SmartPhones: What the DCT Team Uses and Why


Here’s another combined article from our team of expert tech writers. This time we asked them to let us know what type of smartphone (or cell phone) they use and why – credit: this was actually suggested by Karen Homan:

Karen Homan – Currently owns HTC One M9

flip phoneMy first thought before writing this article was, I wish we could all just go back to flip phones when you actually used a phone for what Alexander Graham Bell had intended; talking to people! But you can’t stop the technology train and in my lifetime alone, mobile phones have flipped from being essential methods of vocal communication to miniature computers. So I hopped on that train, started with a Virgin Mobile flip-phone, waded through a few Blackberries, and was pretty much forced into Androids thanks to my distaste for Apple products. (Yeah, I bought some iPods eons ago; but I’ll be damned if I herd myself into their phone cult). The Windows phones showed up a bit later, but OMG, let’s not go there.

When it came time to go Android, I balked (might have even barked) at the size of the dang things. Friends of mine told me that their people in the know recommended the Samsung Galaxy S5. Of course I thought the Verizon salesman knew better and he was recommending the HTC One M8. (They probably had a hundred cases of them out back.) That said, I did like and appreciate the two front facing speakers, the onscreen buttons, the SD card slot, the tap to wake feature, and its overall handling of notifications. The camera, on the other hand, just plain sucked, although frankly I think camera phones are for quantity, not quality and if you put all your eggs in the camera phone basket, you will probably lack for other features.

BlackBerryI have to add that if I could be holding onto a Blackberry right now, I would. The last one I had was compact, felt like a solid unit, boasted corporate level security, and had an Ace operating system and a physical keyboard you could text on in the dark. Why they didn’t foresee the impending doom of the app universe that helped sink their mother ship, I’ll never know. (Yup, the company is still floating out there in the Bermuda Triangle, but they might as well be where Jimmy Hoffa is).

I gave up Blackberries for their lack of apps, their crummy browser, and at the time, their lack of a larger screen. They had also opted for a new operating system and I felt at that point they were just grasping at straws. The hardest thing to let go of was their physical keyboard. Once you text on a physical keyboard, you can’t go back. On my Android phone, I’ve succumbed to swipe-texting since my thumbs pretty much cover the real estate of four letters or more for tap typing. I’ve now texted so many messages that have been spellchecked or flub-typed into Klingon enough times to render me an idiot to people I communicate with. Sigh.

htc-one-m9I’m currently on the HTC One M9 due to a disastrous problem with my HTC One M8 before the two year contract was up and me needing a phone before I went on vacation; they had me by the cojones there (no insurance) – I had to make a decision fast and being the old fashioned girl that I am, I went with what I had – albeit with one upgrade. The speakers work great; (I’m a speakerphone user), the OS and the display are fine, I mix up the apps pretty good on a regular basis, and I think the battery is decent. I’m now used to carrying a brick around with me; I’ve even watched a few movies on the thing. Once in a while someone talks to me on it, but generally I use it like I would a computer – check email, check Facebook, play endless games, check the calendar, add an appointment, see my ToDo list, and get directions to where I’m going. The camera still sucks.


In conclusion:

  • I chose Android because I dislike Apple, their OS, and their proprietary nonsense. (And I’d rather be cool because of my bad self instead of a cool phone).
  • I don’t like that my Android phone is less secure than my Blackberry was because it’s Google-fied. (They want to know EVERYTHING about you).
  • I do like that my HTC is a virtual key to a universe worth of information out there and I do take advantage of that.
  • I don’t like when the phone battery is low; makes me feel like I’m about to eject out of a plane without a parachute. (That says a LOT right there!)

For now I’m fairly happy with my HTC One M9. I’m pretty much stuck with it for two years now so maybe I have to say that. (Verizon fascist oppressors!) I do kinda have my eye on that HTC One A9 now. Sigh.

