OK, I found a way to make things a little simpler. Or should I say, and now the Shocking Conclusion
to "Help me pick a midrange Android phone?
I came to realize Android 4.x (ICS) is a firm requirement, because Android 4.0 is the first version that supports Devanagari script (and font management on Android seems to be about the same as font management on Palm OS, you'd have to either overwrite the one Unicode font or use an application specific font). I need this for my personal project of learning Hindi, which I have slacked off on lately.
Further, I don't want to rely on aftermarket OS upgrades, that seems to be iffy on a lot of different models and causes features to be lost.
The original reason for wanting Android 4.0 was something I think I read on Google+ but can no longer find, about applications can make better use onboard memory cards, haven't been able to find it again lately so I was waffling on that requirement.
As far as battery life, the only way I know to compare apples to apples is to use the Phone Arena web site to find phones by feature, otherwise it is very hard to compare different anecdotes.
So I decided to ratchet up my battery talk time (according to the Phone Arena database) to an insane 20 hours (since they don't show data use time).
Sorry I can't get this link to work in either BBCode or as just a bare URL. Tried urlencoding it to get rid of the square brackets, still no joy. It's the Phone Arena advanced search with the desired phone options selected.
There are only two phones. Of the two search results, only one of them, the Samsung Galaxy S III, has a removable battery. You will notice I also have the quad bands checked and scratch resistant glass checked. If you uncheck scratch resistant glass, you get one more, the Galaxy Note. The Droid Maxx is the other one, with the non-removable battery.
So the possibilities have narrowed considerably. The Samsung Galaxy S III is a fairly new phone. I cannot get it with a prepaid plan unless I use something like StraightTalk and a Bring Your Own Phone unlimited plan ($45/month). I can get the phone off of ebay for $500 (an unacceptable
So then I look at 2 year contract plans. Then I could get the phone for $100 from Sprint via Amazon Wireless or $180 from T-Mobile, either way it is going to be $70/month minimum, which is also unacceptable
So yes, I have cornered myself into Mission Impossible, but it is nice to have that clarity at least. Let's just call it Phase 2, and my search for a Phase 1 phone begins. Because for Phase 1, I'll settle for a "whatever" phone and pay Virgin Mobile $30 month for 300 minutes + unlimited data. Knowing the phone will be a doorstop outside the U.S. makes insane battery life far less necessary. And I can still get an Android 4.x phone for Phase 1. A year or two from now, I will take another crack at getting a Phase 2 phone. By then the Galaxy S III should be a lot cheaper used, and the prepaid carriers may even sell it. I remember when you couldn't even get an Android phone on a prepaid plan, so it could be a lot worse.
Every comment here was extremely helpful, thank you all for your assistance in helping me think through this.