New phone: Motorola G5 Plus

A reminder that despite how it may sometimes seem, not all my blog posts are about transport. If you want to view only the transport posts, try here. For convenience, this link is also on the menu at the top, under Transport.

Over the years I’ve had many mobile phones.

Here’s an update to that old list:

November 2013: Google Nexus 5 — I did that Apple-like thing of preordering this before I’d actually seen it in the flesh. This was a terrific phone. Fast, good camera, great features, no bloatware, and being a Google device, got updates really quickly.

I loved some of the features I only discovered well after I got it, like the pedometer which is now tracking my steps, and NFC, which has all sorts of uses such as checking public transport smartcards (in smart cities like Sydney and Singapore where this is enabled) — see below.

Then the phone died in late-2016. The power button got stuck, and it continually switched itself on and off.

I replaced it and then stuck it in a drawer until a couple of weeks ago when my son Jeremy needed a phone to use while his was being repaired. He found a way to repair the power button, and it’s still going strong!

Opal NFC phone app

October 2016: Google Nexus 5X (which cost me $489 at the time) — the spiritual successor to the 5. I really wanted to like this as much as the 5, but I didn’t. It was a good phone, but not a great phone. It feels a little laggy at times.

Perhaps that’s one of the perils of buying a phone that was released 12 months earlier.

There’s also probably a point at which (for all phones, tablets, and other devices) you should stop installing major upgrades to the operating system, which often bring major new features requiring perhaps more horsepower than the device can provide. Instead, it might be better to just install the security patches… at least until they run out.

Daniel buys a new phone

Having a good, fast reliable phone is more important these days than it has been in the past. I’m not sure that back in the day, any of us Gen Xers really appreciated that by the 2010s we’d literally have such a useful computer that we could carry around in our pockets all day.

I decided last week to get a new phone, and after some research settled on the Motorola G5 Plus (currently retailing for about $380), for three main reasons:

Get something faster. The 5X was released in 2015. Interestingly, you can still buy it new through some dealers (though Google themselves no longer sell it, having moved to the Pixel — at about double the price). I think there are now better value phones in the $400-500ish range.

Fear of the boot loop. I don’t know if it’s common or not, but a known hardware problem with the 5X phone is that occasionally they will get into a state where they continually boot, and (barring hacks to fix it) have to be sent back for repair or replacement. This is something I could deal with at home, but there’s no way I’d want it to happen while on our overseas holiday later this year.

Dual SIMs. I’d like to have mobile data for maps and so on while travelling, but I’d also like to be reachable on my usual phone number. Telstra international roaming isn’t cheap: $85 for 300 Mb or $160 for 600 Mb.

In contrast, a Three UK prepaid SIM, including 1 Gb data and texts and calls for a month, costs 10 pounds (A$17), or 12 Gb for double that cost, and it includes roaming in Europe. (I’m still looking at the options, but this appears to be one of the best.)

The solution to cheap local rates + keep your usual number? A dual-SIM phone. Use data and outbound calls on the cheap local SIM, and still be able to receive calls/texts on my Australian number. And the money savings will help subsidise the new phone.

(I wonder if the phone companies dislike this?)

In fact I suppose I could even choose to use a second SIM at home to get cheap data and/or try and get around the Telstra capacity problems on peak hour trains between Malvern to South Yarra — though from what I’m told, the other carriers are no better.

Motorola G5 Plus phone

So I bought a new Moto G5 Plus, and sold the Nexus 5X on Gumtree over the weekend. (eBay won’t let me sell a mobile phone, due to Paypal having a grudge against me, for reasons they’ve never been able to explain.)

I listed it for $220, and got all sorts of cheeky offers from as low as $130. I refrained from telling them they were dreaming. Eventually accepted an offer of $180 from a bloke who had a Sony phone he quite liked, but dropped it and smashed the glass. Whoops.

And the new phone? So far so good, apart from the wallpaper, which I’ve changed to my own design, and the “Hello Moto!” audible greeting, which was the first thing I switched off!

