17 Oct 2020

I bought a Fairphone3. I was hoping to quickly receive a Fairphone-supported Android again, which is Google-free. You know ? so there is not this giant cooperation getting to keep tabs on where I am at all times and who I talk/write to. Plus, it doesn't really feel like my phone, if the Google account is "connected" on there.

Anyway, Fairphone didn't actually want to go to the same trouble again as they did with the Fairphone2, so I had to wait. And now, for the first time, I actually "rooted" my phone. It's now mine again!

I used the /e/ foundation's version of LineageOS, which has a great mission (an actual Google-free phone[1]), a good tutorial for my phone, a nice roadmap and they support my exact phone model.

After two weeks of using the new OS and apps, I can say I am quite happy!


How I'm using it

Here are some points to make on what the /e/+LineageOS approach is and how I'm using it:

  • You don't need an /e/ account. It's only a service they offer, should some peple like to backup mails and contacts between phones or computers. I have Nextcloud for that.
  • The /e/ foundation added the MagicEarth app, so there is some decent Navigation based on OpenStreetMaps data. I have to say it works quite well!
  • /e/ comes with their own app store, which I like. It has apks from popular non-free apps, should you want/need them, like Whatsapp or Netflix. The source for these apk files is cleanapks.org. That is still a hot topic in the free software world. You can install other stores of course, like FDroid (completely free) or Aurora (niche apps from Play Store). Updating apps works well in all of those.
  • They don't give you too much control over what's on your home screen (app launchers, widgets). You can't delete the standard ones, so you have less space for the ones you care about. The solution is pretty cool, once you know it: You can install a different Launcher. I used Launcher<3. Now I have space for the two widgets I love: AgendaWidget (installable from the app store) and TaskWidget (comes with openTasks).
  • The old gang for supporting my Nextcloud integration on Android is working better each time I set up a phone: Nextcloud app + DAVx5 + ICSx5 + OpenTasks
  • Other notable base necesseties, while we're at it: AnySoftKey, KeepassXC, WebTube

What is the future for /e/? Apparently, they're working on creating a more aligned Look&Feel, so that standard apps they offer look more alike. I'd like that. For example, the Mail app is a fork of K-9, but got a clean modern look. However, the version of the fork is rather outdated, I hope they catch up.


I don't want to leave the impression that not going with the mainstream is all roses. It is actually a small sacrifice - next to doing your own OS installation (which is actually not really hard but it will take you at least an hour, and then you start with installing and configuring apps).

Here is a list of annoyances I have so far:

  • Typing with auto- correction is okay but I know it's a bit worse than cutting edge. More mistakes slip in.

  • Webtube's full-screen mode is not full screen.

  • MicroG keeps crashing and I don't know what that means for my OS functionality

  • My phone would like to connect to my ChromeCast but it can't.

  • Text-to-speech is a while away but somebody's working on it.

Actually, all or most of these issues are being worked on. It's a matter of time.

Living somewhat free of giant corporations means you'll be living in the slight past. Maybe two or three years beind. It's really not that bad, but I can see that not everyone feels like they can do it.




A big issue in this whole story, and also a complex one, is trust ? we are here because we don't trust Google or Apple to be good stewards of all our data for all time. But we can't do it alone. We have to trust the makers of our alternative tooling to some degree, as well. In this situation, I am putting various levels of trust in the makers of LineageOS, the /e/ foundation and (by extension) cleanapk.org. But I'm also trusting app makers like the guys at KeepassXC. Some of the trust here is easier to maintain with the monopolists ? we're trusting Google and Apple (at the moment) to have a good eye on the security aspect of their app store.

It's complicated.


[1]  /e/ uses MicroG as a free and open-source replacement for Google Play Services, and Mozilla Location Service for geolocation. One of their goals is to support beign Google-free for non-technical users. They even offer smartphones (like the FP3) pre-installed for sale.

# lastedited 18 Oct 2020
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