back to article Had enough of Android? First 'Focal' based Ubuntu Touch is out

The UBPorts project has just released the fruit of a lot of labor, especially for a volunteer group, emitting a fresh version of its smartphone OS – which includes the Lomiri UI, formerly known as Unity 8. Ubuntu Touch OTA-1 Focal is a major step for the community-driven UBports project: it's the first version of the …

  1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

    Renaming and discontinuing

    -> "Unity 8." Now, though, it has been renamed to Lomiri.

    Whatever the reasons, I wish that people running projects would stop renaming them. Firstly, it is just another piece of useless information to know. Secondly, it removes the history or wastes time reading about it.

    -> postmarketOS, the FOSS OS for smartphones abandoned by their vendors

    I've been bitten by this sort of thing once before - Cyanogenmod. I've done it once and don't want to go down that one-way rabbit hole again.

    Sad though it is, I do not see Linux smartphones as remotely viable (don't anyone try and tell me that Android is Linux in disguise - you know what I mean). For a bit of distraction they may be OK, but the likelihood (not just the possibility) of having the rug pulled from under my feet because somebody gets bored with a project or the developers decide to do something else is just too high. What then? There are regular justified complaints about $bigvendors not updating their smartphones beyond a couple of major versions, so that should hold for the Linux phones too.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Renaming and discontinuing

      I think renaming is sometimes advisable because the projects aren't run from the same group. For example, the Lomiri devs aren't the same group as those developing previous versions of Unity, they may not be maintaining compatibility with old versions of Unity, and they're making a different product. For example, distros that are still shipping the Unity desktop are using older versions of the software, built with the desktop in mind, and this version is intended more for a small touchscreen interface. Not that you can't use this version on a desktop, but there's probably a reason people aren't.

      When a big enough change is made, it makes sense to not have multiple projects with the same or similar names. In an ideal world for me, the name would be meaningfully changed if the project isn't trying to upstream their changes to the original thing by that name (the reason why neither WebKit nor Blink are called KHTML even though they both started there). It helps someone know which project is the original and which one took a different path, especially when they have diverged enough that the two pieces of software aren't compatible with one another anymore.

      I'm afraid I agree with you about the reliability of Linux-based smartphones. I'd like them to get here, but I wouldn't count on it happening. It's a slow process, and a process that may not be able to get fast enough to ever become useful the way Linux on a desktop or server is. Even the technical user sometimes wants to use a phone to call people, and if it isn't reliable, they'll become annoyed.

    2. klh

      Re: Renaming and discontinuing

      > I've been bitten by this sort of thing once before - Cyanogenmod. I've done it once and don't want to go down that one-way rabbit hole again.

      Huh? Cyanogen became Lineage after it was abandoned (and they had to change the name because the company behind Cyanogen held on to the trademark).

      > the likelihood (not just the possibility) of having the rug pulled from under my feet because somebody gets bored with a project or the developers decide to do something else is just too high. What then?

      The latest version of UT runs on an OnePlus One, a phone that's 9 years old. It also runs the previous version (OTA-25) on the Nexus 4, which is 10 years old (the only thing stopping focal for now is the ancient kernel, but everything is in the open so someone just needs to do the work).

      In most cases, once a device port is done UT can support it until the last unit gets recycled. Ofc there are no guarantees, but the track record is pretty good.

      1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

        Re: Renaming and discontinuing

        -> Huh? Cyanogen became Lineage after it was abandoned

        Don't tell me what I don't already know. It becomes too much of a hassle the moment a user sees the word "abandoned". What then? I'm supposed to follow the successor which might also become abandoned? Do you think that people have nothing better to do with their lives than follow forks forever? Try this try that try something else. Or I can just get a new phone every 3 years and stop wasting my life.

        1. Dinanziame Silver badge

          Re: Renaming and discontinuing

          Don't tell me what I don't already know.

          Okay, so... er... 2+2=4... The Earth is round... er... The sky is blue...

