Samsung Galaxy S6 Active Redux

My phone since December 2015 has been a Samsung Galaxy S6 Active.  It is more than three years old, and until last week, it was still going strong.  No performance or stability problems.  The screen is still perfect.  Even though I don’t use a case, there is so little external cosmetic damage that I don’t see any unless I specifically look for it.  The battery life might be slightly reduced.

Last week, I flew to Denver.  Shortly after I left the airport, I noticed that the back of the phone was significantly convex.  Instead of sitting flat on a table, it rocked around on its back, which had become curved.  The battery had swollen, and the aluminum back had deformed.  Even more troubling was that the glass in front was slightly deformed.  The phone worked, took a charge, and never caught fire.  It functioned okay for the whole trip, although the battery life definitely wasn’t as good as it used to be.  When I got back home, the bulge was significantly less.  Denver’s mile-high altitude must be a factor.

As soon as I discovered the problem, I figured I should start researching my next device.  The S9 is the current model, but there is no S9 Active.  There is an S8 Active, and I looked at it.  I was disappointed.

The S8 Active is even bigger than the S6 Active.  (For some reason, phone manufacturers believe that bigger is better.  It is not.)  Faster CPU, but that probably also means it uses more energy.  A ton of wasted real estate around the screen.  They rounded off the corners of the display.  WTF?  (Evidently this is common; the Google Pixel is the same way.)  Slightly larger battery capacity, undoubtedly to make up for the power hungry CPU.  The camera resolution is reduced to 12 megapixels.  It basically looks dorky.  For this, I would be paying $850 to “upgrade”.

I noticed that AT&T’s site also had the S7 Active for sale still, but it had all the same disadvantages.  I wondered why I couldn’t just get a new S6 Active.  Instead of searching AT&T’s site, I used a search engine to find the S6 Active.  There was my phone, new in box, on Amazon for a couple hundred bucks.

After a day of deliberation, I ordered one.  I ended up getting the dark grey model, instead of the camo blue one I have now, because it was $75 cheaper, and because I hardly ever notice the dark blue pattern on the back.  I figure $185 isn’t a three-year investment.  Instead, it will give me breathing room until Samsung or someone else releases a great outdoor phone.

I’ve had it for a day, and I really only have two problems with it.  The first is that it came with Android 6.0.1, and it won’t update to the 7.0.1 version I have on my previous S6 Active.  This might be because I checked for updates while I didn’t have the SIM card in it.  Now it won’t even let me check for updates for 24 hours.  The other problem is that the Reuters News app I’ve been using does not appear in the app store.  I’m hoping this is because it doesn’t support the older version of Android that is currently installed, and once I figure out how to get the update, I should be able to find and install the app.  UPDATE: It is applying software updates.  Unfortunately, it refuses to even check for an update until 24 hours has passed, and it will only install one update at a time.  According to this document, there are sixteen updates from the version supplied with the device.  I have managed to install two of them, but at this rate, it will be more than two weeks until I will have my phone current.  I am three more updates away from 7.0 Nougat.  What a pain.  2nd UPDATE: Once I got to 7.0, it stopped pretending for 24 hour intervals that there weren’t more updates available, so I was able to get through all of the 7.0 and 7.0.1 updates in several hours.  My phone is now fully updated, five days after receiving it.  There were actually a few updates that could be skipped because of the way some updates were rolled together.  Also, synchronization to the Samsung cloud started with 7.0, so I was able to get back more data, namely all my memos.  And yes, the Reuters News app was available in the app store once the device was sufficiently updated.