Looking for a Phone Unicorn

In the market for a new phone as my iPhone SE is starting to age.

Mostly after a reliable, stable phone.
I don't game nor hoard million apps.

The unicorn would preferably have the following characteristics:

  • Android based with possibility of loading a debloated ROM such as LineageOS
  • Dual SIM (can be 4G/3G)
  • Preferably a smaller size, similar to iPhone 6 (The OPPOs are just too damn big)
  • Ability to expand storage with SDCARD
  • Traditional 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Budget up to $1000
  • Relatively good battery life
  • Compatible with Telstra's 4GX frequency and most common frequencies around Europe and Asia.

Does such a beast even exist?


  • +1 vote

    Do you require IP67-IP69 Waterproof protection?
    Yes, you're options immediately get narrowed.
    No, that opens up lots of options.

    Do you require a proper construction?
    No, plenty of cheap Glass sandwich options, very slippery, ugly/smudges, and fragile.
    Yes, there's very few phones that utilise Titanium Alloy, Kevlar, Aerospace-grade Polycarbonate, or even Scratch-resistant 7000-series Aluminium build.

    Do you require a phone that is small?
    Yes, phones that are narrower than <65mm's are very rare.
    No, plenty of options between 66-73mm's, and plenty of 74-81mm's phablets too.

    Do you use the DualSIM?
    Yes, narrows your search field down quite a bit.
    No, there's plenty of options.

    Are you content with regular Software?
    Yes, a stable SkinnedOS firmware that's a few versions behind and not supported are plentiful.
    No, you require r00t. Or Custom Roms. Or direct software support (Pixel, AndroidOne, OnePlus). Options become limited.

    …let us know which compromises you are willing to make, so that we can narrow the options down for you.


      some of these questions are answered in my bullet points but here they are again:

      Does not need water protection.
      Does not need superior construction.
      Prefer a smaller phone around the size of an iPhone 6. (4.7" going up from 4" of iphone SE)
      Dual sim is preferred but flexible.
      Support for LineageOS or very similar is definitely required.

      Oppo AX7 is almost perfect apart from its size and locked bootloader preventing LineageOS.
      I'll have a look at some Oneplus phones but their lack of Australian retailing is of concern.

      • +2 votes

        Since you want longevity and reliability, you're probably going to want a Qualcomm Snapdragon device (as opposed to HiSilicon Kirin, MediaTek, or RockChip processors). And since you don't game/task heavy, it's safe to say that 64GB storage (plus microSD), 4GB's of RAM and a QSD 636 chipset would be enough for your use case, anything extra is just a bonus. The processor of choice is very important to ensure longevity, and compatibility to new Android releases or Custom Rom versions.

        I would completely disregard DualSIM from your list… these variants are rarer, so they get less r00t/Custom Rom support.

        As for phone size, don't go off the screen size or the phone's length. You can get tricked by the different bezel and aspect ratios.
        I think something around the 71mm's width size will be decent enough for you, and allow us more options to choose from. However, do remember that this "big" phone is still smaller than a phablet, but if it is a weak glass sandwich, it will require a decent case which will make it larger towards a phablet size… hence why I brought it up.

        Here's a list of supported devices on XDA:

        Hmmm…. there are a couple of options, but there are nothing I'm satisfied with that has a community backing behind it (eg Nokia 7.1).
        I'll keep checking and report back. It might have to be a faster chip from several years ago, though. I'm trying not to recommend the Samsung Galaxy S8/S9/S10 because then you will be limited to the mediocre radios, battery life, and speed of the Exynos variants. The LG G6/G7/G8 seem like better alternatives with the Snapdragon processor, but their community support can get flaky.


    Maybe look at the Huawei models.


      Any particular models? Honestly I'd rather avoid Huawei after a couple of bad experiences.


        The Mate 20 seems to get reasonable reviews but there is a cloud over their ties to the Chinese government, so I might reconsider my recommendation.

  • +1 vote

      No SD Card storage.
      Larger than what OP wants.


      I heard really good stuff about OnePlus..
      it seems noone is doing the iphone SE/6 sizes apart from budget <throw-after-6months> phones

      I could live without SDcard and a bigger size .. thanks for the suggestion


    Have you looked into the Sony Xperia XZ2 compact?

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