          1. Youngone Silver badge

            Re: Renaming and discontinuing

            Stop it now, you'll confuse the poor fellow.

          2. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Renaming and discontinuing

            "The Earth is round*"

            *citation needed

            1. Dante Alighieri
              1. Mark #255

                Re: Citation

                I really thought you were going to go with this one instead

            2. deive

              Re: Renaming and discontinuing

              "The Earth is round"

              - Pythagoras ~ 500 BC, Aristotle ~ 350 BC

              - Eratosthenes ~ 250 BC




        2. localzuk Silver badge

          Re: Renaming and discontinuing

          Hang on, so you don't like having to upgrade/replace your OS when an old project is replaced, but you're happy to spend hundreds of quid on a new phone every few years instead?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Renaming and discontinuing

        > The latest version of UT runs on an OnePlus One, a phone that's 9 years old.

        Whilst this is good from a development point of view, from a user viewpoint - not good.

        For me to consider using it, I want to be able to run this on a 4/5G phone, so probably something more recent than my P30 Pro…

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Renaming and discontinuing

      A lot of manufacturers stop supporting their phones before they're off the shelves. I've had phones by Samsung, ZTE, Motorola, and Sony where the manufacturer gave up trying to make the phone work while it was still on sale. I'm talking about major "on-the-box" features like having a cell signal or making phone calls.

      Open source operating systems for phones are the labor of volunteers putting hard work when shit phone makers can't be bothered. Be nice to them. There are a lot of phones that will never work correctly until they're 2 years old and have an open-source OS replacing the stock OS.

    4. georgezilla Silver badge

      Re: Renaming and discontinuing

      " ... don't anyone try and tell me that Android is Linux ... "

      Well .......

      Because it actually is. Android is every bit a Linux BASED OS as Ubuntu, or any other Linux based OS.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Renaming and discontinuing

        It was created using a modified Linux kernel and those modifications are not contributed to Linux development so it is very much diverged from Linux.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Renaming and discontinuing

      Cyanogenmod - ah yes - ran perfectly and was easy to install and manage on my old phone.

      LineageOS - oh - phone not supported...

      Seems to be the trend with these open source community based projects.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly not tempted for now

    What Linux on a phone needs to succeed (and isn't going to get) is the ability to be installed on virtually any old phone, so that a user base of enthusiasts can build up without having to risk losing use of their phone if things go wrong or you can't get back to the original Android. I've got a Fairphone 4, but I'm not remotely tempted to try this, because I don't want to buy a new (expensive to me) phone if I bork it.

    Maybe I'll try Lomiri in a few years time when I'm starting to think about the Fairphone 5 (or possibly 6)....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sadly not tempted for now

      Yes, I think Linux on a phone will probably be a niche product.

      I do think Linux on a tablet could get a better share of the market. For example, I saw a video of Linux on a surface Pro and it looked great.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: Sadly not tempted for now

        Linux on a tablet would be nice.

        I picked up a super cheap pixel 3a from CEX a few weeks back to have a play with linux. My OH has a vollaphone running linux and it does a good job if you want something to make calls, send texts, read/write emails and browse web pages without google/apple knowing where you are and what you're doing. Anything else? Ha! And this is why it will remain a niche as it is only going to attract the types who have a real hatred of google/apple and are willing to go without a lot of stuff.

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: Sadly not tempted for now

          Kind of true, and kind of not.

          Of course it depends utterly on what my particular needs are, but for the record: LineageOS with Google Play Services and Aurora (anonymised access to the Playstore) covers a large swathe of options. As does running Android with Aurora, as no Google account is required to access the Playstore.

          Neither option is a panacea, but they certainly cover a pretty wide range of use cases.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Sadly not tempted for now

          Yeah. I had 'Nux on a cheap Lenovo convertible tablet for a while. It hadn't coped well with Windows so it was worth trying an alternative to be able to get use out of it. It was OK. It couldn't rotate the screen automatically (and had to be rotated from a command line- sideways) or access the camera.It's the strange proprietary hardware that was the problem. Some sort of special chip and firmware combination.

