I would really appreciate some hand-holding with setting up my first smartphone with F-Droid on LineageOS. Any tips are welcome
I’ve never owned a smartphone before, because I never really needed one and I don’t like either Google’s or Apple’s offerings. A few days ago I was able to cheaply buy a used smartphone from someone, so I decided to see if it might be useful for me.
The phone I should be receiving in the mail soon is the Xiaomi Poco F1. I want to install a custom rom on it because the default Googly experience doesn’t appeal to me. After considering Ubuntu Touch (I have been using Linux exclusively for over 15 years), I decided on LineageOS. It seems to have a large community, it has official support for the phone I bought and seems to run well on that phone. Most importantly, I would like easy access to F-Droid’s large library of apps.
I read through the installation instructions on the LineageOS wiki. It’s all new to me, but I think I can follow those instructions without too much trouble. The person I bought the phone from said the bootloader is already unlocked, so that should save me the fuss of having to borrow a Windows pc. If there are any pitfalls here for new users that I should be aware off, I’d be happy to hear.
Next I’d like to set up F-Droid as my appstore. This is what I’m most unsure about (which is why I’m posting here instead of the LineageOS subreddit). I can see a “download F-Droid” button on the website, but reading a bit more I think I also need to do something (not entirely sure what) with the “Privileged Extension”? Is this a step that should be inserted into my LineageOS installation sequence here? quoting from the instructions linked above:
(Optionally): If you want to install any add-ons, repeat the sideload steps above for those packages in sequence.
Any tips would be greatly welcomed, especially if it’s about anything involved that an inexperienced user like me may not even have considered.
Hey @orflovir, welcome to the libre side of Android!
As long as your device is compatible, there is no real pitfall.
The Privileged Extension is in no way required, it allows F-Droid to install apps automatically. That mostly means that you only have to click Install in F-Droid instead of having to click install in F-Droid and then confirming in Android itself you want to install the app. It saves you one click, pretty much. You would install that on step 6 if you wanted it.
Depending on how much compatibility you need with the proprietary landscape and if you want covid exposure notifications, you may want to consider installing LineageOS for microG instead. It comes with F-Droid and the Privileged Extension pre-installed and also comes with microG, which is a libre reimplementation of Google Play Services.
Lineageos in my opinion is a good choice, personally I’ve been using android phones with lineageos without gapps (google services) and without microg for several years, and I must say that I find myself very well.
Since it’s your first smartphone I’d try the simple lineageos (without microg) installing apps directly from f-droid (maybe adding the izzyondroid repo).
If you really need an app that is only available on the play store you can always use the aurora store to install it (it’s a store that you can install from f-droid and allows you to install apps from the play store).
Later on if you find that you really need some features provided only by google services, then I’d try lineageos for microg.
LineageOS and a manual install of F-Droid is a good place to start, I agree. I would avoid microG unless you really run into something you “need” it for. microG is to LineageOS as methamphetamine is to coffee or caffeine, if you get what I mean.
I recommend you try DivestOS. It is a fork of LineageOS, without microG, but with F-Droid and privileged extension included, with a lot of other changes you can read about and mull over at your leisure. Your device is listed as Untested: https://divestos.org/index.php?page=devices&base=LineageOS#device-beryllium so maybe you can help make progress, and get experience with adb, logcat, etc.
There are a lot of choices. ******* is what i would never buy. For the first reason that i ***** ***** ******** *** ****, and the second reason that the hardware is not open source, and the third reason that everything I ever bought from ************ was ***** ***** or ****. Since the ***** ******* ***** i have a new reason.
(Hope my post passes the community standards now.)
I realise there were probably better choices of phone out there. This device wouldn’t have been my first choice in other circumstances, but I was able to buy a used one for a low price and I thought it’d be a good way to find out if I like using a smartphone at all, without producing any additional e-waste. When I get around to replacing it later on, I should have a better idea of what phone to choose.
PostmarketOS looks interesting, I’ll keep an eye on its development for the future. In the same way I haven’t written off Ubuntu Touch yet, they just don’t look as mature as LineageOS right now.
DivestOS sounds good too. I am worried about stability though. If the installation process goes well I plan on using this as my only phone, so I need a stable experience. The description for my device as “untested” sounds a bit rough to start out with.
