The Devices Behind The XDA Team

The Devices Behind The XDA Team

In a recent episode of XDA TV, TK explained which phone he uses and what he was running on it, but what about the rest of the news team? XDA has an incredibly diverse team from many walks of life and locations, so here we will explore just how that is reflected in our chosen devices. Each member of the team was asked a few simple questions: Which devices do you use, what software are you running, their reasons for choosing them, what devices they would be buying next and what has been their favorite device? Their answers may surprise you.

Mathew Brack

My daily device is a Xiaomi Mi Note Bamboo edition running MIUI 6 (but if anyone is working on a CM or TWRP build for it, drop me a message). I also have my faithful Galaxy Note 2 running CM11, Paranoid Android and MIUI 6 on multiROM which now is being mainly used as a FTP server and NFC Tag writer for my implant as the Mi Note lacks NFC. I love the look and feel of the Mi note, it runs really well and whilst understandably not having a huge development backing, spending even a short while with it reminds of the feeling I had when I got my N7100. I also have a Nexus 7 for personal use and a Galaxy Tab 4 for my work with drones at my university, both of which are running stock. As far as wearables go, I only own a Xiaomi Mi band which I love for the month-long battery life, aided by a modified Mi Fit app. As for my next purchase, I’ll be buying project Ara as soon as I can and possibly the next Nexus depending on manufacturer and specs. My favourite phone to date has to be the Note 2, that phone has taken so much abuse, has a legendary developer backing and has come out all the better for it. Although the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) will always have a special place in my heart, that slide out keyboard was a nightmare to use with in retrospect and boot up time was horrific but back then it seemed like the perfect device.

Emil Kako

I went from using the HTC One M7, to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, to finally settling on the OnePlus One (no pun intended). I found the form factor and screen size of the OnePlus One to be the most ideal for me personally. While the Note 3 before it had great battery life, I have yet to use any device with battery life as good as the OnePlus One. As far as ROMs go, I gave OxygenOS a trial run for a few days, but it’s just too early in development and lacks too many features in comparison to CM. I’m currently running Cyanogen 12 S and don’t have many complaints.

My next Android device will most likely be between the OnePlus Two and LG G4. Although OnePlus has made some questionable choices this year, their first flagship has been one hell of a phone, and I’m expecting its successor to be just as impressive. The G4 also seems to be quite the device, based on the recent leaks and rumors. If the camera on it is really as good as it is being hyped to be, it will be hard for me to stay away from it.

I don’t really have a favorite phone to date, but I have to admit that I hold a bit of sentiment to my first smartphone ever, the Blackberry Bold 9000. It was magnificent at the time, and was my first introduction to the world of smartphones. It’s been quite the ride ever since.

Jeremy Meiss (Jerdog)

I use: Moto X 2014 (stock 5.1); Xperia Z3 (stock 5.0.2); Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (stock 5.0.2); Nexus 9 (stock 5.0.1);  Nexus 5 (Omni 5.1) and an LG G Watch.

I like to pick devices that are as close to stock Android as possible, and then utilize ROMs (if needed) which amplify that if I need to go a custom ROM route, I rarely use something that is based on stock because in many cases (with rare exception) those “enhancements” end up being snake oil. So if I go a custom ROM route, it’s going to be something solid and built from source by reputable developers;

With my job (both for XDA and Fastboot Mobile), I come in contact with a lot of different devices across a lot of different markets from a lot of different manufacturers – and so these are the ones I like the most (so far). That being said – I am interested to see what the next Nexus device is, if Google goes back and does a Nexus 5 2015. I am also very interested in the LG G Flex 2 and G4. And as always, I am interested in seeing what Sony deploys with the Z4. Samsung and HTC just haven’t done anything for me in a while, so I don’t have any plans for a device from one of them. My favorite device? That’s like asking me “What is your favorite movie?” because for me you can’t boil it down to one – there are categories for a reason. But, my favorite phone to date would probably be either the Nexus 5 for its OS versatility, or the Z3 for the battery life and power, and my favorite tablet would have to be the Asus Transformer (original) for its trans-desktop abilities.

