A layman's Guide, and a Bit of a Rant
I'm a Xennial, I grew up when your telephone was physically located inside your house, attached to a wall, or sat on a table, and was wired to all the other phones in the world via billions of miles of copper wire - the Landline phone.

I watched the cellular phone in my lifetime go from a toy for the rich, to an everyday necessity by the time the 2000's rolled around. Then I watched as we went from the bare basic "phone" to little flip phones that could send text messages and play games, then to the smartphone - one of the most irritating devices on the face of the planet (only just slightly less than the pointless "tablet" devices).

What a smartphone basically is, is a miniature Android, or Apple tablet device - which is really nothing more than a ARM Based computer running a Linux derivative (in Android's case), with a touch screen instead of a keyboard and mouse. It connects to Wifi, it has a web browser, it can do e-mail, but the INTERFACE (the way you interact with it) is what holds it back as being an all-in-one device.

The iPhone was the first thing that took over the world by storm, and is like the "Mercedes Benz" of phones. Everybody holds them in high prestige because they were "the first". But the flip side is they are expensive.

Android came next and initially it was pretty much a linux machine, then Google bought parts of it, turned it into a closed source, closed architecture device just like Apple's. This has made it irritatingly more difficult for power users and technical people like me, to configure, maintain, and control these devices on the same level as we would a regular PC.

Now Android is pretty much very close to what Apple is in a lot of ways, but with just a hair more freedom. All the same "Apps" run on it, all the same tools are there (calling, texting, tethering to a account tied to the owners of the ecosystem - in this case Google).

Anyway, this is a basic-b**** guide to Android phones, as well as my usual heartfelt gripefest about things I think that should change about the platform.
What is the Smartphones Role
Though it may not seem like it since most people spend 90% of their day on Facebook and watching YOuTube videos on these things, the #1 primary role of a smartphone - is a PHONE! It's whole primary intent, is to be a device that will call other people - just like a flip phone, just like a landline phone. However, because that entire technology is the oldest part of the whole device, it's not at all entertaining, amusing, interesting, or flashy and attention grabbing as the rest of the device is.

But it also can send text messages using a technology known as "SMS" or "Short Message Service". SMS used to cost money to use back in the 1990's and 2000's when it first came around, but now it's practically a free Feature included with the phone itself. It first started to appear on regular old cell phones and Flip Phones, like those legendary Nokia phones that everyone loves to brag about in Memes these days.

Then, when smartphones came around, people started to focus on internet connectivity, and that's the third major piece that is used more than any other part of a cell phone, is the internet. This is why you have a DATA PLAN and a VOICE PLAN that are Separate, and even why, back in the day, SMS Cost extra - because every single one of these uses - by some fashion, are SILOED by your cellular provider, and then charged accordingly. Why do you think "Unlimited Data" is such a huge buzzword even today? Because everyone wants to be connected to the internet 24/7/365.

Prior to the Smartphone, first you needed to be in an office or at home to connect to the internet, using your own WIRED connection to get there. Whether that was through a company's network infrastructure, or just a basic, humble little landline analog modem using your regular telephone service. That meant, you had to go to a connected location: ie. home, office, internet cafe (places to eat, have coffee, and connect to the internet over WiFi on your laptop in 1990's and early 2000's), or dial-up over the phone lines in your hotel/motel room to do basic internet shit like look something up on a search engine, ro get your e-mail. And you used SMS for TINY little texts that were very important - like being stranded on the side of the road in a dangerous neighborhood, or letting your wife know that you're working late without having to let everyone in the office know you're talking to your wife on company time.

But when the Smartphone came around, SMS became cheaper and eventually free with all phone plans, and now the focus was on the "Data Plan" because everything you do on a smartphone that's not calling someone or texting someone - uses DATA! Data is measured in Megabytes/Gigabytes consumed, and even if it's called "Unlimited" - a lot of companies still place a exceedingly high limit any *normal* person would not exceed. This was a practice that started in the 1990's with "Unlimited Internet Access" - it was not actually unlimited, the industry standard was 300MB or something like that back in the day - anything beyond that was ludricrious usage of space, and warranted maybe thinking about purchasing your own T1 internet connection for your house.

Today though, everyone has a smartphone save for a handful who have decided to go back to the simpler life of having a flip phone, or some of us who prefer to be left alone and still have the few landline phones left in the nation.

