Smartphones: These cell phones don’t just transmit your data – the economy

Last year, over 1.3 billion cell phones passed the real or virtual counter, and Samsung, Apple, and rising Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Realme have essentially split the billion-dollar business. Most devices are produced neither sustainably nor fairly and consume a lot of valuable raw materials such as rare earths. When it comes to data protection, customers really only have a choice of who can access the user’s most private data, such as location or search history. These can be manufacturers like Apple and Google, but also application vendors like Microsoft or Facebook that turn everyone into a transparent person.

But there are company founders who oppose this “surveillance capitalism” – as big-tech critic Shoshana Zuboff calls it – and want their products to be an alternative to people who don’t want their cell phones to send huge amounts of data to Google or others are shipped by corporations. One of them is Gaël Duval. The French is a co-founder of the French Linux distribution Mandrake and founded eFoundation in 2018, which has since developed an operating system called / e /. First and foremost, this should protect user data but provide convenience at the same time. / e / does not require Google, is open source, and is based on the free LineageOS software, which in turn uses the open source portion of Android.

Google’s Android operating system has one major benefit for many users: it is conveniently pre-installed on most mobile phones. In order for everything to run smoothly, however, you need to create a Google account and accept multiple terms of use, which gives the American company comprehensive rights to access personal data. If you want to install a different operating system on your smartphone, you need the appropriate technical knowledge. In addition, a new installation costs time and nerves. It is true that the eFoundation online store also sells Fairphones and refurbished Samsung phones with / e / installed. But Duval doesn’t want to be satisfied with the same anymore.

New Murena Cell Phones: Should reach the “main audience”.

(Photo: Murena / oh)

Now he wants to reach the “main audience”. This should be done with your own smartphones that listen to the name “Murena”. In the internal cloud, the Murena brand also replaces the cumbersome marking / e /. “Murena is specifically designed to free people from Big Tech and their control over our personal information,” says Duval. However, the operating system keeps its / e /, called eOS. “So we have Muren phones running eOS, so the community will still be able to talk about the development of eOS,” explains Duval.

Greater data protection also costs a little more

In addition to its own mid-range smartphone, Duval is continuing its cooperation with the Dutch manufacturer Fairphone. The Fairphone 4 with eOS costs from 620 euros in the Murena online store and is therefore slightly more expensive than the Android 11 variant from Google. You can also buy Murena Galaxy S9 + Refurbished or Murena Teracube 2e. The Teracube is a Seattle-based simple and easy-to-repair mobile phone from the company of the same name.

Murena cell phones come preloaded with standard apps such as Mail, an ad-free browser or navigation, and its own app store called App Lounge. There, users will find all available Android apps, including Whatsapp and Facebook, which are neither open-ended nor data-efficient. According to Duval, users shouldn’t waste their privacy on ease of use. However, to be able to judge how efficient the applications are, each application receives a data protection value on a scale of one to ten, as well as a color code from green to red. The criteria are, for example, the number of trackers the app uses. This should make everyone aware at a glance what application they are going to download. Thanks to the “Advanced Privacy” app on the start screen, Murena customers can also control which trackers can be active on their mobile phones.

In this way, the company wants to develop further. As Duval continues to occupy the niche with its offering: According to its own statements, there are currently 20,000 active installations of the / e / operating system and approximately 40,000 accounts using the / e / cloud.

Vollaphone from North Rhine-Westphalia puts simplicity first and foremost

Hallo Welt from Remscheid in North Rhine-Westphalia also places great importance on user privacy and independence from Google or Apple. He will release his third Vollaphone this summer. While Murena’s phones are similar to classic smartphones with their many features, and some observers believe Duval was visually inspired by the iPhone in designing the / e / operating system, Vollaphones put simplicity first and foremost.

Data protection: Remscheid's Vollaphones keep things simple.

Remscheid’s Vollaphones keep things simple.

(Image: Hello World)

“We have two main target groups,” says company founder Jörg Wurzer. One target group are people for whom data protection and digital self-determination are important. “And others are concerned about the quality of life. They want a safe and reliable device, but they don’t want to put too much emphasis on it. ” The interface has a very minimalist design, the so-called springboard guides users to a select few applications, such as the Whatsapp Signal alternative.

However, on a mid-range smartphone, you can also install other applications that run on the Volla OS or Ubuntu Touch system we developed. There are two app stores for this. However, applications that are completely dependent on Google Play services cannot be used to their full extent.

The company has sold several thousand previous smartphones. For the new Vollaphone 22, which costs around 450 euros, Wurzer is aiming for ten thousand. “It’s nothing in this market, but a lot for a small business.”

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