Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Experiences With the Ulefone Be Touch 3

It's a long standing joke among me and my friends that I am a cheapskate. Joke as in "it's funny because it's true" kind of joke. I'd like to think this is partially down to personality and partially circumstance - I used to be genuinely poor when studying and couldn't afford such "luxury items" as a coffee/tea at the local café every damn week. Neither could I buy the fanciest juice and I often resorted to meat so cheap it was probably not meat anymore (which had me eventually stop eating a lot of it all together, even now when I can afford it I rarely buy it). It's funny because one of my best friends is in many way my opposites, we often end up joking about how I am the cheap but optimistic one and she is the wasteful but pessimistic one (the correlation is anyone's guess). We often end up having discussions about whether something is worth the money or not and we rarely agree. My favorite was when she bought a vacuum cleaner for... brace yourself... 3500 euro (more than 4000 dollars!). I never let her live it down and I don't care how super advanced it is. Unless it does the vacuuming itself, and also massages my feet, it can never be worth that much money. She teasingly said I'd probably end up reusing my birthday candles for my sons birthday cake (well she ain't wrong! I turned 31 and he turns 3, why waste the 3?).

So anyway, this all brings us to my smartphone dilemma. I was way late getting one in the first place, and only then got it so I wouldn't have to waste money on smsing my then out-of-country-living bf. With a phone connected to the internet I could send all the messages I wanted a lot cheaper! My first smartphone was a Samsung Galaxy s2 and I was really happy with it. If I had to say anything bad it would probably be the battery life, but I am sure pretty much all smartphones of this generation struggled with it, hence all the memes making fun of it. It was especially jarring going from a non-smartphone that only needed charging every four days or so to having to charge my smartphone every day. But other than that I was very happy with my purchase.

Two years went by and my phone network provider told me I could now upgrade - my only choice being the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. I didn't want a Sony phone and I didn't want a compact model. Neither did I actually want to extend my subscription with my PNP since I thought it was a lot more expensive than it was worth. When they phoned me they sounded baffled at how few SMS and phone calls I did each month, and I rarely used up my 2gb internet allowance. So I started looking around for the option to buy a phone without subscription and getting a cheaper sub on the side. It turned out to be about the same price anyway since a phone without sub was so expensive. So I ended up getting the Sony Xperia, and I wasn't particularly happy with it.

It had some good things going for it like a kick-ass camera and good battery time, but it was finnicky (especially the screen) and had me frustrated as hell many times because it wouldn't register the correct words I was typing. And eventhough the camera took great pictures, that was only when it wasn't busy crashing and freezing up. When another 2 years had gone by I was determined not to make the same mistake again and only go for a phone of my own choosing.

This time I had the benefit of the cheap smartphone market being a lot bigger than last time around, with a lot of competitors from lesser heard of brands (at least here in backwater Sweden). So I thought to myself, why not take a chance at one of the chinese brands? The price difference was immense, and it seemed like the only major difference was the camera quality (at least in terms of what I wanted from my phone). I decided it would be worth the downgrade for the price difference alone.

So I ordered a Ulefone Be Touch3 and threw my old Xperia in a drawer somewhere, hoping never to have to deal with it again. I've had it for four months so far, so what do I think?

As mentioned I can only really compare to my two other phones - Samsung Galaxy s2 and Sony Xperia z1 Compact - and there is some good and some bad.

The good
One of the best things about the Ulefone, and especially compared to the Sony phone, was how empty it was. It might sound strange, but what I mean is my Sony phone had at least two versions installed of everything, making it extremely confusing as to which to use and extremely annoying when they wanted to be updated all the time. There was the Android Music listener and the Sony Music listener. "Album", "Photos" and "File Commander" all handled my pictures in different ways. There is Play News Stand and News and Weather, which both do practically the same thing. Not to mention the completely useless program "What's New". Imagine having none of that! Just the stuff you want, clear and easy and understandable.
Eventhough it was cheap it handled pretty much just like both of my other android phones in terms of screen responsiveness (and better than the finnicky Sony one had) and speed. It seemed to be able to handle running multiple programs without any issues.

The inbetween
The camera was definitely less good than my Sony one, but then my Sony one had been exceptionally good. And the Ulefone one was definitely not bad, it just handled lighting a bit less great. For the price however it was well within what I expected and I never had any issue with it, it especially never did any crashing or freezing like my Sony one had been notorious of.
It supposedly had a quick-charge battery, meaning it would charge faster than other phones. This was nothing I really noticed, but that might just come down to my charging habits. Since I almost always charge my phone over night I can't really tell if it goes faster or slower.

The bad
I realized buying the phone from some Chinese webpage, that if I ever ended up having trouble with it my chances were slim that I'd get any help with it. Not because I thought the Chinese webpage would be childish about it, but because it probably meant having to send it in and months worth of waiting times that I definitely could not be bothered with. Going in buying this phone I therefore settled on two things - firstly I hoped everything would just be fine, at least for the two years I aimed at using the phone. Secondly I thought that even if something did happen, I would at least be an experience wiser and not too much money poorer.

Unfortunately two rather bad things did happen with my Ulefone.

Firstly, when visiting my parents in northern Sweden I noticed I didn't have any internet service. Phoning and sending text messages still worked fine, but no internet surfing whatsoever. This didn't work even in the heart of the city they live in, and eventhough it is the north of Sweden we're not talking the Siberian Tundra here. Normally any phone network works there so I was confused that I wasn't getting any reception whatsoever. When buying my Ulefone I tried to make sure that the phone operated on the frequencies used in Sweden, and I've fortunately never had any issues where I live - but it was nonetheless annoying to have it not work away from home. This didn't bother me too much however since I don't visit my parents too often and can generally get by without the use of internet on my phone when I am there (especially since they have wifi anyway).

The second hiccup was worse - without any sort of explanation part of the screen stopped working completely. It't not cracked in any way and the phone hasn't been dropped more or harder than any of my other phones (especially not more, since I've not had it even a quarter as long). I have no idea what has caused it and even less idea of how to fix it (possibly a screen swap?). It's an area going horizontally across the middle of the screen about 2 cm high where it simply does not react at all. Fortunately most things can still be done on the phone (it just makes scrolling very awkward). Typing is not an issue since the keyboard is below the area - but there are situations where I have to tilt the screen to get to the area I need to interact with because it happens to be right underneath the "dead zone".

It's an odd issue and a frustrating at that. Since I am in fact going to visit my parents in just over a week I opted for swapping back to my Sony phone for now, since eventhough it has also caused me a lot of grief it at least has a somewhat working screen and internet connection once I get to the north again.

So my overall verdict of the Ulefone? It is alright. I do think I've been a bit unlucky with the screen problem. I'm thinking it must've been damaged somehow from a fall eventhough there is no visible damage. And the connection issue? Well, maybe you should avoid getting a Ulefone if you live in Sweden... If you can find someone to service it in case something happens then I'd still recommend it. But I guess I need to look for other options...

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