The phone's role in one's life is to act as a small, portable, quick-access computer for on-the-go communication, research, productivity, and most of all, Entertainment. It's basically the modern day equivalent - for most of us - of owning a Nintendo Game Boy that has the ability of making phone calls and thusly is REQUIRED (kinda' sorta') for *normal life* today. Now you're not disconnected no matter where you are. Anyone can reach you from any medium at any time of the day anywhere you have a signal.

But it also has some far more nefarious roles in our life, such as a device we can whip out anytime we want, so that we can entertain ourselves without using our imaginations, thinking, or having to do anything else. This level of restraint is hard for most human beings. Most people today, if they are bored, will just whip out the ol' Smartphone and start "doom scrolling" through the social media of their choice endlessly.

Now, I'm not an expert on these devices by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm fairly good at working with them, and in part of that is, all the same rules, tricks, and trivia applies to them that applies to a regular computer, because that's basically all they are, a computer.
Explaining How Smart Phones Work From a Carrier/User Perspective
So when you get that shiny new Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Moto, or whatever else there is out there now, there's a few key things that you have to consider that don't apply to a regular computer...

First and foremost is what Carrier a cell phone is designed for. Most cellular phones are Locked Down to a specific carrier - ie Verizon, T-Mobile, Cricket, AT&T, Mynt Mobile....whatever else is out there. You have to match the phone to the specific carrier. Phones that are NOT locked to a specific carrier are called Unlocked Devices - and these can be used on any carrier to work.

Usually the best way to avoid problems is to use the cell phone carrier's options, however, the problem with this is you are limited to only specific phones, with specific feature sets, in specific colors, with specific specifications. Sometimes manufacturers will even manufacture special versions of their phones for a carrier. While not a smartphone....for example, I used to be with Net10's pay-as-you-go in the mid-2000's for my first cell phone - a Nokia 1100. Later on I upgraded to a Motorola W375 Flip Phone. In full regailia from a "real" provider would have had USB download support so I could download files and items off the phone without going through a bunch of internet B.S. to do it. But Net10's special version of the W375 was crippled to prevent the user from connecting to it over it's Mini USB jack to add or remove software or files. While I understand this was likely a "customer support" issue - as they intended to keep costs low, this also sucked greatly because I lost pictures and texts, and other stuff that would have been great to keep.

The next piece of the picture is the SIM Card, this is basically a piece of "Middleware" that connects the phones hardware to your provider's cell phone towers. Some phones had them built in, some have them accessible from an external slide-out tray often removed with a push pin or a bent up paper-clip (or the proper tool for it). Your provider provides this and without it you won't be able to connect the phone to the network. You get this with the phone when you get it at the store.

Now that you have a SIM Card and a Phone, now you have to register that phone with your Provider using the IMEI Number - which is a long number on the back of the phone, and that registers it in the company's database and ties it to your account details - and even configures the phones features to you.

ALL of this needs to happen before the next part - signing into your service, in this case GOOGLE. Because all Android technologies now go through the Google ecosystem - much lke how your Windows PC requires you to have a "" account or your Apple PC makes you have a iCloud I.D. to use it (and the reason why I've started using linux and eschewing such B.S.).

What Google does - is stores ALL of the information that's on your phone. It USED to be that was all stored on your Sim Card, but not anymore. Now it's all stored in "the cloud" - ie your Google account - and once you sign in, it sets up your e-mail, sets up your profile on the google search, copies all your contacts over, and even leverages the tethering to your Instagram/Facebook/YouTube/Twitter/TikTok/whatever-else-there-is, and then begins where some of my GRIPING about these damn devices begins!

My Primary Gripes about Smartphones - User Control over Data Flow
So once you sign in, the phone picks all the obvious choices for the user. I understand this is to prevent support headaches, but what it really does is provides a privacy and security headache for people like myself who want full control over where and why our data is going someone and/or if it's being used there or not.

The wallpaper is usually set to the most flashy, CPU and RAM consuming mess possible, all of you rphotos and videos get synced up with your account, all of your contacts sync with your google account - including people you don't even want there that you never bothered to delete since Barack Obama was president. While sure, it's nice to sign into all of your accounts pretty easily, it's also a bloody nightmare.

While it's still easier to disable all that crap than it is on an iPhone IMHO, it's also more irritating that I still have to do this on a platform that has open options, and the interface is bloody irritating, especially for guys like me with big hands. Even with a bigger screen layout - bigger scaling - it still does not make the task any easier.

