Archive for octobre, 2017

Smartphones are total crap [en]

lundi, octobre 16th, 2017

Smart phones, despite their popularity, are overrated pieces of shit. They are unfit for normal everyday use and will let you down at the worst moment you can imagine, regardless of how careful you are with them.

3 phones – all dead

Nokia E51

The first smartphone i had. Bought in 2009 and running Symbian S60, the OS was utterly obsolete when i unpacked the phone. The SSL implementation is broken and forced me to switch from Exim (GnuTLS) to Postfix (OpenSSL) on my mail server so i can be able to send e-mails. Typing text on a numeric keypad is just painful. The web browser is unusable. Updating the phone requires a computer running Windows XP and the Nokia software suite. The battery gave way end of 2011, leaving me with only one short phone call of autonomy. Totally useless nowadays.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

First foray in the Google ecosystem in mid-2012. I had the Apple iPhone in hand at that time, but the apple walled garden just did not convince me with it’s closedness, so i settled for a more open platform. The software was OK, but the hardware is total shit: the wifi died 9 months after purchase, it was like the wifi chip has been pulled from the phone. Beginning of 2014, i cracked the screen with my belt buckle, but it was still usable. Then, in july 2014, during my holidays, the baseband died: impossible to send or receive phone calls, data, and SMSes. The only radio left working was Bluetooth. Oh, and i received only one system update beginning of 2013, making it totally unsecure nowadays if it was working properly. Utterly useless.

Jolla

Since i was out of phone, i needed a replacement one. The Edward Snowden revelations about mass surveillance made me reconsider which OS my phone would be running. I settled on the Jolla, mainly for being developed and hosted in the European union, despite being manufactured in China. The phone is running SailfishOS, with the DalvikVM to run Android applications. The phone feels cluncky, but is useable. The hardware gave me a lot of issues:

  • The speaker stopped working at random: the only fix was to whack it on the table
  • Bad contact with the battery: The phone rebooted with a battery fully charged
  • The baseband is crashing at random, especially when there is poor coverage. Reboot required to get 3G signal back
  • Bad contact with the USB charging connector: the phone just won’t charge anymore
  • not-so-great camera
  • Very bad android support and the web browser is slow as hell
The aftermath

I was thinking about starting to develop some software for those platforms, turns out they are not worth wasting any time on, except if it can be something simple like a shell script. They are totally insecure by design (in software, in UI design, in hardware, and in general concept), and should not be relied on for anything.

The ideal phone for me has not been invented yet. here are the features i’m looking for in a phone:

  • can survive a 1m drop
  • Can cross 4 countries the same day without requiring a reboot
  • Regular software updates
  • Fully encrypted mass storage
  • Root access and no dependency on third parties, especially the ones in the US (Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple)
  • A speaker loud enough so i can hear the ringtone one meter below my ears
  • Dual or triple profile that can be triggered by passcode entry alone (duress mode: a real profile and one or two with fake data, like a TrueCrypt hidden container), so you don’t expose all your data at once to a third party, even under torture.
  • Call filtering: depending on the last profile activated, it will ignore selected calls and/or messages, but will give you everything if you open the « trusted » profile
  • A battery that can last two days on a single charge
  • A decent and well debugged 3G baseband (Yes, 3G: i don’t care about fancy 4G or 5G, give me something stable that works)
  • Fully sandboxed applications (Stop that non-sense of applications that freely access all your data and data from other applications)

For now, i will live without phone. I’m available on several channels (e-mail, IRC, but not facebook). My SIM card will happily live in a 3G dongle, so i can still receive SMS in a limited fashion. Fuck phones, they are a disturbance anyway…

My new phone.