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Entry-Level Phablets: Current Recommendations?


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#1 britechguy

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 10:50 PM

If this topic gets any attention and traction it will, obviously, become dated as far as the early posts as time goes on.  At the same time, it has the potential to show whether any of the non-majors are making consistently better products than the others.

 

I have finally convinced my partner to enter the 20th century (even though it's the 21st) and get a smartphone.  His main reason for wanting one is to use Waze.   He certainly does not need a flagship device either in terms of speed or ultra-high screen resolution.  But, he wants a large screen and I've been sticking with a 6" screen as a minimum.

 

This search has not been easy, and I've already hit several major bumps.  I decided to give a BLU Vivo XL3 Plus a try first, and given the price of $140 on smile.amazon.com and the specs, it looked to be perfect, and almost was.  I got the first one and it worked perfectly except for one huge thing - you could not make outgoing calls.  Any number you dialed put the thing into its own "Do Not Disturb" mode, icon on the status bar on top and all.  After spending a great deal of time on the phone with their technical support (which was great, actually) they determined that the device was not working correctly and should be returned, so I did.  Thinking this had to be a fluke I did an exchange.  Well, device number 2 did exactly the same thing, so back it went for refund.  It's a real shame, as it was a joy to hold and was very snappy in its overall performance, but if you can't make a phone call with a phone, well . . .

 

Next (and currently) I decided to go with a Dougee Y6 Max, with a 6.5" screen.  It is a heavy device with a very solid feel to it, much more solid than its $150 price would make you think it would have.  The screen is huge, the resolution is great.  The performance in virtually every way has been way more than adequate, save one, and a pivotal one:  GPS.   The GPS in this device is marginal to fair, and I've done everything I can to recalibrate the GPS and the compass.  That seemed to work more than well enough for ALK CoPilot to run more than well enough, if slightly jerky, but not Waze.  Waze is just acting bizarre, with the car (icon) traveling off the road as I drive, stopping in the middle of "fields" during drives, suddenly jumping to locations that, while "in the area" are nowhere near to where I actually am.  When stopped and sitting still, the Waze map will often reorient itself at random, with the street that is, in fact, directly behind me showing up in front of me, or somewhere else relative to the orientation of the car itself other than where it is.  I do not have this problem when I'm running Waze with my Galaxy S7, but the screen on that is too small for my partner and it is, after all, my phone.  I have yet to see what will happen with Google Maps, but I'm not particularly hopeful.  In any case, the ability to use Waze is actually pivotal here.

 

It's not like smartphone technology is either new or wildly difficult, so I'd imagine there are any number of makers that are not major players in the US market (e.g., BLU, Dougee, Huawei,InDigi,  Xiomi, etc.) that make a decent entry level device, but it seems I haven't found it yet.  I am trying to keep a budget of $250 or less, as the primary use for this thing will be as a Waze device, phone, and for checking e-mail and/or texting.

 

If anyone has recently purchased a budget phablet, with a 6" through 6.5" screen, that is behaving well as a phone and a GPS device I'd love to hear about it, particularly if you're a heavy duty Waze user with it.

 

 


Brian  AKA  Bri the Tech Guy (website in my user profile) - Windows 10 Home, 64-Bit, Version 1803, Build 17134 

     . . . the presumption of innocence, while essential in the legal realm, does not mean the elimination of common sense outside it.  The willing suspension of disbelief has its limits, or should.

    ~ Ruth Marcus,  November 10, 2017, in Washington Post article, Bannon is right: It’s no coincidence The Post broke the Moore story


 

 

 

              

 


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#2 britechguy

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 12:33 PM

Just curious if anyone has experience with any of these:

 

  1. Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
  2. Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
  3. Honor 7X

Particularly with regard to how the GPS performs and, if you have specific Waze experience, with Waze.


Brian  AKA  Bri the Tech Guy (website in my user profile) - Windows 10 Home, 64-Bit, Version 1803, Build 17134 

     . . . the presumption of innocence, while essential in the legal realm, does not mean the elimination of common sense outside it.  The willing suspension of disbelief has its limits, or should.

    ~ Ruth Marcus,  November 10, 2017, in Washington Post article, Bannon is right: It’s no coincidence The Post broke the Moore story


 

 

 

              

 


#3 britechguy

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 06:08 PM

Well, just so the readership is informed, here's what has happened up through this afternoon:

 

All purchases were for GSM unlocked cell phones and made on Amazon, which is a blessing since Amazon is very good about taking returns when issues arise.  The SIM card in question is on T-Mobile's network, and the SIM has worked in all of the devices so far.

 

First two tries were with a BLU Vivo XL3 Plus.  I thought the issue with the first one had to be a fluke, but both had precisely the same problem:  if you tried to place an outgoing call they would go into the "Do Not Disturb" mode all on their own, including the crescent moon icon for same displaying on the status bar at the top.  A phone is not any good if one of its basic functions does not work.  This was very sad because, in all other ways, this device is spectacular, particularly for its price point.  Both even came with Android 7, rather than 6, so they have been keeping Android up to date as these ship over time.  There's clearly a bug of some kind.  I can say that my experience with BLU technical support was consistently excellent.  Both reps (as I called in about this both times) were very patient and diligent about going through a thorough diagnostic process.  Both also came to the conclusion that I had done absolutely nothing wrong and that the issue had to be with the devices.  I hope they get this issue fixed.

