Posts Tagged ‘nexus5’

When a phone is not a phone

Monday, June 5th, 2017

A brief taxonomy of mobile computing devices.

I have been writing a post about my Nexus 5 phone and came across a theory: the Nexus 5 is not, in fact, a phone.

I suggest that modern mobile computers that are between smartwatches and tablets in size can be roughly split into two categories:

  1. “Phone” – use mainly for text and voice, single-handed, will be dropped, will be used on the go
  2. “Mobile device” – two-handed, used in safe locations, seated or at least securely standing

Size impacts how you use a device. It is difficult to use a device bigger than early smartphones one-handed. The situation isn’t helped by slippery surfaces like glass or metal on both sides of many new phones. If you regularly attempt to pull a large smartphone out of a pocket while walking or cycling, you’ll drop it eventually.

And while phones were designed to be dropped with minimum damage – compact shape, non-structural outer body, rounded plastic corners that take in most of the crash energy, even battery covers that pop off – modern devices might as well be designed to take maximum damage when dropped, with rigid materials throughout and functional edge-to-edge glass on a large front face.

Fragile smartphones that don’t take being dropped well have been a problem for almost a decade now and there’s little to indicate that the situation is getting better. Workarounds include protective or grippy cases, but I would much rather just have a phone that doesn’t need a case in the first place. I understand their value for specialized needs or carrying methods – for couriers or sport – but I just want to send short text messages and check next bus time a couple of times a day.

Here is a small selection of phones and mobile devices released over the past two decades:


Rescuing data from an Android phone with broken touchscreen and disabled USB debugging

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Last week I dropped my Nexus 5 once again, this time for good. I had cracked and broken the top glass before, but the display and the touchscreen kept on working. This time, the touchscreen no longer registers touches, though luckily the display still works somewhat. On a device with no trackball, touchpad, or keyboard, a broken touchscreen is problematic.

Unfortunately, I had been lazy about keeping my phone properly backed up. There wasn’t that much unique stuff on it, but I always meant to backup apps and app data, and to eventually root and reflash someday — but never got around to it. Consequently I didn’t have USB debugging turned on, or a computer cleared for debugging.

Generally, the way to control and back up Android devices is from your desktop computer, using a USB connection and software called adb (Android Debug Bridge, see adb docs). However, USB debugging must be first turned on in Android settings, and since Android 4.2.2, the phone asks to confirm debugging access from each computer that attempts to connect. Normally the confirmation is done using the phone touchscreen. Oops.

Here are my notes on what I did to eventually gain USB debugging access. I did not require root or fastboot. I needed a computer to act as the adb host and a few accessories: a USB OTG cable, a USB mouse, and a Bluetooth keyboard.

Learning from my trouble, I recommend people running Android 4.4.3 or higher and interested in maintaining access to their device to enable USB debugging ahead of time.


Nexus 5, ten months in

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

I like bunnie’s exit review idea (e.g. on his T60p, on his 8700c): the thought that you can write a better review at the end of a device’s life than after a week or two. This is not a true exit review, but I will bend the rules here a bit and say that ten months, one winter, and one broken screen is enough to write down some useful thoughts about the Nexus 5.

I bought a Nexus 5 in April 2014. This is my third mobile phone after a Blackberry Pearl 8100 and an HTC Nexus One. I’ve also owned Nokia’s N800 and N810 internet tablet devices.

Factors involved in deciding what phone to get were wireless networks supported, size, software hackability, input methods, software updates, storage size/options, and the camera in roughly that order.

I somewhat seriously considered going back to Blackberry but couldn’t find a pentaband model I liked and could justify cost-wise. I briefly tried a Nokia E72 but found software and keyboard lacking. At one point I considered a Nokia E6 but ended up forgetting it (oops) when I resumed phone-shopping.

I paid $132.50 (USD) for the Blackberry in September 2008, $200 for the Nexus One in October 2011, and ended up paying $463.62 for the black 32 GB Nexus 5 in April 2014. My thoughts are mixed.

Blackberry Pearl 8100, HTC Nexus One, and LG Nexus 5 phones viewed from the front

The family, with factory screen protector still on the N5.