This section documents my experiments with cellular phone technology. I have more detailed guides and documentation on specific phones as well:

Table of contents:

  1. phone
  2. Places to buy
  3. Potential phones
    1. Picking a phone
    2. Fairphone 2
    3. Purism Librem 5
    4. Google
    5. Motorola
    6. Samsung
    7. Sony
    8. Xiaomi
    9. Cosmo communicator
    10. Gemini & other PDAs
  4. 2015 phones evaluation
    1. Fairphone 1
    2. Samsung Galaxy S3
    3. Google Nexus S
    4. Elephone
    5. Other no-names
  5. Vaporware
    1. Phoneblocks
    2. Puzzlephone
  6. Current phone
  7. Previous phones
    1. HTC One S
    2. HTC Dream
    3. Nokia n900
    4. Partial inventory
  8. Features
    1. FM support
    2. External keyboard
    3. Liberated baseband
    4. Roaming and frequency support
  9. Provider packages
    1. Data-only (2015)
  10. References

Places to buy

Potential phones

Must-have criteria:

Nice to have:

Picking a phone

Picking a phone is hard with all those restrictions. The #lineageos folks are legendary for not helping you choose your phone but have provided stellar advice like:

19:41:04 <anarcat> haha great ... on https://itvends.com/irc Khaytsus's "random quote" is "This is LOS support. Not a place to find you a phone."
19:41:23 <+Khaytsus> Yeah bitch.
20:17:41 <@LuK1337> i wouldn't get a galaxy at all
20:19:15 <[R]> yeah, the pocophone is great
20:19:20 <[R]> super terrific chinese shitware great
20:22:12 <+noahajac> anarcat: Just get a fucking Pixel
20:37:09 <@LuK1337> xa2 is very hipster device

... and so on.

https://stats.lineageos.org/ can be a source for the most popular phones, but that doesn't say which phone is still supported. The download page shows which devices are officially supported. The latest release is 15.1, if it's not listed, it means support was dropped in the latest release. The devices targeted for 16.0 right now are listed here. Non-exhaustive list of the devices I could find in the wiki:

I ended up writing a small script to pull the currently supported models from the base de données

#!/usr/bin/python3

import sys

from ruamel.yaml import YAML

yaml = YAML()

for path in sys.argv[1:]:
    with open(path) as stream:
        data = yaml.load(stream=stream)
        if data['current_branch'] == 15.1:
            print("{vendor:10.10s}| {name:20.20s}\t| {screen}\t | {release}".format(**data))

Si on regarde seulement les modèles sortis dans les derniers 3 ans, ça nous donne ce joli tableau:

Marque Modèle Taille Écran Année
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 159 mm (6.26 in) 152.1 mm (5.99 in) 2018-05
BQ Aquaris X 146.5 mm (5.76 in) 130 mm (5.2 in) 2017-06
BQ Aquaris X Pro 146.5 mm (5.77 in) 130 mm (5.2 in) 2017-06
LeEco Le Pro3 / Élite 151.4 mm (5.96 in) 5.5 in 2016-10 / 2017-03
Motorola Moto X4 148.4 mm (5.84 in) 84.5 cm (5.2 in) 2017-10
Motorola Moto Z2 Force 155.8 mm (6.13 in) 83.4 cm (5.5 in) 2017-07
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 156.2 mm (6.15 in) 5.5 in 2017-06
OnePlus 5 154.2 mm (6.07 in) 139.7 mm (5.5 in) 2017-06
OnePlus 5T 156.1 mm (6.15 in) 152.7 mm (6.01 in) 2017-11
Samsung Galaxy S9 147.7 mm (5.81 in) 5.8 inches 2018-03-11
Samsung Galaxy S9+ 158.1 mm (6.22 in) 6.2 inches 2018-03-11
Sony Xperia XA2 142 mm (5.59 in) 132 mm (5.2 in) 2018-02
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra 163 mm (6.42 in) 152.4 mm (6 in) 2018-02
Xiaomi Mi 6 145.2 mm (5.72 in) 130.8 mm (5.15 in) 2017-04
Xiaomi Mi A1 155.4 mm (6.12 in) 139.7 mm (5.5 in) 2017-10
Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 151.8 mm (5.98 in) 152.1 mm (5.99 in) 2017-09
Xiaomi Mi Note 3 152.6 mm (6.01 in) 139.7 mm (5.5 in) 2017-09
Xiaomi Redmi 4(X) 139.2 mm (5.48 in) 127 mm (5.0 in) 2017-05
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 151 mm (5.94 in) 139.7 mm (5.5 in) 2017-01
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro 158.6 mm (6.24 in) 152.1 mm (5.99 in) 2018-02

De ceux là, je trouve le Moto X4 et Sony XA2 les plus intéressants, principalement à cause de la taille. Le X4 est étanche mais a une caméra moyenne, alors que le XA2 est difficile à réparer. La caméra du X4 pourrait être un avantage, en fait, vu qu'elle est "seulement" 14Mpx, ça prend moins d'espace. Et les reviews de la caméra du XA2 sont mauvais sur XDA...

