In an age dominated by the iOS-Android duopoly, my tech explorations have always craved something off the beaten path. From breathing new life into my Pixel 2 with Calyx OS to reminiscing about the Nexus 5’s dance between Lineage and Ubuntu Touch, I’ve constantly been on the hunt for the perfect blend of innovation, privacy, and usability. This journey, marked with lessons, memories, and dreams of the ideal mobile experience, now leads me to the Murena 2. Let’s delve into this adventure, with its highs, lows, and my reasons for anticipating the next big thing in privacy-centric smartphones.
Pixel 2: My Experience with Calyx OS
For a while now, I’ve been using a Pixel 2 with the Calyx OS as my daily driver. For those unfamiliar, Calyx OS is a custom Android ROM that emphasizes privacy and security. Unlike the typical Android experience where data collection and sharing with Google is integral, Calyx offers a more decentralized experience, free from the ubiquitous Google services and apps. However, for all the freedom it provides, every boot-up greets me with the Google logo and a message indicating a different operating system, a jarring reminder of its origins.
Side Note (on GrapheneOS): Don’t get me started on GrapheneOS. While it’s obviously a very capable OS option, I had one of the developers (who I wouldn’t know from a bar of soap) stalking my posts on my Mastodon instance, that had absolutely nothing to do or any mention of him – nor did I even know who he was, starting arguments with me and accused me of being a part of some kind of effort to attack GrapheneOS, because I expressed to a friend why I went with Calyx OS, instead of GrapheneOS. At the time of this ‘run in’, I didn’t have a problem with Graphene OS, and I didn’t know a whole lot about it. But after that interaction, I just don’t like or want to use GrapheneOS. I have since seen several videos online of people complaining about GrapheneOS in a similar way. Apparently it’s some kind of beef between GrapheneOS an Techlore, but what ever the situation is, I’m just going to stay away from GrapheneOS, because I feel like there’s something really wrong in that camp. But anyway, moving along..
The Versatile Nexus 5: From Lineage to Ubuntu Touch
Sitting on my desk is the old Nexus 5 (and 2 more nestled in my tech drawer), a device which I’ve spent quite a bit of time playing around with as a privacy phone. My Nexus currently runs Lineage, a custom ROM that acts as a spiritual successor to the CyanogenMod project. I still use it to this day as a spare and private phone number. It’s very light, so it’s great to carry around in my top pocket, listening to Infowars podcasts as I work on our 4 acre garden; something I can leave on and I know it won’t ring, because no one has the number; yet it has internet access. Lineage provides a clean, bloat-free Android experience, and it’s genuinely rejuvenating to see an old device come alive with it.
But that’s not the Nexus 5’s only tryst with alternative operating systems. This same phone once proudly hosted Ubuntu Touch, managed by UBports. This was an ambitious attempt to bring the Linux desktop experience to smartphones. It’s a tad melancholic to note that UBports has ceased its support for the Nexus 5, especially when it was the most stable platform for the OS for so long. I feel like it ended before the work they did on it actually came to fruition. At least I watched the project closely for the last 2 years or so, just to see it end. So I’ve basically disbanded Ubuntu Touch on another Nexus 5 I have. It’s sitting in the drawer. There’s no point using it if support is discontinued. Bugger!
I am considering purchasing a Pinephone just so that I can still play around with newer iterations of Ubuntu Touch. I do really like the project. I’d really like a Fairphone, but I still consider Ubuntu Touch to be more of a toy than a daily driver (although it is a fairly capable toy for my purposes), but I’m just not willing to drop that kind of money on a novelty; especially after what happened with Ubuntu Touch and the Nexus 5. I held the Nexus 5 with Ubuntu Touch in my hand for years, in anticipation that more apps would come out and then UBports just dropped it. ie: Like how they’re also no longer supporting the Fairphone 2.
I think that even though the Pinephone is still classed as a development phone and not a daily driver, there just seems to be a lot more buzz around it with all sorts of projects. So as someone who doesn’t want to spend too much money (or any more than I already have, which is thousands of dollars) ‘playing’ with experimental privacy phones, I think it’s pretty hard to look past the Pinephone; especially for the price. I’ll very likely buy one soon.
Librem 5: The Allure of Pure OS
I’ve been intrigued by the Librem 5 for a good couple of years now, an offering from Purism that champions the cause of ethical computing in the mobile sphere. Created with an unwavering commitment to freedom, privacy, and security, it seems like the ideal system for someone like me. But the associated device, the Librem 5, carries a premium price tag, potentially sidelining a significant number of interested users. What I like most about the Librem 5 is that the camera, mic and connectivity can be turned of via a physical switch. I currently put web cam covers on my phones so that I can open and close the camera(s). However, the Murena 2 also has physical switches, and the price seems a lot better — and frankly, it just seems like a better phone all around so..
Murena Phone: The Future Beckons
I am extremely interested in the Murena 2 phone and the Kickstarter, which is the subject of my current tech anticipation. Everything I’ve gleaned about this device and its OS speaks of an ideal blend of privacy, security, and usability. Yet, experience has taught me the virtue of patience. I’m eager to get the Murena 2, but comprehensive reviews will guide my final decision.
The main thing I like is the physical switches just like the Librem 5, except the price is much less.
I have too many phones right now, and my Pixel 2 with Calyx OS is working well as my daily driver and my Nexus 5 with Lineage OS is a great ‘yard companion’ that my wife can call me on while I’m out and about keeping our property under control — when lunch is ready, so I’m content to just wait and see how the Murena 2 goes. If I see good reviews, I’ll very likely buy one after a few months.
I have really high hopes about the Murena 2.