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I just upgraded my phone and it was an ordeal

Buying a new phone should be an exciting time, but it tosses up numerous issues. Here's what happened when I recently upgraded.

Published onMay 12, 2019

HONOR View 20 in Blue on a wooden table, only half in shot.

I think I’ve worked out why phones aren’t selling like they used to: setting up a new device is an absolute ordeal.

Last week, I swapped my HUAWEI P10 for an HONOR View 20 — my first phone upgrade in around 20 months. I liked the P10, but it was damaged, and I’d had my eye on the View 20 since attending its Paris launch event.

“HUAWEI and HONOR phones have the same UI. This should be a smooth transition, right?” I thought.

Here’s my experience of upgrading an Android smartphone in 2019.

Data transfer depths

Moving app and file data to a new phone is essential to the upgrade process. OEMs understand this, and many create dedicated tools to make it easier. HUAWEI has its own Phone Clone app, which I intended to use to transfer my data. This is where my troubles started.

You see, the phone cloning process can’t begin without sufficient storage space — not only on the device receiving the data but on the one sending it. It’s like a moving company saying they won’t deliver your belongings to the new address unless you sling a few items first.

The HUAWEI Phone Clone app in a pair of screenshots.
HUAWEI’s Phone Clone app is great, but it’s not flawless.

The 10 to 15 minute transfer process migrated most of my data as I’d hoped, but some apps needed to be installed manually — continuing the moving metaphor, it’s like the delivery company refused to bring the dining room chairs. With apps like Voice Recorder, I also needed to manually transfer the data.

It’s like a moving company saying they won’t deliver your belongings to the new address unless you sling a few items first.

So I wasn’t enamored with my new phone to start, and that was before I tried to send a WhatsApp message.

After installing the app, verifying my phone number, and adding a username, I expected I would find my most recently backed-up conversations. Turns out I had none.

A pair of screenshots showing Voice Recorder and WhatsApp.
Get used to scenes like this when you’re upgrading your smartphone.

I could retrieve them either by exporting them from my old phone or by backing them up to Google Drive (disabled by default in WhatsApp) on my old phone first. The trouble is, you’re locked out of WhatsApp once the number is verified on a second device.

Retrieving my previous chats could have meant:

  • Swapping my SIM card into the previous phone
  • Verifying the number
  • Adding a username
  • Using the backup tool
  • Swapping the SIM card back to the new device
  • Verifying the number
  • Adding a username
  • Restoring the chats

I didn’t think it was worth the effort to find out. I started life with my new phone without them.

Privacy problems

Successfully transferring data to a new phone is only one hurdle. Actually using the apps tosses up yet more problems.

After reinstalling Facebook Messenger, my “status” setting was reset to its default (my chat logs remained here, thankfully). I usually hide my online status in apps to maintain a greater sense of privacy; it was only when I started receiving messages from people I hadn’t spoken to for a while — nor wished to — that I realized it had been switched on.

A pair of screenshots showing Active Status on Facebook Messenger and a WhatsApp Notice..
My Facebook status had been switched to active after I reinstalled it (left) and a friend contacted me on WhatsApp saying they’d received a notification about my WhatsApp activities (right).

I had a similar experience with WhatsApp, where a friend received the message seen above, right concerning my WhatsApp reinstallation.

I don’t want my contacts alerted to any change in my circumstances and activities. Knowing they can contact me at any moment without my explicit consent is stressful enough.

Meanwhile, setting up the phone required answering certain privacy-related questions once again. I have answered the same questions numerous times before, and perhaps given the appropriate answers in the past — protecting my privacy while maintaining the features I wanted. This time, I accepted all out of pure frustration.

Are new phones better?

The app and software experience has little to do with my phone’s creator, Honor — even the View 20’s user interface is developed by its parent company, HUAWEI. One aspect of the phone for which HONOR is certifiably responsible, though, is hardware.

With two generations between the P10 and the View 20, and both being flagship phones, I expected the View 20 to be better. Generally, it is, but it stumbles in some basic areas.

HONOR View 20 camera review: A very high score, and for good reason

It’s very slippery, which would be fine were it not a handheld electronic device I use all the time. Smartphones are 10 years old and sold in the billions. How haven’t OEMs yet managed to grasp, erm, grip?

My other usability gripe is that the View 20’s display is just too big to comfortably operate with one hand. To tap the upper regions of it, I must lay it across my fingers rather than gripping it as I normally would. I’m constantly juggling these two holds (and juggling the phone is the last thing I should be doing with it).

The HONOR View 20 with a thumb covering a portion of the display.
Refreshing my weather widget isn’t an option when holding the View 20 with my regular grip.

Its size affects other aspects too, like typing, playing games, and fitting it into my pocket. It’s not like I was willfully ignorant of its framing as a particularly large phone either, HONOR doesn’t promote it as some “supersized” device.

The View 20 is still usable in one hand, it just doesn’t feel like it arrived after ten years of smartphone innovation and refinement. It’s harder to handle than smaller phones produced at the end of the last decade.

Getting a new phone sometimes sucks

The HONOR View 20 isn’t a worse phone than the HUAWEI P10: it’s superior in numerous ways. Further, neither HUAWEI nor HONOR are to blame for all the inconveniences I’ve encountered — I am.

The View 20 is still usable in one hand, it just doesn't feel like it arrived after ten years of smartphone innovation and refinement.

If I’d learned more about the transfer process, tested the phone more before buying it, and re-checked my app settings immediately after installation, I’d have avoided some headaches.

I readily accept this, but I guarantee others less technically minded than myself — someone who works at an Android news website — will have similar complaints after buying a new phone. However, we will continue to buy them, which means manufacturers don’t need to worry too much about how unpleasant the upgrading process is.

The View 20 problems I’ve encountered are not dealbreakers. They’re just inconveniences I don’t want to deal with, and wouldn’t have to, were it not for my last device becoming damaged. Next time, I’ll wait for more than a broken camera and smashed screen before ditching my handset. I’ll make sure my next phone supports my treasured 256GB microSD card, too.

If you need help upgrading, read our how to switch phones guide at the link. Let me know in the comments what your most recent phone upgrade was like.

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