Thoughts on Smartphones, Followup

Table of Contents

Published: 2017-12-26

Part 1, Part 2

Wow! It has been just under a couple of months since the big phone crash, and my previous post has been in limbo for most of that time.

Quite a bit has happened in the interim. However, I am still happily running LineageOS sans Google Apps on my Nexus 4.

I am still patiently waiting for a port of LineageOS to the OnePlus 5T, but I feel absolutely no pressure to buy a new phone. This is because there is nothing wrong with my Nexus 4.

At 5 years of age and counting, I have started to half-jokingly refer to my Nexus 4 as Methuselah.

Apparently, I am not the only one with the intent of running a smartphone until it falls apart. There is someone maintaining a Samsung Galaxy S5 as his daily driver. This is a phone of 2014 vintage. Interestingly, he recommends looking for the same things that I am looking for in my next phone: LineageOS support and a user-replaceable battery.

The problem was software

In fact, all my serious problems were software related. Specifically, they were problems with Google Play Services. All the intermittent black-screening is gone. All the home screen crashes mentioned in my previous article are gone.

The big difference: there is no Google software automatically updating. I am in control. I don't know why I tolerated the Google Apps for so long.

Over the past two months, I have only crashed LineageOS once while performing in rapid succession a series of camera activation and deactivation commands from the lock screen. The power button was sticky, and the "double-press" gesture that launches the camera triggered a few times. I tried to exit the camera quickly, but Android did not like that.

The hardware is fine

The hardware is as fine as a 5 year old phone could be.

I replaced the battery and cleaned the phone as best as I could. It feels just like a new phone.

Two minor issues remain, and they are from plain old age:

  • Occasionally the power button becomes sticky and triggers a couple times, causing the camera to activate. (I really should disable that "feature" in the settings application.) However, the power button has not given me problems lately. Maybe the dry weather fixed it.
  • The rubber grip that encircles the phone has become gooey because it is the cheap type of rubber, but this doesn't bother me because I have a case around it.

Nevertheless, the fact is that I have a 5 year old phone running Android 7.1.2.

My setup

Here is a summary of my setup and the applications I use day-to-day:

  • Hardware: Nexus 4 (mako) with aftermarket battery dated 2016-05
  • OS: LineageOS 14.1
  • Launcher: Hayai Launcher
  • Web browser: Firefox (soon to be Waterfox because of Mozilla politics)
  • App installer: F-Droid (a bunch of open source applications)
  • SMS messaging: stock Messaging app
  • Phone: stock Phone app
  • Contacts synchronization: vCard import (I have yet to look into NextCloud.)
  • Mail, voicemail, calendar: GApps Browser
  • Maps: either load Google Maps in a web browser or OsmAnd~

Most Android software in the Google Play Store isn't worth my time or energy, especially when there are free and open source alternatives in F-Droid. Even the "free" applications in Google Play Store track users and try to grab all the information they want.

Extra credit goes to Snapchat, which still attempted to access my contacts database after I disabled the "discover your friends" feature in its settings pane. Lying about privacy is not OK, and no "App Store" should condone it.

Other people's comments about my phone

Ultimately it doesn't matter what other people think. It's my phone. However, other people's reactions have been quite interesting, especially when I mention that I run without Google Play Store.

Is that a new phone?

(This was shortly after I changed the battery and cleaned it up.)

No, it's five years old, but I'll take that as a compliment.

You still haven't bought a new phone? Why?

I have no need to. I am running a recent Android with the latest security patches. (Most stock ROMs cannot make that claim.) I have at least several more months of life out of this phone.

What do you mean you don't have Google Play Store installed? How do you install stuff?

To me, Google Play Store is not worth it. I don't want Google Play Services installed because it hosed my phone, and I wasted several days of my time getting my phone back to a usable state. I refuse to be put through that ordeal again. So, I will simply refuse to install Google Play Services and anything that relies on Google Play Services.

I like F-Droid. I like how source code visibility seems to enforce the rule of "play nice." My apps do not track me. They work for me, not the other way around.

Give up and get an iPhone! It just works!

Haha! That's not going to happen. (1 2)

Part 1, Part 2