Tomek Kondrat

I use a OnePlus One with various ROMs. Mostly Omni and SlimSaber, but I’m giving a try to CM12S as of late. Omni is very clear and doesn’t use CAF hybrid while SlimSaber is one of the most complete and bug-free ROMs I have ever used. My next purchase? Tricky question. It’ll Probably be the next Nexus. My favorite device so far… all were great. The best phone I’ve ever owned was probably the Nexus 4. No bugs at all. But I have extreme sentiment to my old Xperia X8 which got me on XDA.

Mario Serrafero

My current daily driver is a white Galaxy Note 4 (SM-N910T) covered in wood-themed DBrand skins. My second carry is a silver Moto 360 with a cognac band, which has just recently replaced my Gear Live. I also have a Note 3 (SM-N900) lying around, and back in my country there’s a Galaxy S3 (GT-I9300) and Nexus 5 awaiting my arrival – both lent out to my parents. Sick of waiting for T-Mobile, I flashed the Canadian BOC4 firmware to my Note 4, as the Canadian variant (N910W8) has the exact same hardware as the T-Mobile Note 4. I also dualboot CyanogenMod 12.1 Nightlies on the side, and switch around to get what I consider “the best of both worlds”. My Moto 360 runs stock Wear without many apps in the way, but a healthy amount of watchfaces. I actually like some of TouchWiz, and since the Note 3 brought pen-window and better stylus integration, the Note series has carried what I consider the most productive Android ROM you can get. With the recent optimizations and sheer hardware of the Note series, I have no performance issues (other than a slight recents menu delay which has dramatically diminished on Lollipop). The appearance of TouchWiz is still an issue to me, which is why I typically flash themes to remedy that. The Note 4’s multi-window is, hands down, the best multitasking implementation in a mobile OS. It completely changes the way I approach the virtual space and navigation within it, and it is just one of the indispensable productivity features I depend on.

The Note 4’s hardware is outstanding in every sense, but I could have stayed with my Note 3. Sadly, my version didn’t include 4G LTE which I came to love in America. The camera, battery life and screen (oh, the screen!) are all the best I’ve had and some of the best out there, and I bought the thing on a $150 discount to boot. I run CyanogenMod 12.1 on the side to still re-visit the zippy beauty of Material Design, but I spend most of my time on TouchWiz 5.0.2. As far as my Moto 360 goes, I picked it up during the Best Buy discount craze (for those unfamiliar, you could get one for as little as $50 if you played it smart). I love it to death and the band and design match with most of my wardrobe as well as my wood-backed phone. No regrets!

Despite my affinity for Note phones, I don’t quite consider myself “loyal” to Samsung. With rumors saying that LG will eventually bring a Stylus, and the sure-coming of multi-window to Stock Android, chances are I might step out of the Note line I am so accustomed to. And if those (and a few other) conditions are met as the Note 5 also does not bring back the microSD slot nor the removable battery… then I’ll migrate for sure. The Blackberry Curve 8310 is my favorite device, but for special reasons: it brought me into the mobile fandom by blowing my mind with amazing web-browsing capabilities… for the time, anyway. I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for that fellow. As far as actual hardware and UX go, I would say my current Note 4. There’s nothing I would change


I’m currently using an S4 with TouchWiz. I’d ideally run Omni but TouchWiz has the best battery life, camera and audio quality right now. I’ve only tried the Ace i, S3, S4 and S5 though I haven’t owned all of these. My favorite among these is the S4 or S5. My favorite fictional phone would have an AMOLED screen like Samsung/Moto phones, a battery like the Elephone P5000, and great dev support like Nexus devices

Chris Gilliam

My daily driver is a Nexus 6, and it’s running stock, rooted, & unencrypted Android 5.1. That said, tweaking custom ROMs and kernels is half the fun of owning a developer phone, so I don’t expect it to stay this pristine for long. The rooted and decrypted state are products of my desire for Greenify/Tasker/Xposed, and for a faster opening Google Camera; encryption kills NAND read/write speed, and slows the shutter.

As for my choice of phone, life with Verizon’s bootloader locking shenanigans and high plan prices taught me to value open systems. This handset can follow me to any carrier on the continent, and should stay a viable piece of hardware and software for years to come thanks to its specs, Google backing, and popularity here on the forums – a truly flexible and future-proof device. Beyond that, I wanted something with a top-notch camera. The outstanding sensor and Camera2 API support on this phone certainly fit the bill, and only the Galaxy S6 (unannounced when I purchased) can rival some of the things I can do with a DNG and manual focus.

