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A Phone – For Europe

Dad’s been adamant about bringing a smartphone to Europe – and he’s probably very right to think we should. Compared to lugging around a $300 GPS unit, a $30 disposable prepaid phone and also packing a laptop – spending a wee bit more on a decent smartphone will give us GPS capability as well as the basic texting/phone for quite a bit less hassle/complexity and weight. Plus, bringing a smartphone also “tethering” a data stream to a small tablet computer in lieu of a notebook PC.

Although ‘Pops’ has an iPhone for work use, buying an unlocked  phone will mean any prepaid SIM card can be activated in Europe and we can go without paying exorbitant roaming fees. And wide GSM/HSDPA signal compatibility was a must, too.

So one Amazon transaction later, this arrives in the mail:

It’s an unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus – GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 and HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 compatible, so even the weird 1700/2100 wavebands used by WIND and Mobilicity here are compatible. Buying another (albeit unlocked) iPhone was never a real possibility – they cost far too much for our budget. I’ve felt they are ridiculously overpriced for what you get (starting $650 unlocked) anyway, and also being locked in in terms of software/OS upgrades has never really has much appeal. 

Can you sense my bias already?

Android it is, then! We managed to snag our Nexus for a tidy $450 shipped, which makes it also about $60 cheaper than the new Galaxy S2 model. Like the new iPhone, the Nexus sports the latest OS – “Icecream Sandwich”- and a 1.2GHz processor for a little get-up-and-go; visuals truly are speedy and smooth. From prior droid experiences, I can say this OS feels much more polished, both visually, and with its increased functionality. The phone’s Google Play account integration is pretty snazzy, too. 

It also doesn’t help Apple that their screen doesn’t make good use of the frontal area, having a size of only 3.5in – the Nexus has a whopping 4.65in screen (yes – the phone overall is larger, too). Already owning a Zune HD, I knew what to expect about Samsung’s wonderful AMOLED-based displays – and wasn’t dissapointed when this arrived. With the large screen size, this will likely be a great choice as a multi-use device for travel – if need be, internet browsing and composing emails isn’t the hassle it is on smaller screens (I have yet to screw up my eyes to see writing). 

The last advantage I see over an iPhone? Its probably a little less likely to get stolen when travelling – the iPhone *has* historically been an attention (crook) magnet. 
I pulled the SIM out of another phone and swapped it to this one – I am just learning about the rest of its functions. The GMS-data-to-wifi re-transmission (aka, “tethering”) ability is the next thing we plan to try out and get used to. Connected to a rooted Nook tablet, we hope to post updates, and access e-mail and the internet for the duration of our trip.

I’ll keep you posted!