Looking for a New Phone

For more than a decade I’ve had issues going back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. This was particularly problematic when Julian was little as he woke up often and my brain would wake up while I was trying to get him to go back to sleep. I tried several different things to keep my brain from thinking but nothing worked consistently until I stumbled across listening to audiobooks.

One essential feature for my audiobook app is a persistent sleep timer. That is, every time I hit play, I want the sleep timer to automatically activate. This allows me to wake up in the middle of the night, tap my earbud to start the audiobook, and then have the audiobook automatically stop at 15 min all without me having to open my eyes. So far, I have only found one audiobook app that will do this: Smart AudioBook Player. Unfortunately, this app is only available on Android, not iOS. So, when I transitioned to an iPhone SE back in 2017, I kept my old Samsung phone as a dedicated nighttime audiobook player.

Other than the audiobook app, I really liked my iPhone SE. It was a good quality phone, with a nice amount of storage, that still fit in the pocket of my jeans. However, as it got older, the battery life got progressively worse and it was starting to show its age. This made me sad as everyone seemed to have given up on the concept of “small” phones. Thus, I was very excited in 2020 when Apple announced the return of the SE model. Both Calvin and I got one. Then, about a year after owning the phone, I accidentally dunked the bottom of the phone into black beans and some clearly got into the charging port. After that, getting it to charge, or connect to our car was possible, but fiddly. Overall, it mostly worked. That is, until about a month ago when charging became progressively harder until it didn’t charge at all one night. Long story short, I decided it was time for a new phone.

As I said, I’ve really liked the SE phones. However, an added complication was that my Samsung phone was also nearing end of life. If I nudged the phone wrong, it would start repetitively power cycling until I nudged it just the right way to make it stop. Given how much I rely on it to sleep at night, this was a big problem. It had been a couple of years since I had last tested iOS audiobooks apps so I went and tried most of the popular ones again: BookPlayer, MP3 Audiobook Player, Bound, Audiobook Player SmartBook, CloudBeats, MP3 Book, and ListenBook Pro. None of them worked the way I needed. So, I decided to combine my two phones back into one by getting a new Android phone.

Unfortunately, Google’s idea of a “small” phone is laughable. My original iPhone SE, which is pretty much perfectly sized, is 123.8 mm high. The SE2 is a bit bigger at 138 mm. Google’s current smallest Pixel is 156 mm. The Asus Zenphone was a bit bigger than optimal but still looked intriguing until I learned it wouldn’t work on Verizon’s network. Which . . . left me with mostly super cheap phones that didn’t have the storage I wanted.

At beginning of August, I stumbled across the Unihertz Atom XL phone. It’s . . . quite something. Among other things, it doubles as a walkie-talkie. I showed it to Jaeger and he seemed incredulous that someone would go to the trouble of making such a product. However, aside from the odd features, it looked like a legit small phone. Mind you, this is small in terms of height, it’s the thickest phone I’ve seen in recent memory, allegedly due to its battery. It sounded intriguing to me but I decided to limp along using my old iPhone SE for a while.

Last week, I decided I did not want to continue living with the bad battery and dodgy map ability of the old phone so I went back to looking at Android options again. Unfortunately, nothing magical appeared so I decided to buy the Unihertz Atom L which is like the XL, just missing the radio. Features I like:

  • Runs Android so I could use Smart AudioBook Player
  • Fairly short at 134.5 mm tall
  • 128 GB of storage with an additional Micro SD slot
  • 3.5mm headphone jack!

My biggest concern was it has a slightly older version of Android and, unlike a Pixel, it probably won’t be updated regularly. However, I decided to take a chance and buy it anyway.