Yesterday, I bought a new Essential Phone from Amazon for US $335.  I guess it boils down to two things:

  1. I couldn’t pass up that price for a phone with more horsepower and a bigger screen than my Nokia 6.1.
  2. More important, Essential Phone is one of the compatible platforms listed by the /e/ Foundation’s new OS.  I have no intention of playing around with beta’s, but having an Essential phone means I’m ready once /e/ gets released in a stable 1.0 version.  That is important to me and should give me a year head start, in 2019, before /e/ comes out with a phone from an OEM with /e/ pre installed, in 2020.

We are down to just two operating systems for mobile phones (tablets too) Android and iOS.

Android is controlled by Google, no OEM phone maker that wants to do business globally will defy Google and try and fork it.  Android and a lot of the most popular apps tells Google everything it can about you and your every move.  In otherwords it leaks your privacy out like a sieve.

iOS is proprietary from Apple.  It’s a walled garden.  You do it Apple’s way or STFU.  It is probably more private than Android.  And it works.

That’s it. No other choices.

Long term the only other chances for a mobile OS come from Linux and here are the ones I’m aware of.

Sailfish – spun off from Nokia’s flirtation with Linux, this one does not seem to be gaining traction.  And it seems like the US is always being left out of release plans.  No OEM has adopted it. You can download it and try and install it on a couple of old model compatible phones.

KDE Plasma Mobile – it’s hard to tell how far along this Linux based OS is.  The screen shots are nice. (See notes for Librem 5 below.)

UBports Ubuntu Touch – This community effort seems to be making big strides.  When Ubuntu gave up on Ubuntu Mobile they turned it over to a volunteer community UBports who have been working away ever since.  It comes with a couple hundred apps and web apps, plus anything that the browser can handle.  If I were a phone OEM, I’d have my eye on this.  You can download this now and install it on several old model phones.  Some have an installation wizard.  (See notes for Librem 5 below.)

Puri.sm Librem 5 – this is actually a real phone hardware not just an OS.  The OS is Linux adapted to mobile.  The last I heard, the plan is that the Librem 5 will come with Purism’s mobile OS installed by default, but it will be fully compatible with UBports Touch and Plasma Mobile.  No word on how easy it will be to install any one of these.  Launch has been delayed from January 2019 to April 2019.  I’m hoping this is the point of the spear and proves very successful so that other OEM’s become interested in Linux phones.

Linux needs to get into mobile where all the growth is.  It can’t just stay on the desktop.  There may be others but these seem to be the furthest along.

I have a Nokia 6.1 (US 2018) phone running AndroidOne. No complaints except the camera locks up every once in awhile, but I’m not a big camera user.

So I’m in my car, pulling out of my neighborhood onto a highway.  My phone is in my shirt pocket.  Suddenly the phone starts playing a sorta doo wop tune over the speaker, a tune I’d never heard before. Then it went to voice over, it was a commercial!  I know it said something about Google and maybe it said something about Wifi.  I, of course, was busy, fumbling, trying to get the phone out of my pocket. But I’m fricking driving on a highway. I manage to thumb the lock screen on and see some notification saying something like “Dave’s open wifi network” or words to that effect.  But I’m fricken driving so I can’t PIN unlock the phone.  Then the commercial is over, the speaker goes dead and the notification disappears from the lock screen.

WTF just happened?

That’s the first time something like that has ever happened to me.  The Nokia does have a FM radio receiver built in but I’ve never used it.  I got no repeat of the incident, in that area, on the way home.

I did a full antivirus scan and a full malware scan that evening, two different programs, neither found anything.

I’m just putting it down to the freakishness of radio waves – wifi is really just radio waves.  But it was strange.

Despite my dislike and distrust of Google, I use an AndroidOne phone.  The EU’s ruling that Google Android violates EU antitrust laws is both welcome and disappointing since it is weaker than I would like.

But it still has the potential to open up Android on so many fronts:

Android Forks – example given Amazon’s FireOS

Search engine choice – this could be huge. Especially for regional/national/language specific search engines.  For instance, before Google the UK used to have dozens even hundreds of UK-specific and UK local search engines and directories. Most all died.  And, today it’s hard to gain any kind of traction for development of any type of search engine with Google locking down the market.  Ditto other markets like EU search, Germany, France or even smaller countries.

Maps – another huge area.

Email – along with other web services like Calendar, Photos, etc.

Browsers – again this could be a big boost if an OEM can make Firefox, Opera or others the default browser.

Still, we need more than just two mobile OS’s.  So I’m glad I’m getting a true Linux phone early in 2019.