Looking into Linux Phones

I’m probably a glutton for punishment, but it’s true: I’ve been looking into alternatives to the “big two” smart phones.

As I said a few weeks ago, I’m transitioning all of my tech away from Apple, and I suspect the hardest part of that will be the phone.

I’m super happy with my new desktop experience. Sure I’m constantly tweaking it but that’s part of the fun. The next big hurdle is ditching the iPhone.

Options for Linux phones #

From what I’ve seen, there are basically three options if you want to have a Linux phone. Sadly, none of them are perfect, so I’m going to have to make some hard decisions.

Librem 5 #

The Librem 5 is a neat product, and it’s close to my ideal. It has hardware switches for physically disconnecting all of the sensors on the device (literally all of them). It has a user-replaceable non-proprietary battery, and constant software updates. And it has “convergance”, which means you can install the same Linux OS on your phone and computer. All of this is very appealing to me.

The big problem is: the price. Even the cheap version of this phone is currently selling for $1,299, which is just too much for me. Maybe if they’re able to get that price down someday, but for now, the Librem doesn’t look likely.

PinePhone Pro #

The PinePhone also seems up my alley. Similar to the Librem, it has hardware kill switches (although they’re a lot harder to use), decent specs, and a much better price point.

The problem: they are a Hong Kong based company, and they don’t have the best reputation for quality. Ordering a PinePhone feels like more of a gamble: maybe you’ll get a working phone, or maybe you’ll get a useless brick that you have to pay to return. Even at a much more affordable $400, that still feels like a big gamble.

Nexus 5 #

Last but not least, I’ve heard the Nexus 5 works well with Ubuntu Touch. Unfortunately the Nexus 5 is a very old phone at this point, I’m not sure it would have the power to do what I want it to do. Ubuntu Touch does have quite a long list of well supported Android phones though, so I may end up trying one of those. Old Android phones are quite cheap, so this seems like a gamble I’m more willing to take.

Why Linux? #

I’m mainly interested in a Linux phone because I love the idea of it. And I like to support ideas that I love. However, I do need a reliable and useable phone for my work, and it remains to be determined if Linux can really do that yet or not.

If worse comes to worse, I’ve also thought about getting a Light Phone. It’s a “clever phone” rather than a smart phone (h/t Evan Travers), and even though it’s not Linux based, I like it as well. The Light Phone doesn’t have any bells or whistles, it’s just a phone with an e-ink screen and a hotspot for computer emergencies. No email, no note taking, no camera: it would take some getting used to, but there’s certainly an appeal to that level of simplicity as well.

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