Too Many Note 8 and Note 9's To Deal With

When the Samsung Note 8 was new, my girlfriend and I both needed new phones. I didn’t want to stay tied to Verizon for another two years. So I went in to Best Buy, paid $2K in cash, and left the store with two Note 8 phones, commitment free and paid for. A few weeks later, I found out that Verizon wouldn’t insure those phones from Best Buy as I had planned, and that I couldn’t insure them through Best Buy after leaving the store with them. My girlfriend loses her phone a lot and I didn’t want to eventually lose that $1K that I spent on her phone. Meanwhile, Verizon offered a ‘buy one get one free’ deal on their new Note 9 model. So just a few weeks after buying two Note 8’s, I bought two new Verizon Samsung Note 9’s. Having a few extra Note 8’s on-hand has been handy a few times when she loses her Note 9. We just use the insurance to replace the lost phone. But the same day she loses her phone, we bring one of the Note 8’s in to Verizon and outfit it with a new SIM card tied to her phone number. That tides her over until the replacement Note 9 arrives and when it does arrive, we just put the active SIM card in to the replacement Note 9.

So I have two Note 8’s that have very little use on them and that I have no need for. They sit on a shelf. Once or twice per year I turn them both on, charge them up, and run through multiple updates to keep them current. I don’t want to sell either of them. I could do something with at least one of them and still keep the other one as a backup phone. But the Note 8 is getting to be an older model now. In the not-too-distant future, the apps will quit working on them as the OS version can not be upgraded. Does anyone here know a good use for these relatively unused Note 8 phones?

I thought about rooting them. If they’re anything like my old Note 2’s that we had several years ago, neither the boot loader nor the OS can be hacked or upgraded, no matter how good you are at trying to crack in. But I don’t know if the Note 8 is that way or not. If the boot loader can be hacked, I might try to do it. What do I have to lose? Right? But I don’t want an OS that I downloaded from some unknown source who I can’t trust. It would be nice to load something other than a googled-up OS, if possible. The more free the better.

Any ideas?

If you want the rabbit hole answer, you may want to take a look at XDA forums.

If you are looking strictly for freedom, the Samsung Galaxy Note II you previously used happens to support Replicant, a FSF-certified Android distribution. Note that you need a specific model of it in order to install Replicant. You can take a look at that on the Replicant URL below:

If you want my opinion, I would suggest selling both of your Note 8 phones and, if not already done so, purchasing the Librem 5. Unlike the devices you both previously and currently own, the bootloader is replaceable and unlocked, and PureOS, the operating system on it, is fully source code verifiable, FSF-certified, and all software contained uses only free licenses.

If somehow you have already done that, you can consider upgrading to the Librem 5 USA, for supply chain security, and/or perhaps anti-intradiction, but that would involve seriously thinking about your threat model on your own.

Yes, I also have a Librem 5 on pre-order. The version of the phone that I have has the Snapdragon processor (as most Samsung phones in the US do). So the options are limited.

If you are unwilling to let them go and have the time, you can consider making your own degoogled custom ROM.

I will mention Replicant again as it is an Android distribution focused squarely, and narrowly, on freedom. If you have the ambition, you can attempt trying to port it to your device. You can read the list of supported devices below:

You are not very explicit as to why you do not want to sell either of them, but you have also made it clear you do not need either of them anymore. Could you enlighten us of the reason why you do not want to sell it?

My suggestion still stands to sell the old Note 8s, or even to consider giving them away, and since you mentioned Best Buy, you can also recycle the phones at participating locations. If your priorities are based on freedom, you really have no need to keep yourself locked up in the Android ecosystem, and surely you have no desire to stay in it on your own volition either.

The Replicant idea sounds good. Before I try to crack the boot loader, I would need a known good path to installing a known good OS that beats the standard Android. In the back of my mind, when I bought the two Note 9’s, I figured that I could use the Note 8’s to experiment with, to get a freed or non-google phone. I should have done my research first. With Knox and all of the blobs on the Note 8, if it is even possible to crack the boot loader, you end up on your own with nothing else to install, and that’s if you don’t brick it along the way. All of the development has been done on the Exnyos processor and there is nothing out there for the Snapdragon processor. Even the most well-known hackers who can crack almost any boot loader admit defeat when it comes to getting in to the Notes with the Snapdragon processor. At one time (and maybe still), government employees were allowed to put classified documents on their Samsung phones of some models for this reason. There is a way to root the Note 8 phone without having to crack the boot loader. So you end up with a rooted phone that still has a locked bootloader. But cracking the boot loader and installing Titanium backup to manage several operating systems at once is what I really want to do. It looks like that can be done, but probably not on this phone. I don’t want to sell them until I have a better backup phone plan. After I get my Librem 5, my current Note 9 phone can be the backup phone and maybe I’ll sell the unused Note 8’s then. I have also wondered if the software is out there to turn them in to some kind of dedicated-use device, like a DD-WRT router or something else.

Is this even close to what you’re talking about?

What multiple operating systems are you talking about, and why do you need access to them? Are you suggesting multi-boot, virtualization/compartmentalization, “live” OSes? Android or GNU/Linux?

Why do you need a backup phone? Are you referring to potentially losing it, or are you referring to documents/data?

As for dedicated-use devices, you would need to do more porting, unless you want to start writing some of your own code, and another FSF-certified operating system for (typically) routers is LibreCMC. Link below: