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    Why I'm Ditching Android android ios mobile rant kevq.uk
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    Well, one of my pet hates about phones these days is the sheer size of them – they’re basically a tablet in your pocket. I want a phone.

    And I thought I was the only one on the planet going nuts about this. I also bought an iPhone SE 2 years ago for exactly the same reason. I don’t get what the fascination with large sized screens is. You can’t even operate the phone with one hand.

    Anyway, I switched to iOS for similar reasons. Personally for me, the final straw was the Android permission system. Once an app has all the permissions, it has them all the time. Not sure if things have changed in the meanwhile, but I’m super happy that I switched.

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      Once an app has all the permissions, it has them all the time. Not sure if things have changed in the meanwhile, but I’m super happy that I switched.

      It has

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        The size of phones is just killing me, and they seem to be getting bigger. Hopefully the fashion will change soon.

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          Yeah, I cannot understand why smartphones are getting bigger and bigger. It’s like sane phone sizes ended with end of 2014-2015, especially if you want some good specs.

          In 2014 you could buy Z1 Compact (dimensions: 127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm (5.0 x 2.56 x 0.37 in); screen: 4.3 inches, 51.0 cm2 (~61.8% screen-to-body ratio)), now it’s practically impossible to buy similarly sized high-end smartphone.

          ~4.5” screen seems to be what is the limit of being able to somewhat comfortably operate smartphone in one hand using your thumb (unless you have some big hands, of course, but I don’t). With Redmi 2 (dimensions: 134 x 67 x 9 mm (5.28 x 2.64 x 0.35 in); screen: 4.7 inches, 60.9 cm2 (~67.8% screen-to-body ratio)) I’m actually already unable to reach top of the screen and 3 buttons below the screen with my thumb without slightly readjusting hand position.

          BTW It’s equally ridiculous for me to put 3K screens in such a small size factor like smartphones (well, they’re reaching 6” screens already, but even including that). Going over FullHD seems quite wasteful and brings only more battery drain. I doubt there are people using their phones with magnifying glass…

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            My guess: more and more people are using phones as their only computer, so sizes will continue to increase in order to accommodate them.

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              Exactly this – me and my partner are basically polar opposites on this front. When I need to do anything beyond simple, brief content generation (text messages, and only short ones) – I reach for my laptop. The time to take it out of my bag, tether it to my phone, get online and do the work then put everything away is less than my slow speed on a phone.
              Work wise – the phone is an accessory to my computer(s)… and mostly I use it as a well, phone, click, alarm and message receiving device.

              My partner legitimately runs two businesses from their phone. The phone is the primary content generation device, email, texts, taking photos, editing images, scheduling, planning, online resources, looking at sales data, ordering new products for the workplace, etc, etc – everything is done on the phone first, and begrudgingly done on a laptop if a product just won’t work from their phone. That product is likely to have a short shelf life because having a great phone experience is probably the most important feature to them.

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                And I know people who use 17” laptops for impromptu presentations. Harder to find those these days.

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                  For small table presentations (impromptu or otherwise), I love mirror mode to a 15.6” USB powered monitor, so I can sit behind my computer when presenting. Specifically great for like live coding / pair coding.

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                    Do any of those monitors have Linux support?

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                      Yep. I think almost all of them use the generic DisplayLink USB 3 stuff – which works (might need to install a Displaylink generic driver).

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                        The DisplayLink story wasn’t so good as of 4.1, have you noticed it getting better?

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                          I am not sure if I got lucky or what, but I haven’t had a major issue with it and been using them for a few years now on Ubuntu 16.04 and now 18.04 (various spins of it). I don’t use too many of the DisplayLink features (rotation, sound support, etc – so maybe that is where stuff gets hung up?).

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              ~4.5” screen seems to be what is the limit of being able to somewhat comfortably operate smartphone in one hand using your thumb (unless you have some big hands, of course, but I don’t).

              I agree. I switched from an iPhone SE to an iPhone 6s with its 4.7” screen, which is just a bit too large. Luckily, iOS has this handy feature where if you double tab (not press) the home button, it will move the image 50% down, making it easier to reach top buttons. I’d still love a 4.3 or 4.5” iPhone though. But it’s not where things are moving, so unlikely to ever happen (they even abandoned 4.7” on new models, yes I know, newer models have smaller bezels).

