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It’s a boat! It’s a tank! It’s the physical description of the Nokia X100 budget phone

In my last post, I mentioned that I would provide a physical description of the Nokia X100, the budget phone I’m using to re-discover Android. As of this writing, T-Mobile offers the X100 for $252, however promotions can bring this price down even further.

When I first beheld the Nokia X100, my initial impression was one of solidity. This phone only weighs 7.65 Ounces, but somehow, it feels much heavier, possibly because of its aluminum construction. When I placed the phone on my desk, my immediate thought was that while empires may rise and fall, this phone will stay exactly where I put it, defying the forces of nature and time if need be.

The Nokia X100 display measures 6.7″ diagonally from corner to corner. In practical terms, this means that the display is larger than the decks of many cruise ships. A small aircraft could land on the X100’s display and easily have enough room to take off again. For those that are into specific measurements, the X100 measures 6.74″ long, by 3.14″ wide, by 0.36″ thick. I realize that phone size is a personal preference, but I find the X100 a bit too large for my liking: I often carry a phone in my pocket and use it one-handed, both of which are tricky to do with a device of this size. That said, if you prefer a larger screen, you will not be disappointed. Speaking of the display, the Nokia boasts a Max Vision HD+ display. I have no idea what that means, but it’s a highlighted feature, so obviously it must be important. 🙂

I absolutely love the way controls and ports are laid out on the Nokia. Along the right-hand edge is a volume control and also a slightly recessed button which serves as the lock/unlock/power button and integrated fingerprint sensor. Having the fingerprint sensor integrated directly into the lock button makes total sense to me since you have to touch that button to unlock the device anyway, why not have it read and verify the fingerprint at the same time? I don’t know what company was the first to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the lock button, my first introduction to this bit of awesome was with Apple’s iPad Air 4TH generation and ever since then, I’ve been wondering why more companies aren’t doing this; that Nokia and other Android manufacturers are doing this fills me with much joy. As a quick aside, many Android devices still have fingerprint sensors. For me, this is a major advantage because while I have learned to live with Apple’s Face ID, I have not learned to like it. Back to the X100: the right-hand side has the volume control and the power/lock/fingerprint sensor and that’s it. Along the bottom edge of the device are a speaker, a microphone, a USBC port, and a headphone jack. That’s right, in an era when most devices have done away with the headphone jack, the X100 still makes one available; it’s like coming home to an old friend. Along the left-hand edge of the X100 is a single button, a dedicated button to activate the Google Assistant. At first, I found it a bit disappointing that this button couldn’t be reassigned to some other application or function, but as I realized just how much I could actually do with the Google Assistant, I’ve come to appreciate having a dedicated button to activate it. There are no controls along the top edge, just solid aluminum, probably thick enough to come in handy during those times when you need to break your way through an ice jam, or hammer stone from a quarry. The back of the device is relatively flat with the only prominent feature being a slightly raised circular glass housing which contains the 48MP Quad Camera System.

One aspect of the 100 that I absolutely cannot fault is its battery life. I have tried and tried and tried to drain its battery and yet usually I’m the one who winds up drained and needing to recharge. According to the T-Mobile spec page, the X100 has a 4470 mA battery capable of delivering “up to 2-day battery life”. More specifically, they claim 25 hours of talk time and 39 days, (yeah, days), of standby time. I haven’t experienced this much battery life in a mobile device since, well since the last time I owned a Nokia back in 2005. Having enough battery power to get through my day has been a real challenge, often requiring me to bring along an external battery pack if I’m away from home for any length of time. With my not quite two-year-old iPhone 12 Mini, the low battery conversation goes something like this.

Phone, “Hey, alert! 20% battery remaining.”

Me, “OK, hang on, let me get your charger.”

Phone, “Hurry up, I was just kidding about that 20%, it’s actually more like 15% now.”

Me, “Seriously? How? It’s only been like five minutes since you told me you were at 20%.”

