It is hard to know for sure what convinced Google to add software kill switches to Android 12. It could be that some big corporate customer called up Google and asked for this feature, but it also could be that Google is paying attention to the development of Linux phones with hardware kill switches and this is could be Google’s way of countering mobile Linux. Unlike KaiOS and iOS, where it is easy for Google to get its software installed in the system, Google has little chance of getting its data collection apps (i.e., spyware) installed in the Librem 5 and PinePhone, so its best strategy is to offer something to convince people to not leave its platform.
As one of the contributors to GNOME, Google has to know what is happening with Phosh, and it has to be worried that it will eventually become good enough to start attracting people and companies that care about privacy. Google can see the strategic advantages Phosh has over the other Linux interfaces and knows that it has a real chance of eventually attracting mainstream users.
This is the reason why I decided to pre-order the Librem 5, because I thought that its existence would serve as an example that pushes the rest of the mobile industry. Most of the experimental projects get ignored, but sometimes they stimulate huge changes and sometimes their example forces the rest of the industry to behave better. I look at all the ripple effects that happened with OLPC and Mozilla, and I know that even little projects with few users can end up influencing the rest of the industry.
My theory is that if we want change to happen, we need to be willing to finance it, because the thing that makes change happen is seeing a working example of that change. We can complain all we want about how our personal data is being monetized by the mobile industry, but the mobile industry is only going to start changing when it can see phones on the market that don’t monetize people’s personal data. We can complain about phone makers not providing software updates, but it is only when the mobile industry can see a phone on the market getting lifetime software updates and running on the latest Linux kernels that our complaints start to become effective. If every phone on the market is based on planned obsolescence, our complaints fall on deaf ears, so having alternatives on the market that show that phones don’t have to be designed that way is extremely important.
Imagine if every new phone that gets released in the future gets compared to a Linux phone that is designed to last a decade because it has a replaceable battery, WiFi/BT and cellular modem and gets a decade of firmware updates and lifetime software upgrades, and it collects none of the user’s personal information, has hardware kill switches, and offers security that the user controls. There is nothing more effective than the power of a good example to convince people that another path is possible.