Hello, I am a new (and happy) user of /e/ on a Fairphone 3 and would like to share my feedback.
First of all, a little background to understand the kind of user I am :
- I bought the Fairphone 3 with eOS preinstalled, and I used it for a few days
- I am not one to install thousands of apps on my phone, I usually stick to the few I like, and I rarely play games on my phone.
- I keep my phones as long as possible (last one lasted 4 years, still works but kinda distrust Huawei).
- Since a few years now, I mainly use FOSS and privacy friendly apps on my computer and phone: KDE desktop and a lot of f-droid apps on my old phone.
- I’m interested in computer security, so paranoia is a second nature.
- I love UI design and customization (I’m an app developer), so if an app is poorly designed or has no customization option, I might complain a lot.
DISCLAIMER: I am going to be picky, but this doesn’t mean I don’t like the OS. The following feedback is here to give my 2 cents about the project in the hopes it improves in the future.
So now that you understand my mindset, here is what I think about /e/.
Pretty good, I expected worse seeing the OS is still in Beta. I can send messages, call, browse the internet and ring alarms without any bugs. Setup was very easy, all went well. UI is responsive and fluid.
The first thing I did was navigate the settings (and enable dark mode). Most of what I found was good, but a few things bothered me. The phone seemed to use a lot less the internet when idle than my previous phone, which is perfect!
- The bad: Lack of a common theme/layout/colors for preinstalled apps.
I know a lot of these apps are not /e/ or AOSP made, but they stand out from the rest of the system. For example, the calculator and the browser use the system’s theme, but not the Tasks and the Contact app (just to cite a few). Some of them you can still enable it in settings, but some simply do not have a dark theme.
Also, not all system apps use the same layout and colors. Phone and Contacts use blue and pink, Tasks a greener blue (sorry I’m bad at color names), and Gallery black. Phone and a lot of other apps use an overflow menu to access settings, while Contacts uses a drawer menu and Gallery simply does not have settings. Having a common theme across all apps is important for more ergonomic user interactions: no matter the app, the user knows where to find the information as they all have the same kind of layout and primary colors. It is also useful for brand recognition.
These issues are not of big importance as the system still works fine, but resolving them could be a step in the right direction for a broader public adoption. Right now it still feels like apps are handpicked and that they do not belong with each other.
- The good: /e/ account
To see what /e/ account had to offer, I tried creating one. Seems like all the basic features are there, which is a good thing for people used to sync their files/settings. However, I do not find any use to such services (I like having everything offline and use my own backups) and was pleased to see I could still use the system without an account. This is a great detail as it gives the user a choice!
Per app feedback
Disclaimer: I rarely like preinstalled apps in any system, so this feedback might be a bit biased. If an app does not appear in the list, this means I have nothing to say about it.
- Phone and Contacts: Does the job. Could change the colors to remind of /e/ (right now it looks like apps straight out of Android Studio). Doesn’t follow device theme.
- Tasks: Excellent application, exactly what I needed. Same comments as Phone and Contacts for the colors/theme.
- Notes: Does the job for online edition, but does not work offline. Had to install Simple Notes for that. Follows the device’s theme but not completely, some labels are hard to read.
- Music and Gallery: Haven’t used them enough to judge properly, but seems to do the job. Same comment as other apps regarding theme.
- Maps: Didn’t use it, I prefer OsmAnd~ from f-droid.
- Browser: Seems to work but I never used any chromium based browsers, so I stick to my good old Firefox (Yes 3xodus detects trackers, yes it has some proprietary binaries, but I trust them to act in favor of an open internet, privacy first)
- Bliss Launcher: Has its own category because I have a lot of things to says. I ended up using Open Launcher which I think is a lot more ergonomic, with gesture support and customization.
- App Store: Has its own category as well. Ended up using f-droid and Aurora Store
I tried to love it, I tried. But it lacks the customization I am used with Android. And I also hate iOS UI copies (because let’s face it, this is what this launcher is). I still do not understand the appeal to iOS UI. My previous phone tried to do that with system UI and default apps as well, but it doesn’t work.
I’ll try to be open minded and judge the app for what is offers to give valuable feedback.
- First of all, often used apps should be near the bottom, why align everything to the top?
- Putting all widgets on one scrollable page is a design idea I can get behind, but the current implementation does not allow scrollable widgets (like Tasks and K-Mail)
- Cannot hide unused apps. As you currently cannot remove system apps, this should be a feature. The only workaround I found was to put all he apps I do not use inside a folder on a page I do not use.
- The apps suggestions is simply useless, it just takes place on the screen and I never use it.
- No easy access to app information (usually launchers let you access this by long pressing on an icon.
- App moving is a bit clunky. Changing pages is a bit tedious, and moving apps requires you to stay still for a long time for the launcher to understand where you want your app to be.
- Lacks customization. I could not find any settings page. You should be able to at least change the icon size, number of rows/columns to adapt to different screen sizes.
- Didn’t encounter any bug (apart from the clunky app moving).
- Visually good. I tried many launchers and this one looks good.
- Easy to use. If you add customization, be sure to give good defaults for people who do not like changing settings, this way the app will stay easy to use.
- Privacy friendly
Then again, this comes from someone who does not understand the appeal to iOS (especially their launcher) and likes customization.
I used it a bit, but had some trust issues as to where the apks come from. As I do not install a lot of apps, I ended up extracting the APKs of google-play-only apps I wanted from an other phone/emulator, and installed them on my new phone. Updates are installed with Aurora store, this way I am sure APK signatures are certified. Most of the time I use f-droid as I mainly use FOSS software.
- First of all, why so white, where are the colors?
- I know you want to make the app as easy to use as possible, but we should be able to see where the apps come from, this is too obscure for the moment. (Told you I am the paranoid type)
- Very easy to use, can find apps easily. Makes the switch from other android/iOS phones easy.
I am very pleased with what I found so far, it works great but still has room for improvements (wouldn’t be in beta if it wasn’t the case).
For the future, I think the best way to attract both “power users” and “normal users” would be to follow a design guideline similar to KDE which is “Simple by default, powerful when needed”: Give good defaults and make apps simple for everyday use, but provide settings where users can control everything.
I read somewhere that /e/ creator was a long time iOS user, but please, to not copy iOS UI. I don’t know why this is something people like to do (personally I don’t find it that good), but it is a bad habit. If you want to be a third major mobile OS, you have to make your own design decisions to stand out.
If I missed an app you wanted to hear feedback from, tell me!
And if you have any tips for app installation, I am open to suggestions.
Thanks to everyone involved in this wonderful OS, and if you read all the way, congratulations you reached the end!