Phone, “Yeah I know, I just figured you could use some false hope in your day. 10% now by the way.”

I should note that I’ve been trying to get Apple to replace my iPhone’s battery, but apparently, it hasn’t lost enough total capacity yet. Put another way, I just haven’t suffered enough.

In contrast, the low battery experience with the Nokia is very different:

Phone, “Hey, just thought I’d let you know, my battery is at 20%.”

Me, “Oh shoot, I have a bunch of Apple chargers around, where the heck did I leave the USBC charger?”

Phone, “Hey, don’t stress, you can take the next day or two to find it, I mean any time this week is probably fine.”

There’s nothing more frustrating than running low on battery power and the idea of having a device that can get me through my day, while having enough battery left over to possibly power a small village, is a definite win.

There’s a few more aspects and specifications of the X100 that I should call out. First the processor, the X100 has a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 480. This is hardly the newest or fastest processor available on Android devices, but given the price point of this phone, it seems more than adequate. My usage and testing has admittedly been limited thus far, but I have not encountered any significant issues attributable to this processor. Another thing worth mentioning is that the X100 is a 5G phone meaning that the device can function on the latest mobile networks. More specifically, the X100 supports the following frequencies and bands — don’t worry if you don’t know what these numbers mean, basically, the phone works on a bunch of different networks in a bunch of different countries, with a bunch of different providers: GSM: 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1900 MHz; UMTS: Band I (2100), Band II (1900), Band IV (1700/2100), Band V (850), Band VIII (900); 5G: n25, n26, n66, n71; LTE: 2, 4, 5, 12, 25, 26, 41, 66, 71; LTE Roaming: 1, 3, 7, 8, 13, 20, 38, 39, 40

Regarding memory, it is possible to expand the 128 GB of built-in memory storage with the use of a memory card, it’s possible to expand storage to 1 TB according to T-Mobile’s specifications. I don’t anticipate needing more storage than the built-in 128 GB, but it’s nice to know I have the option to add additional storage if I’m wrong.

I’m really pleased with the Nokia X100. While I personally prefer smaller devices, the X100 is a very solid phone at an extremely attractive price point. The X100 may not have all the bells and whistles found in higher priced Android devices, but when it comes to getting stuff done, the X100 seems more than up to the task.

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Android Discovery Uncategorized

Android, giving Pie a try

Those of you who have followed me for quite some time know that every so often, I decide to give Android a try, to see if I can use it as my primary mobile operating system.  I confess, the geek in me loves the openness of Android, the idea that I can customize just about everything on the platform and make it my own.  Alas, my particular use case is such that I depend on my mobile device quite heavily in a professional setting and so efficiency for me matters a great deal.  In the past, my experience with Android has been that while I could accomplish *most* of the tasks I need to accomplish,I was unable to do so with enough efficiency to make a switch possible.  Still, I keep being drawn back to Android for many reasons, one of the main being the multitude of device and price options available.

 

I want to stop right here for a moment and realize that everyone’s use case is different.  It’s important to recognize that there are many folks who have been using Android, with little to no complaint, for years and can’t imagine using anything else.  When it comes to Android versus iOS, I think the “better” operating system is the one that works best for each individual.  Sure, one could compare the number of accessible apps, the level of standards-based accessibility support, or any one of a number of factors, but the real measure, in my opinion, is: does it do for me what I need it to do?

 

For this time around, I chose to go with the Essential phone because it runs the latest version of Android, Pie, doesn’t contain a bunch of apps and other stuff I don’t care about, is available at a decent price point for the specs, and probably most important, was available on Amazon PrimeNow which meant I could have the device in-hand in under an hour; yeah, I’m not the most patient person, especially when it comes to tech.  I decided that I wouldn’t immediately blog about my experience as I wanted to see first if this really would be a viable option for me.  After over a month in, I’m able to report that I’m extremely impressed with the accessibility changes that have come to Android and its apps.