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              Americans like phones they way they like their cars – the bigger the better.

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                Funny enough the giant phone trend is being driven by Asians, specifically Chinese and Korean customers. They all want massive screens for some reason. Americans don’t really help the trend much but for once were not actually driving the bus.

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              That part was music to my ears as well :-) https://mastodon.social/@isagalaev/100981223084458245

              We should start a consumer group or something (oh well, who am I kidding?)

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              Really interesting article! I’m considering switching for the same reasons - although I really wish there was a viable third option.

              I noticed that your site uses https://fonts.googleapis.com. You might want to consider self-hosting your fonts. Google’s CDN seems like a pretty obvious scheme to get tracking on the few remaining sites that don’t use Google Analytics.

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                Try sailfish. I use it as my daily driver.

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                  It is. The site is using a fairly new theme and I haven’t got around to it yet. It’s on my list though.

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                    Awesome, I’m glad it’s on your radar!

                    Honestly, I wonder why browsers still send the referrer header by default. It appears to have no advantage to the user - only benefits trackers.

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                    Not sure what kind of tracking you’re concerned about, but here’s a pretty explicit privacy outline: https://developers.google.com/fonts/faq#what_does_using_the_google_fonts_api_mean_for_the_privacy_of_my_users

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                      From your link:

                      Google Fonts logs records of the CSS and the font file requests

                      It seems reasonable to assume that they are logging IP, User-Agent, and Referrer. If you don’t care about their tracking, then it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you’re avoiding Google Analytics specifically because you don’t want Google seeing your site’s traffic, then it seems that using their CDN is pretty counterproductive.

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                        I worked on the Google Analytics team. For what it’s worth, we didn’t do anything interesting with your site’s traffic, in fact the data wasn’t allowed to be touched by any other org. But I totally respect the idea of privacy for privacy’s sake (you shouldn’t need a reason to value privacy).

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                          And I worked on the Google Fonts team. There are many concerning things that Google is doing regarding privacy. Tracking users through fonts is not one of them.

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                            Not yet, perhaps.

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                              Ok, I’m not going to argue with that. Just giving information so that people don’t make this decision on unfounded fear.

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                              Everybody says “Google is doing concerning things” but we never hear from the people who do it. Just every department saying “not us!”

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                                Exactly. They coud also be lying. Im not saying I believe any are. Just that they :

                                1. Went to work for a surveillance company helping it achieve its goals in some way that might boost its numbers. They accepted doing that for money and other benefits.

                                2. Said they didnt or wouldnt do some privacy-invading thing.

                                The contradiction there can indicate anything from a personal line they didnt cross to deception. So, I just cant rely on any of those claims. Instead, I look at past behavior and where incentives push a company. Google’s indicates they arent trustworthy.

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                              When? Couldn’t this change in the meantime? I remember some Internet moment when it was discovered that Google changed some public policy docs and dropped words claiming they don’t mix data from separate services

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                        I switched to an iPhone SE two years ago after getting burned by two flagship phones in a row (Nexus 5 and Nexus 5X). Maybe things are better now, but after 6 months both became noticably slow and janky. At the time the SE was (and still is) the only low-jank smartphone that fit in my hand. I wish I could have a more forward-thinking web rendering engine, but being able to actually scroll webpages is worth the switch. Maybe things are better now after the bad old days of the 5X, but I’d have to have solid proof that 6 month old devices can smoothly scroll stuff before I’d consider moving back.

                        My colleagues set a reminder to ask me if, after 2 years, my phone got slow. I can say that it did a little bit in the past few months, but iOS 12 has restored it to a nearly jank-free experience and I have no plans to replace it anytime soon.

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                          I have been using a nexus 5x for a while now. Replaced the OS with lineageOS and its super fast.

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                            That’s reassuring to hear, thanks for the feedback!

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                            I don’t necessarily disagree with your reasoning, but really almost all of the reasons apply specifically to Huawei phones. The experience varies a lot from vendor to vendor, which you could argue is part of the problem with the Android ecosystem–though I would argue the lack of independent vendors is a problem with the Apple ecosystem at the same time.

                            Personally, I’m a fan of Sony Xperia compact phones. It’s a very vanilla Android experience with solid QA over the Google Pixel phones (updates come a few months later, but way less buggy–worth it for me).

