Big Increase in Personal Privacy and Battery Life

In another thread, I outlined how I intended to set up a smart watch to increase personal privacy and how to greatly extend the battery life on your phone at the same time. Today I did it, and thought to explain here why and how anyone else can and might want to do the same. But with the smart watch, the paradigm needs to totally change. You don’t want nor need Bluetooth, or even wifi on the watch. There is no sync-ing the watch to your phone. There is no need for phone apps except for making and receiving calls and text messages. A thirty dollar watch is working just fine, the way I am using it now so far.

To begin with, I have Google Voice. I plan to replace GV with a paid service (that doesn’t sell my information), sometime soon now that everything works using GV. I ported my phone number that everyone knows for me to GV. Then I forwarded that GV number to both my cell phone and also to a thirty dollar smart watch that has its own SIM card. But that thirty dollar watch is actually pretty dumb (perfect). I didn’t sync the phone to the watch, nor use any apps on it anyway. The watch doesn’t have GPS. The lack of GPS is a big benefit too. The only way anyone can track you is via triangulation and you have no app data they can steal from you on the watch.

You want the cheapest watch you can find that is capable of making and receiving phone calls and text messages. The one I bought has a 500mAh battery and looks like a well constructed watch of normal watch size. I synced it to my phone just as an experiment before wiping it clean and not re-syncing again. You don’t want a sync. The sync-ing feature and associated Play Store app really sucks on this watch. This is perfect. All of the bad reviews for the phone and software were accurate because they all complained about the syncing and cheesy apps which you don’t want anyway. That’s why you can get a well constructed phone that does phone calls and text and that only costs thirty dollars. It has a nice watch face screen too.

In this configuration, there is no reason to leave the phone powered-up when you are not actively using it. On a Librem 5, this should make a big difference. So you use the watch as a phone and texting device only. There is no need to be un-reachable while your GPS and data reside safely on your powered-off phone which draws no current when it is off. Anyone who calls you or sends you a text message still reaches you via the watch. You can turn your phone on at any time you need it.

Limitations: The watch I bought has a few significant limitations. It is advertised being able to make and receive calls from your wrist. It works great for making calls and talking to people from your wrist. The software seems to freeze in phone mode when a call is in progress. After I hit the SEND button to make a call, I can hang-up at the end of the call, using the same physical button that turns on the screen. But when someone calls me, the software remains frozen and nothing happens when I hit the on-screen SEND button in unsuccessful attempts to answer. So I see their number and have to call them back. You can send and receive texts. But there is another catch. Reading the incoming texts works pretty well. But using a one-inch by two-inch QWERTY keyboard with a extremely small buttons and a triple-shift button to access all characters just isn’t practical. But seeing incoming texts and phone numbers, and making outgoing calls is good enough for me. The phone dialer is very adequate. I am still looking for ways to answer calls and may see if having the Amazon seller replace it helps. But after someone texts or calls me, I’ll know to call them back or text them back using my regular phone instead of using the watch. Since both devices receive calls made to the same phone number, I can use up all of my data on the phone up and then swap SIMs between the phone and watch to get another data refill to the phone. With two fifteen-dollar-per-month plans (for the two SIMs), both the watch and phone each get unlimited phone calls and a total of 6GB of data, between them. The watch will use almost none of its own data, if any. So there is always 3GB of reserve data available on the watch.

The result is a great mix of high security, high privacy, and low cost, and long battery life. With a Librem 5 in such a case, your daily communications driver (watch) will last up to three consecutive days, and will be invisible to surveilance capitalism. When you need more computing power, you turn on your Librem 5 with the hardware kill switches set to meet you own needs. So from time to time your cell connection and GPS location will show up briefly and then disappear when you are done using it. Still, no one can get a profile of what you do or where you go most of the time. Surveilance capitalism gets nothing of value from you. But your friends and family will always be able to reach you and maybe your L5 will last for a long day this way.

Update: this watch does receive calls correctly after all. Initially, I was trying to answer calls with the screen up while testing incoming calls. Somehow, the incoming call toggles the screen inputs to an off or disabled state if the screen was active to begin with. When Amazon support called me back, the screen was off to begin with (the default not in use state). When the screen turned on to display the call, the display input toggled to the on position or Enabled state, thus allowing me to answer the call. So under normal circumstances, answering calls does work. So now when my L5 shows arrives, I can make it my daily driver after getting it set up, except not for banking.

Which watch are you using?

