We started the EXPOSED! series back in early 2019, and have reported about Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the like ever since.
Recently, we started a new EXPOSED! mini-series called Orwell's Blueprint, and just in case you've missed it, I highly recommend you to catch up on it.
The problem with these companies is basically that they are too big. Too big to ignore and too big to push around. If you want to buy a laptop, for example, and you walk into a mall, you're probably going to end up with a Microsoft powered or an Apple (macOS) unit. If you are on the search for a phone, you'll end up with either an Android or an iOS driven unit. The issue doesn't end with having the OS preinstalled, but also having the manufacturer's bloatware on top of it plus not every manufacturer is as ethical as the others!
However, what if you are in the market for a privacy-focused laptop or phone in 2021 and which options are great and easy to use plus which manufacturers are most ethical?
If you are up for a laptop you have multiple options when it comes to Linux based laptops that are both ethical and easy to use. I've tested many companies when it comes to laptops over the years, and quite extensively during 2020 and into 2021. I won't list the disappointments with some products and companies, after they looked fantastic on paper, some of which literally gave me sleepless nights because they just had so many issues. Instead, I'll recommend just two companies (for now) that work, and work as intended!
As I said, I've lived and worked with both companies' products and had any failures or problems at all in that time..
These laptops are beautiful and they work, and Purism also has a 'kill switch' which is a great addition. This is for WiFi/Bluetooth and another for camera and microphone. They are disabled as hardware, which I think is just great. Why don't others do this? No idea! I've used Purism since the early days of the company and even my old Purism unit (which must be at least 5 years) old) still works like a charm. I use it with QubesOS which is second to none when it comes to privacy.
I've also had a less than great experience when it comes to their smartphone. I ordered one on presale when it was announced, then got an email after waiting many months asking me in what batch I want to be included, I answered in the first. Then I was told I needed to wait longer, and that I am in the third batch, which caused me to cancel and got a refund.
Thinking back now, I should have just agreed, and I would have it by now. But it was just felt wrong paying for a product and then getting pushed back after waiting and having paid a long way in advance. That said, the laptops are great! And this is more a customer service than a technical issue!
As I've mentioned, I've tried a few others, but usually come back to my favorite company and my daily drive! If you are up for a laptop, desktop or mini PC I strongly recommend System 76.
I have two laptops from them, the Lemur Pro 14, which is not only light, but has insane battery power. It runs on Coreboot which helps me sleep better. It is my favorite notebook, hands down! If you are up for a notebook this is one, you can't go wrong. Considering that the Lemur Pro is only 1kg it is not just a perfect companion when it comes to working, but also when it comes to carrying it round!
The second laptop I got was more for gaming, so more for my son than for me (honest!), but I wanted to get him away from Windows, so needed something that would make him proud and excited to use daily.
The first idea was a System 76 desktop, but I was told they cannot ship to my country, at least not directly as the modem is only for use in North America! Well, without hesitation I went for the Serval WS 15, what is not just a monster on paper (yes I made it one during setup) it performs like a beast.
Like I said I have tried several other companies, but these two made an impact on me, and I have no problem recommending either of the two, yet if I have to pick one and one only, it would have to be System 76.
When it comes to cellphones, this is a more tricky one. I tried to get my hands on a Pine64 and was refunded as they couldn't deliver during COVID to my location, much like the story about Purism I shared in the Laptop section. Which leads me neatly to the one solution with which I am super comfortable about.
The Pixel 4a running with GrapheneOS:
It is super simple to set up, it's ethical and it's open-source. The only downside it's a Google Phone which, ironically, is the one you can make really secure and Google free.
I will probably make a review on the Pine64 phone soon, but for now, GrapheneOS is the best solution I have personally tested. And I wouldn't want to recommend anything that I haven't actually been able to use.
Stay safe, stay secure!
The Privacy Advocate