                            If you’re really committed to untethering from tech giants’ hold, then something like LineageOS is the way to go but it’s certainly more involved and you certainly sacrifice a lot for the privilege–as expected.

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                              Just as a data point for the Sony side of things. When we first rolled out our matrix home-server we were being pretty aggressive with the reverse proxy that was handling TLS and it turned out that of 30-50 devices that needed to hit the home-server only two Sony phones were unable to (due to the version of whatever android library provides tls internally not being updated). After many many months this was addressed, but it was surprising how far behind they were (I think we had to do tls 1.1 for these devices).

                              edit: https://github.com/vector-im/riot-android/issues/963

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                              At this stage both Android and iOS are pretty much the same. They both serve pretty much same features, notifications look pretty much the same and my feeling is that with every version they are both copying things from each other.

                              I’ve had a few Android devices and I’ve had problems with some and had amazing experience with others. It’s very much vendor specific (like in everything else).

                              Also - I don’t think that with any smartphone there’s a way to entirely de-google or de-apple or de-ads yourself.

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                                Also - I don’t think that with any smartphone there’s a way to entirely de-google or de-apple or de-ads yourself.

                                Could try a non-Android non-Apple smartphone :) They still exist, if less popular.

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                                  Interesting. Do you have any recent experience with any of those? Any in particular I should check out?

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                                    I’m currently typing this on a non-Android Blackerry 10 device. They don’t make them new, but many are still very serviceable. I’m holding out to replace this with a Pyra, but have been tempted by Planet Computers’ current Gemini and their upcoming device (defaults to Android but official support to dual boot with Sailfish or Debian). I would get a Nexus 5 and run ubports, but I need a real keyboard. If you don’t, might be worth checking out Purism’s Librem5 slated for release next year, my wife is getting that one.

                                    This is not a complete list, but ones I’m currently using or eyeing.

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                                      The Gemini looks pretty good. My only problem is the camera which is something that I’m using quite a lot. Other than that, the specs are great!

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                                        They claim https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cosmo-communicator improves the camera, as well as a few other things.

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                                          They claim https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cosmo-communicator improves the camera, as well as a few other things.

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                                  I’m on the fence about all of Google’s data collection methods. I have had a Pixel for about a year (having upgraded from an iPhone 5S) and the Photos app alone has made it worth it. It’s a strange time we live with all our personal metadata being filtered through numerous algorithms ad nauseam. Yet, I don’t mind those computers doing their work at enhancing my human photos. Sure, the fear of a security breach lingers in the back of my mind every time I scroll passed an embarrassing photo I would never want leaked. Again, we live in strange times wherein this type of dilemma is an actual daily concern. Still, I use the phone and take the photos.

                                  I know for certain that I don’t want my future children to have any kind of smart phone until they are 18. Adults can make the choice of having all their personal metadata bandying about in the ether of electrons and switches – but kids? I would say no.

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                                    I know for certain that I don’t want my future children to have any kind of smart phone until they are 18. Adults can make the choice of having all their personal metadata bandying about in the ether of electrons and switches – but kids? I would say no.

                                    So what happens when you take photos of your kids and they’re uploaded to Google? :-)

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                                      True – I guess my behavior has to change once (and if) they come along. It’s good to think about now rather than then.

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                                      How do you explain this to your spouse?

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                                        About my preference for kids and smart phones? It’s a hard one for sure. She’s pretty much glued to her phone. It’s a matter of compromise, I guess. Also, I’d try to persuade her with literature on the topic.

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                                      Over the last 1 1/2 Months I’ve decreased my smartphone usage in general, my buying a dumb phone for outside and sometimes using my phone at home. What I’ve realized is that the Smartphone UX in general is very annoying and counter-intuitive. I’ve never used iPhones, but I very much doubt that they’re any better in that respect.

                                      But when it comes to privacy, why not root a phone with a custom ROM? I’ve been part of the Google Ecosystem since I was 8-ish, but managed to get out relatively unharmed. One thing that helped me was not to have any Gapps on my phone, and instead prefer free alternatives (if possible, WhatsApp was the only thing I couldn’t replace because Germany). My impression at least was that I was sharing far less data than on a regular Android phone or an iPhone. It may take a day or two to get it set up properly, but afterwards it works quite well – again, for phone circumstances.