The one I bought is called Peakfun on Amazon. But I don’t think it has a real manufacturer name nor model number. None of the documentation anywhere (even that came with the watch) has a real manufacturer name nor model number. I see what appears to be the same watch named differently by different Amazon sellers. The user’s manual is about two-inches square for three pages with extremely small font. Some of the documentation and even in the watch menus, has spelling errors and poor English. But it only costs $30 and works good enough. I won’t even care much if it gets stolen or quits working. I can just turn off the phone forwarding in GV and quit paying the monthly service charges. It might be nice to have a slightly better watch that makes calls and does text. But I don’t want Bluetooth nor any apps. If this watch could answer incoming calls, it would be perfect. The speaker and microphone are good. I use Mint Mobile which is a T-Mobile MVNO. The phone bands it covers are listed on Amazon.

I’m sorry, I’m having hard time following the idea you’re laying out in your first post. Could you clarify a few points that I think might be what’s there:

  1. In stead of using L5, use a dumb(ish) cheapo “smart” phonewatch. Mostly just for calls and texts. This saves battery. Am I on the right track so far on the motivation…?

  2. Using this cheapo phonewatch is secure and private - even though it’s not controlled by you, verifiable or designed to be private (and used with GV) - …how? Just with location, L5 has a HW kill switch for it but the phonewatch has not. If the watch really doesn’t have GPS (or other GNSS), it’s probably 2G (at most 3G), which is less secure.

As I thought this kinda idea went, having a BT watch (no SIM, no phone functionality as such) to connect to L5 had some merit, because the screen of L5 could stay off and save power while preserving the security benefits (controllability) of it. Having the watch be “smart” and with SIM and all kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Btw. Tracking with triangulation is not the only way to get your location. The general area (nearest tower) is available anytime you have any phone (modem, that can’t be controlled in the watch) turned on. Your network knows, for roaming service, where you are in general.

Btw. the forum allows for a picture of the watch - might give some idea of it.


The idea for me is that there are certain categories of information that I don’t care if others know and other categories of information that I want to keep private and secure. Since the goal is to hide from and block surveilance capitalism, not wearing an active GPS around, combined with not having any real data to snoop on, meets that need. If law enforcement wants to find me, that’s okay since I don’t see that as a problem. Even then, I probably won’t show up on any lists of people at a given location at a given time. They’ll probably need to be looking for just me (and looking pretty hard) to begin with if they’re relying on triangulation only of a device that is hiding behind a Google voice number. If the Chinese company who made the watch, or even Google wants to listen to my phone calls, I don’t care. They’ll hear a lot of “I’ll be home at 6:00” kinds of conversations. So I know that my calls on the watch are not secure and that’s okay too. If someone hacks in to a 2G conversation that I am on, that is okay too. If I want a secure conversation, I can turn on the phone and make a call using the phone number tied to the phone’s SIM and using the phone’s dialer and not the Google voice app. That call would be 4G and using a number that no one would link to me unless they are law enforcement, in which case they would have to be investigating just me anyway. Once again, that is not anything I worry about. By using these measures, the security that I actually do care about, goes way up.

After I get my Librem 5, if I want to make a secure call, I’ll make it from the Librem 5 or turn on the Librrm 5 at a given time (only) so that someone else can reach me securely at that specific time on my L5 at a different number (directly to the phone with no GV). If I want secure internet or to use an app, I can turn on and use the Librem 5 and be aware of where and when I might be tracked for the relatively brief period while I am connecting to the outside world from the Librem 5. So maybe five percent of my location information becomes trackable in any way that might matter and occurs only at times and places of my choosing, while I remain reachable to my friends and family 24/7 on a different device that maintains no data that I care about.

Surveilance capitalism should not be capable of linking my watch to the same guy who owns my librem 5. Even if they associate the two devices (once again, you don’t want to pair them), the associated data about you is extremely limited because the data that you really care about on your Librem 5 is only vulnerable at the relatively short time periods when you are actively using your Librem 5 to connect to the outside world, at which time you are using a safe OS and secure apps. When not in use at all, the L5 can stay powered off. There is no device on you that says “Here I am. Snoop on me 24/7”, everywhere you go. Any time you get concerned that the watch might somehow be associated with your phone, you can throw away the thirty dollar watch and get a new one with a new IMEI number, and replace the SIM and get a new phone number on it. You still forward your calls to it from Google Voice again. So you never need to give your friends and family a new number to reach you.

Surveilance capitalism is set up to catch a majority of users in it’s net. If you’re an extreme outlier, they’ll never get enough data to profile you nor to get data from you that you want to keep private. So the cheap Chinese watch is just a decoy. No one knows about the Librem 5. Your Librem 5 then becomes a device that rarely shows up anywhere on the communications grid, that is extremely secure and that is extremely difficult to link to you. A pretty safe assumption is that Law Enforcement would need to be investigating you specifically and would have to ask your carrier to identify you, as the only way to identify who owns your Librem 5. The guy that owns the watch would be a pretty boring and incomplete person to surveil.