    2. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Sadly not tempted for now

      What Linux on a phone needs to succeed (and isn't going to get) is the ability to be installed on virtually any old phone

      Yeah, that's not happening for a long time. The hardware inside phones are way too different for that to be possible.

    3. deive

      Re: Sadly not tempted for now

      Tried some /e/ on the FiarPhone?

  3. 3arn0wl Bronze badge

    An effort worth supporting

    I think it's a good move from UBPorts to be detangling themselves from Canonical, and making the Lomiri UI work on other foundations : I read their blog post yesterday about Lomiri on the PinePhone, and was saddened to learn that it's basically the work of 1 developer. :/ a) Obviously that's not enough, and b) maybe not being "Ubuntu" might attract others to muck in.

    Obviously I'm big a fan of the concept of convergence... I was thinking that the emergence of more powerful RISC-V kit, against the background of the US trade sanctions, might be a moment when this lightweight, adaptable open source OS might shine. If there was ever a moment for the opening up of proprietary blobs... well, this might be it too.

  4. James O'Shea Silver badge

    It's a phone

    For me, the #1 use for a cell phone is... as a phone. How well does Linux support using it as a phone? I can make and take calls on my iPad, because Apple so decreed. My iPhone handles all my comms needs, except when I need to do a call using a number on a web page, as I usually use the iPad for web searches. I used to have an Android. I moved to iPhone specifically because the Android (it ran Honeycomb, but not very well) was shit, especially at calls. (It froze. It froze a lot. I missed incoming calls because it froze). I really don't need to have a Linux device that has problems with calls.

    Also, I have some older, no longer supported by Apple, iPhones, (iPhone 5, iPhone SE 1st generation...) and if I jailbroke the things, I'd try to install Linux there... if it worked on iPhones. Does it? I have an ancient iPad 1st generation, in addition to the new iPad Pro that I use daily. Will Linux work on the old boy, if jailbroken?

    Finally... seriously, how good is Linux with a touch interface? Seriously?

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: It's a phone

      [Author here]

      > For me, the #1 use for a cell phone is... as a phone.

      Is it? Good heavens. I make calls a few times a year. I dislike phoning people.

      Well there are still plain old dumbphones if that's what you want.

      My phone is a pocket computer I use for reading the internet and messaging people, and for taking photos. It happens to also receive voice calls. I had an older phone whose mic didn't work. It was my main phone for 2-3 years because that's not important to me and plugging in headphones was an acceptable compromise.

      I'd like a more flexible, open pocket computer.

      Android is the Windows of phones: it's big and sluggish and clunky, but it's cheap and it does the job.

      I don't run Windows on my computers if I have any choice. I keep it there in a small partition for emergencies.

      I'd like the choice of not running its equivalent on my phones.

      Ubuntu got closer than anyone did. I don't like GNOME or KDE much so I don't want a GNOME or a KDE phone, thanks. I also don't want a desktop UI on my phone.

      Ubuntu Touch was designed as a phone/tablet UI by the team that made my favourite desktop Linux UI, so I am happy to see it continue and I hope it becomes a sensible pragmatic option. That's why I write about it.

      1. James O'Shea Silver badge

        Re: It's a phone

        Frankly, sayonara, laddie, if it doesn't work as a phone. One of the defects of the Android which I dumped was that it froze. Another was that the microphone worked when it felt like it. It wasn't a working phone. It was replaced. The fact that it froze meant that it wasn't much use for any reason; even as a small computer, it wasn't reliable. It was also limited by the tiny amount of RAM and storage it shipped with. The iPhone actually worked and had more RAM and storage.