Ceci dit, j'ai découvert que le FP2 est possiblement en vente au Canada (voir ci-bas) et j'ai fait une demande pour un usagé.

Update: j'ai acheté un Fairphone 2 chez Ecosto, pour ~500$CAD, voir fairphone2 pour les détails.

Fairphone 2

Moved to fairphone2.

Purism Librem 5

In development at the time of writing (2019-02-21), might ship in "april 2019" according to their website but according to their latest report, "the previous Q2 estimate is now confirmed for Q3 product shipping", so that means at least July 2019, if not later. Their demos still don't have a finished device.

Google

Apart from, you know, being Google, the Pixel has a few more problems that made me discard it:

Motorola

Motorola is an interesting company. They made the first ever cell phone and are the first company to provide iFixit with OEM parts, so I should definitely give them a chance. LOS has good coverage of their devices.

The Moto Z looks interesting but is not on sale in CC or BB. It has a good iFixit repair score even if the battery is not removable. The Z2 force is well supported in LOS, but unfortunately the battery replacement is rated as "very difficult" as it requires unplugging the mainboard, camera and basically everything. Unfortunately, both of those are "big" (5.5", like the LG G3).

The Moto X4 (review) is very interesting, as it's sealed. The only problem might be the lower battery life and the lower resolution camera, when compared with the XA2. The body is about the same size as the G3 and the screen is smaller, unfortunately.

Samsung

Generally well supportedin LOS. The S7 has good reviews but hasn't been ported to the newer LOS 15.1. The S9 is better and also has good reviews but is much more expensive. It also didn't score well (4/10) in the iFixit teardown and is huge (5.8"/6.2").

Sony

The XA2 looks well maintained in LOS, and looks like generally a nice phone. The reviews are generally positive, except for the camera. The XA2 is 5.2", the Ultra is 6.0" (comparative).

Another big downside is the repairability: you need a hot-air gun even to just remove the back cover, according to this video.

Xiaomi

Those make the fame Pocophone F1 which I'm avoiding mostly because of the notch but also difficult battery access. It's also gigantic (6.18").

Some Xiaomi devices like the Redmi Note 3 have an excellent iFixit score (8/10) but it's unclear if they are well supported in LineageOS, as the phones listed are the Mi Note 3, the Redmi 3S/3X and the Redmi 3/Prime, the last of which is only supported until 14. It's unclear how repairable those last three are.

Xiaomi devices are also hard to find at usual locations.

Cosmo communicator

Huge phone running android, flip keyboard, 24MP camera, super powerful but expensive.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cosmo-communicator

Gemini & other PDAs

See laptop.

2015 phones evaluation

This is getting incredibly out of date.

Fairphone 1

The Fairphone is a really interesting project:

First, it's already shipping, although out of stocks now (feb 2015). Second, it really tries to avoid major human rights issues in the production, something that's way too often overlooked.

Downside: it doesn't have an FM transmitter and the baseband isn't open, but that's pretty much the case for all phones out there right now.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung Galaxy S III - an interesting device:

No FM transmitter, no external keyboard.

The S4 is similar, but one generation newer so better battery and faster LTE support (100mbps!), but at a slightly higher cost (140$ used vs 50-100$).

Google Nexus S

Nexus S - from 2010! Now at Nexus 6, a Phablet now made by Google itself as part of the Google Nexus family.

No external keyboard, no FM transmitter?

Elephone

Very interesting phones: they are actively porting Cyanogenmod to their stack which is interesting, and they are dirt cheap (e.g. the G1 is 60$USD.

All the Elephone have, unless otherwise noted:

G1

The G1 is an interesting model, if only because of the price (50-60$ USD). It has no 4G support, but supports the 3G band we need for Rogers/Telus/Bell (850MHz) but not Videotron (1700MHz).

It is also not supported by Cyanogenmod at this stage, and runs Android 4.4.

Price:

The limited RAM could be a problem. This device is basically comparable to the Nokia N900, without the FM transmitter, less builtin storage and with Android.

G2

The G2 is also interesting, because it supports Cyanogenmod and 4G, through base 7 (2600MHz: Bell, Rogers, Vidéotron).

3G support is however problematic, because it only supports European 3G frequencies, which means we are stuck with 2G's GPRS and EDGE connexions if there is no LTE support (which is basically spotty, at best, in Canada right now).

Price:

Other than the 3G support, looks like a great device.

Trunk

The Trunk is really an awesome phone. At 120$, it's very cheap for a 2GB LTE cell phone.

It seems to support both 3G and 4G networks in Canada and in fact all over the world. It unclear, unfortunately, whether or not Cyanogenmod is supported on this phone. The form factor is also problematic: this is a huge phone!! Pretty much in the Phablet category...