One particularly big gripe I have during this phase is The REMOVAL of apps and services I don't need nor want - in particular Non-Removable Apps. It's one thing if it's a part of the bundled system (which still should be removable, I should be able to strip off megabytes of crap from storage that I never use rather than just "Disabling" it though if it's not essential to system function.

What's the difference between Uninstalling and Disabling? it is. Uninstalling means the software is fully removed from the smartphone, freeing up as much free space as it possibly can, leaving no trace behind. Disabling is when the phone rolls the installation of that particular feature back to it's smallest, earliest version, and then removes it as an option from the panel. What this does is wastes space on the cell phone better spent on other things, and it's something that makes me a bit perterbed.

but worst of all is that there are some apps you cannot remove. I had an old Moto Droid 2 Global through Verizon years ago, and it had a fucking NFL App on it that I had no need for. I don't even like sports, and I don't watch Footbawl! But here I had this program on my cell phone taking up 1GB of space, doing absolutley fucking nothing - on a 16 or 32GB Cellular Smarphone! It's choices like this made by the cell providers and the phone manufacturers that makes me absolutley angry. I highly doubt a fucking John Elway app is going to make my smartphone work better - if anything, it's eating up shit I could dedicate to more productive uses - like BANDLAB!

So you get your new phone all setup, and so goes the lifecycle of these devices. Expect to get 3-5 years out of these tops. They are DESIGNED to become obsolete and unusuable past a certain age (further contributing to the planet's E-waste problem I see). Well, we already raped the planet, guess we can just keep going until mother nature comes up with something worse to eat us all alive like the Harvey Weinstein-like monsters we human beings are with our consumer bullshit.
The Secret Life of your Android Phone

What Usually Does these Things In
Well, you might be wondering, what kills these phones off. Well, I can tell you it's been a cascading mess of poor design decisions since day 1.

Broken Screens - The Broken Screen is probably the most common reason we ever replaced our phones. Of course, having a good case and not dropping it constantly like a drunken idiot helps. However, the curved edges of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ I had were a reason the screen got damaged. Whoever thought a portable device that goes in your pocket and is likely to be dropped needs a curved screen like an old CRT Television - to the point that it protrudes PAST the casing - was a good idea needs to be drug out in the street and shot. I Remember my wife had TWO of those due to cracked screens. Same thing with all this screen bezel thin-ness bullshit. Everyone wants the screen to cover the top of the device, and I ask "why". Because the THICKER the bezel is, the less likely your screen will break - it's basic engineering and science. The more there is to absorb an impact on the corner of the unit (which let's face it is 90% of why these things get cracked screens in the first place). But the cell manufacturers know this, so they're going to remove more and more material until the entire phone is a bloody screen with cameras embedded in it! Because I'm sure SOMEONE is getting kickbacks from all the phone cases they can sell you. Heck, you get em' free with the phone, but the more fashionista among us always want a new one every few years (and usually it's some cheap Chinese piece of shit off Temu or Fingerhut that offers about the same protection as no case at all).

Broken Charging Ports - The second most common problem I've run across that does the phone in, is the charging port. I considered making this the first one, but I've noticed me and mine tend to wrangle every last bit of life out of the charging ports on our phones until the thing is booting in debug mode from a drained battery state, acting all kinds of wonky and crazy, until we get new ones, or just can't charge it anymore, and it becomes an emergency. The problem is, how they design these ports. I would have thought someone would think of something like I did - make a long sleeve in the phone itself for the charging port to be held STRAIGHT so that it does not bend/break the connector as you fumble around grabbing your Alarm Clock & Cell Phone at 5:30am blindly from bed that's been charging all night. I've only had ONE Cell Phone in all of about 13 years that has had a connector that outlasted my usage period, and that was my Samsung Galaxy S8+ (that one was done in by a discreet board that would let loose over time and disconnect the screen).

Battery Life Getting Shorter - Batteries have always been a problem for cellular phones going back to the old Nokia & Motorola days of the 1990's. THey're expensive Lithium Ion nightmares - but at least from about 2012 on back, they were removable and user replaceable. The last phone that had that option was my Droid 2 Global, and honestly, if it were not for the aforementioned jack issue - I would have replaced the battery and kept using it as long as it'd work and charge. But now, the stupid thing is stuck in the back under a glued on cover (usually made out of adhestive tinfoil and medical grade glass substrate to jack up the cost), and requires a bag of Fender Light duty guitar picks, a heat gun, and some prayers to the tech gods to replace without breaking anything else in the process. So either you have to replace the entire phone, or endure a tedious process of replacing the battery and hoping whatever double stick tape you stick on it will hold it together.