Sherri Meinke

galaxy-s4x2First and foremost, time was of the essence when my Golden Retriever Shelby got hold of my last cellphone (HTC Mythic) and bit a hole right thru the screen. This rendered the phone totally useless. Apparently she did not care for my last phone much. I had planned on getting a new phone prior to this, but had wanted some more time to do some research first. This forced me to make a decision based on the facts that I had put together and do it NOW.

I have always had Android based cellphones. Going back to the first phone I ever had, to the current phone I have. I was open to getting something different this time and conducted some research as well as talked to many people thru Social Media as well as my 3 tech savvy children who are now adults. I have been exposed to iPhones, Windows based phones and Android based phones. So I had the opportunity to check out other options before making my decision.

One friend had an iPhone and though I liked the feel of it in my hand, I felt the phone itself was too small. I have long fingers and big hands. My Son had a Windows based phone and though I did like his phone, I felt as though there were not as many options app wise for it as there were for iOS and Android Based. He also told me, if he had it to do over again he would not have selected a Windows based phone.

One of my friends had a Galaxy S4 and I liked the feel of it in my hand. I went into the AT & T store and wanted to see it up close and personal. It was a popular phone when I was looking and they did not have one in stock. I went home frustrated and ended up getting one online thru AT & T. I knew I wanted the phone and was not going to settle for anything else.


I have since fulfilled my Contract and am eligible to upgrade but have no desire to. I go with the adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I know this phone inside and out and am very comfortable with it. It has never given me any problems. I think my dog likes the phone too as she has not tried to eat it yet.

This smartphone is 2 – 1/2 years old & looks like the day I brought it home. This could have something to do with the Otterbox Defender Case I have it in. Shout out to Otterbox, the best cases on the market in my opinion and experience.

Samsung-Galaxy-S4-2The screen is 5 inches with a 1080 x 1920 pixel screen resolution. I like that it is bigger and has a crisper screen.

  • The Quad Core processor speed is fast and does what I need it to do.
  • I have a 64GB microSD card for memory. It came with a 16GB and I knew that was not going to be enough.
  • The sound is phenomenal for a phone but I do not use it to listen to music.
  • It came with the Android (JellyBean) operating system which I upgraded to Android (Lollipop)
  • 2GB of RAM is sufficient for what I need it to do for me.

I was looking for a smartphone that would take great pictures when I am out & about. The Galaxy S4 takes remarkable photos, as well as videos. In fact Samsung has so many cool camera modes, I have not needed a digital camera with having this camera in the phone. I take lots of photos with my phone of my dogs doing Search & Rescue & Therapy Dog work within the community.

The phone is also Bluetooth which offers me so many possibilities such as syncing it to MyFord Touch and driving hands-free. That is important to me as where I live you can be given a ticket for driving and using your cellphone by Law Enforcement agencies.

This smartphone to me serves its purpose as a phone and a camera. I have a tablet computer and other devices to do the majority of my work. I really like the Samsung Product line. My only complaint with this phone is the battery life.  I have streamlined the apps running in the background and that battery life is terrible.

Never let a salesperson influence your decision. Talk to others, do your research, and ultimately you may not pick the most popular phone but look for the features you need.

Judy Novotny

iphone6A few years after my husband gave me a Palm Pilot for our 20th anniversary, I got a Kyocera 7135 smartphone. It was a hybrid flip phone/Palm Pilot that ran Palm OS. It was Kyocera’s first color-screened hybrid, had an expansion slot for adding memory and a built-in MP3 player. That was about 12 years ago. A few years later, I moved on to a BlackBerry Pearl 8130 since BlackBerry was the coolest smartphone brand at the time. Having acquired an iPod touch along the way, once the iPhone was announced in 2007, I definitely wanted one but Verizon Wireless did not carry it. In 2008, I jumped ship to AT&T to get the iPhone 3G. After that, I returned to Verizon Wireless and upgraded to the iPhone 4 and then the iPhone 5. In December 2014, I upgraded to the iPhone 6, my current smartphone.