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                                        The complaint against system apps is a bit overstated - on Android you can disable system apps and they won’t run (they’ll just take space). On iOS that’s not an option.

                                        (And on a related note, usability wise it’s really annoying that iOS doesn’t let you clear an app’s data without uninstalling it).

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                                          TL;DR: Bad smartphone design (sorry, design with different priorities) lead to very limited devices where all the fun stops, but it is possible to overcome multiple parts with a laptop / VPS / termux.

                                          Ditching an open source widely supported platform with forks and projects like termux in which you can be the root user, featuring well-filled alternative app markets

                                          For an Apple product.

                                          I still dislike Android not being a serious OS : why no supported compiler ? Why no full POSIX libc ?

                                          I prefer OSes that can compile themself by design.

                                          Another thing to do is switching from smartphone back to laptop. A small eee pc-style that can easily be swapped in and out of the backpack, running a lightweight Linux or BSD system can act as a good smartphone replacement. Then you only need a smartphone for USB tethering or SMS / calls. There are even apps (or termux) that can relay SMS with a computer.

                                          Then you cave SSH through your tethering connection and send SMSes over SSH ! :-P The joy of 10-finger typing SMSes.

                                          A $100 android smartphone suffice.

                                          For “very mobile computing”, you may even do the opposite: SSH into your VPS or into your laptop from the phone. Then you can use IRC, and alll terminal “apps” you need. Some like Vim even support touch screen (acting as a mouse: set mouse=all).


                                          Sent from my iPhone (j/k)

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                                            SMS/calls don’t require a phone or SIM these days either. So you only need a SIM if you want data on the go, and that is better served by a good-quality “hotspot” (they even make them with eithernet ports!) than by a smartphone.

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                                              I never tried internet service based calls/SMS. Maybe they are reliable enough for daily use. I am not doing hiking in the Himalaya after all!

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                                                My wife and I have both been using https://jmp.chat for almost two years now as our only way to do SMS or calls – it’s so good we’d never go back to the old way.

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                                                  That looks interesting! Thank you for the link ! Jabber is a little complex to my tastes (XML-based) but standard protocol that you can pipe, forward, whose stream can be trraansmitted over an encrypted transport (TLS, SSH, CurveCP, MinimaLT and what not!), bridged to other protocols…

                                                  So much much more flexible than anything I can think of!

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                                            If your problem is Google being greedy for data the solution is fairly simple: get Google off your device. In other words, make sure your devices run - for as much as possible - only code you explicitly allow them to run.

                                            This can be done with Android. It can not be done with iOS. In both cases you’ll have to contend with the fact that the ‘radio code’ - the blob of binary code which runs the whatever-G radio the device is equipped with - can be used to all sorts of nefarious things and it fairly certain to either contain loads of known bugs or intentionally introduced backdoors for the TLA’s of the world. Apart from that radio code the device will run an operating system and user applications, both of which can be under your control when running an AOSP-derived Android distribution. The device does not need to run any Google-proprietary code to be able to run Android apps (apart from a few which insist on interfacing with Google Play Services).

                                            You seem to trust Apple to ‘do the right thing’ but you do not have anything to base that trust on other than feel-good statements by the company and its disciples. I trust Apple just as much as I trust Google or any other commercial enterprise. With this I mean to say that I trust them to look out for their bottom line as that is what makes them tick. Google currently has a different perspective on how to get that number as high as possible from the way Apple tries to maximise it but maximise the number they shall. As I don’t trust either of them I do my best to stay away from them as much as I can: no Apple anything, no Google Chrome, no stock Android, no Google apps, no Google services, no Google Play. Still I have a fully functional phone running Android, it just happens to run free software wherever possible, minus that currently unavoidable radio blob that is…

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                                              trust Apple to ‘do the right thing’ but you do not have anything to base that trust on other than feel-good statements by the company and its disciples.

                                              We have a little bit more than that.

                                              If Apple got caught violating the trust of users, that bell would ring around the world.

                                              I don’t trust either of them.

                                              You trust Google. You haven’t read the source code of your phone; it’s like 50GB download last I checked. These builds scripts download more code over the Internet. Nobody can audit that. You also trust the people who made your “custom” android-building toolchain. You trust them (among other things) to identify and remove anything naughty Google has done. Not to mention you trust the guys who made your phone and all the components within. I have no idea who you’d sue with a random Android phone (some distant Chinese company?), let alone with some “custom Android” installed on it..