The Nexus isn’t my only smart-device, though. In an unexpected and recent turn of events, it’s now flanked by two wearables – a Moto 360 and a Xiaomi Mi Band. Both were purchased far below their list prices, which is how they came to be in my possession, but I still believe the smartatch market lacks the advanced sensors that will bring quantified self tracking to the masses. Show me a two-day battery, mature blood glucose sensor (for real-time calorie intake), and Android Wear, and then we’ll talk. Until then, I’m hoping to be proven wrong with existing tech. The Mi Band and its unofficially tweaked app are off to a good start with notifications and Smart Unlock, and the 360 has proven its worth at parties where stealing a glance at the forecast via watch is easier than using a more noticeable phone, but only time will tell.

I’m still in the honeymoon phase with these purchases, so thoughts of my next devices aren’t yet fully formed. However, the Ara’s interchangeable modules, and the truly open HTML5-based ecosystems of Ubuntu OS and Firefox OS definitely have my attention. Wearables remain a “wait-and-see.”

My favorite phone to date is Samsung’s US variants of the Galaxy S3, circa 2012. At the time, they were the most revolutionary pieces of hardware and software anyone had seen, and I might still be using mine today with a microSD and Zero Lemon battery if it was a hair easier to mod and Verizon had made it worth my while to keep paying the data premiums. The S3 packs NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, an HD AMOLED display with a respectable 306 PPI (only a few shy of the iPhone 6, and well above the threshold most human eyes can detect), and the removable battery & microSD card slot to which I earlier alluded. Slap on Lollipop, and it’s actually better than many mid-range phones today, three years later.

Mike McCrary

I use an AT&T Galaxy Note 3 running stock Lollipop 5.0, an Apple iPad Air 2 WiFi on iOS 8.3 and a SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip with Rockbox custom firmware. I chose the Note 3 for the awesome screen, great pen features and long battery life. The iPad Air 2 for Music Production workhorse, the external Logic controller, and it’s a tablet to lounge around the house with. SanDisk Sansa has Superior DAC, long battery life, plays FLACs loaded onto SD card effortlessly, ton of EQ/Sound settings and it’s small and pocketable. My next phone upgrade is in December so my options are open, however I’m looking more into Android Wear devices at the moment. My favourite device is hands down the Note 3. It’s the best phone I’ve ever owned.

Aamir Siddiqui

I currently use a HTC Desire S. It’s a donated device I received from an XDA Member 2 years ago, and it was an upgrade over my previous device at that stage. Even though the phone is roughly 5 years old, it still performs like a champ in considering the age of its hardware. I did have to chew through a couple of batteries to get this far, because Overclocking takes its hit on the battery.

For my daily use, I use an older build of CM10.1 compiled by Senior Member blindndumb. The OS isn’t the most up to date, but after a lot of experimentation and fiddling around, I found this ROM build to be perfect for my usage pattern. For experimentation and playing around, I tend to flash CM12.1 (yes, you read that right)  by XDA senior member kylon. They are pretty good to get a feel of how the OS has progressed and how it performs on older hardware. As for my next purchase I was just waiting on the OnePlus announcement to see if they would announce something worth waiting for. Looks like I’m getting a OnePlus One within a few days.

Faiz Malkani

I use a Nexus 4, Nexus 9, Nvidia Shield, Moto G and LG G Watch. They are all stock and rooted. The look of the devices influences my choice a lot. Up next for me is the OnePlus Two and my favorite phone to date is the OnePlus One.

As you can see whilst many of us share an interest in particular phones, we have vastly different experiences from them. With the industry changing rapidly, several years from now we could see a complete change in these devices, OEMs and preferences.

Were these answers as you would expect? What are your answers to the questions? Leave a comment below!

About author

Mathew Bloomer
Mathew Bloomer

He fell in love with Android after buying a T-mobile G1 in 2008 and hasn't looked back since. He firmly believes the future of technology lies within bio-hacking and is an NFC implantee.