. I don’t like contracts, so I have to pay the price. This time I opted to go with a larger 64GB capacity. I filled up my 16GB iPhone 5S quickly with media and apps. I started to hate the experience after that. It’s good that Apple got rid of the 32GB model and replaced it with the 64GB. Overall, the experience on iOS 8.1.2 hasn’t been to bad, nor has the transition from Android 4.4.2 (for a few months) wasn’t difficult either.

What about that size?

I could have gone with the regular iPhone 6 with a larger screen size than my old iPhone 5S but there were features I was after that the 6 Plus had.

  • I wanted 5.5” display size versus 4.7”. I didn’t want a smaller screen coming from the LG G3.
  • I wanted a 1080 (401 ppi vs 326 ppi) display.
  • I wanted the optical image stabilization.
  • Larger battery – 2915 mAh vs 1810 mAh.
  • Landscape mode!

landscape mode

Landscape mode

The size itself isn’t that bad. I’ve always preferred larger phones, as long as it fits my pocket. I didn’t mind. Except for the iPhone 5S, the last few phones I’ve had have been generally big during its release.

  • HTC Sensation 4G – 4.3”
  • Samsung Nexus – 4.65”
  • Samsung Note 2 – 5.5”
  • Apple 5S – 4”
  • LG G3 – 5.5”

For the a over 3 years now, I’ve been using smart phones that have larger than 4” display. So it’s nothing new. I enjoy the larger screen. I spend more time digesting content on my phone, than actually making phone calls. If I do make phone calls, I usually use a bluetooth headset. Also, this phone is thin. I did buy a case that bulked it up again but I’m more concerned about protecting the phone and keeping it in good, functioning conditions. I’ve seen too many iPhones with cracked screens.

iphone 6 plus without case

iPhone 6 Plus before I installed the case.

iphone 6 plus with case

iPhone 6 Plus after I installed the case.

Same old camera?

Many may think it’s the same 8MP camera. Many also believe that the higher the megapixel, the better. It’s true to an extent. Even though the 5S, 6, and 6 Plus have 8MP camera, the 6 Plus is the only one with optical image stabilization (OIS). This enables the phone for faster focusing and less chances to have blurry photos. On top of that, it’s hardware, not software. With OIS, low lit photos come out better. We were in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. I had my LG G3 (13MP) and Abby had her iPhone 6 Plus (8MP). We took some photos at night and the experience and results were far better with the 6 Plus over the G3. This was one huge reason why I left Android once again. Her iPhone 6 Plus focused a lot quicker and the noise (ISO level) weren’t as apparent as the G3 photos. I’ve always been impressed with the iPhone’s photo taking capability and now this solidifies it even more. Unless you plan on printing poster size photos, 8MP is plenty specially on an iPhone. Besides, you’d want to use a camera not a camera phone for that.

Video recording

The iPhone, from my experience, has always given me great results with taking video. It’s amazing that a phone can do such good quality. What I’m excited about is the addition of slow motion video capture. It can capture up to 240fps. I’ve had such a great time with it and I find myself shooting videos I don’t normally do in slow motion.

iOS 8.1.2

At the time of writing this, I’m currently using iOS 8.1.2. It’s been stable compared to the horror stories I’ve read online with iOS 8. I guess they worked out a lot of the major bugs now. I did notice a little lag when waking it up after not using it for awhile. The Reachability (one-handed mode) is a nice touch, though I haven’t used it yet. You access it by double-pressing the home button. It moves the screen to the bottom half of the phone so that you can navigate around the phone with one hand.

reachability

Reachability helps with the bigger iPhone.

Siri

I have noticed Siri being more sensitive. I find myself repeating commands less. The text also appears as you are giving it commands. Another new feature found in iOS 8 is the ability to access Siri by saying “Hey Siri” while it’s plugged in. It doesn’t matter if the screen is off or on. Neat feature that Google has had but now is on iPhones. So far I’ve had mixed experiences. It’s a very quick way to set alarms and reminders accross the room. I just can’t seem to get it to work after successfully doing the first command.