        Again, I have a few old iDevices hanging around, and if Linux works on them, I'd jailbreak them and try it out. Does anyone have any clue as to if this is even possible? But before I go to the trouble of getting Linux, jailbreaking, and installing, I would like to know how well Linux supports actual phone calls. There's just no point in my moving forward with Linux on an old iDevice if the comms won't work. I can install Linux without comms on a desktop or laptop right now. (Aged desktop, first set up with Win 7, just had a hard drive failure. Rest of the hardware works. The new drive, and Ubuntu, will be going in over the weekend.)

        The site implies, heavily, that comms are supported, but also that support for _anything_ is limited to Fairphone 4, Google Pixel 3a, Vollaphone 22, Vollaphone X, and Vollaphone.

        I suspect that I am not a member of their target audience.

        1. cleminan

          Re: It's a phone


          Installation on iDevices is not currently possible as far as I'm aware. It was muted but this is Apple & they don't play well with others, especially as you're not only breaking the iOS shell you're getting the powerful little box to work with something which has nothing to do with Cupertino & that is a threat to the bottom line.

          I've been using Ubuntu Touch/UBPorts since the native BQ Aquaris E4.5 was launched about 8 years ago. As intimated elsewhere it's always been not quite ready for primetime - web apps have a nice way of breaking the addictive design of social media's biggest sites, but they mostly still work, more or less.

          Calls/texts/emails on the BQ were fine, some reception issues which couldn't be blamed on coverage but otherwise perfectly functional & the contacts app has the option of plugging into your Google account if you want, it uses the same account provider process as desktop Ubuntu/Gnome.

          Obliterating Android & putting UBPorts on an LG Nexus5 was very easy, the non-Canonical UBports had left some apps behind as it moved from 14.04 to 16.04 base but the phone was solid enough & survived, 2nd hand, for about 3 years until common N5 hardware issues started cropping up: mic failure on standard hold-it-to-your-ear calls then the screen started to blank at odd occasions & more frequently. Not Nokia quality.

          Installing on my current phone, Xiaomi Mi A2, was a chore. It took me a couple of months to get the bits in the right place but that is likely to be as much to do with using Ubuntu 18.04 on my laptop in 2021 as it does with the special hoops Xiaomi need you to jump through to get around Android. It took me another month to be motivated to sort out mobile data but that was just a settings issue as copying over my /home folder (for SMS message cache, call history, contacts, system & app settings) had brought over Nexus settings & confused things.

          Aside from a few quirks around rebooting the phone is solid as a phone & for text messages or email. The camera freezes sometimes & media uploads to social media can be hit and miss - but that's not why I have the phone.

          Full disclosure, I also have a first edition iPhone SE for work stuff & the kinds of things you can't web-app; bus fare & banking apps, stuff work want me to have and WhatsApp. There's a web app for WhatsApp but it needs to be logged in on a native app to work & for some reason /everyone/ thinks everyone else has it.

          In summary; worth it if you aren't going to get frustrated that many things don't work as smoothly & some closed source things don't work at all. I've found it to be a good way to extend the life of cheaper 2nd hand phones at a fraction of the cost of new & flashy. It works, and you may get some of your life back.

          Yes, there is some element of not wanting random network traffic reporting home & I appreciate that by using social media I am then generating that traffic. But that is my choice to do so.

          1. James O'Shea Silver badge

            Re: It's a phone

            "Installation on iDevices is not currently possible as far as I'm aware."

            Right, that's it for me, then. The only Android device I have is the Honeycomb phone, which is buried in a junk drawer somewhere in the home office. (Yeah, the telco I got it from didn't want it back when I replaced it with an iPhone.) I suspect that a Honeycomb device, even one which worked, won't do well with Linux.

            There are Adroid devices at work... but not many, and they're company devices, and I can't justify screwing around with them, even if I thought that they'd work with Linux, which I don't.

        2. localzuk Silver badge

          Re: It's a phone

          Your phone froze, so you wrote off an entire tech ecosystem?

          I'm now on my 7th or 8th Android phone, spread across a number of different manufacturers and I've never had any issues like you describe. In fact the only issues I've ever had are physical - charging ports breaking, and buttons wearing out.