 

The third device was a Dougee Y6 Max.  I thought I had hit the jackpot with this device, alas.  A huge 6.5" display with great color and resolution, the phone functions all worked correctly when tested, zippy performance when loading the needed apps and running them - all was going swimmingly until . . . I installed Waze and ALK CoPilot GPS apps, as being able to use Waze, and see it easily, was the primary reason this whole saga began in the first place.  Well, put most delicately, there are very serious issues with the GPS hardware which just cannot quickly get, and definitely does not maintain, a GPS fix.  The icon representing my car would randomly appear to be gliding off the road when I was definitively not.  When stopped the maps would frequently spin, as though I had done anything from a 45 to 180 degree turn.  Sometimes the GPS apps would remain frozen, then the car icon would suddenly jump a great distance, landing nowhere near to where I actually was.  After trying all sorts of calibration exercises I figured out the GPS sensors were simply not working as they should.   How I missed this point, made by way more than one person, in the reviews I do not know.  I have added a review of my own documenting the good things about the device, which are many, but noting that if you intend to use GPS for anything it's not the device for you.   It's also not the device for you if you like to use a custom launcher such as Evie or Nova (among many).  The system simply will not remember that you said "use always" for the launcher of choice and, when the device reboots or you enter the area of settings where the launcher would be set, you get prompted again as to whether you want to use the launcher you chose as the default.

 

So, now we're on to the Xioami Redmi 5 Plus (link in prior post).  After poring through the reviews it seems to have a very high number, and proportion in the total number, of 4 and 5 star reviews from purchasers, many of whom have purchased relatively recently.  It should be here on Saturday.

 

Wish me luck.  I don't think I can even bear the thought of a potential device #5!!


Edited by britechguy, 05 July 2018 - 06:09 PM.

Brian  AKA  Bri the Tech Guy (website in my user profile) - Windows 10 Home, 64-Bit, Version 1803, Build 17134 

     . . . the presumption of innocence, while essential in the legal realm, does not mean the elimination of common sense outside it.  The willing suspension of disbelief has its limits, or should.

    ~ Ruth Marcus,  November 10, 2017, in Washington Post article, Bannon is right: It’s no coincidence The Post broke the Moore story


 

 

 

              

 


#4 JohnC_21

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 08:37 PM

Brian, if #5 goes down take a look at the Moto G6 play. The downside is the screen which is not the minimum size you want but 5.7". I don't have this phone but am thinking of getting it when BestBuy has a sale on it. It's unlocked and works on all US carriers.

 

https://www.motorola.com/us/products/moto-g-play-gen-6#product-video



#5 britechguy

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 08:54 PM

John,

 

        Will do.  This is the odd device that's unlocked and both GSM and CDMA network capable (though I only need GSM).  I can't imagine that it's all that much more expensive to engineer this, yet very few makers do.  It's also nice that it's on Android 8 (Oreo).

 

         The "big thing" these days seems to be dual SIM, which is great if you have one phone but want to have 2 lines on it.  It annoys me, though, that most of the phones that have this have one SIM slot and a second slot that can be used for either another SIM or a microSD card.  I always want a microSD slot, and given how small nano SIM is and the space taken for the "dual use" slot they should just make three slots:  2 SIM and 1 microSD.  Also, they typically don't have dual 4G LTE capability - one SIM is often limited to 2G by the device.

 

          Had the NUU Mobile G3 had a more consistent review skew toward the top, rather than the two extremes it would have been at the very top of my list given the feature set on the thing.  It's mindblowing at the price point, but it appears that problems related to inconsistent QA are just too possible.

 

          I guess the good thing about all this research is it will probably find me my replacement phone, too.   I am reaching that age where it is very, very difficult to do any sort of "quick read" on the 5.1" screen on my Samsung Galaxy S7.  It also floors me how rapidly smartphone technology changes and advances, where what was a flagship a mere 2 years ago is now middle of the road, at best.


Brian  AKA  Bri the Tech Guy (website in my user profile) - Windows 10 Home, 64-Bit, Version 1803, Build 17134 

     . . . the presumption of innocence, while essential in the legal realm, does not mean the elimination of common sense outside it.  The willing suspension of disbelief has its limits, or should.

    ~ Ruth Marcus,  November 10, 2017, in Washington Post article, Bannon is right: It’s no coincidence The Post broke the Moore story


 

 

 

              

 


#6 britechguy

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 10:49 AM

Just curious if anyone on here has had direct experience with devices from Freetel, a Japanese company?

 

There is currently an eBay seller out of Texas who must have gotten a large number of Freetel Samurai Kiwami (One Series on manufacturer website) phones, which were quite expensive when they hit the street a couple of years ago and have very decent specs, particularly in regard to the cameras.  At less than $100 (but not much) it's something I'd consider experimenting with just because I'd love to have a much larger screen than the 5.1" on my Samsung Galaxy S7.  (I'm getting old and my reading glasses are not always immediately available.)

 

I am specifically wondering how well they work with T-Mobile's 4G LTE network here in the USA and whether the GPS is any good?

 

Even feedback on how any recent Freetel device "plays with" T-Mobile's network here in the USA would be appreciated.


Brian  AKA  Bri the Tech Guy (website in my user profile) - Windows 10 Home, 64-Bit, Version 1803, Build 17134 

     . . . the presumption of innocence, while essential in the legal realm, does not mean the elimination of common sense outside it.  The willing suspension of disbelief has its limits, or should.

    ~ Ruth Marcus,  November 10, 2017, in Washington Post article, Bannon is right: It’s no coincidence The Post broke the Moore story


 

 

 

              

 





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