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Perhaps a better touring phone

Old 11-03-21, 08:04 AM
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gauvins
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Perhaps a better touring phone

[UPDATE]
I've used this e-ink phone as my main phone for about a month. It is a competent device with, unfortunately, a fatal flaw -- the custom ROM isn't recognised as a safe platform by some applications. No banking app wasn't a problem for me (you can always used the www interface), but Canada now requires anyone entering the country to use the "ArriveCan" app, which, for security reason, checks if it runs on an unmodified Android system. So I am back to a Galaxy class device.
[/UPDATE]

Just wanted to draw your attention on what could turn out to be an excellent touring phone. I've received mine a couple of weeks ago and it is now my go-to phone, replacing a Galaxy S10. (attached is a screen capture)
.
  1. E-ink phones consume much less energy compared to AMOLED/OLED devices. I can easily run my A5 4 days between recharges and once I am done fidgeting with the settings, I expect to get up to 6 days per charge. I bet on 2 weeks per charge on tour (phone off except for a couple of hours a day, processing mail, reviewing route, etc.)
  2. Unlike AMOLED/OLED displays, e-ink displays are perfect for outdoors. The more sun, the better. One could type a cue-sheet and it will be perfectly readable in direct sunlight while needing almost no battery power (probable autonomy of 2 weeks in inactive but powered state).
  3. If you can put up with a few system quirks and live outside Instagram/TikTok universe, it is much cheaper than the more recent flagship phones.

On the negative side:
.
  1. No NFC chip so, no Google Pay. You'll have to relearn to use credit cards.
  2. Displaying detailed maps in grey-scale is challenging, but there are solutions. I've written a grey-scale theme and am quite pleased.
  3. There are also comments regarding 4G in the US (I could expand if someone asks)

Last edited by gauvins; 12-14-21 at 05:28 PM. Reason: Longer term review
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Old 11-03-21, 08:58 AM
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Interesting, not sure I am ready to give up the beautiful color display for a number of purposes. I am sure there isn't enough demand for one, but, crazy idea, I'd like a dual display phone (one on each side where the AMOLED/OLED display could be turned off most of the time and e-ink used.) Where it was needed and charging was not an issue the AMOLED/OLED could be used. Maybe cloning the phone and using two phones on one account (one at a time) is a better answer, but I doubt the service provider would be thrilled with two phones on one account. I guess one could be a wifi only device.
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Old 11-03-21, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Maybe cloning the phone and using two phones on one account (one at a time) is a better answer, but I doubt the service provider would be thrilled with two phones on one account.
You basically pay access for each SIM card. That is, you'd have to move the SIM card between phones.
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Old 11-03-21, 09:48 AM
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I was expecting E-ink phones to be more popular. Surprised a big name (e.g. Sony) hasn't decided to take a stab at that niche.
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Old 11-03-21, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
I was expecting E-ink phones to be more popular. Surprised a big name (e.g. Sony) hasn't decided to take a stab at that niche.
Same impression here. From what I read, the A5 gets very positive reviews, but since it is not actively marketed outside of China and requires contortions to connect to the Google ecosystem, its success potential is difficult to assess.

The lack of color is a bummer for most, yet a welcome feature for those whose vision is hurt by (AM)OLED screens, and those who want to curb their addiction to social networks, games and videos. As the market matures, I'd expect a large manufacturer to launch an e-ink version of their flagship phone. There is room for obscene profit margins.
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Old 11-03-21, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Interesting, not sure I am ready to give up the beautiful color display for a number of purposes.
Many (most?) users seem keep their smartphone and use the A5 as a reading device. For example, to read/browse when in the bus/plane/on a park bench/in bed. Another interesting use case if to be able to pin your boarding pass to the lockscreen (no need to turn on the phone when reaching the gate; no more dead battery anxiety). Think of a shirt pocked version of the Kindle PaperWhite.

I wouldn't like to sound too much like a fan -- but the most liberating feature is certainly to be able to leave for a long weekend, without having to worry about recharging your phone.
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Old 11-03-21, 10:17 AM
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Interesting phone. I like the concept.
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Old 11-03-21, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
You basically pay access for each SIM card. That is, you'd have to move the SIM card between phones.
Sure, but...
There can be issues with swapping sims between phones. It doesn't always work seamlessly. It may with some phones and some providers, but it isn't a sure thing. I have had good luck with swapping when I had a phone die and swapped the card to another in the distant past, but have heard of issues. Then you have the the issue of maybe having a phone with an esim. You are sunk in that case if I understand how they work correctly.
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Old 11-03-21, 10:59 AM
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I dislike typical phone screens that are unreadable in sunlight and consume a lot of power, but when it comes to power consumption I think the most important aspect is having user replaceable batteries. In the past couple months a did a week long backpacking trip and a week long canoe trip. Brought two spare batteries, but since my phone was almost always in airplane mode used very little power. On one of those trips replaced the battery once, on the other trip I was out of cell range so much of the time that I could not get weather forecasts on it, did not replace the battery at all.

