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KaiOS (wikipedia.org)
98 points by brainless 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments

> As of February 2018, KaiOS Technologies has partnered with Airfind, Facebook, Google, Twitter...

The Nokia KaiOS devices come with built in Google services, which instantly disqualify them for me. I don't trust that information from those phones aren't being seeded to Google.

It's not only that.

I really gave it a shot and I'd be totally willing to accept a phone with reduced functionality as long as I can use it as a hotspot.

The problem is that that thing is so buggy and error prone that it's borderline unusable.

Initially it could do Umlauts (Language setting is German), but can't anymore since it ran a software update. Email (very primitive, but would have been fine for on the road) is broken.

Add to that the force install of Twitter with said update and a lot more niggling annoyances.

The only useful feature (and the reason I got it to begin with) is the 4G hotspot so at least it's still usable with another device. But the overall experience is so frustrating that I'm just waiting for the breaking point to get an iPhone, since there reallay doesn't seem to be any alternative if you're even slightly privacy concious.

You can use dozens of android phones with custom ROM without any google services. It's usable and a lot more private than iPhone(which is only better than google because they failed to build a successful ad network) But for example if you are in any authoritarian state like china, Apple will hand over all your data to authorities, just in case. And Google at least some time before hasn't agreed to do that and got screwed over(now they are trying to get back to mainland market by building censorship search, sucking up to Huawei and other CCP(Chinese Communist Party) branches)

I don't know about other Applie services, but if you don't back iMessage up to iCloud, the messages stay on the device exclusively.

That's a pretty good default security level for personal communications.

Thank you,

I'll give it a serious look.

Just note you do need to think about device support when using something like LineageOS.

You can see officially supported devices on the https://download.lineageos.org website

https://stats.lineageos.org/ will give you a bit of an idea of the activity for certain models.

Checking out the forums for unofficial device activity is also a good idea https://forum.xda-developers.com

Using a site like https://www.gsmarena.com/ can be useful for comparing specs. I would also suggest looking at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks when determining which phone to buy.

For me, I wanted one that supported Band 28 700MHz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APT_band_plan_in_the_700_MHz_b...

So It's a good idea to look at phones. The OnePlus phones tend to have good support, I think in part because of the developer seed program https://www.xda-developers.com/oneplus-developer-program-cus... the Xiaomi Redmi Notes are not bad either for a cheaper phone.

Thank you so much.

I mailed your comment to myself in order to dig deepeer into the subject.

Android with Google services is just dead in the water for me (I'll be damned before hooking the arguably most private device into the Google spy machine) and so Apple seemed the only viable alternative.

But if I can run a Google free alternative without too much headache (and at a reasonable price) I'm all for it.

Can't upvote this enough.

There is already very little accountability or awareness about what Google Services do behind the scenes. You make a call, your phone connects to 1e100.net; you change some settings, your phone connects to 1e100.net. It's insane that no one seems to be paying attention to any of these.

Where did you get this from? I just checked my local DNS server and my home devices have never attempted to connect to this domain even though I have quite a few android devices.

It's an internal domain. The user-facing stuff uses vanity domains (google, youtube, etc) but the servers' "true" hostnames reside in 1e100.net.


For example, here's the IP I get for "google.com":

    $ dig google.com +short
A reverse lookup on that IP resolves to...

    $ dig -x +short
So, you're most certainly connecting to things in that domain, which is just a roundabout way of saying you're connecting to some Google property.

Could it be Google Analytics or Firebase Analytics tracking phone usage? Is there an option to disable telemetry in settings?

I'm seeing lots of traffic to amazonaws now too.

Note that most KaiOS devices can be flashed with GerdaOS[1], which claims to be more privacy focused.

1: https://gerda.tech/

but isn't fully open[0]. it's a firmware mod than a from scratch build like lineage for android, unfortunately.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/akftmi/comment/ef5yh...

What Google services are you talking about exactly? Recall that KaiOS doesn't run Android, so just becomes it comes bundled with Google Maps & co doesn't mean that Google receives any kind of data if you don't use the apps.

Yeah it's pretty bad. You can't even uninstall them and it drains the battery in 20h instead of days.

Also, you get some other crap pre-installed that cannot be removed: a few demo's of games & twitter a.o.

Google services don't run in the background so they have no effect on battery life if you don't choose to use them. This is true also for the voice assistant which is only active once you long press a key.

