My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

New phone who dis?

I have a new phone for the first time in nearly 4 years. Thoughts on upgrading and a cursory review.

Almost 4 years ago, I upgraded from my first smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate, to a Nexus 5, then Google’s flagship Android phone with a nice stock Android experience. Now I’ve returned to the Samsung fold with a Galaxy S9.

I loved my Nexus 5. It was such a great piece of hardware, and while it had its shortcomings (the camera wasn’t great), there was so much to like about it. I miss the soft backing! I wish I could have at least made it to 4 years.

Alas, it was time. My Nexus 5 hadn’t received a security update in over a year. In Internet time, that’s a lifetime. My phone was slow, apps kept freezing or crashing or not receiving updates. I managed to go 3 years without scratching the phone despite eschewing a case—and then in the past year, I managed to crack the bottom portion of the screen quite badly.

The last straw came a couple weeks ago. I was preparing to go to Montreal for a vacation. My phone was getting on my nerves; in particular, sending texts was slow and unreliable. And my carrier had the Galaxy S9, which I’d had my eye on for a while, on sale. So I bit the bullet and decided to sign up for a contract and upgrade.

I don’t regret it.

Side-by-side photo of my Nexus 5 and my new phone, a Samsung Galaxy S9

My Galaxy S9 is so nice! In keeping with naming my devices after mathematicians, I have christened it Émilie du Châtelet.

It’s really nice to have the latest version of Android, with its various new features. I’ve quickly adapted to turning on/unlocking the phone in one go with the fingerprint sensor. The camera is really nice—I’ve yearned for a better one for a while, mostly to take knitting photos. This one came in handy on my vacation, of course. Moreover, simply being able to run apps like Google Maps reliably and without killing my battery was a lifesaver. While the Netflix app is still buggy as all-get-out, at least it doesn’t drain my battery quickly like it did on my old phone. Indeed, my battery life is perhaps my favourite thing at the moment. (And the wireless charging is a neat gimmick too.)

Phones have been growing in size for some time now, and one of my worries when upgrading was that I’d be saddled with too large of a device. I vacillated between the S9 and the S9+. The S9 is only slightly larger than my Nexus 5 (see the photo above for the comparison). The S9+ is more of a handful, and with the exact same pixel count, the display is slightly less crisp. So I opted for the smaller phone, even if it sacrifices a little battery power and that second camera for optical zoom—I prefer the smaller form factor over those features. Again, no regrets.

I’m in favour of using our devices for as long as comfortable rather than upgrading to the latest model all the time. That being said, there comes a point where upgrading is the better move: better for security, better for the environment, better for our peace of mind. I’ve started using my phone more often over the past year—as a remote for devices in my home, and my primary phone now that I don’t have a landline (and I’m taking and making more phone calls than I ever imagined!). So having a reliable, fast, up-to-date device is very important. My new phone is just that—at least for now.