My iPhone 6 runs iOS 9.1. It has 64GB of storage of which 26.1 GB is currently available. My previous iPhones had been 32GB and I found myself constantly deleting apps or music to make room for other apps or music. It was pretty annoying so I was glad to see the 64GB version being offered in place of the 32GB version. For a brief time, I entertained getting the iPhone 6 Plus but it’s just too big for me. Also, I have an iPad mini so the bigger iPhone almost seemed redundant to me.

The iPhone has an A8 chip with 64-bit architecture and an M8 motion coprocessor. It has an 8-megapixel rear facing camera that offers several options: time lapse, slow motion, 1080p HD video recording, photo, square photo and panoramic photo. In addition, it has a 1.2-megapixel front facing camera.

Touch ID allows to unlock the phone and log onto several applications with your fingerprint. Apple Pay allows you to pay with your iPhone at businesses that support the technology.

Living in the Apple ecosystem (MacBook Pro, iPad, Apple TV, Time Capsule), the iPhone is the perfect choice for me since OS X El Capitan, which is the OS for my MacBook Pro, and iOS, the OS for my mobile devices, supports handoff of certain applications across the two platforms. Also, since I use Safari on both platforms, my bookmarks stay in sync.

Marc Thomas

panasonicMost of us probably remember what we were doing when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon, so similarly I’m reminded of when I acquired my first mobile communications device. In February 1989 I’d taken the plunge to leave the cut throat world of life assurance sales and set up on my own as a distributor of emergency medical equipment, which only occurred due to a serendipitous planetary alignment. Initially, this involved thousands of miles of travelling around the United Kingdom looking for business, whilst at the same time keeping an eagle eye out for functioning telephone kiosks that hadn’t been used as lavatories. As luck would have it, a few months into 1989 I bumped into a mate who’d started his own new business selling these new fangled mobile phones and would I be interested in a demonstration of a Panasonic/Vodafone? Is the Pope Catholic?

Well, there’s little point in showing me a shiny thing and expecting me not to buy it, so within ten minutes I’d signed my life away and walked away with a communications device the size of the President’s Nuclear Football. This was also quite timely as the phone in my flat had been cut off for non-payment and I was receiving customer calls in the phone box outside the pub opposite, which had become my de facto office. To be honest, I was transfixed by this new toy, took it everywhere with me and soon realised that it was so much more than just a toy. I received my first major order on it; people would phone me to arrange appointments and I could call customers if I were going to be late or had become marooned in a snow drift somewhere north of Carlisle. Of course, I was often the object of mirth when out in public, when young wags would stroll past imitating the chirpy Panasonic ringtone, but did I care? Hell no. It wasn’t long before I’d installed a hands-free car kit to compliment the CB Radio and my car became a mobile command and control center.

Memorable phones I’ve owned

sonygsm2I’m not sure when exactly, but sometime in the very early nineties I got upgraded for free to the new GSM format, acquired a sexy little Sony and since then, I’ve no idea how many mobile phones I’ve owned as the carriers were hell bent on giving them away just to get a piece of the pie. No change there then.

nokiacomm2There’s no stopping me you know and before long I’d acquired a very nice Nokia Communicator which had the novel feature of being able to send faxes on the move. I really thought I was the mutts nuts with that gizmo in my pocket, no sweat.

nokia-7650The biggest drawback to all this GSM loveliness was that the phone bills became astronomical and even worse when roaming in France or Spain. Naturally, the carriers were raking it in and were literally throwing phones at you and we simply couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward to 2004, when I was living in Spain and I discovered that some phones had been released that were cameras as well, which became a must have, so I grabbed myself a Nokia 7650, at the time a pretty sought after phone as it had Bluetooth and even a few games!

A few years later my daughter sold me her Nokia N95 8Gb which had WiFi, Bluetooth, camera and a nice big screen, which I ended up passing on to my other half and it’s only recently that I sold it for about the same price I originally paid for it. Not many of my gadgets achieve the status of shiny thing, but the N95 did easily.

