Nokia X10 long-term usage report - early demise approaching

Updated: October 24, 2023

Ah, it's that time of the year again. A smartphone purchase time. Why? Because my current device is showing signs of impending doom. Let me elaborate. In 2021, I got meself a Nokia X10. I deliberately chose a cheaper phone for my secondary needs, like travel, work, testing, stuff like that. And it served me reasonably well until just a few weeks back when it started exhibiting problematic behavior.

The battery would suddenly drain. Usually after either using mobile data for a while or sharing the mobile connection (hotspot). Instead of doing the usual week plus of slow discharge, the battery would drain within several hours. Either the battery is dying, or the hardware has gone faulty, and there's over-consumption by this or that part, like say the mobile antenna transmitting at peak power nonstop. Whatever the cause, the phone needs replacement. But before we do that, I wanna summarize the last two years. Let's.

Teaser

Money for nothing, and bits for free

When you buy a phone, you say byebye to some cash (typically). And then, when the device dies, you can do some simple maffs. Divide the total cost by the number of months of usage, and you get an estimate on how expensive or cheap the device really was.

Before the Nokia, I had a Moto G6. It was also an el-cheapo, and it died within just two years of purchase. I needed a replacement, and because of nostalgia (over Nokia), I went for this X10 phone. Two years later, we're in the same situation again. Four years, roughly 500 dollars worth of equipment. That translates to about 120 dollars per year, or a very neat 10 dollars/month.

In other words, if you get a device that costs 700 dollars but lasts 6 years, you get the same value for money, more or less. Indeed, I've always claimed that more expensive hardware is actually LESS expensive in the long run, and this motto has served me well with laptops and desktops. But I've been reluctant to apply the same formula for smartphones, because I don't use them much. For me, a phone is a phone. It ain't a portal of enlightenment. Sure, they have their purpose, they can even be fun and useful. But would I spent 1,000 dollars on a phone? Well, I've never done that. The most was around 600-ish or so.

Then, if someone said, what if you can have a phone that will last 7-8-9 years, in that case, the price would be fair, and roughly equivalent to what you spend on seemingly "cheap" phones. All the while, you'd enjoy better hardware, better performance, better everything. At some point, of course, this equation breaks, and there is a sweet spot of value. I am not 100% sure what it is, but I did bring this up in my iPhone 11 review. It would seem that perhaps Apple's devices do manage to satisfy the formula well.

But I ain't an Apple user, and so I'd need an Android that does the thing. Unless, for whatever reason, I decide to stop being a peasant one day. Now. All of this brings me back to my dying Nokia X10. It was not expensive, but changing your phone every two years is exhausting. Too short. Too expensive. And all that customization one needs if they like their privacy is just disheartening. You don't want to be doing that too often.

And so, my first conclusion of this long-term review: cheap ain't cheap. If you can afford more expensive, higher-quality device, you are probably going to benefit from it long term. The two in a row flaky experiences kind of illustrate that (in the past, I had way more luck with cheaper devices). But let's see exactly how the Nokia fared.

Flimsy build

The phone did not fare well on the hardware side. Both the side button (which you can use for Google Assistant if you like that kind of thing, or if not, it ends up being a dead, non-functioning piece of plastic) and the volume button have fallen out of the case. Yup. Made of plastic, and all too easily "snapped" out of their sockets. How? Just by removing and putting on the plastic phone cover that was supplied with the phone. Nothing else.

Over the years, I took the cover off a few times to clean the phone, get rid of the dust and such, and on one occasion, simultaneously, both of the buttons popped out. You can slot them back in, but they will fall out if you tilt the phone. Their hooks/locks have broken. I don't know if this undermines the water protection, but it sure undermines functionality. You can't adjust the volume on your phone; you need to put the volume button back, put the cover on as a band aid, and then you can pretend everything is hunky dory.

Broken button 1

Broken button 2

Software side of things

If you recall, the Android 13 upgrade broke the QR codes for a while, but then this got fixed in a subsequent patch (two versions later). Over the phone's short lifespan, there were plenty of updates and upgrades, often not that long after the original release, which is nice. But this is what you get when you go for the stock Android experience. Not all vendors offer this, and not for all their models, but here, I had it, briefly, before the battery started running out of steam. Indeed, before the problems cropped, the Android 13 upgrade led to a massive, massive power utilization optimization and improvement, some 30-40% easy.

Battery, hardware or software issue?

I am not 100% convinced what caused the battery problem. It all started after one of the regular phone patch cycles. What happen is as follows. Charge the battery, use the phone lightly, no worries. Use it a bit more aggressively and/or turn the mobile hotspot, and the battery will drain rapidly. There is no sudden drainage jump, which is typical of batteries that have lost partial capacity. But I cannot say for certain where the fault is. My hunch is a bad (most likely network) driver now causes a massive power usage, plus there is some loss of battery capacity after all. This might get fixed, but I can't rely on that.

General stuff

By and large, this phone delivered. I used it for international travel a lot. Navigation with HERE WeGo maps, easy peasy. Dual SIM functionality, 4G/5G connectivity, quite all right, working as it should. I was able to get a 410 Mbps download speed at one point (with the symbol showing 4G as it happens), and 300-ish Mbps in good conditions, regardless of the network symbol shown in the notification bar (depending on weather, traffic congestion and signal strength, of course). The mobile hotspot sharing seems limited to 50 Mbps for the connected devices, but this is still quite respectable. Music playback, not bad (audio quality 5/7, but not in the meme sense). The camera is probably the weakest component, with washed out colors and low detail separation. I mean okay for the price, but nothing stellar.

When used very lightly, the battery charge would last a good 7-10 days. When used extensively, including an almost whole-day mobile hotspot sharing, the phone would do about two days solid, i.e., the battery would deplete to about 50% after an entire day of network activity, some decent browsing and such.

Conclusion

If I ignore the sudden battery deterioration issue, the Nokia X10 is a good device. Alas, I cannot ignore the problem, because it did occur, and it did impair my ability to use the phone. The damage to both the side and the volume button also highlights the lack of build quality, from one I can probably also assume that a similar trend may affect the internal parts, like say the battery. Even though I'm not 100% convinced the physical cell is really dying, as the phone did have firmware problems before (the QR code), the end result is one and the same, I need a replacement.

My one true lesson from the Nokia exercise is not that you can't get away with a cheaper phone. From the spec perspective, it will most likely deliver (but not in all cases, though), but you won't have stellar results, the audio and the camera are almost guaranteed to be mediocre, and worst of all, the device is probably not going to last for long. You can contrast this with the Nokias of old, which were built to outlast Armageddon. I still have a 2011 Nokia E6, with its titanium shell, original battery that holds two weeks worth of charge, dual-band Wireless, dope camera, and it still works reliably like on its first day. Ah, well. It is what it is. At least the Nokia gave me a warning that I need to look for a successor phone. And it won't be a cheap device. But that's a story for another article. For now, there you have, the conclusion of a two-year moderately successful escapade. Fare well, my dear Internetians.

Cheers.