Conclusion

I’ve had the iPhone 6 Plus for a few months now and have been happy with it. Going for the larger capacity is a great decision but cost a lot. The investment is worth it I may have to consider purchasing iCloud. I have been taking more photos and videos and the free 5GB is nearing capacity. Starting at $.99 per month, it seems like a good deal. I could also use Google+ app and store it in my Google account or use Amazon (free storage for Prime members). But for the price, the integration is cleaner.

I have noticed some lag when turning on my phone from standby. Also, with the Verizon network, you still can’t be on a call and browse the internet.

no talk and surf

No talk and surf…

You can enable VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which supposedly allows talk and surf. You can enable it in your settings.

enable VoLTE

Enable VoLTE in your settings.

I have found it to not be available in many areas yet. I hope the coverage improves. It really limits the smart phone’s capability. This didn’t happen when I was using an Android powered phone on the Verizon network. I have also heard from iPhone users with AT&T and T-Mobile that they don’t experience as of late.

If you’re curious about the case, I got it from Amazon. It’s by Cineyo. It protects well and has a kickstand. It’s a nice case but it does make the phone bigger than it already is. You can get it fromhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00QH2D0J8. It comes with a cheap screen protector that does what it’s supposed to do (I’ve had better – has bubbles) and a stylus (I don’t use it).

case with kickstand

My case with a kickstand. It makes the phone bigger than it already is.

T-mobile Test Drive

I recently found out about T-Mobile’s program, test drive. This program allows you to use an iPhone 5S, which they provide, for a week on their network. All you have to do is provide a credit card. They will put a hold on the card for the amount of $700 plus tax. After a week, return the phone to the nearest retail store and the hold is cancelled. Make sure it’s a corporate owned store and not an authorized reseller. Also the phone must be in good condition upon return. They will charge you a minimum of $100 up to the original price of the phone.

I currently have Verizon and have been happy with the service. But recent events have made me want to look for another provider.

  • Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed more frequent buffering when streaming with Spotify. There have been reports of Verizon throttling connections to services like Netflix – so it isn’t far-fetched to consider them doing this to Spotify on their cellular service.
  • I cannot use Google Play edition phones on the Verizon network. The last phone that worked was the original Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
  • The monthly cost along with the bandwidth cap is starting to add up. I didn’t mind the price increase from my previous carrier (T-Mobile) as long as the data coverage is better, which it is. But after over a year of monthly cost increase, it’s adding up. To add, Verizon has a bandwidth cap, in our case it’s 4GB, which we easily can go over.

So I decided to check out T-Mobile. They provided a great service for us with the voice coverage but the data coverage was lacking. Which is why we switched to Verizon. Luckily they have the test drive program where we can access their network for a week and decided if it meets our needs. Here is the package I got in the mail.

DSC08036

DSC08037

DSC08038

DSC08039

It’s a 32GB iPhone 5S space gray. It came with all the accessories, minus the Apple box. The $80 monthly access also includes an unlimited data plan. This is truly unlimited with no speed throttling after surpassing a specific amount of bandwidth. Their lower plans are considered “unlimited” at 5GB or less and once you reach that amount, you will get throttled to a lower speed. It’s an appealing package considering Verizon will charge you extra if you go over the cap.

So I played with my Verizon and T-Mobile iPhone 5S. I installed the Speed Test app and compared results. The 4G LTE areas for both providers are fast. I’ve gotten results as fast as 40Mbps down and 20Mbps up. They also have their areas of coverage and areas of limitations. The biggest difference is with T-Mobile, the phone just gives up and has no signal where as Verizon will continue to try and on many occasions able to connect or try its best to keep the connection alive – these are areas with the limited coverage.

It looks like T-Mobile is improving their coverage but has yet to win me back. I guess you have to pay a little bit more if you want better coverage. This is based on my usage and the areas I travel. I’m not implying that Verizon is the better provider for everyone. In my case, it is the better provider. T-Mobile’s test drive program is a great program and I wish more providers did this. I will try it again next year.

