I recently got a cheap Android phone – the OnePlus Nord N200 5G – to use as a backup, to play around with Android, and to use when walking in potentially dangerous areas or while traveling in countries where it’s likely to get stolen.
Here’s what I’ve noticed, as a new Android user:
- Some parts of Android are quite similar to iOS 15 – the Chrome browser has the same tab interface that Safari does. Gestures are the same or similar. (but the gestures are a bit slower/jankier)
- Some things are better than iOS – like settings being integrated into apps.
- Control center seems a bit more configurable (but uglier and slower) than Apple’s control center.
- App drawer is similar to App Library but instead of being organized for you, it’s a simple alphabetical list with tags.
- Android is far more configurable, but I found myself not needing to change much. What I wish could be configured actually isn’t configurable, as we’ll see below.
- There’s a loud, bright, and annoying carrier boot up jingle which I needs an app called Silent Boot to disable.
- The second day I had it, it woke my family up at 7:30AM with a loud Amber alert/siren. We don’t currently commute, and are used to waking up later, so this was aggravating. Thankfully alerts are easily turned off (Messages – Settings – Alerts).
- Preponderance of triple dot mystery menus.
- Unremovable “Never Settle” OnePlus wording on widget screen. You can change the text but can’t free the space the spot occupies.
- Unchangeable red “1” in digital clock display and weather temperatures (subtle OnePlus branding), but I hate it.
- Amazon shopping app keeps getting reinstalled by itself.
- Instantly spammed with Amazon Treasure Truck texts as soon as I inserted my SIM card.
- Auto rotate is slow and unreliable compared to iOS.
- Google is worse on privacy than Apple.
- You get around 5 years of supported upgrades on iOS, often adding many new features, vs. 1-2 years on Android
- App quality is generally worse than Apple app store quality, although scammers are in both stores.
As far as the hardware goes:
- The 90Hz display on a sub-$200 phone is pretty nice. The $999 iPhone 13 Pro is the minimum model with a higher (120Hz) refresh display. Most other phones, including the standard iPhone 13, only go up to 60Hz.
- The 6.7″ OLED iPhone Pro Max display is definitely nicer – better viewing angles, deep blacks, more info on the screen. But having a 6.5″ LCD display for under $200 is not bad either. It’s definitely usable.
- The camera on the OnePlus is garbage, but GCam (the Google Camera app from the Pixel) makes pictures look a bit better. The hole punch design on the front camera is nice though – better than the iPhone’s notch.
- Fingerprint scanning is, surprisingly, just as reliable and fast as the old touch-id iPhones. A lot more reliable than the fingerprint scanner on my Thinkpad laptop.
- Sound quality is quite a bit worse. Audio only comes from one side instead of from all around like in the iPhone Pro. There’s no easy connection to AirPods either, though I haven’t tried Google’s version of AirPods.
- 5G works too, though it’s still not as fast as the iPhone’s ultra high speed mmWave 5G.
- 4GB of RAM vs. the iPhone Pro’s 6GB. Still better than my old iPhone XR which was struggling at 3GB.
- Battery life is good – the N200 actually has a bigger battery (5000 mAh) than the one in the iPhone 13 Pro Max (4352 mAh). And the weight is much less due to it being made of plastic vs. glass & metal. I find the Pro Max getting heavy to hold in my hands at times.
Overall, it’s not a bad phone, especially for under $200. It’s amazing to me you can get this level of hardware for such a low price.