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I recently moved back into the Android fold from Windows Mobile (see my previous post for background and reflections on the move). When I knew I was going to switch over from Windows phone I then had to choose where I was going to go, Android or iOS, and if Android, which flagship phone. Here are my decision factors:

  • Apple / iPhone 7 Plus
    • Pros
      • Solid hardware
      • Software is well polished and, due to Apple owning the whole experience, optimized for the hardware
      • Consumer friendly
      • Independent of mobile carriers for updates
      • Robust ecosystem
      • Dust and water resistant
      • Well supported by Apple and Vendors
    • Cons
      • For my taste, iPhone 7/7+ phone and user interface are relatively stale and boring
      • It is very hard to use anything but Apple’s expensive services: from backing up to getting ringtones, it’s hard to do them on your own
      • For me, all but the basics are unintuitive to use. The vaunted user experience isn’t a good one for me.
      • No headphone jack (I have good, wired headphones). Yes, there’s a workaround, but it is a workaround.
      • Expensive ecosystem. Apps, music, peripherals mostly seem to carry an Applesque extra cost.
      • Won’t take an SD card
      • No replaceable battery
      • Expensive
      • Apple’s arrogance


I’ve come to these conclusions after supporting my wife and son on their iPhones (currently both iPhone 6) and my own experience on iPod Touch and iTunes. These are well-designed, mainstream devices whose basic workings are easy to use. This is the device I would recommend to most non-technical people. While I was tempted, I knew that I would go slowly insane trying to work within the confines of Apple and iOS. I had some experience with the S7 Edge and heard about the amazing DAC on the LG V20 so my choice would be between those two. Note: Google Pixel wasn’t an option since I’m on, and want to stay on, AT&T. HTC 10 wasn’t an option either, for the same reason.

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
    • Pros
      • Cool, striking design.
      • immersive screen
      • Popular and hence well supported amongst the Android crowd
      • Great camera; automatic shots are consistently good and the camera is very quick
      • Robust ecosystem with well-supported peripherals by other vendors
      • A major player who isn’t going anywhere
      • Wireless charging
      • Water & dust resistant
      • Ability to take an SD card
    •  Cons
      • The Edge is challenging to hold, for me, and as much of I argued against phablets, I preferred the larger Edge to the regular S7
      • Uses micro USB instead of USB C. Since my previous phone was Lumia 950, I already have all the USB C wires and chargers that I needed
      • Comes with Marshmallow (Android 6) (I believe it’s now being upgraded to 7 but that wasn’t announced even a month ago when I bought the V20).
      • Reasonable but not great battery life
      • TouchWiz UI; stock is typically quicker and less prone to update delays (or complete failure to update)


  • LG V20
    • Pros
      • Quad DAC for wired headphones
      • aptX HD Bluetooth (48kHz/24 bit) support
      • Beautiful screen
      • For me, easy to hold (feels good in the hand and not too slippery)
      • 2nd always on screen – quick actions, time/status quickly visible.
      • Prosumer content creation with well-designed manual controls for camera/video, high-end (24 bit) audio recording, 3 high-end AOP mics
      • Wide-angle lens on front and back
      • Swappable battery
      • Takes an SD card
      • Has 64GB on board
      • Comes with Nougat (Android 7)
    • Cons
      • No wireless charging
      • Expensive
      • Peripherals are not supported as well as Samsung
      • UX 5.0+; stock is typically quicker and less prone to update delays (or complete failure to update)
      • Automatic-mode camera is not as consistently good as S7 nor quite as fast (manual mode it pretty amazing and makes up for this)
      • Reasonable but not great battery life
      • Video stabilization still needs work


What finally edged out the S7 (pun intended) was the audio capabilities of the V 20, swappable battery (powerful Android phones tend not to have great battery life), the V 20 being on the current Android release (in the Android ecosystem, you never know if you can get an upgrade or not) and USB C. I really like wireless charging. Both of my previous phones supported it (Lumia 920 & Lumia 950), so that was a real loss, but I just couldn’t see going back to micro USB. I know a lot of folks say SD cards are less important, but with the ability to produce high-level video and audio, comes the need to use up some serious storage. Trying to do this completely in the cloud could be slow and likely expensive. Most of my local music is lossless (mostly FLAC, some WMA) and that uses a fair amount of storage as well. Typically trying to stream it from the cloud is either going to be exciting or down-converted. So that’s why those features were important to me. This is for the first time in quite a while that I had the dilemma choosing my phone, mostly because, in the Windows mobile world, there’s only a single flagship phone available from the carrier at a time in each size (like Apple).


So I’ve had this for about a month; if I could go back and make the decision all over again would I still make the same one? Yes. Why? The ESS Quad DAC is the real deal. Music sounds flawlessly wonderful through it (for a detailed explanation of the DAC, see this article on Android Authority); aptX HD Bluetooth is also real. While not quite as full a sound as wired, it’s some of the best Bluetooth I’ve heard and better than most wired sound when coupled with LG’s Tone Platinum (which also supports aptX HD) and Comply ear tips (the ear tips are needed to have robust bass). The manual controls for stills and video are intuitive, well laid out and really allow solid control over both image and video capture. The AOP (Acoustic Overload Point) mics are icing on the cake. They do an amazing job at capturing high-audio (with video or separately). Overall day-to-day use is a pleasure; the interface is quick and smooth (using Smart Launcher Pro 3), The physical design, while somewhat bland, is still nice with beautiful fit and finish, especially the removable back. It’s wonderful to have a button that releases the back, so you don’t have to feel like you’re going to break it prying it open. It all seems as flush and “tight” as a unibody aluminum phone. The phone size has not been an issue for me and I’ve been able to get what I need for it in terms of peripherals. I’ll dive more into the peripherals and daily experience in the next post.