Smartphone wishes

I would like to see

  • Randomized WIFI-MAC-Adress for scanning
  • Access to the mobile networks encryption state. Is it using A5/0, A5/1,A5/2, A5/3 or nothing, or something else?
  • Access to mobile network cell tower information (name, location,network, unique identifier and so on)
  • Monitor Mode on the WIFI Chip and baseband/mobile network
  • FM Radio and DAB+ enabled. No need to save a cent or 2 to ground the necessary pins on the chip like Samsung did.
  • Detailed logging from what comes in over the mobile network, no matter which SMS Type it is (SIM or otherwise) to get hold of tracking attempts.
  • detailed privacy permissions for each app inspired by XPrivacy for Android where access is restricted by default and opt-in for applications
  • PGP&S/Mime in the default e-mail application.
  • Proper device encryption unlike Google and more like Iphones
  • support for all mobile bands, especially european LTE
  • not only GPS but also Galileo, Glonass and BeiDou
  • replaceable battery
  • battery with lots of hours of capacity
  • AV1 and HEVC codec support in hardware

Point 2 (ciphering state): this one’s hard. There is no standard command to retrieve the ciphering state from the MODEM. Some chipsets have non-standard additions which allow you to query it, and some others might provide it as an unsolicited message over the UART control interface.

Furthermore, there’s a little status flag in your SIM card set by your network which is literally an over-ride to prevent the user from knowing the ciphering state. I don’t know whether this is implemented by the phone OS (so it’s of no consequence to us) or the modem (which will either lie when asked or stop sending unsolicited messages about state changes). It might well be the latter - the Intel XMM7260 has a command, “AT+XUCCI”, for which the strings output of the modem firmware seems to indicate that it tells the ciphering indicator, but all I get is “ERROR” in response. The SIM card might have this flag set, I don’t know.

I did read somewhere that one can obtain some information about the current ciphering parameters by querying values from the SIM card (such access is from an AT command in the 3GPP/ETSI standards), however I don’t recall exactly where I read this, so don’t rely on it.

The most reliable method, of course, is a raw packet dump of the encryption negotiation sequence, but that’s annoyingly hard (see later).

Point 3 (cell tower information): this is available via a standard AT command, AT+CREG, and if this particular state changes, the MODEM should say so via readable ASCII text through its serial port interface. See ETSI TS 127 007 (most recent version is here, or you can just search for it on or 3GPP TS 27.007 (they’re the same thing with different names) for more details.

Point 4 (monitor mode on cellular network) and point 6 (notification of silent SMS) are basically the same thing - a raw packet dump of everything over the air interface. This is annoyingly hard to obtain. The means for obtaining it from Qualcomm chips is known (see the SnoopSnitch project) and, rather nicely, both the required commands (some binary magic sniffed from the USB port when using a QC diagnostic tool) and the output format have remained standard across multiple generations of QC chips.

Infineon/Intel modems can theoretically output raw packet traces (see Darshak for the Samsung Galaxy S3, or XGoldmon for various older Samsung phones), but while the commands to get it to emit said raw packet traces appear to be similar, the output format varies between generations and it doesn’t seem to work on later devices. I’ve been trying to get this information out of an Asus Zenfone 2 (Intel XMM7260 modem), but I haven’t had any luck in finding any recognisable packets from the data dump and my “technique” is little more than blindly throwing AT commands at it then throwing the dump into a hex editor.

I don’t know enough about Samsung, Mediatek, HiSilicon or Icera (can you even get their standalone modems any more?) chipsets to say any more on that front.

Point 7 (per-application access controls): this looks like a good use of SELinux, AppArmor or something of similar ilk. The real difficulty lies in configuring said access control software, but it’s essentially something which we can in theory control regardless of the particular hardware choices.

Point 11 (multiple satellite navigation constellations): this is almost guaranteed, it’s actually very hard to find chips nowadays which only support one single constellation. If they go with a U-Blox (as tentatively suggested here) module, then we do indeed get all 4.

Point 12 (replaceable battery): that’s part of the specs. Capacity… well, that depends on what you do with it, I suppose (it also helps that we won’t be running the overhead of an enormous Java stack like Android does). At the very least, you’ll easily be able to flip the case open and put in another battery if your main one runs low.

I know that it is hard to get certain details on Android devices, but if you select the right components and the manufacturer of that components helps with the interface, i think it should be possible to do.
As long as we don’t know what exactly is used for the Librem5 there is still hope to be able to get more than what other phones offer in terms of protection against imsi catchers.

And pretty much pointless at the moment. Modem is a black box, compromised and under remote control. You can’t trust whatever it tells you. You are better off assuming modem encryption does not exist and using your own one, on the main CPU.

I still think it should be attempted to make this info available to the user eventually. Might not be possible now, but i think a privacy and security focused smartphone should show this to the user later.

In principle, I agree. Given current situation though, I’d set it on a very low prority, because it’s hard to do and the results are, at least to me, of little value.

This may sound futuristic, but what about adding additional small memory chip to phone with kill switch like for crypto currency wallet or some private keys storage? That would be ultimate security!


Also, some sort of an RFID / mobile-wallet would be nice. As much as I am hesitating to use those technologies, having them in a secure phone with known OSS firmware would take some of the worries away. I think the future is heading that way, so for the future phone it’d be good to come prepared.

+1 for a large battery which can be replaced!


Replaceable hardware on a phone

One of the great aspects of Librem lapttops, and once of my top reasons for buying one is the fact that a lot of the hardware is upgradable. to me that’s important to be able to keep up with software demand for resources, but also to reduce my overall carbon footprint by not having to replace the entire laptop.

In that spirit I would really love a Librem phone whose hardware could actually be upgraded.

One of the main reasons for changing my phone are:

  • better camera
  • more speed (ram/processor)

what are the possibility of having a replaceable camera and ram chip?

Great loud speaker

Another useful piece of hardware is a decent loud speaker for hands free talking (even with a helmet on).

Samsung had come out with the B2100 a few years ago which which had a great rear speak designed to amplify its sound when placed on a hard surface. This made it great for hand-free speaking.

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Open eXchange office suite

It would really be neat to have a suite of apps to work with Open Xchange email/cloud storage/office suite and have a real alternative to google altogether. Open Xchange is licensed under the GPL, and availailable as SaaS with German company who take privacy very seriously.

I have a fairly simple one. Physical slider keyboard. Not Blackberry style.
I’m still using my Cynogen modded Samsung Relay T699 because it was the last decent phone with a real keyboard. I can’t stand Bluetooth keyboards.

I’m buying a MotoZ2 next because there is a physical Keyboard back for it.
If by some miracle you could use Moto’s attachments, I’m sure I would switch.

I’ll also echo ilo and vrata’s call for a replaceable battery.

One cool idea I would like to see is a single good quality camera on a gimbal system. Or at least able to rotate 180 degrees from front to back.

One thing I never understood about phone architecture is why apps are stuck to living in working RAM space, instead of being stored in Flash memory. I go all the way back to the C=64, where we treated the 64K as precious and offloaded everything we could to storage. I should be able to boot my phone off my MicroSD card and have all the app space available.

4K screen will probably be a must by the time this is a shipping product.
What I DON’T care about is size. I would happily hold an 8" wide and 1" deep monstrosity phablet up to my face if it meant I had all the power I needed.

Up the APP ram to 8GB, and I throw my money at you. :smiley:
That’s my $.02.

I might have missed it in the lists but my vote is for dual sim. I have a OnePlus at the moment and it makes work so much easier only having to carry one phone.