For now I’m leaning towars just using LineageOS without MicroG. I have never used any mobile app, so I don’t know that I’d need any that require Google Services. Is there anything important that I’d be missing out on?
I think I probably won’t install the Privileged Extension if all it does is save me one click. This first time I’d like the OS installation process to be as simple as possible. I thought it also plays some role in keeping apps up to date though, or did I misunderstand?
Well, many many apps do require Google Play Services. So if the app you want to use is not available in F-Droid, there is a 50-50 chance it won’t work without microG. But you can always switch later if you end up needing something not in F-Droid, of course.
It just makes updating less clicks, F-Droid can still check for and notify you of updates without the privileged extension just fine, so no worries about that.
If I am allowed to be so rude as to promote my favourite brand: be aware Fairphone exists and does a lot to be as low e-waste as they can
Oh yeah, one gotcha I forgot: You may read about OpenGApps online. Contrary to the name, there is nothing open about it, it are the proprietary Google Apps packaged up in a way that makes them easier to install on a system like Lineage.
I also avoid Chinese (or Japanese) products, when affordable - not often. The made in USA version of Purism’s Librem 5, versus made in China version shows about factor of two (~$1k) difference.
With all due respect to most “fair wages” or “fair minerals” Fairphone claims, I am skeptical, but at least the battery is replaceable by design.
The description for my device as “untested” sounds a bit rough to start out with.
They all have to start out that way unless the developer can and wants to buy one, or someone steps up and tests. “There is no free lunch.” But bare lineageos is a cautious approach. If you’re chicken. (jk)
I have some experience doing fiddly repairs, so I think I’ll be able to do a battery replacement for this device myself. I do absolutely agree Fairphone’s design is superior though.
In the future I will probably try some more experimental phone OS’s and, if possible, attempt to contribute my bit to this free software community. For now, my first steps in these lands will be cautious chicken steps, until I feel a bit more sure how solid the ground I’m treading is.
Just to give a small update.
I got my phone in the mail and I’ve installed plain LineageOS and F-Droid. Everything went smoothly and I’ve just installed my first couple of apps. I’m still learning about all the ins and outs of the OS and the whole app ecosystem, but so far it all seems to work fine. Next time I might try a more complicated setup, like the workflow @Mannshoch so helpfully posted, when I have a better idea why I would or would not want certain options.
Thanks again for all your help. I’m sure I’ll be on this forum regularly to ask for (or later possibly give) more advice.
I’m curious how the last month or so has treated you. I’m very interested in your progress and commend you for starting out on the FOSS side! Here’s hoping your time with LineageOS, F-Droid, etc has been fruitful thus far.
Thanks for asking! It’s been going very well. I had already been a Linux user on my desktop and laptop for 15 years, so choosing something non-FOSS for my smartphone was never really an option. The whole installation process, installing apps using F-Droid and keeping everything up to date has been a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Using a smartphone and mobile apps for the first time has been a good experience as well. OsmAnd, Fennec and XMPP-messaging app Conversations have been particularly good. I have gotten some of my family and friends to use XMPP-apps as well. NewPipe is another app that seems to do everything exactly the way I’d want it to and I’ve spend more time than I’d care to admit playing UnCiv. LineageOS in general works very well for me and seems to be a polished and well-thought-out OS.
I am still getting used to some UI quirks I hadn’t encountered before. Mostly because I’ve never really used a touchscreen device. For example, when playing video I sometimes accidentally change the display brightness with an unintentional gesture.
There is also the minor issue that searching for apps can be a bit difficult when you’re new to F-Droid and don’t already know what’s what. I’ve mostly just been reading through old forum posts of other people asking for advice to find what had been recommended in the past, as well as checking how long ago the app had been updated. This method works fine for me, but I imagine some people wouldn’t really know how to find out which apps they should try.
Although I would never have chosen this particular phone (Xiaomi Poco F1) if I had been looking for something new and only got it because I could buy it used from someone, it has actually been a pretty nice phone. Everything just worked right away after I installed LineageOS, the overall experience is very ‘snappy’ and battery life has been perfectly fine so far.
In short, I expected a good experience using F-Droid and LineageOS and got an even better one!