I would not trust this case to be waterproof for immersion, but it certainly is crush proof and likely splash resistant, and I have two spare batteries under the phone inside that case.



A side note for those unaware, the best way to drain a battery really fast is to use your phone when it is cold such as 30s, 40s, 50s (F), etc. If I want to check the weather forecast in the morning on a trip, if it is chilly outside I always warm up my phone before using it.

And a word of caution. I charged up some of my spare phone batteries with a generic Li Ion battery charger instead of putting in the phone and using the phone charger. My phone could sense that I did that and gave a warning - unauthorized battery and then refused to operate on that battery any more. Thus, on these newer phones, only use the phone to charge them. That generic charger still gets used for my camera batteries, but not for a phone battery any more.

I am sure that case is too heavy for Staehpj1, but I will keep using it. When my phone is buried in my pack somewhere, I want a good case to protect it.

Gauvins, thanks for posting, it is nice to know of other options.

Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 11-03-21 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 11-03-21, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Sure, but...
There can be issues with swapping sims between phones. It doesn't always work seamlessly. It may with some phones and some providers, but it isn't a sure thing. I have had good luck with swapping when I had a phone die and swapped the card to another in the distant past, but have heard of issues. Then you have the the issue of maybe having a phone with an esim. You are sunk in that case if I understand how they work correctly.
Sure, there can be problems but it's the only possible way to use multiple phones on a single-phone plan. What you suggested earlier doesn't work at all.
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Old 11-03-21, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
...those whose vision is hurt by (AM)OLED screens,.
???

Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
As the market matures, I'd expect a large manufacturer to launch an e-ink version of their flagship phone. There is room for obscene profit margins.
Unlikely, unless the eink screens get much higher resolution and are competitive with regular screens for video. Eink is still not good for color (low reproduction and low resolution).

Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Just wanted to draw your attention on what could turn out to be an excellent touring phone. I've received mine a couple of weeks ago and it is now my go-to phone, replacing a Galaxy S10. (attached is a screen capture)
Looks like a cool option for this use. I was waiting for the update.
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Old 11-03-21, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
???
Forums and r e d d i t (spaces to confound the bot ) are full or comments wrt readability (i.e. OLED giving people headaches or worse).
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Old 11-03-21, 01:55 PM
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I suspect a monochromed Android interface would be substandard. I think a monochrome phone would need a complete overhaul of the user interface. The basic iPhone style interface is over 15 years old now.
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Old 11-03-21, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
I suspect a monochromed Android interface would be substandard. I think a monochrome phone would need a complete overhaul of the user interface. The basic iPhone style interface is over 15 years old now.
You may want to watch this video review. It gives a good idea of the user experience.

(
)
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Old 11-03-21, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Forums and r e d d i t (spaces to confound the bot ) are full or comments wrt readability (i.e. OLED giving people headaches or worse).
Okaaay....
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Old 11-03-21, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Sure, there can be problems but it's the only possible way to use multiple phones on a single-phone plan. What you suggested earlier doesn't work at all.
You mean cloneing when you say doesn't work at all? I don't claim to know much about it, but I hear about phones being cloned all the time, so I looked it up. Apparently it is possible, not something available to the average Joe, and quite illegal, so not an answer we should be looking into.

Yes, sim swapping is the obvious answer if your phones allow that and you don't have problems swapping, going wifi only on one of the two would be a reasonable fallback plan. I usually have the cellular part of the phone turned off the large majority of the time any way. I know folks who have even gone wifi only for their only phone.
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Old 11-03-21, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
You mean cloneing when you say doesn't work at all? I don't claim to know much about it, but I hear about phones being cloned all the time, so I looked it up. Apparently it is possible, not something available to the average Joe, and quite illegal, so not an answer we should be looking into.
Yeah.

Seems like you can clone CDMA phones and clone the SIM for GSM phones.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_cloning

The effectiveness of phone cloning is limited. Every mobile phone contains a radio fingerprint in its transmission signal which remains unique to that mobile despite changes to the phone's ESN, IMEI, or MIN. Thus, cellular companies are often able to catch cloned phones when there are discrepancies between the fingerprint and the ESN, IMEI, or MIN.
It doesn't really seem like a viable option anyway.

Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Yes, sim swapping is the obvious answer if your phones allow that and you don't have problems swapping, going wifi only on one of the two would be a reasonable fallback plan. I usually have the cellular part of the phone turned off the large majority of the time any way. I know folks who have even gone wifi only for their only phone.
Yes, tethering the second phone might be the best option.