In 2011 I had a flirtation with an iPhone 3g which I found disappointing to be honest. The Bluetooth would only talk to other apple devices, the camera was crap and I could never properly get to grips with iTunes, which irritated the hell out of me. Frankly I was glad to see the back of it and move on to something a little more interesting which I did a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back.

galaxys3x2I saved up for months to buy the Galaxy S3 (i9300 international version), which is not something I’m terribly good at and when I sold the iPhone, I was in the phone shop faster than a ferret, I can tell you. So it’s an iPhone clone, a copy if you like, but really that doesn’t matter as it does everything and more than I’ll probably ever need. The photo quality is superb, it’s got a lovely big screen and unlike the iPhone, I can take the back off and change the battery, sim or memory card when I feel like it. Unboxing it was almost a religious experience and ever since day one I’ve got it protected in an OtterBox outer casing which is as tough as nails. I principally use the device as a camera, for messaging with Whatsapp, a little email and web browsing and of course, Google Maps. I occasionally use it to make actual phone calls, but invariably use Skype due to the ridiculously high cost of calls and let’s not even talk about 3G data costs. Most mobile phone carriers need to be taken out and shot such is level of theft and disservice, which frankly is a disgrace the world over.

Shiny thing status

LG-G4No doubt, the Panasonic house brick achieved this status simply because of the freedom it allowed; the Nokia N95 because it was a small, high quality shiny thing that packed so much into its tiny frame and last but not least, the Samsung Galaxy S3 for being just awesome and incredibly flexible.

If I were in the market for a new mobile phone, I’d seriously have to look at the LG G4, which in fact a mate of mine recently bought when he was in London a few weeks ago. It’s pretty much all given over to its 5.5 inch screen and the camera is a whopping 16mp. Shiny thing status guaranteed!

Jim Canfield

Samsung Galaxy S3I am constantly amazed when I ask someone if they have a smart phone and the answer is no! Granted, life can happen without one but then life can happen without a TV and a know they have one of those. I am pretty sure that most of the individuals that don’t have one, either believe there is no actual need or the learning curve they anticipate is too intimidating for them. I know that when their 11-year-old shows them how to use the phone they fly through the instructions and frankly if my only exposure to learn how to use one was from one of these super hooked in kids, I would be intimidated as well. However they are not hard to learn and you don’t have to text at 90 words per min to be good with a smartphone.

I use a Samsung Galaxy 3 and it is perhaps my 6th smartphone. It is sophisticated enough to keep for a while and I have had this one for about three years.

What I Do With My Phone? Everything, I thought I would list just what I do with may phone in the order of importance to me.

  • Calls: Obviously, making and receiving calls is what a phone is for but being able to block any number or even block wild card numbers like all 800 calls makes it even easier, any call can be logged as a contact with a push of a button. With just those abilities it deserves the title “smart”
  • Text and Email: I love the ability to have instant contact at any time to anyone while I am out and about. I use voice activated text and email so I just talk to type the message. I use my phone with Bluetooth for hands free texting.
  • Photos: A no brainer, more people are able to take instant photos and videos than at any other time in history. I did something I would never have done without a smartphone. I bought my out of state house without my wife being present, all I had to do was video the showing with the realtor and send her the video for approval. She loved it
  • Navigation: I would not think of going anywhere new without using the built in navigation system. My wife no longer has to be my frustrated navigator with a paper map and that alone is worth the price. The voice activated Google app make everything too easy, just say, navigate to Huston Tx, and it does just that.
  • Audio: I use wireless Bluetooth earphones whenever I want to listen to music while I walk or workout. I also listen to music and books on tape while I travel, just go to the library and rip the CDs to your phone. I always have over a thousand songs and up to 4 audio books on my phone.
  • TV & Movies: I have an addiction and it is Notre Dame Football. There are times that I just can’t be at home to watch the game and being able to view it in HD on my phone anywhere in the world amazes me every time. Sometimes if I am in a hotel or on a plane being able to watch a movie is a plus.
  • Apps: I use about a dozen apps regularly, with apps, I use the phone for playing games, shopping and comparing prices, I probably use it as a flashlight at least once a week, it has been one of the best apps I have ever had. Surf the web, Access my computer files, track my walking paths, bank online make sticky notes, read Flipboard, follow betting odds and track my airlines.

