My previous employer FRISS provided me with a mobile phone I could use privately as well. This was needed for their work from home policy and the occassional standby shift. My new employer ID Ware doesn’t do those things, so it was not unreasonable that they didn’t provide me with a phone. Because it was expensive to take over the Samsung Galaxy S7 which I used while working for FRISS, I decided to look for a new phone.
The subscription FRISS had with T-Mobile allowed some choice in different phones. Among the phones with Google Android, the Samsung Galaxy S7 phones stood out as the best choice. The iPhones required an hefty extra payment, so I chose the Galaxy S7.
While the Galaxy S7 was a great phone from a hardware point of view, I didn’t like the software. Apart from the obvious spying on your personal data by Google, the phone came crammed full of bloatware by Samsung. Some of which you couldn’t uninstall. Samsung has a annoying habit of supplying their phones with their own alternative apps for the standard Android software (such as the web browser and calendar) which add nothing. They also have a bad reputation for ending regular security updates for their phones quite soon. There are of course other manufacturers which sell phones which do run stock Android and do receive security updates for a reasonable amount of years after the phone was released. But you haven’t solved the spying problem then.
Installing a custom ROM on your Android phone, like LineageOS, doesn’t solve the problem either. I’m not aware of all the details, but the fact that you will have to deal with lower photo quality of the Galaxy S7 is a deal breaker for me. And you will still need to install Google software which spies on you if you want to use the Android app store. It’s too much uncertainty and work. I wanted something which is (relatively) privacy friendly, bloatware free and easy to use.
My choice was a refurbished iPhone 6 from Forza, included in a Tele2 contract with unlimited calling/SMS’ing and 2 GB of data per month for € 22. Paying € 1.000 for the new iPhone X, even though it has that nice OLED screem (and that silly notch!) is madness. But € 22 a month is barely more than I paid for a SIM-only subscription in the past, which excluded a phone.
A brief remark about Tele2: avoid them. I found my number was published in the phone directory, online and on paper, without my permission. Their helpdesk doesn’t have a clue how this could happen and they didn’t compensate me in any way. I submitted a complaint for this with the Dutch Data Protection Agency.
Not too long ago there was a critical investigation by the Dutch Consumer’s Association which slammed refurbished phones. They found that these phones can be badly repaired with second-rate components and aren necessarily much cheaper than new phones. Forza got a bad review too. In my case I have nothing to complain, my refurbished iPhone 6 works fine.
I expected that I would miss the great OLED screen of the Galaxy S7 on the iPhone 6, but this didn’t happen. In the majority of my use cases the screen doesn’t have to display a lot of black color and it isn’t used in dark environments, so I don’t notice the lack of an OLED screen much. On the software side iOS is much more pleasant than Android, no spying and bloatware. The sporadic app you can’t remove such as Apple Health doesn’t really get in the way or take up a lot of storage. No problem if you want to set DuckDuckGo as the default search provider in the Safari web browser (it’s not possible in Google Chrome on Android).
However, Apple wouldn’t be Apple if it wouldn’t combine it’s superior product design with its fair share of dick moves. For example their negligence in keeping their web browser engine WebKit up to date with the latest web standards. Usually this is no issue because you could install a different web browser with a different engine, but Apple is actively blocking anything else from WebKit being used on iOS. This reached the news after the French software company Nexedi sued Apple for this. This was in 2016 and while WebKit is still the only option on iOS, I’m not up to date on the current web standards compliance of WebKit.
Another one is that Apple refuses to implement support for the open and cross-plaform Vulkan graphics API on iOS, in favor of their own closed Metal graphics API. Metal was released in 2014 while Vulkan was not finished yet (it was in 2016), Apple might have legitimately thought that Vulkan was taking too long. But for some time now Vulkan has been accepted as the open standard for graphics and is frequently used on Linux and Android. While it’s not visible to the consumer, Apple is effectively screwing all those developers who have to convert their software from Vulkan to Metal if they want to release it for iOS. If the life of developers is unnecessarily made more difficult the consumer is disadvantaged indirectly.
Then there is the inability to use another app store than the Apple App Store (not the case on Android). Apple says it wants to protect its users, but that doesn’t justify restriction of freedom. They could easily give a warning that there are no safety guarantees once users add other app stores. The real reason is of course that they want a monopoly on paid iOS apps so they can reap more profits. Just like Google they take a share of app store transactions. My solution for this is simply refusing to buy anything from the Apple App Store. I don’t need any paid apps anyway.
I could mention the fact that iOS is not open source, meaning there is no opportunity to create custom ROM’s for iOS. The more complex reality is that while Android is open source, many Android apps are not. They are now close source as part of a deliberate strategy by Google to make the open source Android unattractive. Presented with this choice, I value privacy more than software freedom, hence my choice for Apple. I think I’ve made it clear now that I merely consider Apple the best choice out of two bad choices.