I replaced my phone with a new up-to-date one, from a Wileyfox Swift to a Motorola Moto G7. This is one of those small quality-of-life things I had been putting off for a while.

Wileyfox was a small UK phone manufacturer, and the Swift was their first flagship device. They shipped the phone with Cyanogenmod, and at the time it was as close as you could get to ‘pure Android’ without buying an official Google phone. It had good support from 3rd-party ROM developers right from the beginning, and even today it remains well supported in LineageOS (the successor to Cyanogenmod).

Unfortunately Wileyfox briefly went bankrupt. They were eventually bought by another phone company and re-launched a new lineup, but by that point I’d already lost all trust in the brand. I moved from Cyanogenmod to LineageOS, though the install/update process usually ended up with me wiping the SD card, and for that reason I haven’t updated my Swift since October 2017.

I dropped the phone a couple of times, it got dents on the corners and light leaked into the screen, but the glass never actually cracked.

scuffing

It wore down over time, although it survived pretty well for almost three and a half years of continuous use. The real issue was with the battery. The charging port in the phone was already too recessed, so it required a lot of poking to get the USB contacts to connect. The battery ran down, eventually it wouldn’t last a full day without charging, and it became increasingly unreliable.

Wileyfox were supposed to be in it for the long run, one of the good companies which sold easily replacable parts. However their old batteries are out of stock, and they have been out of stock long enough that I think the opportunity to replace the battery has passed.

The Motorola Moto line has a solid reputation in my family. Matthieu’s first smartphone was a Moto G2, followed by a G4, followed by his latest upgrade to a G6 last year. Christine also has a Moto G5. So, I’m joining the Motorola fanclub here.

phone_box

These are all the smartphones I have owned and how they compare:

  Nexus 4 Swift Moto G7 Power
Model Mako Crackling Ocean
Bought August 2013 June 2016 October 2019
Price £200 £100 £160
Storage 6GB 16GB 64GB
RAM 2GB 2GB 4GB
Screen size 4.7” 5” 6.2”
Battery capacity (mAh) 2100 2500 5000
CPU 4 cores at 1.5GHz 4 cores at 1.2 GHz 8 cores at 1.8GHz

In around six years I’ve spent £460 in total on phones, which is not bad when you consider that the latest standard iPhone costs £750 and the latest Google Pixel costs £700. I spend my money on other things.

All of my phones have had a screen with around HD720 resolution. I could have gotten a higher-end model with a higher-resolution screen, but the extra £50 isn’t worth it and I value battery life over pixel count.

twidere

You’ll see that the screen size has been steadily increasing with each generation. I don’t really appreciate the huge size of the G7 Power. Even with my long fingers I can’t swipe widthways across the screen with one hand, and I shouldn’t have to use both hands for basic gestures.

The manual even comes with a setting to shrink the screen for one-handed use. The fact that you have to shrink the screen to make it usable should be a big design warning to phone manufacturers, why not just make smaller phones?

The G7 Power has a huge battery, which is pretty useful for me. I charged it up fully when it arrived, and after three days the phone was down to 72% power remaining, which is amazing. Oh yeah, and it has a headphone jack.

Since I got the phone I’ve been hiding or disabling all the pre-installed bloatware apps. I’ve installed the F-Droid repository, and here are the programs I’ve loaded so far:

I had to wait for a new nano-SIM card. I lost my old text messages when swapping my number from my old SIM to the new one. I didn’t make too much effort to recover/transfer those messages; the only conversations I would be tempted to keep are from someone I should probably forget. So I left my old texts on my old SIM card.

Syncing contacts, calendar and gmail was super simple. Everything is attached to your google account, so you log into your account on a new phone and it’s all there.

backups

Similarly, my todo list was easy, I copied over my todo.txt file and my terrifying backlog of tasks is right there. I’m still a fan of the unix philosophy that everything is a file, even if files are going extinct.

The encrypted stuff was more difficult. I logged into my firefox account on my phone to sync my passwords, which worked, but corrupted the logins.json file on my laptop in the process. My solution was to copy an un-synced version of logins.json (plus the crypto key file) from my offline desktop onto a USB stick.

It took a couple of hours to figure it out and for a while I was seriously worried I would just lose all my passwords… and lose access to all my online accounts. It was a reminder that in future I should really keep permanent backups of critical information like passwords, maybe leave them on a USB stick somewhere.

Syncing WhatsApp wasn’t easy either, I backed up everything to Google Drive, as well as renaming and copying over the msgstore.db.crypt12 file from my old phone. It took a lot of installing/reinstalling the app to trigger the Google Drive sync, although eventually I got all my group chat history back.

whatsapp backup

I also got the security warning on all past conversations, prompting me to verify that end-to-end encryption is still working.

whatsapp verification

It’s a little reminder that WhatsApp is at its core an encrypted messenger, and I like that. I wonder whether, by making encryption invisible, we’ve lost the established social rituals around verifying keys; that instinctive nudge to check that everything is still secure. While I’m sure my messages haven’t been compromised (by anyone but myself), I might still ask a few friends to compare security codes.

I expect to get security updates from Motorola until 2021, and once those run out I can play around with more experimental third-party ROMs.