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Why Android and Modern Smartphones Suck - unInstance

Why Android and Modern Smartphones Suck

It is April 2020 outside, I use Android Pie and here is a complete list why I hate Android OS and today’s mobile phones.

A few Apple iPhone notes upfront: these are no more than intermediaries between the camera and Instagram. They do not deserve an article.

Part one: Android OS

Part two: Dumbphones

Part one: Android OS

Internet Connectivity

If you want to deprive an application of the internet access, you cannot do it. An application does nothing but stealing your data and wasting the traffic to display advertisement based on the stolen data, but you cannot make it stop.

There are custom Android builds like LineageOS that try to solve it, but they have issues still: if you leverage a VPN connection, then the traffic belongs to the software that provides you with that VPN connection and not to the program using it. Thus, when you restrict the internet access for an application, but you use VPN, the application can access the internet despite that fact. The other problem is the lack of the ability to block the network access for newly installed software by default.

If you use WireGuard along with its kernel module, then the application does not take the VPN slot. Therefore, blocking in a natural way works. Browse XDA in order to find a custom kernel with WireGuard support for your device.

As an ass-backwards solution there are Xposed modules, but hey, we already have Magisk and I do not want an additional crutch in the OS to augment the boot-loop chance. I use AFWall+ application. It does not run in the background, the effect is accomplished by modifying the hosts file—requires root access.

Background Work

There is no way to restrict an application from running in the background. An application does nothing but wastes CPU time, RAM, the internet traffic, and you cannot make it stop.

There are Xposed modues that may help, Greenify for instance, but it is not open source and I do not want to install Xposed. If you favor my opinon, there is an application to freeze background activities called SuperFreezZ. It does not require root access but is able to use it.

SD Card Trouble

Although this might have been a local issue but I believe it is worth mentioning. I know a guy whose phone rejected to work with an SD card on a newer Android. The newer Android demanded to format the SD card, while the previous Android and other devices were able to use it. This is a pain if you have an 128GB SD card with a lot of personal information.

SafetyNet

“The SafetyNet Attestation API provides a cryptographically-signed attestation, assessing the device’s integrity. In order to create the attestation, the API examines the device’s software and hardware environment, looking for integrity issues, and comparing it with the reference data for approved Android devices. The generated attestation is bound to the nonce that the caller app provides. The attestation also contains a generation timestamp and metadata about the requesting app.”
From developer.android.com December 27, 2019

Basically, this is a tool designed to ensure that you do not have root access and your bootloader is locked. It is here to tell you that having a full control over you own phone is not good. Multiple banking applications love to refuse to work if the device does not pass SafetyNet check due to some spooky security issues.

It used to be a nightmare for custom lovers but after that Magisk came in and let everyone bypass this check. By 2020 each custom user has Magisk installed along with the custom ROM. So SafetyNet is done for nothing, you can stll enjoy Xposed and, say, Google Pay, simultaneously.

All SafetyNet does—is brings additional pain and proprietary code in the butt.

Application Development

Android runs Java vurtual machine that your applications run in. There is no native code, everything runs in a virtual machine wasting a lot of hardware. Moreover, it is popular to write programs in JavaScript powered by Electron, which is a piece of a web browser. According to all the above you may end up having a virtual machinge running inside a virtual machine to run a calculator.

Permissions

Android applications can access much of your data without any permissions given. Here is a piece of software created as a proof of concept. It shows all the data available to applications without any permissions given. As an example, every application can take a list of all the installed applications on your phone.

Sometimes permissions are not what they seem, meaning that you have to give out all of your data in order to make a program able to access one thing. For instance, you cannot permit an application to scan WI-FI networks; in order to do that, you have to grant location permission.

Location deserves a separate paragraph. Location in Android breaches 24/7, even if you do not allow that, even with the airplane mode enabled. The only way to gain a somewhat adequate control over this permission is to use ADB. Here you can find instructions. If you have root access, you can use ADBungFu application. But even ADB will not allow you to revoke all location related permissions, it just does not work.

With that being said, Google promises literate permissions, privacy oriented improvements and location leaks fixes every year. My personal usage experience confirms none of these promises have been implemented in Android 9—also know as Pie. Newer Android intimidates me even more due to a lot of reasons so I decided to opt out of upgrades.