Some phones can read #Myki cards. Could you one day check your expiry/balance on a phone?

For anybody with an NFC (Near Field Contact)-compatible phone (such as my new Google Nexus 5), you can use the this little app — Tag Info Lite to read Myki cards.

Not that it’ll tell you very much — see below. All the actual useful information appears to be encrypted.

Myki card seen on an NFC mobile phone, using NXP TagInfo Android App

Apparently in some parts of the world an unencrypted copy of the card balance/status is also stored, allowing apps that will let you check your balance. For instance Farebot works with cards from Seattle, San Francisco, Singapore, the Netherlands and parts of Japan, and Travel Card Reader looks similar.

Shame Myki doesn’t appear to have this option, not even in PTV’s own apps — though I guess in theory they and/or Keane could do it, given they issue devices to Authorised Officers to do card checks.

With the old Metcards, you could easily see the expiry date(s) as it was printed on the card itself.

This is an opportunity, of course. As more phones include this technology, perhaps a future (hopefully minor) upgrade could allow people to check their card balance or fare expiry in this way.

(Some apps claim to do this with Myki, but what they’re really doing is checking your online account, which is not necessarily up to date — the card is the point of truth.)

Myki card seen on an NFC mobile phone, using NXP TagInfo Android App

Myki card seen on an NFC mobile phone, using NXP TagInfo Android App

Oh, and here’s what I get from a Brisbane Go Card:

Untitled

Every mobile phone I’ve ever owned

Inspired by Andrew’s post a few months ago, here’s a list of the mobile phones I’ve had over the years.

Ericsson GH198 (from 1994). It had a twirly antenna that could be flat against the main part of the phone, or twirled around and up to make calls. I seem to recall it cost me about $400 plus a 2 year contract

Predictive text on the Nokia N95I think after that I had an Ericsson GH337 or 338 for a couple of years. Or maybe I had a 337 then a 338? Can’t remember.

Nokia 6210 (from 2001) — first one with a web browser and an internal antenna rather than one which stuck up out of the phone.

Motorola E365 (Briefly in 2004, before I sent it back because I didn’t like it) — it was the first one with a camera.

Nokia 6100 (2004) — a titchy, tiny phone, with interchangable covers. Neat.

Nokia 6230i (2006)

Nokia N95 (2009) — this was great. (See pic, showing a quirk of the predictive text, which thought you were more likely to want to say “slaves” than “plates”)

HTC Desire S (2011). Also been great, though it’s a bit slow with Android 4 loaded onto it. I’m about due for a new one now.

  • A 2011 post where I compared the SAR (Specific Absorbtion Rate — eg radio waves going into your head) of some of these phones.

Pics: How they fix mobile phone towers

How do they fix or upgrade a mobile phone tower? With a very big crane, that’s how.

It wouldn’t be a job for someone with a fear of heights.

Fixing a mobile phone tower (1/2)

Fixing a mobile phone tower (2/2)

In my family, my sister gave up her landline when she moved last year, and in her household now relies totally on mobile phones for making calls (plus naked DSL for internet). My mum has (without moving) just switched from landline to mobile as well. I moved to VOIP at home plus mobile earlier this year — it’s been pretty good, though occasionally the modem needs rebooting.

We’ve all given up the landline due to costs, and needing to have a mobile anyway. Are others doing the same?

Where’s my phone? (New levels of dopiness)

Need to leave. Where’s my phone?

Not on the counter. Not on my bedside table. Not on the desk. Not on the kitchen table. Not on the dresser. Not on the couch.

Look again in all those places. Not found.

Really need to go.

Reach for home phone. Dial mobile number. It rings.

It’s in my pocket. Oh man. Not good.

* * *

Later…

Oh. My mobile says a missed call. From a private number.

No voicemail was left. Why do these people not leave a voicemail so I can ring them back?

Oh, wait…

It was me.