Updated: January 17, 2023
Roughly 14 months ago, I bought a Nokia X10 phone as a replacement for a dead Moto G6. By and large, this new successor phone isn't a supreme specimen of its kind. It's okay, but not more than that. 'Tis, at the end of the day, a budget device with reasonable but far from stellar specs. The camera is meh, the battery is good, the performance is solid, and the volume and the assistant buttons have fallen out of the case, just a year after the purchase. I need to fit them in manually each time before placing the device inside a protective cover.
However, the 5G connectivity is solid, and the phone gets frequent updates. I've already written about its merry path to Android 12, and just recently, it was also upgraded to Android 13. I don't recall any other phone of mine ever having received two major updates, so this is a nice one. Plus, it's an opportunity to write a little review.
Android 10 still has the best looks, but 13 is fixing some old errors
I hate the pointless progress for the sake of progress mentality in tech. Software reaches maturity, the UI is stable, and then, because work must never stop, the whole thing gets redesigned just because. Quite often, you end up with worse results than before. Android 12 sure did ruin a few things. Like say the ultra-large clock on the lock screen. In general, the crayonification of the UI is annoying. There's really no reason to cater to idiots, other than the obvious benefits of massive profits from said cretins. Ah, yes. I take my words back.
Well, one afternoon, the X10 asked me to reboot. So I did, not knowing that my entire phone would be updated. Free homework. I sat down and spent a few hours going through the phone settings to make sure nothing was changed or added against my desire, especially on the privacy front. But let's start with the looks.
Everything is still too big, too flat, too modern, but less so than before. This is a good start, so to speak. However, the update also brings inefficiency all over the place. Like for instance the combining of the mobile data and Wi-Fi buttons under a single new element called Internet. Now, if you want to turn either one of these on or off, that's another tap. You have twice as many taps as before, a 100% efficiency penalty. I know we have the inflation, but this?
You can now disable the double-line clock, but that doesn't really help. If you do that, you get a single-line clock plus a tiny date positioned top left, and not even properly indented, which looks ugly and jarring. I don't understand what was so wrong with how Android 10 does it. A thin-font clock and date, centered horizontally and placed at about 2/5ths of the height from the top of the screen. Very simple and elegant. But no, we need bold fonts, then two lines, and then midget fonts. Pointless. And then, all of it placed in the worst way possible!
Ultra-pleasant surprise! There were no pointless things I had to undo, change or tweak. Things were all in their right order, nothing has been added, no naughty app moved from disabled state to active, no permission altered. The pointless Google Assistant didn't wake up, and even Bluetooth remains disabled on the system level, as it ought to.
Android 13 allows you to run specific applications in different languages. This can be quite useful, even though I firmly believe software interfaces should be in English only. But it's also a positive sign that perhaps large corporations are slowly realizing that people actually speak foreignese worldwide.
Android 13 places a lot of emphasis on power optimization and speed. I can confirm this is indeed the case. The system is fast and snappy, and more so than before. Even the battery lasts longer. We're talking a massive 20% improvement. The phone can now hold a charge for about 10 days with the same pattern of usage I normally have, compared to only about a week previously. This is significant. The phone will also warn you if there are active apps draining battery, which can further help improve the times between charges. Very happy, me, in this regard.
Problems? Some ...
Well, unfortunately, not all is golden. Android 13 - or more specifically Nokia - broke the QR code reader on this phone. Reading the various forums, I'm not alone. Various Nokia users are complaining about the same loss of functionality, and not even a full phone reset will help. What happens is, if you try to scan a code, the camera tries to initialize the sensor, but it fails. So you end up with a black screen with the red QR code frame crosshairs rectangle in the middle. But you can't really scan anything. The camera itself works.
Finally, if you take a screenshot, you still get the annoying image edit preview for a second or two, and there is no setting to make this go away. Hopefully, Android 14 or whatnot will fix this silly annoyance. Anyway, those are the two main problems that I was able to discover. So far.
No matter how hard I try to be a cynic today, I'm failing. Android 13 is a pretty decent update overall. I do hate the loss of QR code functionality, but hopefully, this is something that will be fixed soonish. Other than that, the crayony interface is less crayony, the speed is speedier, the battery is batterier. You get more performance and juice, better looks, untouched privacy, and only a small efficiency penalty in the UI settings. I can live with that.
Now, one could argue, well, why make UI changes to have them undone a release later? No idea. I guess the cycle of money and productivity (used in the loosest of terms) must go on, and thus, we shall forever be seeing changes come and go, as randomly as gamma emissions from atom nuclei. That said, I'm pleased that the X10 keeps getting updates (and fairly quickly, too), and I like this new Android 13. It ain't the best, but it's a big step in the right direction. Android has improved a lot, and it's still plodding along quite nicely. The end.