[Tinkerphones] Strategies for sustainable phones

Benson Muite benson_muite at emailplus.org
Mon Sep 23 17:03:56 CEST 2019

On 9/23/19 5:28 PM, Paul Boddie wrote:
> On Saturday 21. September 2019 15.48.50 H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
>>> Am 19.09.2019 um 18:18 schrieb Paul Boddie <paul at boddie.org.uk>:
>>> I dislike the tone of technology reviews, especially when they talk of
>>> "last year's" technology. They start to sound like fashion industry
>>> gossip ("last season's collection") with largely the same implied level
>>> of regard for the planet, workers' rights, and so on, unless carefully
>>> worded and qualified.
>> Well, if there is no technological breakthrough progress any more (displays,
>> cameras, processors, RAM sizes etc. do not show significant improvement any
>> more), the only way vendors can tell they have something new and get
>> customers to replace devices is by changing the clothing every year - this
>> is called "fashion". And making them less durable. Seems to be a
>> fundamental law of economics...
> But very bad for the planet. As it is, however, people can always be persuaded
> to upgrade by just making the software more demanding, so as I noted, we have
> the same kind of upgrade culture as the one Microsoft and Intel cultivated.
> I have tried to get in touch with a researcher I very vaguely know who has
> done work on sustainable phones, inquiring about considerations of software
> longevity which were generally absent in the research being done, but I
> haven't had any response yet. It seems to be a blind spot: people care about
> how the physical product is made, claiming a long lifespan, but then the
> software makes the device obsolete.
> [...]
Any thoughts on KaiOS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KaiOS)?
>>> I wonder, and think that others have also wondered before, whether it
>>> isn't worth concentrating on making more modest devices instead of
>>> supposedly competitive smartphones where openness is the differentiator. I
>>> recall discussions of the Fernvale kit, the Zerophone, and maybe Nikolaus
>>> considered a featurephone design at one point.
>> Yes, we thought about it - but where are the real users?
>> There is for example hyped LightPhone2 but I don't see that it is a useful
>> device. Minimizing functions can also go too far.
> The stupid Web site for the LightPhone needs all my computer's CPU and half of
> its RAM. I guess nobody will be viewing it on a LightPhone2. But I guess this
> illustrates my point about ever-expanding hardware requirements for mundane
> things.
> As for that device itself, it takes the interesting but troublesome idea of
> using e-ink or e-paper displays for something that people might expect to
> support animated or rapidly updated content. Apart from the use-cases of
> reading e-books or showing one's boarding pass barcode at the airport security
> gates, people struggle to consider things that are compelling enough for
> people to want one (other than the fashion aspect of having something
> different).
>> The key benefit of a smartphone is its flexibility for everyone. For the
>> user and for the vendor and for app developers. Nobody is basically
>> limited. And it optimizeds the quantities produced for the vendor. It is a
>> win-win-win for everyone and leaving this in either direction must have
>> another win for either of the groups.
> Maybe use of the term "featurephone" isn't appropriate, then. If we rewind
> back to the good old days...
> [...]
>> BTW: feature phones already were there approx. 2003. There was less and
>> less technical differentiation so that Nokia Vertu or Siemens Xelibri
>> tried the fashion path. With the arrival of the iPhone there was a big
>> change.
> ...when people were using phones like the one I have recently abandoned, there
> was a certain level of focus on a core set of practical but specific functions
> that were gradually expanding. Starting out from handling only a small number
> of essential things - calling, contacts, timekeeping, simple messaging -
> various PDA-related and other more general computing functions were added. My
> phone had e-mail and calendar support, for instance, although I never got to
> use them to any decent extent.
> Of course, music and video playback and Web browsing were introduced as soon
> as the hardware and network bandwidth were good enough. When "proper" Web
> browsing became available, the boundaries between phones and personal
> computers started to be rubbed out. And it should be said that there was
> always a demand for more capable phones and the ability to run other software
> on them.
> I wouldn't advocate dropping functions that were what many people wanted in
> the first place, but there is something to be said for a device that does
> certain fundamental things well, also providing support for other things but
> not necessarily trying to be at the cutting edge. Maybe these observations
> apply more to the software being pitched for the different phone efforts, but
> I can envisage situations where certain hardware features could be eliminated
> in order to deliver something less ambitious but more satisfactory for those
> whose needs are met.
> (In my own personal case, I could only ever imagine using the camera on my
> phone for urgent documentation needs because it really isn't very good. But
> then I'm one of those people who likes to use a "real" camera. However,
> cameras could be offered as modules - DXO tried this for the iPhone - and
> their absence is also of interest to certain niche markets, too.)
>> The most promising current open phone initiative seems to be the PinePhone.
>> Seems to be much cheaper than the Librem 5 at comparable functions...
>> And seems to use existing Plasma Mobile instead of developing the n-1st
>> dialer.
>> I am currently considering to buy a PinePhone as soon as it becomes
>> available and start porting our LetuxOS to it. Maybe we can then quite
>> easily have QtMoko or Replicant or QuantumSTEP as alternative OS variants.
>> Well, none of them (maybe except Replicant) will be suitable for
>> online-banking. So that users still need a second device just for that
>> purpose...
>  From what I can see...
> https://www.pine64.org/2019/09/05/september-update-the-pinephone-is-real-shipping-soon/
> ...the PinePhone is making real progress. Of course, the software providers
> will need to step up, but there is some chance that at least one of them will
> manage to support the hardware decently enough.
> As for online banking compatibility, we return to the non-trivial matter of
> making sure that in our societies, the essential services we need to use do
> not make restrictive and unreasonable demands on the software and hardware we
> happen to use.
> Paul
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