                                              no stock Android

                                              Running a custom Android makes you a QA of one. It’s like running Gentoo. You get to learn from nobody’s mistakes but your own.

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                                                I haven’t read all source code, only those parts of it needed to port Android to the three devices I ported it to. Other people have read other parts of it, all of them outside of Google. I’m not the only one using this particular custom Android distribution (which started out as Cyanogen but now is called Lineage, parts of which I remove as I don’t need them, more so in the Cyanogen-days when they started messing with their own ‘Cyanogen login’).

                                                That bit about running custom Android or Gentoo implying you have a ‘QA of one’ is just plain silly as you will probably understand yourself. Both custom Android as well as Gentoo builds come from the same source - plus or minus a few tailored modifications - and are built using the same tool chain. The results are very similar if not identical (with reproducible builds), except for the modified bits that is. I won’t loose any sleep over the fact that my personal modifications have a ‘QA of one’, just like I don’t loose sleep over the fact that the house I built and live in has a ‘QA of one’, the bread I bake has a ‘QA of one’ or any other fruits of my labour are not certified by some random committee.I trust my own observations well enough, the thing works, it does what I want it to do, it is silent on the network unless I want it to send or receive data, it runs for more than a week on a single battery charge where stock distributions won’t last more than 2 days.

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                                                  I don’t loose sleep over the fact that the house I built and live in has a ‘QA of one’

                                                  I live in civilisation though, and didn’t build my own house.

                                                  I do programming.

                                                  Some other guy builds houses.

                                                  The guy that built my house built hundreds of houses, and he had to get trained and certified by a random committee that trained and certified hundreds and perhaps thousands of other guys, and so on.

                                                  I think him making a mistake that harms me is unlikely, but my civilisation will promises me recourse if he does.

                                                  I like that. I don’t want to learn how to build houses, since it would certainly take time away from my programming.

                                                  Other people have read other parts of it, all of them outside of Google.

                                                  Given the preposterousness of the claim (reading 50GB of anything), I’m not sure I understand what you expect here. I don’t believe you?

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                                                    Please calm down and think about what you just said:

                                                    Other people have read other parts of it, all of them outside of Google.

                                                    Given the preposterousness of the claim (reading 50GB of anything), I’m not sure I understand what you expect here. I don’t believe you?

                                                    Read again and you’ll see that I stated that other people have read other parts of it, not that other people read all of it. Of course others did read all of it, if only the ones who wrote it in the first place and those who did code reviews but that is besides the point. Also besides the point is the fact that the amount of source used for an Android build is not even close to 50 GB, you might be confused by the size of the repo versus the size of the code used for a single build.

                                                    But… the thing is that you on the one hand seem to blindly trust Apple - because that is what we are talking about here - without having the ability to so much as peek at the code, while casting aspersion on the idea of building a distribution for your own device ‘because you can not read all the code’. While I’m sure Apple is happy to have customers like you who trust them blindly this does not mean it is the rational thing to do (when thinking about ‘trust’, it can be more rational economically as building your own takes time and effort), certainly not more rational than building your own

                                                    I think the conclusion to draw here is that you prefer to put your trust in others and look to your civilisation for recourse when those others fail your trust, while I prefer to trust my own instinct and insight and as such like to get hands-on when building things - whether it be software or hardware (from electronics to houses). To each his own, I guess.

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                                                      I think the conclusion to draw here is that you prefer to put your trust in others and look to your civilisation for recourse when those others fail your trust, while I prefer to trust my own instinct and insight and as such

                                                      or, it is my own instinct and insight and such where I come to a completely different conclusion: that civilisation has value. Seriously.

                                                      the thing is that you on the one hand seem to blindly trust Apple - because that is what we are talking about here

                                                      I trust one party who might fail me, who has a lot to lose, whereas you trust dozens of parties, any of which might fail you, and none of which has anything to lose.

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                                                CopperheadOS was a great Android ROM for this. Since the lead developer left the company, I suppose plain AOSP is the next best bet? I’m also looking forward to the Librem5 phone.