Would you say you have experienced peak fun? Trying to decide between peakfun and goodtime watch brands. /s

Without documentation or any Amazon reviews, it’s difficult to know which watch might be better. A lot of them don’t have a SIM slot and rely on sync only.

The Peakfun watch is adequate and after figuring out last night how to answer incoming calls on it, it’s all I need as described in my post above. It has a few apps like a calculator, a calendar, a camera, and a few others. I don’t know if there is anything better out there for the money. It’s well built and might even be mistaken for a much more expensive watch. It comes with a spare battery and easy access to the SIM card. I like the idea that it is disposable if necessary. I left it unplugged last night and woke up to a dead battery. But it did last a whole long day. The state of charge indicator is likely not accurate though. Based on the three-quarters of a charge it showed at bed time, it should still have been running by morning.

If you don’t care about people knowing where you are at all times and being able to listen to your phone calls, what do you care about? This is effectively just “I have nothing to hide so it doesn’t matter if people/businesses/governments can spy on me.”

it’s more like ‘i have nothing left to hide so it doesn’t matter …’
i guess i’ll be the happiest slave of them all when that happens :sweat_smile:

@StevenR, If you can find a smartwatch that allows you to install LineageOS or some other de-googled OS, then I would feel better about your solution. For example, you have no guarantee that your watch doesn’t contain software that collects the WiFi networks that it is sees and sends that information to Google’s servers so Google can track your geolocation.

The metadata about who calls or texts you can be very revealing, and I would not trust the software on your watch to not be collecting that info.


I appreciate everyone’s feedback here and wouldn’t say that any of these opinions are wrong. A de-googled watch would be ideal if the GPS can be turned off (really off). But this cheap, mostly phone-only $30 watch doesn’t even have wifi and if it does, it’s not offered as a feature for the owner. So it probably doesn’t even have wifi. It doesn’t have GPS. It doesn’t appear to run Android either. The OS is very simple and unique to the watch. If anyone here has any feasible ideas concerning the incoming phone calls and texts, I would be very interested. It’s an issue that I have been wrestling with for quite some time now. Anything that is left running on your person all day as a tool to receive incoming calls, has to be capable of tracking your location (every where you go) all day long every day you wear it. My thought was to decouple that tracking that must occur to allow you to receive calls, from every other indication of a person’s real identity (a separate and well hidden identity that can’t be tracked nearly as much and that you fully control). Some people don’t like the idea of using a Chinese 2G communications device because of the terrible security that way. I get that. But then again, you can say “let me call you right back” (from your Librem 5), if you really want a secure line.

Can anyone here propose a better alternative given: 1.) The fact that the Librem 5 currently has a short battery life, and 2.) Once your phone number is in the hands of anyone, you can’t take it away from them, and 3.) A phone that contains no personal data (except call logs) is not capable of giving up much real personal data about you. All it gives away is where you are via triangulation (no GPS), which appears to be required if you want to be able to receive incoming calls and texts. I would like a safer, more secure method if something is better.

Numbers you can change with prepaid SIMs. L5 doesn’t have multiple SIM slots unfortunately. There are services, if I’m not mistaken, that offer kind of a “secretary” that automatically connects you - in other words, caller calls a virtual switchboard. I was thinking how hard it would be to make L5 into a similar automated call forwarder, just for the fun of it (there was a video about automated call selector (press “1” if you are human…).

Even your general location can be revealing as data accumulates over time. It can be cross referenced to find out who are the people in your orbit - family, friends, coworkers, neighbors. Where you work and frequent time, who do you meet. What are your hobbies and patterns - sleep, break, travel. Where do the people close to you live. And that’s just from the location information. Granted, it’s harder and less accurate without GPS, but tower data over time is enough. Add to that who your contacts are - names and numbers - and get better location data from them, when general area is the same (then cross reference that with yellowpages or similar or just do online search). Oh, and btw, since that watchphone is always on (no HW switch) and near you, it’s a good device to active and listen to - no data connection needed as the modem can be told to open the voice connection without any input from you and listen in.

I’m afraid, it may not be dumb enough to be what you hope it to be. On the other hand, L5 can help but doesn’t solve most of that either. It’s mostly about how well you observe device hygiene (don’t carry it with you needlessly to everywhere, shut it down when needed and removing battery, keep it in a pocket or similar that voices are muffled etc.), depending on your personal threats and risks.