I've had my Samsung S7 edge since 2017 and for the most part it's been a solid purchase.
It's a beautifully designed phone in gold, with wireless charging, fast performance, a tremendous camera an IP68 rating, glass rear, fingerprint sensor in the button, heart rate and O2 sensor. But now with my high usage, the battery is starting to let me down. Buying a replacement for a flagship handset has been a challenge. Upgrades should have all of the features of your old phone and then some, right?
Well, I also have a general rule which makes things far more difficult, I don't take contract phones (I have a £10 12Gb 30 day Sim deal from Voxi [voda] which is fine thanks, use link for the same deal and a £10 amazon voucher) and I don't buy phones for more than £500, in fact the S7 Edge was a bargain as I bagged it in a a Black Friday event for less than £380, so finding a replacement for this has been eye opening. The assumption that flagship features move down onto cheaper handsets, well I've found that's not really true. Waterproofing, wireless charging, high quality multi camera setups, aluminium frames and top notch gorilla glass, well that's where the prices stay high.
So some compromises were needed, and my weeks of research have lead me down a path that might be useful if you're considering an upgrade soon.
First up, I wasn't precious about the operating system, I'm as comfortable with iOS as I am Android, so I could include the new much wider range of iPhone models in with my work. But here's the thing, no one really wants to buy a phone in 2020 without an edge to edge display do they? Which meant the cheaper iPhones were off the table very early on. Then we get to the iPhone 11 and I'll admit, I considered going over budget. At £599 now, these are an extremely tempting offer. But, over budget is still over budget, and the screen resolution, well, they're pretty low compared to others and it's only an IPS LCD display, which is old tech compared to the much much better AMOLED display I'm used to (seriously once you've seen a screen with perfect blacks, there's no going back). So, thanks Apple, when the 12 is £599, I could well be back.
So on to eastern manufacturers. Huawei were out because of Donald Trump, as a Google educator, I can hardly use an Android phone that's prohibited from using Google on it! Xiaomi, One Plus, Redmi, I looked at them all and always found one or two compromises that took their mid range phones into naff territory, and there are so many models to choose from that my work here was in depth and lengthy. While most features, were truly flagship busting, and most were better in one way or another, I found multi camera setups might have naff 2-5 mp macro or 'depth sense' cameras on them, LCD displays (Redmi), they didn't have expandable storage, or quite simply, they were too expensive. I honestly expected to find some that ticked all of the boxes within my budget, but none of them did.
Motorola have made some amazing budget handsets recently so I thought a £500 budget would mean a flagship killer would be easy. Alas the £599 Edge is indeed a great phone, but it's got no official IP rating and one of the cameras is a meh-8mp telephoto, it's still well over budget and the design isn't quite as special looking as it could be. However if this was £100 cheaper, I'd likely own this now, it came closest of the also rans.
If I wasn't working to a budget, I'd own the Xperia 1ii. The first handset I've seen that'll record in 25fps. The perfect companion for my UK (pal) camcorder that would be capable of capturing b roll footage that would fit perfectly into my professional life. But I am, and I'm stubborn and at £1100 this is a bit too much to be considered a win. The 5 looks ok, but no. If I bought that (which is still £800) I'd be constantly thinking how it's not as good as the 1ii..... Stupid names too.
I considered if I need 5G
5G tends to add a lot on to the handset price, and is only available in the sea off Llandudno in North Wales at the moment, plus, I don't need a service that could use my 12gb allowance in 3 seconds. I'm still fine with 4G. Speed is rarely an issue for my usage. In fact it's usually more dependable than my home broadband!
Compromises and non negotiables
After all of this research I realised I needed compromises, I split must have features with things that were less necessary.
Non negotiable - The new phone must have... an OLED display, once you've used a screen with truly black blacks, and you've seen the convenience of an always on display (that has minimal effect on battery life, because the black pixels are literally 'off') you simply won't want to use an LCD display again. A multicamera setup with no 5mp or less. I need these for quality photos, something good enough to capture B roll clips for my work. A 3500mah battery or higher. Fingerprint reader and an Aluminium frame. Image stabilisation & 4K recording. There, not too fussy hey?
The screen ppi, or pixels per inch is ridiculously high on the S7 edge, something over 300 should be fine, I turned it down to a lower resolution on the S7 as I couldn't tell the difference.
Compromises - IP rating, although useful, waterproofing isn't essential. We did have fun with the old S7 on a holiday where we got video of jumping into the pool, but with lockdown the chance of that happening again are minute, so it wasn't a deal breaker. Also, as I'd be putting a Spigen case on it, the 'need' for a glass or aluminium back became moot. Although I quite liked the idea of Stereo speakers, they didn't really matter as I thought I'm unlikely to watch a feature length movie on my phone anyway, one speaker is fine for YouTube, which is my main video use on my phone. O2 and heartbeat sensor, they were novelty features really, I can live without them.
But yeah, enough with compromises.... Oh and I wanted a headphone socket, and no notch, who wants a chunk of their screen missing?
Back to the S range
So all this led me back to the Samsung S series handsets. Logically, the only way to get all the features is to upgrade the same model, right? The S20 though was well over budget and the S10 is ugly. Although the S20 is only £630 on Amazon (some £270 less than Samsung.com) it's still easy too much, although after my agonising research I did consider just biting the bullet. I saw the new S20 FE (fan edition), a budget version of the S20 with very little compromise for £599 abs was very tempted. Looking at the features, this does tick all of those boxes above. But still, it's a lot over budget. The Note series are ludicrously expensive, apart from, the Note 10 Lite.
The Note 10 lite
Over budget, but only by £30, a massive 6.7" AMOLED screen, but edge to edge design means the handset is a very similar size to a Motorola G8 Plus, the one my daughter has, which was really handy for comparison (being in lockdown). Avoiding the tediously dull black option, the aura glow has a stunning rainbow effect rear case design. The Aluminium frame is polished and looks quite special. The battery is a hefty 4500mah, the Cameras are all over 12MP and useful too. Telephoto (x2), standard and ultra wide. In addition, you get the best features of the S pen. A handy tool used for note taking, writing on the calendar with scribbles (more useful than it sounds) taking screen shots of portions of the screen (something I do all the time) and doodling, something I've got back into. It's also a remote for the camera (as its Bluetooth) and students can get this with 15% discount via UniDays!
So I'd done it, I did order it (and found a Spigen case that shows off the back colours), and despite it being delayed by a day (thanks DHL) I'm completely delighted with if. Apart from the focus on the outer edge of the ultra wide images being a bit naff, the rest of the phone is exceeding my expectations, battery life is great, the screen is amazing, the S pen features I'm using far more than I'd thought I would and now I've turned Bixby off (it's really rubbish) it's everything I wanted.
I never want to upgrade ever again though. However if you're looking for an outstanding mid range phone, the S10 note lite is definitely worth a look.