Camera Phone Upgrade

While you’re not seeing too many new posts on this site these days, at least one feature is being updated pretty regularly: A Picture A Day. For almost three years now, I’ve taken a new picture every day, and the only thing I regret is - as I’ve mentioned before - that I didn’t start doing it sooner.

Over the course of these three years, I’ve mainly1 used three different cameras: The cameras on my Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 camera phones, and the Samsung Galaxy Camera. For a while, I honestly thought I’d use the Galaxy Camera to take the pictures, but in the end I caved: The Galaxy Camera is basically an Android phone, but it lacks GSM capabilities. That meant I still had to bring a mobile phone with me anywhere in addition to the camera, and that was too much hassle. The picture quality of the Galaxy Camera was surprisingly lackluster as well, barely beating the Nexus 4 - at least in daylight.

Then along came the Nexus 5 with its optical image stabilization, and the Galaxy Camera quickly became obsolete for my use. Now it’s in a drawer somewhere. But while the Nexus 5 is a good camera phone, it’s not great, at least not compared to other camera phones that are available today. The Nexus 5 is, after all, two years old, and that’s one foot in the grave in mobile phone years.

In other words; it’s time for a camera phone upgrade.

In terms of camera quality, the iPhone 6S is perhaps the obvious choice. The pictures I’ve seen shot by the iPhone 6S are stunning, the build quality of the phone itself is amazing and the Apple ecosystem provides its users with everything they need and then some. But in terms of budget, the iPhone 6S is an obvious no-go.

Also, it’s not a very well-kept secret that I prefer Android phones, mostly due to the freedom of choice using Android provides. Yes, OS version and hardware fragmentation on Android is a major pain, but if you chose the right phone, it’s not that big of an issue. It will never get as good as with the iPhone, though, but you can’t have booth a high level of freedom of choice and a low degree of fragmentation. An ideal combination would have been the iPhone hardware with the Android operating system.

Or, perhaps even better; Nokia Microsoft Lumia hardware with Android. Many of the test I’ve read show that the Lumia phones - both high- and middle-end models - fare very well compared to other camera phones in the same price segment. But all the Lumia phones come with Windows Phone installed. Thanks, but not thanks.

All this means, not surprisingly, that my new camera phone is an Android phone. Ideally, I’d continue on my Nexus streak, but none of the two new Nexus phones, the LG Nexus 5X and the Huawei Nexus 6P quite manage to grab my attention. The Nexus 5X’s camera hasn’t done too well in the tests I’ve read, and the Nexus 6P is just too large. I once thought I’d permanently replace my mobile phone with a tablet, but it turns out I now consider phablet form factor phones to be too large. So that never happened.

After spending a while reading reviews online, I eventually settled for an LG G4. Both the camera and phone specifications are top notch and the phone isn’t dangerously expensive. But most importantly, the review pictures I’ve seen look great. The phone is slightly larger than my current Nexus 5, but not Nexus 6P large, so it’s a size I can get used to - even with my girlishly small hands.

There is one downside with the LG G4, though: It comes with LG’s Optimus UX 4.0 UI. The Optimus UI is an overlay that LG puts on top of the vanilla Android operating system to “enhance” the experience. But such overlays usually just shit all over what is a great user interface right out of the Android box by default. Most Android device manufactures add their own UI overlays, though, probably to differentiate themselves from other manufactures. They should be able to do this through hardware design and specifications instead, but no.

Fortunately, with the help of the good folks over at XDA-Developers, it’s possible to remove Optimus and get the true Android experience on the LG G4 as well. And, even more important, removing Optimus makes it easier to stay up-to-date with Google’s new monthly security update. Custom manufacturer overlays often mean that phones using them lags months or, in some cases, even years behind in terms of security updates.

My spanking new, red leather draped G4 is currently being shipped and hopefully I’ll have it by the end of the upcoming week. Good times.

  1. The first picture I took for the feature, was actually shot using a HTC Desire, while a couple of others are taken with Anniken’s iPhone 4S and Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. For three weeks, I also used a Nokia Lumia 920. But let’s not split hairs. ↩︎


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