I’m almost exactly one week into my experiment of running LineageOS on a Teracube 2e and want to provide an update.
If you missed my previous post, this experiment is my attempt to migrate from iOS to Android. I’m leaving iOS because of privacy concerns. Jumping from Apple to Google because of privacy concerns would be nonsense so this experiment requires using Android without Google services and applications. So far I have been able to do that, with the exception of needing access to the Google Play Store to install applications that aren’t available in F-Droid. I’m using Aurora Store to access the Google Play Store with some semblance of anonymity.
The first thing I want to touch on is the SD card. SD card support in Android is a hot mess. Inserting an SD card into a phone running LineageOS, assuming the card isn’t already formatted, will trigger a popup asking how to format the card. The two options are portable or adopted. Selecting portable will format the SD card in a way that allows it to be swapped between devices. The upside to portable storage is that the SD card can be removed from the phone and inserted into another devices such as a laptop. The downsides are that many applications have poor if any support for using a portable SD card (Spotify, for example, kept losing songs it downloaded and stored on the SD card) and the data stored on the card isn’t encrypted.
Adopted storage is poorly documented. The best explanation I could find is this Reddit post. Choosing to format the SD card as adopted storage will cause user files to be stored on the SD card. Applications can also be moved from internal storage to the SD card if it’s formatted as adopted storage… and the developer of an application specifically enabled the functionality. If the developer doesn’t enable the functionality, then the application cannot be moved to the SD card. See what I mean about SD card support being a hot mess?
Formatting an SD card as adopted storage comes with a few downsides. The most notable is that removing the SD card from the phone can cause all sorts of odd behavior. Since the SD card is treated as an extension of internal storage, the phone expects the SD card to be present at all times. Another downside to adopted storage is that the SD card can no longer be used by other devices. Inserting the card into another device, even another Android device, will result in the device seeing it as corrupted. The upsides to adopted storage is that the data stored on an adopted card is encrypted and applications that poorly or don’t support portable SD cards will likely work well with an adopted card since they will see the card as internal storage.
My needs have been better fulfilled by formatting the SD card as adopted storage.
Potato Quality Cameras
In my initial impressions post I noted that the cameras on the Teracube 2e are bad even when compared to cameras on many other devices in the same price range. The Teracube 2e has three cameras: a front facing camera and a wide angle and normal camera on the back. Most camera applications that I test detected and could use the front facing and normal rear cameras, but didn’t recognize the wide angle camera (which isn’t much of a loss because that camera is the worst of the three). Open Camera can detect and use all three. Moreover, I’m able to squeeze the most out of the cameras with Open Camera. Dropping the exposure compensation by 0.50 EV (so the value is -0.05 EV in Open Camera) has lead to the least terrible photos on the normal rear facing camera for me. I’m not a photographer so your mileage will likely vary (and if you are a photographer, you will be disappointed by the cameras on the Teracube 2e).
In the turn by turn navigation market Google Maps is the undisputed king. Apple Maps comes in second, but it’s a far second. Google Maps requires using Google, which I’m trying to avoid, and Apple Maps isn’t available on Android.
I had a three hour drive today and decided to test two applications: Organic Maps and Magic Earth. I came across Organic Maps in a Reddit post created by an individual asking for an alternative to Google Maps and Magic Earth when I was testing /e/OS (Magic Earth is included as part of /e/OS). For my test I used Organic Maps on the way to my destination and Magic Earth on the way back. Both applications use OpenStreetMap data, provide voice turn by turn navigation, and allow you to download maps locally on your device (a nice feature for me since I find myself in areas with weak or nonexistence cellular signal frequently).
Neither application gives everything Google Maps and Apple Maps provides. But I found both to be serviceable for my trip. I give Organic Maps a point for being open source, but prefer the overall experience of Magic Earth.
Odds and Ends
SD card support, the Teracube 2e cameras, and navigating on Android without Google were the three major topics I wanted to cover. However, I want to close with a brief list and description of some of the applications that I’m using. All of them function without Google Services installed.
Aegis Authenticator is a one time password (OTP) two-factor authentication application. It’s open source, encrypts stored tokens, and backups encrypted tokens to a chosen destination (I configured it to backup to my Nextcloud instance). It can also be configured to require biometric authentication to open.
AntennaPod is an open source podcast client. Coming from the dumpster fire that is the latest iteration of Apple’s Podcast application, AntennaPod is like manna from Heaven. The interface is straight forward and it has so far done an excellent job of grabbing new episodes when they become available.
Bitwarden is my password manage of choice because it can be self-hosted. The Android client works almost exactly the same as the iOS client, which is to say it works well.
DAVx5 syncs my calendar, contacts, and to-do lists from my self-hosted Nextcloud server to my phone. Setting up the connection is a little janky because you need to start the process from the Nextcloud application, go to the DAVx5 application, and return to the Nextcloud application. But once the connection is setup, it stays running.
K-9 Mail is an open source e-mail application that supports PGP encryption.
KDE Connect connects an Android phone to a Linux laptop (I use GSConnect on my laptop because I use the GNOME desktop environment) and do things like send text messages from the laptop and sync the clipboard between the two systems. I highly recommend this if you use a Linux desktop or laptop.
OpenWeatherMap is a forecast application. I used to use Dark Sky, but Apple bought them and tossed the Android application down the memory hole. OpenWeatherMap has been a competent alternative.
QR & Barcode Scanner, as the name implies, scans QR and barcodes.