          And your Android had a tiny amount of RAM and storage vs iPhone? I simply don't believe you if you're comparing similarly priced phones. One of the biggest complaints about iPhones has always been lack of RAM and the extremely high price of more storage.

          You are clearly not the target audience.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: It's a phone

            I agree with you that writing off an operating system because of a bad device isn't a great policy. However, I think this part might be correct:

            "And your Android had a tiny amount of RAM and storage vs iPhone? I simply don't believe you if you're comparing similarly priced phones."

            From the original comment, this was in the relatively early days of Android phones. Back then, I still had a flip phone, but I remember the specs of some of those early devices and I've seen some after they were decommissioned and they could be terrible. For example, I was asked to erase a bunch of Android 2.3 phones for a charity which came equipped with 256 MB of internal storage. That's inconceivable these days when an Android image regularly takes up over 10 GB of space on the internal flash. Even then, most of that space was reserved for the OS, so every one of the phones had a 2 GB Micro SD card for the user's files. I know that because I still have the things here. I erased them and I now have as many 2 GB cards as I'm likely to use for the next decade assuming they don't go bad.

            Sadly, I don't know what specific phones these were, but I found a lot of early Android phones with such specs. I have found models from 2011 from at least four manufacturers with 150-400 MB of internal storage. I don't know how painful those were to use, but it can't have been good. They were probably cheaper than iPhones, but if you had a discount from a provider or were buying older models, maybe they were more directly comparable. For example, the iPhone 3GS released in 2009 originally had a base storage version of 16 GB. A year later, they added an 8 GB version. It's true that the 3GS had 256 MB of RAM as well, but I'm more prepared to assume that Apple optimized their OS for that amount of memory than to believe that the consistently memory-hungry Android did so well.

            1. James O'Shea Silver badge

              Re: It's a phone

              The iPhone. had 512 MB RAM and 16 GB storage. The Honeycomb had from memory, as I can't get hold of it right now, 256 MB RAM and 1 GB storage. It was pitiful. It could not run Ice Cream Sandwich, not enough RAM.

            2. georgezilla Silver badge

              Re: It's a phone

              " ... It's a phone ... "

              And there lays the problem.

              You don't seem to know what the word "phone" actually means. And those devices really didn't need much memory/storage to actually BE phones.

              Where as today's "devices", still have the capability to be used as an actual phone, that requires the extra memory/storage to do all the non-phone shit.

          2. James O'Shea Silver badge

            Re: It's a phone

            "Your phone froze, so you wrote off an entire tech ecosystem?"

            Yes. At the time, there were few/none Android tablets. And I use a phone AS A PHONE. A lot. If the phone freezes,I miss calls. This is a PROBLEM, especially when the phone in question was subsidised by the company for use on company business, most especially including making and recieving calls. Which doesn't happen if the phone freezes.

            If the iPhone had given trouble, I'dhave dropped back to a feature phone. The iPhone did not give trouble. I see no reason to complicate my life by adding an Android device, which, based on past experiences , might not work properly (note that I was not the only person to have problems with Android phones; thanks to price, a substantial majority of compay devices were Android. Because a LOT of users had trouble, and notjust with Honeycomb butbwith Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean, more than 90% of company devices are now iDevices. And, for the tablets, 100% are iPads, iPad Pros, and a few Surfaces. It says a lot that users will go Microsoft rather than Android. ) and WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO RELIABLY MAKE AND RECIEVE CALLS. Others may not. We do.If assorted Android devices hadn't been shit, things would be different. Now there are very few Android devices left in the company, and the number is falling. We will probably stop supporting Official Company Apps on Android Real Soon Now.

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: It's a phone

        I'm with Liam here.

        I never had (or wanted) any kind of mobile phone before 2002 when the Handspring Treo 270 came out. A pocketable computer with a built-in cellular modem. Brilliant. That it could make and take voice calls was a slightly dubious bonus.


