One of the biggest perks of my job is having access to some of the best smartphones in the market. What this often leads to is sometimes having to choose one phone over another for things like trips and vacations. Its easy to move around the home city with two smartphones in your pocket, eliminating the problem of choice to some degree, but when you’re travelling, and want to do so light, that’s when problems arise. If you’re a traveler, choosing the right smartphone to accompany you could be a pretty big decision. I had to pick between the black version of the OnePlus 3T (128GB), a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (32GB) and the Google Pixel XL (32GB). For multiple reasons, I only wanted to carry one phone with me, so I had to pick a phone and below are the criteria I used to narrow down my choices.
The reason I mention casual photography is because I had already packed a Sony A7II along with 5 other lenses for taking photos on this trip. The smartphone was just for taking casual selfies or even the occasional photo or two of something I might have wanted to share on social media instantaneously. However, just because I was only going to take casual photos did not mean I wanted to compromise on the quality. This is why it was down to choosing between the Google Pixel, the Samsung S7 Edge and the OnePlus 3T. All three smartphones have very competent imaging systems, but the Google Pixel XL’s camera is definitely the best of the three. I should mention though that in case I wasn’t carrying my professional camera kit, my choices would still remain the same.
Music and Movies
International travel comes with long transit times. There’s the 4 hour flight along with the 2-3 hours spent at the airport along with the time spent in a cab getting to and from the airport. To kill all this time, I turn to music and movies for help. On any given day, I carry about 10GB of music with me (yes I listen to it all) and for this trip, plugged in addition 5 gigs worth of shows from Netflix (thank you for the offline viewing option). Obviously these things take space and given the Google Pixel XL’s fixed 32GB storage, it looks like it’ll have to be between the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (I have a 64GB microSD card in my unit) and the 128GB OnePlus 3T.
The weather forecast for my travel destination said that I should expect thundershowers. This made me very wary of getting caught in the rain with a smartphone that can’t handle getting wet, which means the OnePlus 3T was out. I had mentioned in my review of the phone how it felt like OnePlus could have at least included some kind of water resistance in the OnePlus 3T, which was becoming a standard across all flagships. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge definitely has good water resistance while Google Pixel XL has an IP53 rating, which means it will barely manage to survive a light shower. Additionally to the rain, it was also the festival of Songkran, which is basically the Thai version of Holi. It didn’t rain a drop while I was in Thailand, but people all over the city were armed with buckets of water and getting soaked was just the norm. Thankfully, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is water resistant and hence survived the trip without any issues.
I have been using Samsung Pay since it was launched in India on 22nd of March and given that the service works in Thailand as well, I would much prefer to not carry my actual cards around with me, lest they be stolen. The Samsung S7 Edge is secured by a fingerprint lock along with a passcode with Samsung Pay requiring an additional fingerprint approval before a payment can even be initiated. Unfortunately, the only opportunity I got to use Samsung Pay was at the Thailand Duty free shop (on the way back), but the cashier refused to accept the payment method and insisted on using the card itself. I noticed a lot of reluctance even at regular stores to take payments via Samsung Pay, with some merchants flat out refusing to take digital payment. I was excited about using S-Pay in a foreign land, but eventually, had to use my card because the merchants were unwilling to accept the new mode of payment.
I didn’t really care much for how much battery life I get out of either phones simply because I took two 10,000mAh battery packs with me. If that weren’t the case, we’d be back to choosing between the Google Pixel XL and the OnePlus 3T as our reviews have shown these two phones to have the best battery life in the segment. Our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge unit is fairly old and the battery is showing signs of fatigue (it barely makes it through the day on a single charge). I did end up charging the phone twice a day, often wishing I had carried the Google Pixel XL instead (didn’t want to carry a battery pack around).
After careful consideration, I had decided to just take the Samsung S7 Edge with me for this trip, given its slightly smaller form-factor compared to the Pixel XL. The Samsung also offered me more storage and the convenience of being able to use Samsung Pay (not that it came in handy). The OnePlus 3T would have been my top choice had the phone not lacked water-resistance. In hindsight, the OnePlus 3T would have been the perfect companion on this trip thanks to its large storage capacity and excellent battery life, but the lack of water resistance eliminated it as an option.
While an upcoming trip may not be a good enough reason to buy a new phone, frequent travelers looking to upgrade might want to take the above mentioned points into consideration.