I own both an aging Huawei Ascend Mate 2  ($200 on Amazon for a similar model)  and a newer Google Nexus 6  ($345 from Amazon). Which do I favor for e-reading?

The “obvious” choice might be the Nexus, with far greater resolution than the Ascend Mate 2’s. In fact, I originally intended to sell the Huawei (shown to the left). But guess which one I might dispose of instead, if I decide I don’t need a good  backup phone?

Yes, my Nexus 6 might end up on eBay or Craigslist. For me, at least, the Huawei’s screen is more readable.

Dark letters stand out—the background is whiter. And in spite of or maybe because of the Huawei’s lower resolution of 720X1280  (241 pixels per inch), they at least appear to be bolder.

Not that the Nexus is a disaster for e-reading—far from it. I just like the Huawei better.

Your ergonomic preferences and others may not be the same as mine. What is on your own list of e-book-related criteria for shopping for a cell phone? I’ll limit this to e-book factors for simplicity’s sake. The best phone for reading e-books may not be the best phone for you in general, especially if your budget is limited.

Anyway, here’s my list of e-book related criteria:

1. The screen. Point already made. We can’t just think in terms of resolution alone in terms of readability. If nothing else, the Huawei screen is brighter outside.

2. Battery life. The Ascend Mate 2 is a camel, with a battery capacity of about 4000mA. By contrast the Nexus is just 3220. I can use the Ascend Mate 2 for e-books and other purposes without ever worrying about the battery running down, before I get a chance to recharge it overnight. The Nexus is not in the same class. Of course, with a resolution of 1440 by 2560 (493 pixels per inch), the Nexus screen could demand more of the battery despite the AMOLED technology. Pixels not in use won’t drain the batteries of AMOLED phones, but most of the screen is white when I’m reading, so that won’t bail me out. The night-time mode of white text against a black background can handy, but normally I read with a white background.

3. The position of the volume control buttons for turning pages. Both phones have controls on the right side. The locations aren’t optimal but will do, even if at times I may confuse power and volume buttons. Of course, not everyone uses buttons for turning pages. That just happens to be my preference at times. Rely on the screen instead? Then if you’re shopping for an econo-phone—below the level of the Ascend Mate or the Nexus—be sure that the screens are responsive to your taps.

4. The ruggedness of the phone. Ideally you’ll buy a nice, study case with its share of testimonials from other shoppers, but it’ll help if the phone is well built. I haven’t subjected either phone to a drop test and other torture. If you really care about this issue, then you might consider a more or less drop-proof phone from Motorola.

5. The operating system. Older versions of Android or iOS won’t necessarily work with your pet e-reading program. Voice Dream for Android, for example, requires at least Android 4.4 and up. It won’t work on my Ascend Mate 2 until I upgrade. As an aside, Voice Dream excels both for regular e-reading and for text to speech, it’s also available as an iOS app and I highly recommend it.

6. Storage capacity. This issue will matter most for people with large libraries of e-books, especially space-hogging illustrated PDFs (admittedly not as viewable on cell phone screens as on tablets and desktops). It also could count for audiobook fans or for people who just like lots of music on hand as background for reading. My own storage needs aren’t that great. I can always call up what I need from my Dropbox cloud. Internal storage of the Ascend Mate is 16 GB, and I can add to that with a storage card.

7. RAM. For e-reading alone, that probably won’t be much of an issue unless you’re going for a low-end phone. If you’re into multitasking, however, this could matter. Both the Ascend Mate and the Nexus have enough RAM for my needs.

So much for my criteria for cell phones for e-reading. What are yours? Have I left out anything?

Full specs for the Ascend Mate 2: Here.


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