This also seems to lack a critical component... a compass! To be confirmed.

P4000

The P series are also interesting, especially the P4000 because of the extremely long battery life:

Unfortunately, it's also huge and has no local 3G support (!). But the battery life is amazing.

Price:

P6000

The P6000 (5"), P7000 (5.5"!) and P8000 (5.5"!) have similar issues, mostly because of their sheer size... half a feet long?? But at least they all have 3G support. Here are the P6000 specs:

Prices:

Other no-names

There are tons of other generic phones out there. A friend got this cubot phone which will be a good test for the 3G and 4G support.

Vaporware

Those phones were nice ideas but never shipped.

Phoneblocks

Phonebloks is the idea of a modular phone that could be easily fixable and field-upgradable. It was turned into a discussion forum around 2013 by Motorola and Google in favor of their Project Ara scheduled for release in January 2015.

Here's a pretty homepage while we wait for something to actually happen.

Puzzlephone

Puzzlephone is a similar idea, with hopes of shipping somewhere in 2015.

Similarly, there's a pretty homepage while we wait for something to happen also.

Current phone

A friend gave me a lg-g3-d852, a generally nice device, if a little big (5.5"). Biggest problem is it's locked and marked as "stolen or lost" (it was found in a taxi) so unusable for GSM.

Previous phones

HTC One S

See htc-one-s for config details. Specs:

HTC Dream

The HTC Dream was the first commercial Android phone. It still works, although it is a little old and buggy here.

Android / Cyanogenmod support

One of the issues with the device is that it doesn't (or can't!) run more recent Android releases, which basically means no software support. It runs Android 2.2 / CM 6.1!

podcasting

One of the thing that's missing is podcasting, various ideas:

Nokia n900

The Nokia N900 was a great machine, but those machines are now so dead: no more software support from Nokia... and the hardware is somewhat slow. There's Neo900, a plan to rebuild a new phone based on the same case, but that's not yet shipping.

I have two n900 machines, both have their SIM card socket broken now, either desoldered or some other broken thing. Wikipedia says this can be fixed by resoldering, and there are two references online:

Partial inventory

Features

Those features are nice to have. Unfortunately, they are now showing their age and might not be relevant anymore.

FM support

FM support in newer smartphones in spotty at best. According to pdadb.net, only 35 phones (out of 4111) have FM support. Amongst those, only 4 run android.

External keyboard

Less rare in newer phones, real keyboards are still hard to find. Out of the 4111 android phones in the padb.net inventory, only 229 have actual keyboards, and often those are only regular phone keyboards, not actual QWERTY keyboards.

Liberated baseband

The "Baseband processor" in a phone is a second processor in the phone that handles phone calls. Very often, and in fact in almost all cases, this is proprietary hardware and software that is hidden from the main processor, as a black box. So even if you manage to install free software (like cyanogenmod) on an Android device, you are still stuck with this problematic backdoor.

Note that there is also software in the SIM card, which makes it three different operating systems running at once in your phone.

Some people are trying to fix this:

.. but it's not in a phone yet. Ideally, a phone would just be another general purpose computer, radio included, so that you'd have a simple SDR that you would program GSM, FM, AM, CB, or whatever protocol acronym you would fancy on top of that, all in software.

Roaming and frequency support

What a nightmare... since 3G came up, there's all sorts of very different frequencies for different providers and for different countries. This map has a good explanation of the world-wide coverage bands...

See also the canada coverage map to figure out exactly what protocols and what frequencies a provider uses.

All numbers are in MHz unless otherwise noted.

2G

3G

It gets complicated here. But in general:

See the source table for this.

4G

Also known as LTE, E-UTRA, this is where it gets pretty messy.

See also the source for the above and the explicit deployment chart. Basically, we need one (or many?) of those:

See also this post on koodoo.

Provider packages

Canada has one of the worst markets for mobile phone service in the world, which is unsurprising considering there's a relative oligopoly with very little regulation to control it, the CRTC claiming competition is sufficient to control the prices.

Furthermore, any list created here would be quickly out of date, so it's somewhat pointless to even try. The planhub.ca site does a good job at comparing prices, but I am not sure they are fully independent. For example, they run ads, currently mainly for Fizz, a branding operation from Vidéotron.

Here are the "big 4" in Québec:

Then there are smaller ones that are resellers or branded versions:

I might go with Fizz: 50$/mth for unlimited text/voice Canada + USA, 10GB and voicemail. Nice.

Data-only (2015)

See also this interesting article about the subject, and ensuing long discussion.

Fido

ipad plans:

Rogers

Confusing plans!

5$/mo:

10$/GB over.

$10/month:

10$/GB over.

$60/month:

$5/GB if usage is greater than 100GB

Telus

mobile internet

Flex:

S'ajuste automatiquement à votre utilisation de données mensuelle.

Flex + Voix

fixe:

Utilisation excédentaire + 5¢ / Mo (50$/Go)

References

Created . Edited .