      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: It's a phone

        We all have different requirements. I would really like to run Linux on my phone, but I have never had a device that is supported by one of those projects. Maybe not buying flagship phones is incompatible with getting much hope of porting. The last time I attempted to port myself, it didn't work and I broke things quickly. Fortunately it wasn't permanent, but it was a complete failure to get things running. Maybe I should try again. I've been toying with the idea of buying a PinePhone which I know will support a lot of variants so I could find one that's good and support it. It is going to have to work at some things though.

        Is it? Good heavens. I make calls a few times a year. I dislike phoning people.

        Well there are still plain old dumbphones if that's what you want.

        I think that's disingenuous. I like calling people a lot more than you do, but a phone that is incapable of making phone calls means that, even if you have to call someone in an unusual situation, you can't. Whether or not you use it often, it's a core feature. After all, you still call sometimes, so if I told you that beginning tomorrow, your phones would never make voice calls again, I'm guessing you wouldn't just shrug it off.

        It's also indicative of other functions. If the device doesn't make calls well, it's probably not that they couldn't figure out the microphone; that's pretty basic. It's probably a symptom of support for the modem, and if the modem isn't working optimally, you'll also have problems with SMS and mobile data. I'm assuming that your pocket computer usage does make use of mobile data, and you're not just looking for a pocket WiFi-only computer?

        1. captain veg Silver badge


          If you buy a device on the basis that it is a highly portable computer it really isn't a core feature that it make telephone calls. I never expected or wanted that from my early smartphones. I hardly want it now, though the expectation has certainly taken hold. But that expectation, such as it is, is easily satisfied by VoIP services. No dedicated phone functionality required.


          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Disingenuous

            If your modem doesn't work well, it's not just the phone call feature you're losing. That's why those who never make calls should still probably care about whether their software can support that relatively basic functionality. And if by some miracle that's not the reason it doesn't make phone calls, then it would have to be related to the audio hardware which means that you probably can't use VoIP services either and you may lack, for instance, sound in recorded videos. Since I don't take many videos, this isn't that important to me, but it's still a core feature for any device where the manufacturer put a camera and a microphone in it, so it's not impressive if something that basic fails to work.

            However, it was the recommendation to just buy a dumb phone that I thought was the disingenuous part of that. Software which cannot do a relatively simple task isn't good software. It might be flawed software that won't affect your use case, although for the reasons expressed above I doubt that's the case this time, but it is still very flawed. If desktop Linux crashed if you used a trackpad or connected more than one screen, you could still use it, but it wouldn't impress people and we shouldn't expect it to. If mobile Linux can't do something as simple as make a phone call, it's similarly porous. We're talking about an activity that is so easy that basically no review has to talk about it because every device they're reviewing does it just fine. I don't know how well UB handles phone calls because I don't have hardware that can run it. From at least one review, it does have the software to make calls. Rather than refer to that or better yet, find information on whether it works well, the author chose to defend it by basically saying that, even if it didn't support the feature, who cares. That's what I found disingenuous.

        2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: It's a phone

          > I like calling people a lot more than you do, but a phone that is incapable of making phone calls means that, even if you have to call someone in an unusual situation, you can't.

          Yes, it does, but that isn't what I said, is it?

          I said its mic didn't work. Making calls was fine: you choose to do that. So, I got my headphones out of my pocket, plugged them in, then made the call. No problem.

          *Answering* unexpected calls was a problem. :-)

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: It's a phone

            I am referring to the general case. You still could make calls with a headset. If the phone call system doesn't work because of a software problem, it's not that easy to solve. Hence, if it's your microphone failing then it's a problem to be handled by you personally, and you can decide whether you want to buy a replacement, try to fix the mic, or not call people very often. If it's a software problem, it now affects every user and, unless they are good at fixing things the original developers couldn't, they likely can do nothing about this problem. If UB has a telephony problem, and I don't have any information that suggests they do, it is not a good idea to downplay it the way you have done, even if it's not that important to you.

