First impressions and wish list (Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T)

Posted originally in “My wish list for /e/”, moved into this separate thread for easier discussion as kindly suggested by @tcecyk. Amended with a few additional points.

  1. The installation guide for the Redmi Note 8T should note that booting into the stock rom after installing the /e/ recovery wipes the recovery again and replaces it with the default Xiaomi recovery.
    After flashing the /e/ recovery from Fastboot, the guide suggests powering off and booting into /e/ recovery. However, attempting to power off by pressing the Power button for 15 seconds will boot straight into MIUI, overwriting /e/ recovery. Instead of trying to power off, the user should press and hold Power + Volume Up to boot directly into /e/ recovery from Fastboot. (explanation clarified compared to original post)

  2. Please allow getting into the system without entering the SIM pin. iOS can do this, you can just cancel the SIM pin prompt.

  3. Proper firewall like Little Snitch that doesn’t block the VPN slot and allows the user to view a log of all connections made, with a few preset rule sets such as blocking all Facebook connections system wide, also with the ability to block connections that are made from C code, not just Java

  4. I’m usually using the VPN to connect my phone to my home or work network and access local resources like NAS, Home Assistant etc. and route my traffic through there while on public WiFis etc… This isn’t possible with Advanced Privacy blocking the VPN slot. If implementation as a real firewall isn’t possible or not planned for the foreseeable future, it would be great if we could at least locally pass traffic from the Advanced Privacy VPN to another VPN.

  5. Advanced privacy blocks only a fraction of the trackers Exodus lists for my test subject app (the “Drops” language learning app). Particularly tencent, facebook and google firebase are not listed in Advanced Privacy under blocked trackers.

  6. A USB-C Ethernet adapter that didn’t work under MIUI now magically works under /e/ – thank you, that’s awesome!

  7. Files App: Unfortunately there is no support for connecting to SMB shares or sFTP servers, so I still need something like Cx File Explorer

  8. Notes: Application requires an account, no way to create local notes, which is not ideal

  9. Launcher: Widgets screen cannot be dismissed with the usual “home” gesture (dragging up from the bottom edge of the screen), only with a swipe to the right, which was unintuitive at first and required some getting used to, at least for me

  10. Browser: Built-in equivalent to the Firefox add-ons LocalCDN/Decentraleyes and ClearURLs would be nice since the browser does not seem to support add-ons. Besides the privacy benefits, the former could potentially save a lot of unnecessary mobile data consumption.

  11. Browser/Advanced Privacy: I don’t see a way to view what the ad blocker blocked and what not in a way that uBlock Origin displays it. This could also be integrated with Advanced Privacy.

  12. Mail: IMAP folders should be displayed as folder hierarchy that can be navigated, not one humunguously ginormous mega-list

  13. Settings UI: When setting a custom DNS, the value of the setting is not displayed anywhere after ok’ing the prompt. It’s also not clear that the menu command for custom DNS settings is disabled until “Use Network DNS” is disabled, it just appears to do nothing. One solution would be to have both commands enabled and the “Custom DNS” could just automatically disable the “use network DNS” setting when changed. Also, there are multiple different DNS setting strewn around settings. It’s not really obvious which one applies to what.

  14. DNS: Option to use network DNS for a list of certain trusted WiFis would be useful so local resources can be addressed by name and not just IP

  15. Why does microG need (and get) access to contacts and SMS messages by default?

  16. Contacts: The CardDav sync service fork still warns about Xiaomi firmware potentially preventing synchronization, even though that’s likely not an issue under /e/ (so far, it has worked fine)

  17. Contacts: The UI offers to add a WebDav account, not CardDav, which initially confused me thinking maybe only .vcard files in a WebDav file share directory might be supported or something

  18. Contacts/System Settings Account Preflet: When adding my Synology Contacts from my NAS, I get multiple of weirdly named accounts in System Settings account management (like the account name followed by two seemingly random characters), one for each address book on the Synology.

  19. Camera: The active camera cannot be changed via a list, but only via a cumbersome toggle that advances to the next one. The depth camera is listed as a separate camera that fails to activate. Cameras don’t have names, resolution info or focal length displayed, so it can be difficult or time consuming to choose the right one.