Going back to Android from iOS

I spent the last year on iOS. I had a Samsung Note 2 and switched to the iPhone 5S when it came out last year. Here are my reasons of the switch. Text wrapped like this In orange is my solution when switching back to Android.

  • I hate how slow (if it existed) the Android updates we rolled out on devices. With iOS, assuming you have the last 2 generations, you will have access to iOS updates as they are released. Yes, I can root the device, but I don’t have to do that with iOS to benefit from it. (I tend to upgrade phones almost every year. I guess it isn't a big deal gaining access to the latest Android version. I could always root it but I'm lazy. If there is a feature I'm after, I will consider it.)
  • iOS apps, to me, are of higher “quality”. (After a year, more developers are creating higher quality apps… hopefully. I could also stop installing free, ad supported apps that drain my battery and pay. Apps aren't that expensive and if useful, I should support the developer by purchasing it.)
  • iOS messages integrate across devices (Apple devices). This is great because I can send/reply/receive to SMS messages on the phone, my Macbook Pro, my iMac, or my iPad. (It looks like devices running Android 4.4 or higher have integrated Hangouts with messaging. I just can't bring over my messages from iOS.)
  • iOS has less bloatware (Stocks, Passbook, Newsstand – I guess to some these are useful). Compared to Samsung (TouchWiz), HTC (Sense), and the other manufacturers who add their own useless, resource taking extras on top of Android. I am aware of Google Play Edition phones but unfortunately they do not work for my provider, Verizon. (I considered switching providers to AT&T and T-Mobile so that I can use Google Play Edition phones but their coverage (data) isn't great compared to what I get with Verizon. Data coverage is more important to me.)
  • Many of my relatives overseas are using iOS. Instead of creating/showing them how to use Google Hangouts (which is cross platform), it was easier to communicate using FaceTime. (Initially, I thought I would use it frequently. I rarely used it on my iPhone. I ended using my iPad on wifi.)

Here are my reasons why I’m going back to Android.

  • To conserve on bandwidth usage and hitting my monthly cap fast, I ended up downloading Youtube videos locally to decrease my Youtube usage when away from a wifi signal. Unfortunately, with iOS, you have to go through iTunes and 1 computer. I use several computers daily from my laptop, my desktop at work, and my desktop at home. It’s such a chore to get the videos over to my phone since I always have to use my laptop because that’s where my phone is sync to. In short, you are a slave to iTunes and one computer. Android devices mount as an external device on your computer, doesn’t matter which one. I can easily drag files over. I’ve heard of people using BTsync as well.
  • 16GB capacity is becoming unusable nowadays – at least for me. Apps are getting larger, taking more pics and videos. You can get an Android device of double the size and sometimes more, for a lower cost. Even if you get a 16GB Android device, the money you save, you can purchase a Micro SD card to increase your storage. You can’t do that on an iPhone.
  • Google Now has improved and I feel it’s better than Siri.
  • The data part of the iPhone gets disabled when you’re on a phone call. Emails don’t come in, MMS, you can’t browse the internet. Android allows you to do that. It is not limited to the network, it’s iOS.
  • Android handles multitasking better. These are very expensive smart devices. Let them make your lives easier not just play Candy Crush or taking selfies.
  • In iOS, you are limited to transferring photos and other iOS devices. You can’t even use bluetooth to transfer files to and from iOS and Mac OSX. This simple task becomes trivial. It may be allowed when iOS8 is released but it’s still limited to Apple products.

That somewhat summarizes why I’ll be going back to Android. This is not to steer you in any direction. I’m merely sharing my experiences. Keep in mind that the way I use my devices may differ from you, so our expectations will not be the same. I was waiting for the IFA 2014 event in Berlin to see what Samsung will announce (Note 4). Unfortunately, the new features on the Note 4 didn’t really impress me. So I plan to get a LG G3.

I guess one last great thing about iPhones is the high resell value.