My new tool (smartphone)

I just got a new phone and like a lot of educators, a smartphone is a great tool to use in one’s professional setting. I wish I was so cool that I could just head over to Amazon, pick a phone in 30 seconds and give no further thought to what I carry around in my pocket.

I, unfortunately, am not that cool.

I did quite a bit of research and landed on the Pixel 4a. I don’t research as much as my good friend Omar, but a few weeks, I feel, is a lot. To understand how I got here I want you to understand how I use my phone. My laptop is my primary go-to device throughout the day, but I still use my smartphone a lot!

How I use it

I am not a heavy user by any stretch of the imagination. A heavy day of use (for me) is somewhere in the vicinity of 3 – 4.5 hours of on screen time but during those screen on times here is what my phone has to do:

  • Check Gmail
  • Check Slack
  • Check Asana
  • Answer text messages
  • Check on our network with its mobile app
  • Camera/Photos (work and personal entertainment)
  • YouTube (personal entertainment)
  • Reddit (personal entertainment)
  • Netflix/Amazon Prime (personal entertainment)

Yep – that about does it. I don’t game on my phone, I just don’t find them too entertaining. When you look at that underwhelming list of tasks my smartphone has to do it doesn’t matter if it is iOS or Android and I am past any sort of brand loyalty.

So that leaves these factors:

  • Storage size
  • Price
  • Longevity
  • Decent camera

The contenders

Since I don’t need flagship performance, I can stay far away from the $1000 price tag phones. In fact, I can go to the lower end of mid-ranged phones. Which leaves this list:

  • iPhone SE (screw you if you think the XR is a viable option)
  • Pixel 4a
  • OnePlus Nord (this isn’t available in North America so RIP)
  • Poco M3 (this isn’t available in North America so RIP again)

I have decided that I need at least 128GB storage. How did I come to this conclusion? My previous phone had 128GB of storage and I managed to use up over 60% of it in two and a half years. So that leaves this list and price points:

  • iPhone SE – 128GB – $449
  • Pixel 4a – 128GB – $349

Decision time

At that point I made my decision. To boot the Pixel does boast a better battery life, better screen and a headphone jack. Battery life is somewhat important, but in my research it looks like both would be suitable for my needs.

I know that the iPhone is more powerful, will last a good year or more than the Pixel, but at $349 I feel I can get three good years with this phone. I’ve had many iPhones in the past and in my experience, going to the five year mark with an iPhone is reeeaaaally pushing your luck. I’ve tried and it becomes very sluggish, apps crash all the time, the camera gets slower and slower. It is not a good experience.

Face unlocking and wireless charging are on the iPhone but not the Pixel and while those things are really nice to have, they are not deal breakers by any stretch for me. The cameras on both phones are both good and definitely good enough for me.

Headphone jack FTW

Now to the headphone jack. This is important to me and almost a deal breaker. Hear me out. I work at a school and we have small sound boards in our gym, in our theater and a portable sound system (for outside events). None of these systems have Bluetooth. I am sure we could buy a Bluetooth receive to plug into the system, but that can be a little unpredictable. A wired connection works every time and when it doesn’t work, it’s usually a faulty wire that can easily and quickly be replaced.

The headphone jack is a source of comfort for me. If someone in the theater needs sound, I’ll just plug in my phone. Done.

So I went with the Pixel for the price, the headphone jack, the storage and the battery life. I made a decision based on what I needed my tool to do. If I can check all the boxes and can I find a another tool that can at a cheaper price? If it is cheaper what is the trade off?

The Pixel 4a wins on those strengths alone.

It meets all my requirements and is priced agreeably to boot. It’s an affordable win for me!

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