What are mainstream options then? Apart from Apple obviously.

The Nokia 3110 3G reboot[0] that came out in 2017 is pre KaiOS. It works on US GSM networks (T-Mobile, AT&T). It has Twitter and FB apps you can't uninstall, but they're custom rolled ones that just open the website.

[0] https://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_3310_3g-8876.php

I used the Nokia 8110 with KaiOS as a digital detox phone during holidays. It has working email, whats app, google map, hotspot. It has enough features to "survive" and answer or triage the occasional fires from work. And it is unusable enough that i don't use it for non important stuff (chatting, browsing, etc). Ironically its bad UI/UX is it's main selling point.

That's a great solution -- as you say, the bad UI/UX would make it a great detox device. In my experience (I bought one too, though I imported it and so it doesn't work on most US 4G bands), it's so hard to use that I don't know if it would actually let me detox from a device or just drive me back to my iPhone.

(At least I'm down to only using one phone at a time. That's progress, right?)

And that's exactly detoxing you from what? I mean it's got email, whatsapp, a browser, facebook probably... so what's the point?

you can do these things, but there's enough friction that you won't do it unless you have a good reason

As truculent noted, the friction involved in doing any of those things is pretty much enough to just not do anything at all. Aside from sending SMS messages (or I guess, WhatsApp messages, once you manage to actually login to WhatsApp), the whole process is so painful, it reminds me why I haven't owned a T9 phone since the Motorola Razr -- and why I ultimately moved from that device to a BlackBerry (and then to an iPhone). I genuinely have no idea how I used to send so many text messages in high school and college.

The interesting takeaway here is: maybe Mozilla gave up on Firefox OS too early?

It apparently found a market after all, albeit as a fork.

If I remember correctly, Brenden Eich was a big proponent of Firefox OS, and it died shortly after they pushed him out.

Turns out people wanting a touchscreen want a much smarter OS. If Firefox OS was adaptive for non-touch devices - who knows?

Mozilla took the slowest HTML rendering engine there is and created a whole OS using it. Then they proceeded to run it on the worst mobile hardware there was at the time.

Then competent engineers forked it into KaiOS and it became a success.

Same engineers in notable cases, e.g., Fabrice Desre. Also same engine. This refutes your first sentence above.

It's remarkable what KaiOS has achieved when the behemoths like Microsoft, Blackberry who tried to become the 3rd player in the smartphone OS wars failed. KaiOS is now holds the 2nd position in India.

Cyanogenmod had a slim chance to pull off what KaiOS did, as it took a similar first approach but failed miserably with its exclusivity agreement with two companies (OnePlus & Micromax)!

But the growth of KaiOS came from Reliance Jio telecom in India, which sold for ~20 USD returnable deposit, cheap LTE data, upgradable to newer models and of course unlimited voice calls. The feature set in Jio Phone may not be comparable to even decade old android, but the target population were getting their first Internet/computing device.

Reliance Jio has invested in KaiOS with 16% stake, KaiOS probably had no choice. WhatsApp was 'THE' most 'missed' app on JioPhone 1 which was eventually rectified in the future iterations. Reliance likely has an exclusivity with WhatsApp on that, since WhatsApp doesn't seem to be available on KaiOS in other regions.

Reliance Jio might access developing market outside India in the future, bringing with itself the JioPhone and the KaiOS.

You miss the point, Kaios would be killed in any situation if it were part of Microsoft or Blackberry or Google. Their appetite has no minor project like this...

I didn't suggest it was/wasn't part of Microsoft or BB, I suggested it pulled of something which they didn't; Google was not even in that statement.

Even Firefox itself wouldn't have been able to pull this off because it's FSF philosophy would have been in conflict with exclusivity agreements which KaiOS offers to the carriers & also it being a closed source.

Although FSF supporter in me wishes FireFoxOS had survived even at enthusiast level like Ubuntu Touch does.

Can we just build phones with a basic x86/AMD64 architecture and a small BIOS so we can load any OS onto them easily from a micro SD? I recently tried to get Halium boot running for my mobile, it's nigh on impossible if it's more than a few years old. (This was in an attempt to load Ubuntu OS onto it.)

Why does it have to be this difficult to try a different OS, when loading an OS onto a new laptop is so relatively easy? It shouldn't be so difficult to get basic functionality up and running.