  20. The default wallpaper could be a bit less extreme. The colors also evoke connotations with the logo of Instagram, which is not from a company that’s known for being privacy friendly.

  21. Time zone setup in the first launch wizard doesn’t have a database with cities and can be confusing for a user who doesn’t know their offset from GMT is. A good initial guess for a time zone could also be made from the language setting, as a user who chooses Dutch is likely to be in a certain time zone etc.

  22. Settings UI: A lot of settings being hidden behind an “Advanced” toggle even though the bottom half of the screen is empty. That’s not really quick and not very intuitive either.

  23. Settings UI: Managing Keyboards just shows a list with no indication for the user how to get other ones than the default one, or how installing keyboards differs from installing input languages. Novices won’t know what to do here.

  24. Keyboard: Adding any CJK languages under “languages” doesn’t add them to the language menu on the keyboard, whereas adding latin character-based languages does. Cursory research reveals that this seems to be a mess under Android and a dedicated keyboard app may be needed to get proper IME. Adding a CJK language should just work or at the very least show a popup that tells the user what to do and include a recommendation for a privacy friendly solution (I found Mozc for Japanese, still looking for good options for Korean and Chinese). Better would be of course for the user to add the language and it would work. This is actually my biggest issue so far.

  25. Keyboard: Unfortunately, the preinstalled keyboard does not seem to support dragging over the space bar to move the text input cursor, nor dragging across the keys to type, both of which are common features that would be handy to have without installing additional software

  26. I couldn’t find a way to change the system UI language after the initial setup wizard. Maybe I’m blind or stupid or both.

  27. AppLounge: There is no list with installed apps where one could view their information (such as developer info, privacy scores etc.) and uninstall them. Not all novice users will be familiar with the press-and-hold technique in the launcher. A way to pull in user reviews and ratings from Google Play Store might also be useful.

  28. Browser: Privacy Issue: Auto complete for URLs and searches seems to be on by default

  29. Browser: Privacy Issue: No way to use separate fields for search and URLs so mistyped URLs could accidentally end up being sent to search provider

  30. Browser: Scrolling web pages is quite jumpy compared to Fennec/Firefox on the same device

  31. A system-wide dictionary feature that can be invoked as a popup from text selections as well as a standalone app would be handy. This is one of the best features on iOS. The imiwa? app on iOS is a great example of what a super useful dictionary app with multiple supported languages, clipboard analysis, example phrases and pronunciation examples can be. A translation feature with multiple service backends (deepl, Google Translate etc.) could also be built in.

  32. Advanced Privacy: Could display a warning icon if DNS is not encrypted

  33. Launcher: The “hide icon in launcher” setting of multiple keyboard apps does not work. The icon remains and instead of opening the settings for that keyboard, it opens the app properties for that app with options to uninstall etc. Tested with both Mozc and OpenBoard so far.

  34. Camera: There seems to be no built-in QR code/barcode reader. This would be useful to have built into the camera app. Being able to double tap the power button to open the camera is great, and if the QR code reader was built in, this quick shortcut would then essentially do double duty. I think QR codes support could nowadays be considered an essential feature for mobile OSes that a user may not expect to have to install a separate app for.

  35. Usability: Minor point, but the cog icon in the quick access icons (the control center type of place where WiFi etc. can quickly be toggled on, accessed by swiping from the top of the screen) doesn’t lead to preferences for that area, but to System Settings, which was a bit unexpected for me. The pencil icon to customize that area is on the opposite side of the screen, which makes the cog even easier to mistake that for a “customize” function

  36. I couldn’t find an easy way to display the phone number of the SIM in the phone at first. MIUI’s multiple SIM UI in the dialer app shows numbers and is actually quite nice and easy and might serve as an inspiration. iOS displays it in the contacts app, which may be a good idea as well. There are other places where it might be useful to add, such as the Cellular Network settings. I ultimately found it under “About this Phone” in System Preferences, which makes sense, but again, it wouldn’t hurt to have it accessible in more places.

