Phone & plan recommendations for the surveillance-averse?
August 13, 2019 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Driven by my current phone’s decrepitude and by paying too much for a cell plan that I barely use, I’m in the market for a new phone + plan. Preferably not bundled, but obviously they need to be compatible. This question was triggered by my discovery of Google Fi, and I’m wondering what other services are out there that might meet my needs better than the traditional TMobile/Sprint/ATT/Verizon contracts.

For the plan:
* Cheaper than the $70/month I currently pay T-mobile. I almost never text and make < 10 calls a month.
* Supports non-exorbitant international roaming. I travel a few times a year, and don’t want to have to re-think cell phones each time.
* Includes tethering/hotspot (I almost always have my laptop with me, and much prefer using that to a phone)

For the phone:
* Removable battery. This is non-negotiable, since I’m not interested in carrying a tracking device with me all the time. Also eliminates all phones that are designed for Google Fi.
* Includes hotspot capability
* Supports international networks.
* The only app (other than hotstpot/call/text) that I'm likely to use is maps. But I can survive without it.
* … that’s it. I don’t care if it’s a smart phone or a dumbphone. I’m not interested in paying lots of money for processing power I won’t use.
posted by Metasyntactic to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you're off smartphones. Android isn't something I'd trust at all -- I mean, it's a Google product. But your battery rule means no iPhone, either.

This is probably fine for your purposes, and probably more secure. "Feature phones" are probably harder to track and otherwise compromise, and will probably also last longer.
posted by uberchet at 5:49 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Purism has the Librem 5 if you're interested.
posted by VyanSelei at 6:01 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

The Nokia 8110 4G sounds like what you want, theoretically. The reviews are mixed. You might still have to buy a SIM from a local/regional carrier when abroad. And check carrier/frequency compatibility first.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:46 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]

The Nokia 8110

Thanks snuffleupagus. I didn't know the Nokia 8110 existed. It looks like the Nokia phone in the movie The Matrix (without the spring loaded keypad cover) while having some smartphone functions like hotspot and a web browser. Here's a good review of the phone from Techradar. The phone meets the removable battery requirement. Carrier compatibility may be a bit of a gamble though. According to the reviews and the questions section, ATT appears to have the best carrier support for the phone in the U.S. Here are two Amazon listings here and here.

The phone runs KaiOS, the third most popular phone OS in the world. Not sure how they compare to Google/Android regarding privacy. Their website says they're interested in closing the digital divide by creating a phone OS that can run on inexpensive cell phone hardware. So maybe they're better with your privacy? If you're not happy with KaiOS, it appears you can jailbreak the phone.
posted by mundo at 8:32 PM on August 14

Another option would be to use a 4G compatible dumb phone like the Doro 7050 and a separate mobile hotspot for your laptop. The Doro 7050 has a removable battery and does not run Android (it runs KaiOS). Here's a short video review. It doesn't have hotspot capability though. The Doro 7050 uses the Consumer Cellular Network and they have basic prepaid plans that start at $20 a month.
posted by mundo at 3:04 PM on August 15

This may sound a little extreme but since smartphones with removable batteries are less common now, a faraday bag may have a similar effect as removing the smartphone battery. It would prevent a smartphone from communicating or receiving cellular, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth signal. This along with turning off the phone while in the faraday bag may have the desired effect and would open up your smartphone options.
posted by mundo at 4:34 PM on August 15

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