AFAIK PinePhone first edition will run like this. A MVP OS in NAND and in-development Linux Mobile distros (UBPorts, Plasma Mobile, KaiOS et al) running directly from MicroSD

They have a guaranteed customer if this is the case. PineTime also makes me quite excited.

The problem isn't technical. It's about control (not the user's obviously), and 'must-have' apps that run only on Android and IOS.

Maybe for some, but why almost all but a few "indie" phones are locked down in this way? I suspect it's more about cost as having a "motherboard" chip means increasing the BOM and pushes an already tight PCB layout to be tighter. Still, I really hope there is some way to incentivize manufacturers to do this.

As I said in different comment, without something like a BIOS to get some code running with some basic functionality, things are quite difficult [1].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21005593

If you can do that today with a battery life of over 8 hours (and OS drivers for the cellular modems) I'll be impressed.

Eh, it's not that difficult. What do you think uses all the power in your phone? It's the display, WiFi, cellular, etc. Most of the time your CPU is under-clocked to save power and reduce heat. A lot of the Intel Atom chips will run as passively as an ARM chip will with comparable throughput.

The only thing is PCB space, but even then, I wouldn't except modern chip processes not being able to replicate the BIOS setup in a small chip. It should even be possible to get a BIOS into the same die as the processor to save space.

By the way, the reason for wanting x86/AMD64 is because OSes that support a BIOS are already built for these architectures, whereas anybody building OSes for ARM doesn't expect such niceties, hence the current state of mobile phone OSes. If ARM gained BIOS support, it would too be suitable.

Wasn’t that kind of what Windows Phone was? An x86 based phone?

No, they used arm.

Also, there are x86 android devices but I wouldn't expect them to be any more friendly than arm-devices.

> Also, there are x86 android devices but I wouldn't expect them to be any more friendly than arm-devices.

Yeah, without some kind of boot code (i.e. BIOS or UEFI) to help get the ball rolling, you essentially have the same problem.

I imported the 8110 4G from Singapore or Vietnam (got it off eBay) last year for like $80 US. The 4G doesn't work on most US bands so it's basically just a wi-fi device, but it was a fun thing to buy to try to play/hack around with. I had visions of using it as a controller of sorts for some IoT/smart home stuff, but haven't done much with it.

KaiOS is interesting, but from a pure usability POV, going back to T9 is terrible. Simple acts of logging into services is genuinely painful -- which makes it a fun toy but absolutely not anything I would use for anything other than hacking/ROMs/potential IoT stuff.

I did take the 8110 4G to Europe/Asia this year to use as a cheap way to get a hotspot overseas (eSIM on iOS for dual-SIM stuff was just rolling out and since I often still need to use my actual phone number, I have to pay the $10 a day for .5GB of data from Verizon plus whatever the pay as you go SIM costs.). With this, I just bought SIM cards with big data plans and used it as a hotspot with my laptop/iPad/iPhone)

While I really like the idea of a feature phone that can has some smarts, can function as a WiFi hotspot, and has battery life to allow charging only once a week, if there's no ability to write apps that are compiled to binary code then I have to wonder how much the JavaScript VM powering aps is going to drain the battery compared to an app that was written in C/C++.

Given the target devices for KaiOS, wouldn't AOT compiled apps have the problem of not being sure which CPU will be supported? It's probably not as big of an issue today but at the inexpensive, low-power side of the spectrum there might be a diversity of CPUs within a year or two... is KaiOS going to host compiler services in the cloud to dynamically compile apps for the myriad possible CPUs out there? While consuming more battery, using JavaScript to power the apps not only lowers the barrier to entry for app developers but creates a common target for all hardware vendors to support. That said, I do like the idea of these devices having the ability to run native code as that would get more like from the battery.

Probably more like what happened on Symbian where the market fragmented but nobody cared as most apps weren’t very compelling.

Doesn't stop people from shipping native binaries on Android. Developers who care about the 0.1% of the market not using ARM just include multiple binaries.

There is always the option to JIT cache. It doesn't need to be always compiled from scratch.

Now if they bother with such optimization is another matter.

I'm very tempted to buy Nokia 8770, but I can't confirm it supports a WiFi hotspot.

Did you type the number wrong? I'm not finding an 8770. GSMArena.com is the place to look for specs, in my opinion.