      4. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: It's a phone

        It is perhaps interesting to note one of the big complaints about the first iPhone was that it was very poor at phone functionality.

        Ubuntu Touch convergence was an interesting concept and perhaps more relevant now, given the huge increases in phone performance we’ve seen over the last 15 years. Perhaps a good first target for touch is a tablet/desktop rather than phone/desktop.

        1. moonhaus

          Re: It's a phone

          "It is perhaps interesting to note one of the big complaints about the first iPhone was that it was very poor at phone functionality."

          This. It took apple till the iphone 5 to get HD voice calling working (i had expected it in the iphone 4 which came out after HD voice launched on 3G) and until the 6 before calling worked properly. Even today the iphone struggles with basic ergonomics like displaying the callers number when ringing if it's a contact (so badly i store the number in the second name field of contacts).

          Thats not to say it's not better than most android phones (many can't even handle 6 way calling) but it took apple seven years from the original iphone to get that core feature working. Many Android phones still haven't.

      5. jmch Silver badge

        Re: It's a phone

        "I had an older phone whose mic didn't work. It was my main phone for 2-3 years because that's not important to me and plugging in headphones was an acceptable compromise."

        Me too!! Besides the headset, he phone had a different mike for normal phone mode and speaker mode, so I would take most calls on speakerphone (home office helped with that of course)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only two Serious Contenders

    The only real options here are Purism Librem 5 and Fairphone now cleverly called Murena running the equally stupdly names /e/ OS.

    Librem should be the winner but it fails because the hardware is so behind the times and is effectively still unavailable outside the US. It is the only device in its class that has proper secure hard switches and has pluuged most of android's security holes. The problem is it attempts to do everything, but achieves a very small proportion of what is necessary to be really useable and to justify its price.

    If the company is around in about 10 years time the product may be worth having. Obvious all firmware/OS updates are completely reliant on Purism and its survival as well.

    Murena/Fairphone does not attempt to build everything from the ground up like Purism, but gradually removes the majority of Google's spyware in what I would call a version of Cyanogenmod. Murenaphones are better value for money but still cannot match the massmarket Android phone for value or features and the phones have none of the hardware/firmware security built in to Librem 5. If you want better hardware you can run /e/ on another rooted Android phone, but the development cycle means everything will be about a year out of date so the useable life of your phone, which still relies on Google for basic updates, will be cut short.

    I like the idea of a phone like Librem developed almost from scratch to be private/secure, but the Murena option at the moment is the only one that is close to being a serious contender in Europe, but I am suspicious of the way this company is run and support seems to be pretty inaccessible from the UK.

    I think I will wat a bit longer for my phone - to provide private and secure unhackable core "featurephone" type functions in the core with ringfenced additional and optional android internet and app type functions .

    The problem, as usual with open source, is fragmentation of effort - too may people willing to develop trivial variants of the "easy bits?" making things look pretty at the expense of sorting out the core functionality and getting the basics right.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Only two Serious Contenders

      Jolla Sailfish, the continued development of Maemo/Meego Linux phone OS is a very well executed phone OS and under appreciated.

      On the supported devices, like the Sony Xperia range up to 10 III it has the UI very well integrated with fully working phone functions. It uses android components like libhybris to get over the driver problem. If you want to drop into a shell and build apps with GCC or G++, or grab python from the repository then you can. It also provides support to run Android apps.

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Only two Serious Contenders

      I have a Murena /e/ Fairphone 4. It's a lower-midrange phone with the cost of a higher-midrange phone, but to be honest it's pretty good. It does all that it needs to do in terms of performance (I don't pay games and it handles everything else pretty well). The only thing that is really noticeably lacking is the camera, which is decent in good light but it's bad for low-light and terrible at snapping moving objects. And because its modular there's the possibility (if Fairphone develop such a module) of swapping just the camera module for a better one, as they did with the FP3 / FP3+

      What I really like about it is that it works seamlessly as a completely normal Android phone, just without any Google account or services required. Play is replaced by a dedicated Appstore (or one could use Aurora which allows anonymous connection to Google Play), and every App I had on my old Android phone works well on it, including Authenticators, banking apps etc. All without needing a Google account or any Google apps at all (in the rare case I do need any Google service eg maps, I connect through browser).

