Nie dürft ihr so tief sinken, von dem Kakao, durch den man euch zieht, auch noch zu trinken.
- Erich Kästner
So I bought a new smear^H^H^H^H^Hsmartphone. My old phone was fine, it was a Moto G5, but somehow the developers thought that an exchangable battery is an excuse for not including a compass – but I often use it to navigate, and that sucks without a compass. Now I bought a Moto G6, which has a compass, but no easily exchangable battery, and a fingerprint sensor that is even worse than the one from the Moto G5.
Not being able to easily exchange the battery is the current trend. I chose the Moto G6 because at least it seems to be doable to exchange the battery at some point. I want a phone which I can have for longer than two years. And I think one reason for not having an exchangable battery is to make people buy new phones after about two years, because that is usually the time, in my experience, when batteries lost a relevant amount of duration. It is an instance of Planned Obsolescence.
Which brings me right to the point: The whole ecosystem around Android is a big capitalist circlefuck. Android has created an immune system against software freedom and personal freedom.
So when starting my new phone, the shiny motorola start animations shalmed right back at me. Then I was asked to enter my SIM code and connect to Wifi. Then I was asked whether I wanted to import settings from another phone, which I wanted, so I started the procedure and hoped that my app settings would be synced.
After that, I was kindly asked to connect my Google account with Outlook, because reasons. I accidentally did that, now Microsoft can access my Mails from Google I guess(?). Well, why not. I mean, Outlook appears to be the default Mail application on this phone. I have no idea why anyone would want that instead of the original GMail app, but just as a wild guess, one could think of the possibility that Microsoft might have payed for that.
After that, there was a system upgrade, and lots of "system apps" were updated. "System apps" are apps you cannot uninstall. One would assume that these apps are essential for the system to work. But to be honest, I do not see why "LinkedIn" is an essential app. Again, one might think of the possibility that LinkedIn &c payed for that.
Then I was asked to configure the fingerprint reader, and got some messages from these "system apps" telling me that they are there and why I should use them or something … I just closed them. There were two reasons for choosing a Moto G6: The first reason was that I hoped it would be similar to the Moto G5. I don't see that. The UI is entirely different. The second reason is that the older Moto G phones are supported by Lineage OS, so I hope that in the future, it will also be supported. That is important, because the vendors stop supporting their phones at some point – which is also planned obsolescense, but also creates a huge security hazard. There should be laws against this practice – but that will probably not happen in Europe.
Update: I was told that Lineage OS still uses proprietary blobs as its drivers, which may contain security holes but can only be fixed by the companies that made them. Replicant doesn't do that, but won't run on as many devices, therefore.
Now even though I used the official sync functionality, most things just have not been synced. Like, everything useful was not synced. My app settings for Conversations and K9 Mail for example. Also my WhatsApp contacts and logs were not synced. I restored a backup, but only to learn that it lost messages. Because this is not how Android works. In theory, as it is a single-user system, there could be some central place where apps store their configuration. Think of the windows registry or dconf. Instead, apps get their directories in which they place SQLite3 databases.
Which brings me to the next point: The filesystem. Yes, Android has one, but tries to hide it. I do not understand why hiding the filesystem is so trendy right now. Hierarchical filesystems are good, clean, simple and easy to understand. They are a perfect example of an abstraction that is easily usable by humans, as well as efficiently implementable for computers. On Android, it can be hard to create a file with one app, and open it with another app, even though they are on the same computer. This got on my nerves several times. And people start to think it has to be this way. It hasn't. Having access to a cleanly structured filesystem is strictly better than whatever Android does.
And since sending a file to another app on your same phone is so hard, it can be almost impossible to get some file from your computer to your phone (let alone saving it in the right place and making the corresponding apps open it). I have seen people use DropBox for this several times, even though the two computers were in the same room. And for the providers, this makes sense: It makes you use more traffic, and it makes you upload more files, so they can be scanned into your ad profile.
This brings me to another point: The connectivity. It is assumed that you have a fast internet connection with no traffic limits. Many apps assume this. YouTube does not properly cache its videos, except when you explicitly download them. Chrome always reloads tabs when they went out of focus too long. There is no caching done. I have also seen some apps profiling your network connection to decide how much bloat to download. All of this assumes that you have an infinite amount of traffic. But of course, this is good for your internet providers: As there is still no affordable real flatrate for mobile internet in Europe, you will have to pay for additional traffic.
However, still, a smartphone is a highly portable computer, and as such, often changes places, and therefor often switches between networks. That is a problem for chat applications which need to manage their persistent connection. Also, sending keep-alive-packets will drain battery. In theory, TCP with the right parameters should be able to handle this. In practice, programmers do not know this. Hence, Google invented cloud messaging: Your app registers a server, which connects to Google servers, and sends messages. Google play services will itself keep an XMPP-connection to the Google servers, and forward those messages to the registered apps.
The problem is that your app needs to be from Google play. F-Droid apps cannot do this. Another problem is that the push server is hardcoded into the app. That is especially bad for free decentral services like XMPP: I am hosting an XMPP server, and Conversations is a very good client, but the version supporting cloud push costs a few euros, because they have to host an own cloud push server. To prevent this, I would also host an own cloud push server. But to do this, I would need to recompile the app and put it into the Google play store. Which is stupid, considering the fact that it would cost me money, and it would publish my Conversations fork for everyone, while I just want the people with an uxul.de-Account to use it. In the meantime, there might be an alternative, HTML5 Web Push. Maybe there will be support for this in some web client like converse.js in the future. At the moment, there isn't.
The App store is a problem of its own. In theory, having an app store is a good thing. It can improve security, because one can quickly react to security holes. It also can do dependency tracking. In theory, it is like a good old package repository, think of Debian/Ubuntu. In practice, there appears not to be any dependency management, and every app just bundles all of its dependencies, because a few hundred megabytes for a mail client is not a reason not to use it, aparently. Also, it costs money. Not much money, but it costs money. Commercial apps have no problem: Hosting a push server in AWS is cheap. And WhatsApp and Telegram are free as in free beer, and work out of the box.
Of course, they collect your data. Yes, they are encrypted, but at least they know your friends, and they know when you are awake. I would guess that automatically reading your address book entries should be illegal. The Facebook Messenger at least asks whether he may access the address book. They make you the criminal.
Android kills background applications, except when you explicitly allow them to run. This is one further reason for cloud push. And this really gets on my nerves sometimes. I often use Google Maps and the Deutsche-Bahn-Navigator. I want these to stay open, so I can look up things again afterwards. However, it seems that they are reaped from time to time. And they will not always go back to the state where I left them. This is annoying. Of course, you do not have to worry about closing programs anymore, as you would have on a normal computer. But I do not really see the great advantage in that. I also do not see why they do not support swapping.
People often argue that my opinions assume that smartphones are computers. They do. But I don't see why smartphones are not computers. They are small, highly portable computers, with lots of sensors and a touchscreen. The touchscreen is the main difference to laptops and notebooks. And for computers, there is a set of principles that work: The UNIX principles.