Can No Longer Run Apps Well Enough - This one is okay, I understand, tech changes at a rapid rate, and is ever changing. And we can't do antyhing about this. I've only had ONE phone that made it this far, and that was again, the Droid 2 Global (they really don't make em' like they used to - except that goddamn USB Micro jack!).

You get in a relationship with someone who has higher tech shit than you - Part of how I got into smartphones was because of my wife. We would text each other, and I hated struggling with that bloody W375 to send a text. See, prior to Smartphones, you had a 12 button numeric keypad to use to text with...with ABC being 1, EFG being 2, and whatnot - and to change letters, you had to press the same number 2-3 times while it slowly rendered to make a text message. However, if one person on one end was with a smartphone and the other had a flip-phone, the poor flip phone person would be struggling with responses while the smartphone person easily tapped in messages fit as replies in a celebrity interview!. Since then, so has begun the drudery of every 3-6 years replacing some overpriced pocket computer that grates on my nerves more and more as time goes along.

My Phone Reviews - A Historical Study in Planned Obsolescence and Suckitude
LG Stylo 6 (2020-2024)
I got this with Cricket and am about to replace it soon because both me and my wife's Charge Jacks are starting to act like crap. What sucks is LG makes a pretty good phone and this is the first one in awhile that has not pissed me off that greatly, but they quit making phones (dammit LG!).

Here's the good of the LG, they have pretty good battery life, about 12-16 hours under regular hard use. They have pretty good performance for a lot of games - I ran more than my share of AdItUp games through this thing saving on my cell phone bill, and BandLab has never been all that terrible on these phones even with my insane 15 track big recording projects with guitars, basses, multiple midi tracs, keyboars, samples, loops, and SongStarter A.I. insanity + enough effects to fill an 80's shredders guitar rackmount setup. The stylus is a nice touch, but a double edged sword. For me it was nice to be able to actually tap tiny buttons on screen and not unintentionally tap something else.

This was the first phone I had that had a case I kept the same it's entire usable life. I got a nice Medical Blue colored one as I call it, which held up fairly well, though by the end it looked like it'd been living in the exhaust path of a Semi Truck. It obviously did it's job, the phone never cracked the screen or got much damage. Actually, it's stayed VERY clean for a number of years as a result, and I don't even use those "Screen Protectors" anymore on my phones because they don't really protect anything in my experience.

And I hammered on this poor thing for hours on end almost daily doom scrolling, writing music, answering comments, documenting things, taking pictures, making videos, surfing the internet, and doing tons of other things. I got my mileage out of it.

My biggest pet peeve with these phones was the damn stylus. My wife's fell out and got lost, and mine kept falling out and being found. This lead to the phone whining "your stylus is too far away". Why in the absolute fuck did they need a "Bluetooth Connected" stylus on a phone - when the Nintendo DS or my old phones worked with a regular capacitive touch stylus? Jacking up revenue on stupid OEM replacement bullshit? Might be my only gripe with LG's methods.

There's a part of me sad to see these go. LG Did a pretty good job and their phones were far cheaper than the top tier crap we had living in Seattle on Verizon. The Charge jack was the reason these were done in.
Google Pixel 3 & 3a (2018-2020)
These were the last phones we had with Shit-Rizen. I purchased these in 2018 after my Samsung Galaxy S8+ started having problems with the screen working intermittantly. My wife got the bigger 3a, and I got a regular 3.

They had good performance, and it was nice to have something that took up less pocket real-estate for awhile. BUT, I'd started getting heavily into using Bandlab, and one of the biggest problems with this phone was that they tried to "Be like Apple" and got rid of the hardware headphone jack! A Must for BOTH of us, because Earpods suck, nobody makes Budbands anymore, and Bluetooth has too much latency for a mobile music composer like myself. So I had to buy these stupid USB-C to audio dongles to use headphones and plug in my iRig 2 to record guitar/bass parts on my cell phone on the go!

I had to give them back to Verizon when we left for Cricket, and I'll say good riddance. We were DOUBLE PAYING over $250.00 a month for our stupid phones, sucking my income completley dry, and leading to omonths where we had to starve or pawn possessions to make the phone bill, or be unable to to handle parts of work or communicate with family. To add insult to injury, the Spark's NV branch of Verizon sexually harassed my wife on a few different occasions, including and up to the guy stopping my wife in the parking lot to ask her for a date on the way out after gettin ghte Pixel 3a. Seriously FUCK Verizon - overpriced for what you get.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ (2016-2018)
We got these in 2014, and they were a big deal because of the whole "Curved edge" screen thing - a piece of snake oil and marketing B.S. that was also a liability on the phone's part. I had a nice woodgrain incipio case on mine, but my wife had a succession of various cases for hers, and had to replace hers twice or even 3x due to cracked screens from normal use and one drop.