      For me, the marginally higher cost is absolutely certainly worth it

  6. Piro Silver badge

    Android can be had minus Google

    And it will still give a more cohesive phone experience.

    I see Rossmann's darling hasn't been mentioned here, but if you have a Pixel device: GrapheneOS.

    I don't have a Pixel device, the 4a came the closest to being attractive to me, but lack of two SIM slots killed my interest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android can be had minus Google

      Indeed. I have a Huawei.

      1. moonhaus

        Re: Android can be had minus Google

        "Indeed. I have a Huawei."

        Just a warning, Huawei no longer unlock their bootloaders so installing an alternative OS is no longer practical!

        That's written off their phone business more than any "ban" could ever hope to do.

  7. Grunchy Silver badge

    I love the idea of UBPorts

    I dislike Android, Google has no incentive to support any manufacturer that isn’t Google, so Android is perpetually out of date and buggy. I have a Planet Computer PDA, it’s stuck on Android 7. So is my T95Z media box, so is my blackberry Keyone stuck on older Android. My 2016 era Apple iPhone SE 1st gen is still fully supported, so I keep on using it!

    I still run my DLink DNS-323 boxes, why? Because DLink gave away specs for free and Alt-F “alternative firmware” was created, and it works great! I can’t get over how tidy “BusyBox” is as the main Linux command repository, it just works great, man.

    I’d love to get rid of Android forever on everything.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: I love the idea of UBPorts

      Imagine a world if different make android phones conformed to a spec so you could say update the firmware without needing the original manufacturer? That would be awful :) But not profitable.

      I've ended up with a pixel 4a for pretty much this reason. Even though my previous phones ended up using different builds (cyanogen, AOKP etc) which were really good but you are usually at the mercy of a single dev or very small team and at some point they will move on. Mega kudos to them for all the work they put in! I'm not bashing them in any way. It is just human nature. New shiny thing is out, why keep working on old crappy thing.

      Is the treble project still a thing?

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: I love the idea of UBPorts

      [Author here]

      > I have a Planet Computer PDA, it’s stuck on Android 7.

      Do you mean a Gemini?

      They run Android 8.1 absolutely fine and there is no good reason not to upgrade.

      I still use mine regularly, and I'm looking for a 2nd one to try Jolla Sailfish on.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: I love the idea of UBPorts

        I'm not sure that proves a point, though. It can be upgraded to 8.1, sure, which is a little better, but it's still stuck on a version five ones earlier from the current version. But it's old hardware, so why should they keep supporting it? I think they should do that for a while after discontinuing the hardware, but they haven't done that. I can tell you where you could get another Gemini: from the manufacturer's website where they're still selling these things as new*. I blame Android for the problems that Planet have had keeping them up to date, but I also blame Planet. Both parts of this could have done much better than they did.

        I think you're demonstrating a trend here, willing to excuse any bad standards if you like something else. I think Planet's hardware is interesting and I'd kind of like one even with their software support record, just as I want mobile Linux to succeed and would like to run it. That doesn't mean I should forget about the problems that each has and pretend like those things don't matter. If I can't be honest about the software's weaknesses, I can't fix it for those people who won't put up with anything to get the one feature they really want. And if I am recommending hardware for someone who wants a mobile device with a keyboard, I'll mention Planet but I need to tell them about the abysmal software support or I'm being dishonest with them.

        * You can buy a Gemini, but last time I checked which was a couple weeks ago, they had sold out of some of the English keyboard options. You could use one with a different language or it looks like at least some English versions are still available, just not the popular ones.

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