The SIM Card-less Phone: A Dark Android Option
I received an email just the other day from a follower of this blog and a listener to my science and tech podcast–Sovryn Tech–that made a pretty interesting point that I think I’ve largely glossed over with the Dark Android Project: Smartphones without SIM cards.
Regular readers of this blog (and those that have set up their own Dark Android devices) know that I recommend using tablets instead of smartphones due to phones (and some tablets, true) having SIM cards in them, and we now know for certain that SIM cards are a huge security issue. But if you have a smartphone, and you can take the SIM card out of it, why can’t that be used as a Dark Android device?
Answer: A SIM card-less smartphone can definitely make for a great Dark Android device.
The emailer’s point was spot on. In fact, I have a couple of old phones that I use for this very purpose. Personally, I think old phones can make great cold storage Bitcoin wallets, along with other interesting uses. In fact, the emailer said particularly that they use their’s as a music and podcast player. I think that’s a fantastic idea. As many know, I’m a big fan of the newest version of the iPod Touch for very similar reasons. You have a SIM card-less, very pocketable device that you can use for all kinds of things, especially if you have a good WiFi connection around.
So why haven’t I particularly mentioned the SIM card-less Android phone before as an option? Well, indirectly I have, but there are a couple of reasons I haven’t brought them up before.
- Many phones from Verizon and Sprint (and others) don’t give you access to the SIM card without seriously taking your phone apart to a degree that some people may not be comfortable with.
- Phablets are all the rage these days due to their extra screen real estate and easier ability of using the larger touchscreen keyboard that a phablets screen size provides. So if people like phablets so much, why not just use a 7″ or 8″ tablet straight up? So partly I was feeding into that hype of larger screens being the future, as well.
Those mentioned, though, there’s really no reason to not use a SIM card-less smartphone as a Dark Android device. Go for it. In fact, it’s easier to get CyanogenMod on smartphones than it is for tablets, often enough. I think it’s a fantastic idea, and I really appreciate the emailer for making a fine point about it and inspiring me to mention it more. I’ve also updated the main Dark Android Project page to reflect that you can also use a SIM card-less phone and achieve the same results. And ironically, the bulk of the most powerful and highest specc’d Android devices out there are phones, not tablets. So again, using SIM card-less phones may be very advantageous (and I’ve written reviews of some very good smartphones on this blog lately).
And as far as the whole phablet thing…I’m becoming more and more convinced that in the next five years or so the trend will reverse. I’ve mentioned before on this blog particularly that cell phones–pre-iPhone–were on track to become significantly smaller devices than most would imagine they could even use comfortably as a phone, which was a trend in contrast to the 1990’s cell phones that were monstrous.
This is a corporate wave that we’re riding right now. Eventually, the phablet fad will die and people will start to want smaller devices again, and those will in turn eventually end up with your smartphone becoming your watch or some other kind of wearables (and frankly, as long as I only have to carry one device, I’m okay with this). No more smartphone/Android Wear combination anymore. It will just be the smartwatch.
Which brings us to the overall point here: Whatever device you can use that can be secured and use privacy software, go for it and use it. Whether that’s a tablet, a SIM Card-less phone, an open-sourced wearable, or some open-source alternative to Android Auto, even. Use it and encrypt all the things!