Material Design

It is horrible. The problem is in the philosophy around which this design is built. The philosopy is—hide every button as deep in settings as possible even though you have enough space to put it close to the finger. And this is supposed to be minimalism.

On the left you see a compliant with repugnant Material Design guidelines file manager. It wastes a lot of screen space hiding each button under the three dots. I cannot create a folder within a single tap even. I have to press the three dots before every action. What a flagrant waste of time!

On the right you see a beautiful design that makes it easy to use X-plore file manager. Every button is accessible, I do not have to press ubiquitous three dots, then find what I need, and then press it, every single time. I can select a group of files and folders within a single tap instead of long-pressing. If I want to delete something, then I just tap the delete button. A single swipe to swap windows. It is ridiculous to hide each button under the three dots while having enormous screens.

In addition to that, we started from 3.5 inch displays because these are suitable for one-handed usage; what we ended up with, are about 7 inch displays. The thing is that it is not possible to reach the display’s top anymore without acrobatic maneuvers. User interfaces simply scaled up after the new form factor had come. Material Design is not compliant with modern screen ratios.

This is a convenient interface because all control elements are concentrated at the bottom, thus making it possible to use the browser with one hand.

Telemetry

It mostly concerns applications form Google Play Store which is the only software source for most users. Each program has rotten with advertisement and tracking. According to Exodus privacy reports each application today has approximately 8 trackers. As a solution to that I suggest AdAway. It does not run in the background, prying garbage is blocked by altering the hosts file—requires root privileges. Use it with Energized host sources. I do not recommend using Energized Magisk module and I do not think it is reasonable to use systemless hosts feature.

Part two: Dumbphones

Batteries

This is the main reason why I think phones are the launching stock. A battery is a degenerating component, it is supposed to be replaced after a determined amount of time. You are not allowed to replace a dead or uncharged battery.

Battety life will never ever get satisfying because this is an opportunity to sell power banks. You will always have to charge a phone twice per day at least.

Screens

They are screwed in all possible ways. Notches… Is this a bad dream?! A stupid joke? A stupid joke within a bad dream, I guess. Nobody asked for bezel-less-ness. Bezels used to be just fine, until some phone manufacturing companies started producing this trash and telling everyone it is really cool. What we ended up with are fucked up screen ratios with weird notches and bezels are still present. Apart from this, we have rounded screen corners and sometimes bent screen sides—Samsung does that primarily. One more problem these screens relate to—battery life. Even if we fix each Android problem, we will not have a decent battery life because 4k 120hz screens will consume all the battery charge instantly.

Summary: fucked up ratios, rounded corners, bent sides, extremely high battery consumption, and weird notches.

SD Cards

Having a SD card is convenient and useful. Even if you have 9999TB+ of storage in a smartphone, it is still convenient to have a removable piece of data that you can eject any time and plug into another device, it reduces internal SSD write load, hence prolongs its durability, and it also becomes harder to recover a bricked or boot-looped phone if the device does not have a SD card slot. The absence of SD card slots contributes to the storage monopoly allowing coprorations to put their own storage price tags.

Cameras

More than a half of the price tag is the camera. Corporations sell “new” hardware every year. The most anticipated part of the presentation is always a camera unit. People pay full price for a device every year just to get a sligtly improved smartphone camera. They are pretty good at taking shots but they can never be as good as real cameras are. Actual cameras will always be better doing their jobs at a much lower price point, moreover, you can repair a camera, unlike a dumbphone.

Last time cameras became a disaster: they are sticking out of the case making it impossible to put a phone on a table and use. Cameras spread all over the back of the phones, in most cases it does not make the photographs better but it does bring the price point higher.

Headphone Jack

Bring me back my headphone jack! Like always, Crapple said something is not good because the company cannot squeze money out of that something anymore. Headphone jacks are not cool anymore because it is cheaper to assemble phones without it. And you can sell insanely expensive, even though they sound shitty, wireless headphones. By the way, what if you do not want to charge headphones? “Fuck you!” they say.

Service

Mobile devices are being manufactured with no natural way to open them up and repair things, they are monolithic blocks with anti-repair design.


© 2022 Ivan Kovmir — CC-BY 4.0 License
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