Back in 2013, I wrote about my decision to switch to an Android phone. I started out using the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. When I switched my phone provider to Ting, I needed to get a phone that could work on Ting/T-Mobile’s GSM frequencies. Giving up on the idea of a modular battery, I ended up getting a Motorola Moto G. On the Moto G, I continued to use Cyanogenmod without all of the Google apps. I still kept my phone usage to a minimum, preferring to keep it dark, silent, and in my pocket most of the time. My Android phone combined with my low usage resulted in a consistent monthly phone bill of $26. But I’d started to consider switching back to an Apple iPhone.
Apple v. FBI
Early in 2016, Apple became wrapped up in a legal case with the U.S. Government’s FBI when they were approached by the FBI to help them break into their phone to retrieve personal information of a terrorist suspect. Apple’s response was very interesting (paraphrasing): “We literally can’t with the version of iOS on that phone.” And when asked if they could write a back door patch for the government to use, they said “No.” Simply put, Apple’s encryption is strong enough that the government couldn’t break in, and Apple refused as a company to give them the keys to the kingdom.
As a result of Apple’s public position on encryption and privacy (two things I am very in tune with), I came to like them much more than I already did. While it’s definitely possible for me to enable strong encryption on my Android devices, it’s ultimately up to me to secure it - and I’m not a security professional, nor do I have a ton of spare time to do the research and maintenance needed to keep up to date with the latest software. It was at that time that the thought of switching back to an Apple phone started poking me in the brain. The problem was, none of the latest phones that had the strongest encryption fit my size criteria.
Along Comes A Smaller iPhone
Maybe Apple does listen to potential customers like me, because only months later, they announced that they were releasing a new iPhone model that has the same physical dimensions as their iPhone 5. Those dimensions are the standard I hold to any phone I consider using because I think it’s a perfect size.
Moto G Fading
My Moto G phone had been suddenly shutting down on bike rides, and suddenly rebooting while sitting on my desk. Sometimes, it would get to the first stage boot loader and complain about a corrupt boot partition. I could usually get it to get past that, but it took some time. On one occasion, I left it unplugged overnight with a battery charge of about 60% and woke up to find the battery completely drained to the point where it couldn’t even start charging. I needed to press and hold a series of buttons on the device just to get it to start charging. Apparently this is a known issue on this phone and, based on the amount of internet questions about it, relatively common. Hugely inconvenient.
Then this past week the battery issue happened again overnight, and this time it wouldn’t start charging even after doing the button-pressing dance. I took it with me to work and tried to get it to boot or even start charging. Eventually, I took it apart and re-seated the internal battery connector and then did the button-pressing dance to find it finally able to start charging and eventually boot. That was at 2pm.
It took me 7 hours of waiting and trying periodically to just get the phone to a point where I could potentially use it, and another 3 hours for it to fully charge. This all happened 4 days before I was leaving for 10-days worth of travel, so this put me in a time crunch to find a solution.
I had to quickly choose between three options:
- I could continue to use the Moto G and risk it completely dying while traveling. If that happened, I would have to buy a phone while traveling which would be inconvenient to say the least.
- I could buy a new Android phone at Frys.
- I could buy a new iPhone SE phone at the Apple Store.
I ruled out the first option almost immediately because I didn’t want the extra stress while traveling. That left the decision of either a new Android or a new iPhone.
Setup Time and Security
With any Android phone, I won’t use the stock ROM that comes with it. They come with too much garbage pre-installed. If I got an Android, I’d want to continue using Cyanogenmod with software firewalls and privacy settings. On the Moto G, that process took me a full weekend to make sure everything was set up the way I wanted. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have time to do that before I left for my trip. Additionally, I wouldn’t have time to research the current best practices for securing an Android phone. I’d admittedly fell behind on software updates on the Moto G.
If I got an iPhone, I could be up and running in a few hours with all of the software I needed to travel and stay connected with people. It’d have the default strong encryption as well.
An iPhone wins out in this area.
It’s no secret among friends and family that I’ve been focusing on radically reducing my expenses in many ways, aiming for and achieving a 65% savings rate. Even spending $200 on a phone I feel is too much, considering how little I use it. So the thought of spending $500 on an iPhone legitimately makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.
It’s the frugal move to choose an Android phone. But the time spent setting up an Android phone to my liking represented in my hourly rate makes up for the difference in the cost of an iPhone. Time is money, I suppose. An Apple phone has a much higher resell price, too.
An Apple Phone
So at lunch on the Tuesday two days before my trip, I went to the Apple Store and bought a silver iPhone SE, with 16gb of memory, plus Apple Care.
I got a silver one because it doesn’t show superficial damage (scratches, etc) as much as a black one. This increases resell value.
With the Apple Care, I’ll have full hardware support for two years. My plan is to keep it for two years and then resell it. In that time, it hopefully will not become too obsolete.
In iOS, I locked down most of the privacy settings and keep cellular data turned off for most apps to keep my data usage down (with Ting, I pay for what I use).
The phone is fully encrypted, and I decided to use the fingerprint biometric authentication. A feature of the fingerprint authentication is that it stops allowing that method if you don’t use it in a 48 hour window.
Soon, even iCloud backups will be fully user-encrypted so that Apple can’t be compelled to give that data to officials.
All in all I’m happy with my decision to switch back to an iPhone, even though the cost took a chunk out of my savings rate for July.