Electronics > Open Source Hardware

Open source smartphone - is it feasible?

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Hi everyone!

I hope that my question isn't too trivial as I am a physicist and not really knowledgeable in electronics.

Today I was trying to inform myself about privacy protections of the Covid-19 contact tracking apps (the apps to identify potentially dangerous contacts). While they do seem promising to me, since open-source projects seem to be seriously developed, I was wondering: is this really useful when the phone hardware itself can be compromised? Is it possible to check it is not? And could a viable open source hardware phone be developed, so that checking becomes much easier?
I think that with these new tracking needs, these questions have become even more important, if not technically, at least because of the "cultural push" for surveillance.

Hoping that my message was in the right section, I thank you for your patience ;)

I think it is not about open source hardware, but more open source software. You can get most from flashing in compatible phone LineageOS.

All mobile phones have big problem - they have to deal with obscure and not very open 3GPP standard, which is implemented mostly by "giants" who are not interested to open baseband stack.
In best case you will hook some SIM800 or similar module, hook raspberry, and get heavy brick that will make everybody around frightened, and which is not really comfortable to use.
There is no really working opensource hardware of baseband, except some obsolete stuff.
So, as i said before, check LineageOS, it will give you much higher degree of privacy without losing all comfort.

First of all, thanks for the answer. So if I understand well, the main issue is due to the Operating Systems, despite the fact that Android is technically Open Source? I also ask this because apparently for the app they plan here in Switzerland the problem seems to be the permanent control of the Bluetooth devices - which the OSs don't allow but which the tracking apps needs.

Android is opensource in original form, but each vendor modify it and also bundle with their own software, so result is "blackbox" and doing "god knows what".
If you take LineageOS - you take essence of opensource, and you install additional software on your own choice. But as soon as you install google play bundle or any closed software with significant privileges, you compromise your privacy again.
There is FOSS software market, F-Droid, where all software opensource and functionality is transparent, but choice is quite limited, you will have to decide, if you can live with it.

If you want to avoid tracking (and i think it is a must - unless it is transparent and mandated by government), i have small hint: LineageOS (named that time Cyanogen) had while ago feature that can run software in "sandbox", so software have only illusion that it can control specific peripherals  >:D
I know they did it for GPS and contacts access, not sure about bluetooth. I'm quite sure it's worth to go to their forums and ask if they have same for bluetooth of planning to implement that.

Google and Apple by itself technically can push OTA updates at any moment, that can allow specific apps to control bluetooth or even they can start contact tracking over their software stack (in android - google play "core" can do that).
Already Apple seems did that, and while IMHO nobody authorized them to do so, in small country i live, i noticed in my BLE scanner - tons of beacons. So already they do what they want with people privacy.

this one should have schematics, PCBs etc available if you're into that  ::) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purism_(company)


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