I was wrong. I meant the 8810 - The Banana phone.

must be talking about the 8110

I just did a search on Ebay for the 8110 and found a shop in the UK asking more than €200 for it plus shipping. I guess the shop owner reads HN:).

you can buy them on amazon uk for around £50

The Ebay seller says they're "unlocked" for use in EU. My concern was that the cheaper ones were imported and wouldn't work on European GSM (I still use it) and 3/4G networks.


Update: Found the manual online and it mentions wifi hotspot support: https://www.nokia.com/phones/en_lb/support/api/pdf/nokia-811... (Page 21)

I have an Alcatel GO Flip stuck on KaiOS 1.0. It's terrible. I have to reboot the phone at least once a day or it slows down to the point where the UI doesn't respond to certain events, such as initiating a call.

The UI and functionality would be nice if not for the bugs. Maybe they have fixed a bunch of them in later releases, but my provider isn't providing updates.

I recently got the same phone! Mine doesn't crash, but what amazes me is how slow it is -- The flip phone(s) from circa '05-'08 that I had been using weren't fast, but this Alcatel / KaiOS feels like it's running an interpreter in a virtual machine and waiting for network roundtrips on every keystroke ... I mean i'm exaggerating but the lag for all my actions is a real bummer.

Not a KaiOS user, but I am a daily flip-phone user on a Kyocera DuraXTP running Brew MP. In my flip-phone dreams, the features I would love out of an OS would be:

  * Obviously, calling/texting.
  * A fast, minimal app that served as a phone book.
  * GPS with voice assistant.
  * An Uber or Lyft app.
  * That's it.
In short, the things that are very useful in an emergency-type situation.

I can't imagine there are that may others like me, but the lack of GPS and ride-hailing are the two things that occasionally make me consider going back to having a smartphone.

Phones like this already exist. See, for example, The Light Phone: https://www.thelightphone.com

KaiOS supports WhatsApp in India, but not everywhere else yet. That’s probably the one application keeping me on a smartphone.

It is supported now and installable via the Kaios AppStore. I got Whatsapp running on my nokia 8110 4G, after some fiddling and updating.

Thanks, it didn't seem to be last time I checked. I should see how it works.

That's likely cause of exclusivity agreement between KaiOS and Jio. Besides, Reliance (the parent of Jio) is an investor in KaiOS, so is Google.

I have a Nokia 8110 4G bought in India and it has Jio store , a carrier specific version Kai OS store. It has apps curated by Jio for the Indian market.

We get Whatsapp, but lose a lot of other apps. My efforts of using the main KaiOS store have met a dead-end.

It's still a nice phone. I just wish I didn't have a carrier specific version of the KaiOS store.

What is the main difference you see between WhatsApp on KaiOS and that of android/iOS.

The new Nokia tough phone has just what I need: 4G, GPS, water and dust proof, minus all the distraction of a smart phone. It's a pity I can't build my own version of Firefox OS for it, the close integration of Google service makes me wary of using it ..

I'm in the same boat. That phone looks physically perfect for my needs but I don't use WhatsApp, Facebook or most of the Google ecosystem (the exceptions being gmail and calendar for work). I would pay more than what they're asking to have a build without all of that.

It feels wierd to see that Google Assistant app on it, knowing it runs a fork of Firefox OS.

If only there was a nice feature phone with KaiOS in Europe.

Nokia 8110 sucks because of the sliding panel which makes it much harder to type on the bottom key row. T9 seemed to be worse than on other Nokia phones.

I would love to see a new Nokia 3310 with KaiOS.

omg yes, the typing is terrible, it even produces repeating keys somehow.

Just got one and sent it back within 24h, turns out that the battery life was a lie too. I drained 70-80% in 20 hours while not being actively used.

They are coming out with a few more feature phones soon btw: the 2720 Flip, 220 4g & 800 Tough.

Look nice, but I suspect the battery life is shit too. And you get a lot of crapware you cannot remove. (Game demo even)

I don't know if it's your case, but I think battery charge usually isn't reliable fir the first 2 or 3 charges, until it's calibrated.

any idea whether you can do public transport google maps searches on either the 3310 or 8110? Even if it's just via the browser would be fine.

Looking for a T9 phone to keep me from mindlessly browsing stuff all the time but would likely still need maps to figure out bus routes home and such.

What was Firefox OS licence? Shouldn't KaiOS share their source code?

Firefox OS had components under the MPL (Gecko) and some under the Apache license (all the UI). KaiOS publishes changes to MPL code at https://github.com/kaiostech/

Nokia.. I would not trust it again after microsoft takeover.

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