Few Things to Consider For Your Next Smartphone


So finally your smartphone is bricked, no more useful than paperweight. You’re done making trips to Cubao or Quiapo to have it repaired for the nth time, and that’s okay. At least, you’ve done your part to make the most out of it.

Before you go online shopping, though, I hope you consider these things first, since you’re doing research anyway:

Look out for smartphone repairability scores.

This list by iFixit is a good starting point. There they explain how they rate devices. Start looking at ones that score at least 7. Now, as implied before, we should be veering away from Apple’s products, because their design for nonrepairability is not good design, at all. This should narrow down your list to just Android phones.

Make your Mobile OS more private

Android phones, however, are basically the eyes and ears of Google. Good thing that Android, as an operating system, is highly configurable, so it’s definitely worth considering flashing (i.e. replacing) the default OS with a custom one. PrivacyTools lists their recommended mobile operating systems here, as well as some few honorable mentions. GrapheneOS has official production support for Google Pixel phones only, which are hard to come by here in the Philippines last I checked; while both LineageOS and Ubuntu Touch support wider range of devices. You don’t need to be a “technical person” to flash an Android phone with custom ROM, although it’s worth noting that these custom ROMS make old phones snappier and increase UI/UX (in a while, this will be relevant).

A good reading comprehension and a spirit of DIY is all you need. Of course, if you don’t have the time nor patience to deal with this, you can also ask for help from someone with more expertise in mobile software.

Privacy Add-ons

If you don’t want any of that (I get it), you might want to add some of these apps on your Android phone, no root required. Your phone will likely warn you about installing from “unauthorized” sources. Be sure to do your research first about any of these. Once you’re sold, just Allow installing from third-party sources.

  • F-Droid is an installable catalogue of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) applications. Think Google Play Store, but only FOSS, and minus Google’s prying eyes. Install this first, because the next few apps on this list can be obtained from F-Droid.
  • Aurora Store is an alternate to Google Play Store with which you can search and/or download apps, update existing ones, get details about in-app trackers, spoof your location, and much more.
  • Blokada is an ad blocker and privacy app (also available in iOS, tell your friends). It works for all apps and all browsers.
  • NetGuard provides simple and advanced methods to block certain apps from accessing the internet, without requiring root privileges. Apps and addresses can be individually allowed or denied access to your Wi-Fi and/or mobile connections, allowing you to control exactly which apps are able to phone home or not.
  • Orbot is a free proxy app that empowers other apps to use the internet more securely. It uses Tor to encrypt your internet traffic and then hides it by bouncing through a series of computers (nodes) around the world.

Buy Secondhand!

No new things. Someone, somewhere is ready to part with their fully-functional smartphone, and the brand and model might just be included in your list. Ask around your friends and family. Visit sites like Carousell, or even Facebook’s Marketplace (if you’re in that social media) and check listings. This might also be the best time to consider your actual budget, which would help cement your choice.

As last resort, and this isn’t actually “buying”, you may want to sign up for Freecycle - Philippines Chapter and post a listing there, although let’s be honest – since a small number of people are aware of the site, your chances of obtaining a smartphone here are slim.

Conclusion

In this post, we tackled three things simultaneously, all of which were discussed in previous separate posts, each equally important: right to privacy, right to repair, and refusal to buy new stuff.

As for your old bricked phone, I need not tell you to don’t just dispose it anywhere! It’s now an e-waste and must be handled differently than your regular household waste. If it’s not too wrecked, consider selling it off to technicians and DIY-enthusiasts for the parts (don’t forget to pass the message about it being e-waste). You may want to keep it for the parts yourself.

A quick search yields the following list of places you can drop off your old phone and other e-waste, but be sure to contact each one first to check their availability during this time of pandemic:

TNU



read this next: Right to Repair, especially in an 'Emerging Market Economy'

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