The big screen was great for bandlab, and having a dedicated headphone jack was something that I felt almost smug about because I heard Apple was deleting theirs from their iPhones (HAHA Suckers - whose great for music creation now?). Of course, Google would like to have a word with me (damn Pixels!).

Performance though, was starting to slip by the time we replaced these, and the big killer of these phones was the fact the screen had an internal connector known for coming loose with regular use, and causing the screen not to come up reliably. I had that problem, and could get the screen to come back up by pressing on a spot with a piece of rubber sheeting because of my other big pet peeve - GLASS BACKING!

Whoever decided Smartphones should have GLASS cases needs to have a piece of sheet-glass for a large industrial window dropped on em' - NOW! Seriously, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A FRIGGING GOOD IDEA!?!?!?!? Oh, I know it's "Elegant" - but it's a bloody SMARTPHONE, NOT AN ART INSTALLATION! Seriously, can we shut these New York Art Gallery types up when it comes to usable everyday objects? Not everything needs to look like some kind of abstract object commissioned to Andy Warhol and announced by David Byrne! It's a Phone, it rides in a pocket with my car keys, wallet, and gets dropped, hit, and gets wet. It gets held for hours at a time. It already has enough glass with the touch screen, like it needs all that shit in BACK now too to bother us with shards in our fingers when we replaced the protective case. I'm pretty sure they're not going to invest in gorilla glass for the back of the case.

And my last pet peeve is that FUCKING BRIXBY thing! BRIXBY? BIXBY? Seriously, the Paul Bigsby estate should sue for misspelling and defamation - and whose Paul Bigsby? The guy who invented the guitar whammy bar, that's who he is! Seriously, it was this irritating side tab that got unintentionally activated any time you tried to swipe the screen - which for me with Bandlab was all the friggin time realigning tracks with latency issues and doing MIDI Arranging. Here I am, trying to do something important and now we have that made-up-tv-show for some sheltered kid with creepo parents in that movie with Luke Skywalker playing the dad popping up and bugging me.

And I won't even begin on how many times f***ing Alexa, or Jona, or Brixby, or Cortana, or whatever the ell' this A.I. voice thing was, decided to butt in on me and my wife's discussions. Seriously. We'd have a fight, and she'd start trying to play moderator in the car with non-sequiteurs so bad even Homsar from Homestar Runner sounded like Neil Degrasse Tyson by comparison, and interrupting my GPS as well.
Motorola Droid Turbo (2014-2016)
Oh look, another Droid phone with a crappy Micro USB jack. That's what this was, I had it shorter than the other two as a result, and wound up replacing it with the S8+ in just 2 years as a result. I don't remember too much about it as a result. What I do remember is I think we had to replace BOTH of ours in that time period. The bigger screen was nice, but the charge jack on these was still total shit.
Samsung Galaxy S3 (2012-2014)
The first "Keyboardless" phones we had, and I fucking HATED it. Look, one feature I think they should have kept on Smartphones, is the keyboard! That was the greatest input device for guys like me with big nincompoop fingers. I remember thinking these were big at the time, now I realize they are pretty standard medium-small sized. We had plastic cases on these and used em' till they dropped. We got a good 2 years out of them, because Verizon let us upgrade "Free" every two years for awhile.
Droid 2 Global (2010-2012)
My first Android phone, and despite the shitty charging jack, I remember this one FONDLY. Because it had a slide-out keyboard on it. Seriosuly, I got my mileage out of it with long, ongoing text messages that were easily done with my giant ham-fisted man-hands because I had tactile feedback from the teensy weensy keys on the keyboard. I also enjoyed playing Emulated legacy video games on the phone because the keyboard made a GREAT NES Controller. Dragon Warrior for hours in the Doctor's Office and on road trips! I remember the upsell this go out was the "Global" feature because my wife's friend had moved to Holland and they wanted to talk to each other over the phone. So we had a global plan that was actually not that bad at the time. Now it'd be so expensive I'd be looking into the dark web on ways to drain some Billionaire asshats bank account to pay the bill!