I actually do more than what I mentioned above but you get the point. My phone package consists of 3 phones for $135 a month. I have unlimited data usage which is needed if you plan on watching live TV and video. After three years the battery does not last as long as I would like but it is easily replaced.

David Hartsock

This is likely to be a hot topic as cell phone choice is deeply personal. Don’t judge me, Bro! But seriously, feel free to add your own thoughts and reasons in the comments below.

The Cellular Dark Ages

motorola-brick-phone2BlackBerry-Tour-2Back in the Dark Ages I was a die-hard BlackBerry user. I loved the form factor, the functionality, and the durability of the line as well as the physical keyboard, but who didn’t. I was enthralled with the ability to add programs I found useful and change settings to my hearts content. I mean, who knew you could have the notification LED flash different colors for different callers? Compared to my first mobile (and I use that term loosely) phone, a Motorola “brick” phone about the size of a small car, a BlackBerry was a much welcomed slice of heaven to a geek like me. It was, dare I say, love at first sight.

Throughout the mid to late 2000’s I had watched the Treos, Palms, iPhones, and Androids come to market with interest – hey, I am a geek, but I could never justify any of them as a replacement for my trusted BlackBerry. Oh, my trusted BlackBerry…

Well, the writing was on the wall. By 2010 someone had punched a walrus sized hole in the hull of my beloved BlackBerry ship. It was time to man the lifeboats and look for an alternate mode of travel across the vast cellular ocean. In all honesty I was concerned, maybe even scared. How would anyone in their right mind be able to type a lengthy email without a physical keyboard? How would I live without the incredible BlackBerry battery life? OMG! Don’t take my multicolored flashy LED notifications!

These are not the Androids you’re looking for

At the time there were only two paths to follow, Android or Apple, and in all honesty I liked the iPhone hardware but wasn’t too thrilled about their walled garden approach. On the other hand Android appeared to be a much more open platform, especially for a geek – what geek wouldn’t be excited about the possibility of rooting their phone and loading custom ROMs? Well, the geeky side won and I settled on an HTC Evo 4G in 2011. Why? Well, I was really impressed with the perceived build quality because it was built with an aluminum chassis that felt substantial in my hand and the user interface (UI) really popped. After I recovered from “lack-of-physical-keyboard-itis” – it’s a real condition, I promise – I was hooked on the platform.

HTC Phones

Fast forward to 2013 and HTC introduced their flagship M7. It was a beautifully crafted masterpiece with bleeding edge hardware. I would have never thought I would have been able to have a 1.7GHz quad core processor in a portable device I could carry in a pocket! The Sense UI, HTC’s custom user interface for Android, was also a great improvement over my original Evo, and Samsung’s UI looked like it was designed by a 1st grader with a box of broken crayons. The choice was simple – Get an M7!

2014 brought more of the same – faster, bigger, and better with the new M8 model. I happily followed the HTC path. It wasn’t even a difficult choice as the other contender, Samsung’s S5, still had that crazy UI and a plastic body that just felt cheap compared to the M8.

2015 was an interesting year as Samsung stepped up their game with major design changes to both the hardware and software of the flagship S6. It was a close call, but I had to go with the HTC M9 due to the familiar – and IMHO better – user interface.

So, here I sit with my 4th HTC phone, the HTC One M9. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination – can you say bad camera? It is, however, a wonderful phone… err pocket computer… err media player… err communications device. I’m looking forward to 2016’s flagship announcements with baited breath in hopes that Samsung will finally make major changes to their UI and HTC weathers the storm they’ve been mired in the past few years. Exciting things to come I’m sure!

Further reading in this series:

 

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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