I have an Android phone.  For the most part it gets the job done, except it’s always reporting back to the Google Mothership, which I do not like at all. That Google spyware is a deal breaker for me with Android. I’ve had iPhones, and I like them, except over time I get tired of always having to do things Apple’s way, plus I get bored with iOS.  But there is a couple of ways I can get a third choice in smartphones. Here is my current Big Plan, to de-Google my phone life.

Plan A/e/ Foundation.  I’m a donor and supporter of /e/ Foundation’s effort to de-Google Android.  What makes their effort different is they realize that you can’t just fork Android and say you are done.  You have to come up with replacements for all those Google apps you can’t avoid or delete on Android: Gmail, Chrome, Maps, cloud storage, Google Play, Calendar, SMS and more.  Google has infested Android so deeply that it becomes useless without all those Google services.

/e/ Foundation is coming up with a whole host of open source cloud services to replace the Google spyware.  Plus they are forking Android, plus they intend to bring out phones with this all pre installed.

My worry is they won’t have a phone I like that will run on US GSM networks.

Plan B: If I can’t get a suitable phone with /e/ Foundations OS pre-installed I may try to install their OS on my existing phone.  I’m not keen on trying this, but I might.

Plan C (Provisional): Purism Librem 5.  This is Linux on a smartphone.  This is heavy duty privacy.  I have one on pre-order.  While I like the idea I have reservations: 1. This is new untested waters.  I really have to have a phone that just works in all the core smartphone functions. No excuses.  My fear is that i will be a perpetual beta tester. 2. Purism will provide the basics: email, phone, SMS, calendar, browser etc. all untried on a phone, but after that I would be totally dependent on web apps via the browser.  3. will this be another walled garden?  If I can get a working phone via Plans A or B I will cancel my pre-order.

Plan D (If all the above fails): Back to iPhone.  iPhone isn’t really private, but it’s way way better than Google Android.  I don’t like this though, the Xseries of iPhones are way over priced and don’t have a fingerprint reader. Duh!

The bottom line is I hope /e/ Foundation succeeds and soon.  I’d like to buy a T-Mobile US phone with a big screen from them and switch to their services and apps.

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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.

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Like: Leaving Apple & Google: /e/ first beta is here! – Hacker Noon

I just reread the above article for the second time, this time more carefully.  Then I went back and read the older posts about this project that are linked to in the article, and I strongly suggest you read all of them too.

I think this is on the right track.

  1. /e/ is a fork of Android, already well established in mobile.
  2. They are including making their own private cloud services (mail, calendar, storage, maps, notes, etc.)  This is key, because they recognize that it does little good to make a secure OS and hardware if all the services you use are still tracking you.  That is not private.  By providing these services they can make a more seamless, one login, operation that mainstream users are accustomed too.  With cloud services it also makes you data available on your PC and other devices.
  3. They are developing their own app  store/repository (like Play) so that there will be a lot of free apps available.  I have a caution here: I expect Google will quietly maneuver to pressure Android app designers to make their apps exclusive on Google’s Play store and freeze out /e/.  But even so, there will likely be a lot of apps available.
  4. I have learned by my own experience, that for many things you don’t really need a smartphone app: I actually prefer Facebook and Twitter on my phone browser better than the apps.  Less chance to spy on you if you are not using the app.  But this makes the choice of default browser a key decision – it had better be good.
  5. They are making progress at a much faster pace than I anticipated. This is very good news.
  6. They fully intend to find an OEM, manufacture and sell new phones with this /e/ OS fully installed.  This is vital for mainstream adoption.

How does this compare to the efforts of the Linux camp for the Librem 5?

I like the Librem 5 approach to hardware.  I like Linux being adapted to smartphones.  There are two weaknesses that the Librem does not address:

  • Those cloud services we have been talking about.  You can have the most secure phone in the world but if you are still using Gmail, Calendar, Dropbox and Yahoo, than your data can be scanned and your privacy is compromised.
  • Very few apps.  The Librem will ship with bare bones apps (browser, email, messaging, calendar, notes).  You will be dependent on the browser for web apps.  Unless the Linux community jumps in and starts developing Linux phone apps quickly this will hinder mainstream adoption.  This could make or break the Librem.

That said, I want both the Librem 5 and /e/ to succeed.  Linux needs to get off their ass and get into the mobile OS market, plus, it would be great to have 2 choices in privacy smartphones. Friendly competition is good.

Source: Excursions.

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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.

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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.

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