My Next Phone: Multimedia

We love using our phones for multimedia. We can’t put them down. We watch videos on YouTube, listen to music or stream it off Spotify, take selfies on Snapchat, and take group photos and share them on Facebook and Instagram. Our phones have to be able to keep up with us and our daily lives, and for the most part, they can. But they’re not perfect.

Music

My HTC Desire Eye, for example, was sub-par when it came to media. I had to download and install an app from the Play Store to take advantage of an equaliser and bass/treble controls – other phones from Samsung and Sony have these audio tools built-in to the phone’s Settings app.

I also had to consider installing another app to play most of my music, especially songs I’d bought from iTunes – because the standard HTC music app didn’t natively support AAC or m4a music files, only MP3’s.

Luckily for me, I found an app that does both of the above – Poweramp, which comes with its own tagging system as well (this allows you to alter details of the songs within the app, without having to exit and do this within the phone’s File Manager app).

I’m assuming that, despite having HTC’s Boomsound technology on-board, which makes a big difference when using the stereo front-facing speakers, the headphone audio experience wasn’t on HTC’s list of priorities with the Desire Eye. Despite having a decent set of over-ear headphones, which I use a lot, they can’t perform miracles. As such, audio settings, the audio experience, and codecs support are definitely on top of my list of considerations going forward.

Video, Screen Brightness, and Battery Management

I had to install another app to watch video, as there wasn’t even a HTC video app pre-installed. While the Gallery app did support the viewing of videos, it wasn’t a great experience, and many videos wouldn’t play because of a lack of codecs support. Luckily, I’d already become used to using MX Player on my Galaxy Tab, with its support for custom codecs that’s helpfully extensive, and easy to set up.

About the only thing that was good on the media front was the Camera and photo Gallery apps, but they too were bare apps with only the core essentials (updates later fixed this).

I’ve also noticed that screen brightness can be an issue outside. I have found an unusual workaround for this – wearing sunglasses/shades while outdoors – but it’s not convenient. As I shall be using my phone on my daily commute on the train (where reflections and direct sunlight often kill the ability to watch video while seated), I’ll need a phone that can pump out the colours sufficiently.

I often have my phone on a battery saving mode to cut down on background tasks when out and about, and to extend my battery life before needing another charge. A fully-featured, fully customisable Battery Management app is a must, to allow me to shut down all background tasks, while still being able to crank up the brightness for outdoor usage.

That’s why I’m considering Media as a blog topic in this series. I use my phone a lot for media – I listen to music daily, I’m now big on photography and editing, and I watch YouTube a lot now as well (I follow the F1 YouTuber Championship, starring Tiametmarduk, Noble 2909, xMattyG, and IntoTheBarrier).

I also do a lot of these things on the train, where reflections off the glass screen can get annoying, and in the future, I may even record more videos too, like when interviewing passers-by for a news story, so screen brightness and software or hardware stablisation is a must (as I explained in my post about Camera Tech).

Gaming

But I’m not gaming as much on my phone anymore. It’s not that my phone isn’t capable of running high-end games (my Desire Eye can handle Asphalt 8 without any frame-rate drops), I guess I’ve never really felt immersed by games on my phones. I play games a lot on my Xbox 360 and Playstation 2, hooked up to my TV, and find the experience as immersive as the real thing – especially racing games like Forza Horizon and F1 2014.

While I realise it’s possible to hook up your phone to a TV or plug in a controller to your phone, I’d enter problems which I don’t get on my consoles – battery life, which tends to drain dramatically when playing a high-end mobile game, and hardware limitations which means that games made for mobile are often not as graphically rich as a console version of the same game (for instance, F1 2016).

This is not to say I don’t play any games on my phone, just not some of the mainstream titles like Asphalt 8, Nova, FIFA or Modern Combat. The only games I currently have installed on my Desire Eye are: Solitaire (confession: I play this a lot!), Pac Man, Pokemon Go, and Mobile Strike (although I’m considering deleting this as I’m an occasional player, not a daily one).

Recording Gameplay for Reviews

I’ve also wanted to record gameplay for a while so I can write some reviews, but internal storage problems have always plagued my attempts. I’m sure there are plenty of apps capable of recording gameplay, but I couldn’t even get Play Games to record and upload to YouTube – ‘Not Enough Storage,’ it kept telling me, despite having 5GB of free internal storage at the time.

I’ve noticed that the Galaxy S7 has a whole section of the TouchWiz UI dedicated to gaming, with a special menu for toggling recording and screenshots in-game. This would be really useful to me, so it looks like the S7 is a likely option if I consider reviewing mobile games in the future.

I don’t mind if the next phone I get isn’t as spic-and-span as a flagship, with a high-end processor such as the Snapdragon 820, just as long as I’m able to edit photos, stream music and videos and, on occasion, play some games while on the train, without encountering huge problems with lag or internal storage.

News and Blogs

As I enter the world of journalism, having a phone that is able to record video efficiently and handle text is a must. I’m already starting to experience substantial lag on my Desire Eye – this could be due to how many apps I have installed, that are clogging up the storage and RAM. This is why I’m limiting my search to phones that have a minimum of 32GB internal storage as well as support for Micro-SD cards.

This is also why I’m considering phones with superior internals. I may not need a high-end processor for gaming, but I’ll definitely need it for writing blogs, recording video and uploading media to the web. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that my Desire Eye lags when typing, which can be frustrating as I’m having to learn how to type slower so that it can keep up with me. On one particular blog post in this series, I was typing so fast that I realised I’d made a typo, and clicked the backspace button to erase a couple of letters. My phone, lagging behind substantially, misunderstood my command and got stuck on the backspace button – and started deleting EVERYTHING I’d just typed up. Everything!

Summing Up

That’s why, all things considered, my next phone doesn’t have to be the best of the best, or even a flagship device, but it has to be able to keep up with me without any noticeable lag or drop-offs in performance. I’ll accept that my Desire Eye is a mid-range device, so it has done extremely well so far considering what I’ve asked of it.

That said, it just doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with demanding tasks, and that’s a massive downer considering what a great device it’s become after a few tweaks these last two years. I’m not a huge fanboy when it comes to brand names, and brand loyalty is only applicable if I think I’m getting my money’s worth – unfortunately, HTC’s latest offerings just aren’t what I’d expected them to be, and the one device that is, the HTC 10, is way out of my price range and budget. That leaves me with the HTC One A9 or new A9S, the HTC Bolt/Evo, and the Desire 10 Pro/Lifestyle, and I’m just not sure any one of them fit what I want, or need, from a smartphone anymore.

I think this means that my next phone will not be a HTC device, unless I’m stuck for options and can’t find anything better, but I won’t be giving up my Desire Eye either. I have plans for it becoming my second device, and hopefully with less apps installed, it’s performance should rise back up.

But I can’t stick with HTC for my daily driver, when there are so many other offerings like the Galaxy S7 that manage to pack so much into a phone. Also, there are many phones out there built for a specific purpose: the Huawei P9 or LG G5 for photographers, or even Sony’s Xperia devices for both music and photo lovers (building on years of experience with the Sony Walkman and Sony DSLR cameras – the Xperia X Compact has a dedicated shutter button).

I guess this is a good place to finish this post, before I start to reminisce about the good times. Also, my next post sort of ties-in with this one: Accessories.

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