Water and smartphones don’t mix


So I have a problem.

Last Tuesday I boarded a flight from Melbourne, Australia to New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.  I was about to start a two month road trip from top to bottom of my homeland, showing both Dustin and my girlfriend Lauren around the best of the country.

With the goal of sharing plenty of updates from the road, not to mention being both GPS and music player, my phone was going to be a vital piece of technology on this trip.  I even had a plan for dealing with the terrible internet and lack of free wifi in New Zealand, thanks to the combination of a prepaid SIM card and Mifi device.

white-iPhone-riverWhat I hadn’t planned on, however, was throwing an entire cup of water onto my phone about half an hour after take off.

I did most of the things you’re supposed to – removing the battery, mopping up any water I could see, leaving it to dry for the rest of the flight.  Unfortunately there was no uncooked rice to be found, and I suspect that dumping the phone into the Thai curry lunch option may not have worked too well.

Eventually though, I had to bite the bullet and turn it back on.  For an hour it didn’t even want to do that.  When it finally did power up, the rapidly-flickering screen wasn’t a great sign.

By the next day it was working a little better, the screen back to normal and all appearing to be fine … for a few minutes, until it would either hang, reboot or typically both.  That is pretty much where things have stayed for the last week, despite replacing the battery, doing a factory wipe and reset, and anything else I can think of.

Seemingly at random, sometimes once an hour, sometimes twice a minute, the phone just shuts down and restarts.  It doesn’t take long to boot up so I could just about deal with it – if I wasn’t relying on it for maps and music, and if the never-ending reboot cycle didn’t entirely kill the battery life within a few hours.

I think I have to bite the bullet and accept that the phone is in its death throes.

So what am I going to replace it with?

Here’s where you come in.  While I’ve got some general ideas about what I’m looking for, and even a few different models in mind, I’d like to hear what you’d go for if you were in my situation.  Let me know in the comments – I need your help!


Dave in happier times


1.  It can’t cost a fortune

My current phone is a little under two years old.  That’s not exactly new in smartphone terms, but I was more than happy with it and had no plans to upgrade any time soon.  That means that there’s no money in the bank for expensive pieces of tech.  My budget might stretch to $500, but less would be much better.


2.  It needs to have adequate local storage

I try to keep all of my music on my phone, both as a backup and also because it means I don’t need to make decisions about what to listen to ahead of time.  That requires 32Gb of memory at an absolute minimum, either built in or via a micro-SD card.


3.  It needs to be unlocked

Most importantly, it needs to be unlocked and unrestricted.  I move countries every few weeks or months, and don’t have a phone contract anywhere.  I absolutely have to be able to drop any prepaid local SIM card into the device and have it work without restriction.


4. It needs to work in as many countries as possible

On a related note, voice and data needs to work in as many countries as possible.  A quad-band GSM phone is a minimum, with at least 3G coverage.


5.  Customisation matters

I don’t like locked-down devices, whether that is hardware or software.  On the physical front, I need to be able to easily replace the battery – having two spare batteries for my current phone has been invaluable on long flights or bus rides.  If it has less than 32Gb of storage, there needs to be a micro-SD card slot as well.  When it comes to software, I want to be able to determine how I use my phone and what it looks like.  Wallpaper, ring tones, widgets, apps, whatever.  My phone, my choice.


6.  So does size

I don’t like big, heavy phones, or huge screens.  The size of my existing phone display (4″) seems perfect, although I’d go up slightly if I needed to.


7.  I need to actually be able to buy it

I’m in New Zealand for the next two months, then South East Asia for a few months after that.  Whatever I decide to buy, it needs to be available – or at least shippable to – wherever I’m going to be at the time, without paying hundreds in taxes or courier costs.


Ok, so I think that’s about it.  I’ve looked at a various choices, but haven’t made any firm decisions yet due to one or more of the reasons above.

So, if this was you, what would you buy and why?

In the meantime I’ll just be sitting here watching my phone reboot…


Phone in river image via Liquipel.  If only I’d used that service beforehand…



10 Responses

      • Nick Rutten

        The differences between the S2 and S2 Plus don’t seem to be that big. The camera got an upgrade, and it now has zero-lag shutter speed, so you can shoot fast-moving objects. But you probably have a decent camera for photographing.

        I know there’s a couple downloadable apps you can put on an S2 to unlock it. You’ll have to root it first though.

        The internal storage in the S2 is decreased from 16Gb to 8Gb, so that might not fit your purposes, but the microSD-slot now supports cards of up to 64Gb instead of 32Gb, so that’s definitely an upgrade.

        Anyhow, you can read all about the differences here: Tom’s Hardware Galaxy S2 Comparison

        I’m guessing the regular S2 is a lot cheaper by now though, and with the differences being not all that big, that would be my pick. It may be 2 years old, it’s still a great phone.

  1. Joel

    I’m with Dan. What you’ve described is what you had. Stick with what works. Is there a single feature you really want that the SII doesn’t have?

  2. Cynthia

    I know how you feel! i left mine in a taxi last week and spent a day getting over lost iphone depression. im in saigon atm so i looked in the major chain mobile stores and settled with


    at first it was meant to be a cheap and temporary replacement but i love it. i going to keep using it when i get to australia. it has the same, if not better features than most phones on the market today and best of all it was only $180.

    if you dont care about brand names and are just looking for a decent phone, id highly reccommend buying a locally manufactured phone in se-asia.

    good luck!

  3. Simon

    Firstly, that sucks. My phone is such an important part of my workflows and it would be so harsh if that happened. I feel your pain and it feels like a particularly bad toe stub. Or maybe like catching your finger in the door.

    Probably not as bad as a broken arm, but still damn painful and it’s going to hurt for a good few days.

    Anyhow, in an effort to be helpful I’m going to recommend the iPhone 5. It fits exactly one of your requirements (if you get the 32Gb version, if you get the 16Gb one it fits none) but is still an excellent piece of hardware and worth the second mortgage to get.

    Someone here has to keep the Apple flag flying.

  4. Dave Dean

    Thanks for the comments and insights, folks – and I think those of you suggesting sticking with what I have are probably right. The “Plus” seems more like a minus, in reality.

    If I can find one cheap enough, I think I’ll go for it. If not, maybe an off brand in SE Asia might do the trick. I’ll keep you informed. 😉


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