 

Initial struggles and frustrations

 

I think it’s fair to say that whenever switching to a new operating system or hardware device, there are bound to be some initial user frustrations.  In this case, I switched both things and found that I needed to remind myself of this quite a bit especially during the first week.

 

Initial setup wizard accessibility

Right out of the box, I encountered some initial accessibility challenges with the Android getting started wizard whereby TalkBack, the Android screen reader, wouldn’t let me activate certain options.  These issues have since been fixed, however, my phone did not come with the latest updates installed.  I needed to explore by touch until I found the correct options, disable TalkBack, touch where I thought I had found the option on the screen, re-enable TalkBack, and hope that I had done everything correctly.  Eventually, I was able to successfully get through initial setup and was then able to install the latest updates ensuring that this problem will go away if I should ever need to reset my phone in the future.

 

Speech options

Personal preference alert here, but I am not a huge fan of Google’s text to speech which is the only option available during initial setup.  Additional voices can later be purchased from the Google Play store, Google’s marketplace for apps, music, books and other things, but new users might not be aware of this.  There are actually quite a number of voices available including Eloquence and eSpeak which are likely familiar to Windows screen reader users.  Purchasing additional voices via the Play store makes perfect sense, but because this is very different than what I’ve gotten used to with iOS, it was an initial frustration for me.

 

No native braille screen input,

Lack of native braille screen input is definitely my largest frustration to date.  When this feature was first introduced to iOS, I wasn’t sure if I would ever get used to it, however in time, the ability to use my screen to enter braille characters enabled me to type with incredible efficiency.  This functionality is missing from Android and I dearly miss it.  Third party options are available, but i have yet to find one that works as fluidly as the solution on iOS.  For one thing, TalkBack must be disabled in order to use any of the third party solutions and while the solutions are mainly self-voicing, this is definitely a frustrating step.  I’ve found one Android-based braille screen input solution that works extremely well, Soft Braille Keyboard.  Unfortunately, while Soft Braille Keyboard can still be installed, it cannot be obtained from the Google Play store.  I also have no idea if updates for Soft Braille are forthcoming which is a real shame.  Braille screen input has the potential to make a real difference in how a blind person enters text on a mobile device and I sincerely hope we see additional innovation in this area on Android.

 

Same apps are not necessarily the same.

One of the first things I did on Android was to search for and install the apps I’ve been using on iOS.  I was pleased to find that in most cases so far, the android counterparts to my iOS apps have been very accessible.  That said, the design and layout of these apps is often very different leading to some initial confusion for me.  On iOS for example, my banking app has tabs across the bottom that allow for quick navigation between sections of the app.  On Android, however, that same banking app has a hamburger-style menu that contains similar options, similar, but just different enough to make for some initial confusion, at least for me.  It’s These differences are certainly to be expected, but if you’re switching from iOS, they may be a source of initial frustration.

 

Helpful resources and the awesome community

As I’ve tried to get up-to-speed, there are a few resources that have proven invaluable.  First, the really awesome Eyes-Free community is full of people who have been very patient with me, and with others new to Android.  I’ve gotten tons of fantastic resources through this mailing list-based community and am extremely grateful to all those who have been willing to share their knowledge and tolerate my frequent questions.  Inclusive Android is another fantastic community resource with a wealth of information.  In time, I would like to create a page dedicated to Android resources that would be helpful to new users, or to developers wishing to build more accessible applications.  If you know of a resource that should be included, let me know.

 

Conclusion

I haven’t actually sold my iOS device yet, but I’m very impressed with just how far Android has come.  While it’s certainly not free of frustrations, but what operating system is?  Android has gone from an operating system that was challenging for me to use in my daily life to one that I can use almost as effectively as iOS.  And I say “almost as effectively” in part because I’m still getting up-to-speed and the natural learning curve of any new operating system is bound to cause a temporary drag on productivity.  I’m really excited with what I’ve seen thus far though and hope you will continue to join me as I blog about this new adventure.