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                                                  If you’re interested in CopperheadOS, you might like this presentation by Konstantin Ryabitsev[1]:

                                                  Life Behind the Tinfoil: A Look at Qubes and Copperhead (youtube)

                                                  [1] Director of IT Infrastructure Security at The Linux Foundation

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                                                Pretty much what I did a year ago, and also landed on the excellent iPhone SE. Now that they stopped producing these, I was wondering… what’s the shelf life of a non-used mobile phone? Does the battery go bad even if it’s not used?

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                                                  Batteries do go bad over time, but slower than if they’re being used.

                                                  Replacing the battery in an SE isn’t that impossible or expensive though.

                                                  https://www.ifixit.com/Store/iPhone/iPhone-SE-Replacement-Battery/IF327-004-4

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                                                    Even things that are not chemical reactions go bad over time. A pocket knife that never gets used will go dull over time.

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                                                    What makes you think apple or any of the apps you’d use on apple are any better or worse? Because apple claims platitudes about how their business model isn’t “ad based?” It’s utterly ridiculous; any company that isn’t building user advertising profiles right now is losing. Apple may not have as mature of a data collection process or team, but they are doing it.

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                                                      Did you miss the part about the Digital Content Next paper?

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                                                        I did, and the experimental setup is not very well described–literally device running idle with either chrome or safari in focus or “consumption of google services.” Most of the paper talks about Google specifically with little to no investigation into Apple’s data collection affiliations. They also only filtered traffic to identified google and apple service endpoints–I’m assuming the ones enumerated in the appendix. and all the paper showed was that Apple was in many ways doing similar data collection but at much lower volumes.

                                                        Apple is an advertising company, they depend on understanding consumer wants and needs to sell new iPhones and other high margin consumer goods.

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                                                      I’m looking forward to see functional feature phones in the market that aren’t overpriced hipster toys.

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                                                        I can’t wait for this either! The industry is desperate for a middle-ground. Give me a feature phone that has a touchscreen QWERTY keyboard, where I can check my emails and have Whatsapp. I’ll ditch my smartphone tomorrow.

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                                                          If you don’t mind the lack of a touchscreen (it’s not a smartphone, after all), Nokia 8810 4G is what you’re looking for.

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                                                            I don’t believe it has a QWERTY keyboard?

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                                                              Ah, yes, I interpreted “touchscreen QWERTY keyboard” as one item.

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                                                          Why wait when feature phones like these are still on the market. Hell, if you check out your nearest electronics shop I’m sure you can still find feature phones for sale. Or did you mean something special when you said ‘functional’?

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                                                            Modern feature phones with LTE run Android.

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                                                              Almost every non-hipster feature phone is just an old phone still in production. Most of them don’t even support 3G even though 2G is going to be phased out in less than a decade. I’m looking for a modern phone that isn’t a smartphone, rather than just an old phone.

                                                              The actually innovative looking ones (eg Alcatel 2008G) are usually intended for non-tech savvy people, especially old people with vision impairments, and even those are grossly overpriced for what they do.

                                                              Nokia’s 8810 remake is the closest thing to what I’m looking for. It’s durable with a long battery life and runs KaiOS (Firefox OS fork). It is rumoured that WhatsApp will be ported to KaiOS this year, which is (quite unfortunately) an app I cannot do without.

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                                                                Ah right, network support is going to be a killer. good point

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                                                              I, too, have held on to the iPhone SE for a long time because it’s the only reasonably-sized Apple phone. A couple of friends of mine just bought some for the same reason. I think the secondary market for them could be vicious if they never make a normal-sized phone again.

                                                              I actually want to get away from Apple for other reasons. I think they’re horrible tax dodgers and monopolistic; and the way they treat smaller companies is shitty. But I do agree that is not as big an issue as the massive surveillance capitalism operation Google operates.

                                                              I really wish the Firefox OS Phone had made it. It died off before I could even get my hands on one. Of all the things that are depressing these days, it’s small, but I am bummed that there are basically only two choices for phones that can run a decent web browser.

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                                                                I recently went from iOS to Android and I have to admit I’m not super impressed. All of my friends (most of which have never had an iPhone) kept telling me how awesome Androids were. My new phone is nice, but I have to be honest, it feels really sluggish, compared to even old iPhones. Granted, I don’t have a stellar Android device, but it has specs comparable to an iPhone from several years ago, and I’d rather have the old iPhone back.