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-03-21 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 11-03-21, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
...I know folks who have even gone wifi only for their only phone.
I am not one of them, have both a land line and cell plan.

But my cell plan has no international options. My foreign trips, I have always planned to get a local sim card but never got around to it. It has come in handy to have Google Voice on my phone, I can make phone calls where I have wifi. For example in both Iceland and in Hungary I have called one of my credit card companies and asked why my credit cards quit working.

And on my Pacific Coast tour, I was surprised how often we had no cell service. But I could make a phone call using a restaurant wifi plan with Google Voice. That was in 2014, perhaps they are better for cell service now.
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Old 11-04-21, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Yes, tethering the second phone might be the best option.
I can see that working well. I don't see myself doing it much if at all though.

I am inclined to keep my phone disconnected or even powered down most of the time in my current usage patterns on tour. I'd most likely keep it powered on more, but might or might not stay connected more with an e-ink phone. I figure I'd probably tether infrequently if at all. I'd use the OLED phone mostly off line other than when I was able to get a wifi connection at some stop.

A least that is how I envision using it. It is likely all moot in my case since I probably won't spring for an e-ink phone since I'd only use it on tour or other stuff like backpacking or canoe trips. Maybe they will invent a multi layer screen with both modes that can do both. I suspect they isn't the demand to drive that happening even if it were possible.
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Old 11-04-21, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I can see that working well. I don't see myself doing it much if at all though.

I am inclined to keep my phone disconnected or even powered down most of the time in my current usage patterns on tour. I'd most likely keep it powered on more, but might or might not stay connected more with an e-ink phone. I figure I'd probably tether infrequently if at all. I'd use the OLED phone mostly off line other than when I was able to get a wifi connection at some stop.

A least that is how I envision using it. It is likely all moot in my case since I probably won't spring for an e-ink phone since I'd only use it on tour or other stuff like backpacking or canoe trips. Maybe they will invent a multi layer screen with both modes that can do both. I suspect they isn't the demand to drive that happening even if it were possible.
"Staying connected" is kind of ambiguous.

gauvins is (it appears) mostly interested in using it as a navigation device. It doesn't need to be connected (to the internet) for that. I think one should generally use navigation that doesn't need to be connected.

Tethering probably wouldn't be that useful for "staying connected" since it won't generally pass along things like texts or voice calls.

Different people are going to have different needs (so the extra phone thing won't suit everybody). But it's useful/interesting seeing people try it.

The dual screen idea has been tried before:

https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/19/1...rupt-yotaphone

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-04-21 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 11-04-21, 09:26 AM
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I think a lot of it would come down to individual users and what they mostly use the internet for. If for social media and e-mail, monochrome should be fine. For some of my tours where there were published guidebooks, I carried the books. But with a low power phone and black and white screen, I can see how an electronic version of the guidebook could come in handy. Bike tours, I do not read novels, but some do, for them an electronic version of a book could be useful on a black and white phone screen.

Some people have ditched their cameras and now use a phone as their camera, they would probably want color. (With the possible exception of Happy Feet and his experiments with black and white photos.) I am not a trained meteorologist, but I have looked at enough weather maps that I have gotten comfortable with assessing what they might mean for wind and precip, along with a good weather forecast. For that, I would need color. And on a bike tour, 90 percent of my internet time is spent on weather.

If you are using the phone as your GPS, it probably would be down to the individual user, some would be happy with black and white. That said, I am continuing to use a stand alone GPS unit, not using my phone for that purpose and I do not expect to change. For biking and canoeing, I switched to color screen GPS units about five years ago, I am not sure if I will keep using black and white GPS when kayaking or not, the black and white ones have generally worked well for me on a kayak.
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Old 11-04-21, 09:30 AM
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I'd have thought a monochrome phone would be less than ideal for taking photos.
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Old 11-04-21, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Some people have ditched their cameras and now use a phone as their camera, they would probably want color. (With the possible exception of Happy Feet and his experiments with black and white photos.)
Using an Eink screen to review photographs wouldn't work well at all. Eink (color or monochrome) has poor color/grayscale accuracy. Eink is just the wrong tool for that. (Note the cameras take pictures in color.)

Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
I'd have thought a monochrome phone would be less than ideal for taking photos.
It's only a problem reviewing (beyond something very basic) photos (the cameras take pictures in color).
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Old 11-04-21, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post

It's only a problem reviewing (beyond something very basic) photos (the cameras take pictures in color).
Some of us like to see what we're photographing as we actually take the photo.
The effects of light and shade won't be obvious until much later.
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Old 11-04-21, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
Some of us like to see what we're photographing as we actually take the photo.
The effects of light and shade won't be obvious until much later.
???

I said it would be a problem doing that.

Eink is the wrong tool for that (whether color or monochrome).

If you want to review photos, you can't use Eink,
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