As I await my Librem 5, I have been exploring other options also. Recently, I obtained a Fairphone 4 to assess if it would be suitable for my (non-techie) parents to use. I figure that an android phone may be easier and more reliable for them to use than the Librem 5 at this stage. Although the Fairphone 4 is a good option in some ways, my experience highlights the need for and the superiority of the Librem 5.
First, the phone shipped with google-dominated Android. I thought that, in the past, the Fairphone shipped with de-googled /e/ OS, but that is no longer the case if it ever was.
Second, to install a different operating system, I needed to obtain an “OEM Unlock” key. This was obtained through a web portal, where I entered the IMEI and serial number of my device. Nothing about this process seemed to enhance the security of my device in any way, but only served to make it more inconvenient to install an operating system of my choice.
Third, even after unlocking the bootloader, installing a different OS, and re-locking the bootloader, the phone permanently displays a warning upon booting that a “different OS” has been installed on the device. My understanding is that this warning will be displayed after any non-default operating system is installed.
Altogether, I am disappointed, because I thought that in the past, Fairphone was trying to help people become free from google, but it appears that instead they are collaborating with them by supporting anti-features that make it more difficult for normal people to escape. Some things about the Fairphone are better than other android options, so Fairphone isn’t bad in every way. For example, it has a removable battery, and it is at least possible to install an alternative android-fork.
The experience has made me appreciate the Librem 5 anew. The Librem 5 is not like the Fairphone or other android devices. By default, the owner of a Librem 5 has far greater control over their device, including the software and the hardware (through kill switches). Keep up the good work, Purism! It is highly appreciated.