  37. VLC refuses to play certain video streams when “Anonymize IP” is turned on in Advanced Privacy. My guess is that this is somehow related to Tor and UDP not working together.

  38. App Lounge: The search text field sometimes gets cleared when switching to the Settings tab and back

  39. App Lounge: It’s difficult to quickly search for, say, only Open Source apps without changing preferences. If I’m looking for an open source QR code reader from F-Droid because search results are dominated by spyware-ladden Play Store apps, I’d have to change my settings for the entire App Lounge app, search, install, then switch the app back to seeing all apps, which is cumbersome.

  40. AppLounge: After some research, I installed the Mozc keyboard via App Lounge. There was an update available for it, but the update process seems to fail. Updating starts, but the app remains in the list of apps with updates available. No error message is displayed by App Lounge.

  41. Advanced Privacy: Those usage statistics under Trackers by Day, Month and Year are a bit large stacked on top of each other and may take some time to understand for a novice. Might make sense to just have one graph and add a range setting of “Day/Month/Year”. There is not much need to directly compare the graphs of thes ranges with each other, so no need to have them all at once.

  42. Advanced Privacy: Tapping a bar shows in the graph how many tracking attempts were blocked, but there is no way to actually see what those were. If I see a spike in the middle of the night when I wasn’t even using the phone, I’d probably be more interested in which sneaky app caused that spike more than how many attempts there were. There is no way to look at a connection log, so there is not much a user can do with the stock features to track down the offender.

  43. Advanced Privacy: It would be nice to have something similar to the “Access Dots” app, as well as a log of permission usage inside of Advanced Privacy. That way, I could easily check which app used, say, the camera, and when and how often.

Points 32 onwards are new since the original post.

Overall, after a few days, I can confidently say this is the best Android system I have ever used and the only one I would confidently recommend to the average consumer. Great job, murena team and a huge thank you!

5 Likes

I like to read long feedbacks and criticism. What I skipped doesn’t mean it’s not valid or I wouldn’t agree, just that I can’t offer anything. Most of the time it helps to seek out upstream projects issue trackers (k9mail, nextcloud notes, davx5) for bugs if it’s solved. /e/ lags in updating those apps most of the time

  1. as 8 and 8T share the docs you can give doc feedback at Xiaomi - Redmi Note 8 - ginkgo - Documentation Suggestions - #4 by Deano
  2. no sim pin required: search for “SIM card lock settings” and disable the lock. This has to be done once
  3. Calyx has a “firewall that is not a vpn interface”: Datura Firewall - you’d need to gather support with /e/ (via a backlog feature request) or self build to have it though
  4. Orbot, the Tor component in AP offers a proxy-mode (I guess it’s a SOCKS5 then), and not sit on the VPN slot, but then not all Apps could use it with ease - I think there is no alternative unless Android itself can manage multiple VPN interfaces through the UI. Linux certainly can, it’s just another interface with routes, but quite a UI task
  5. if you can give specific examples of trackers omitted, you can file a bug against the list (or its generation) at list · main · e / os / tracker-list · GitLab
  6. offline notes: next Notes update will cover this, see linked Epic at Update app to 3.4.11 (#3550) · Issues · e / Backlog · GitLab
  7. I wasn’t aware that Bromite doesn’t do extensions atm (bromite/FAQ.md at master · bromite/bromite · GitHub) - at least Decentraleyes is one of the allowed Addons in Firefox Mobile
  8. block analytics: … another reason to go for Firefox ublock? if this is built into the bromite fork, where already maintained opensource code exists, I think it is a technical burden
  9. mail folder nav: there is a k9mail setting to not autoexpand specific folders, not sure if this fits your wishes, but if you search within k9mail forums you might find settings better fitting your usage?
  10. and 14. custom DNS settings: I agree, those settings need to be clarified, but unless Android offers network management that remember DNS settings per-network this will be difficult. You’ll find a few dozen DNS related entries in the backlog for various valid purposes (warnings/caveats for not using the network local dns etc), I’m waiting for AOSP improvements on this one
  11. … 25.

skipping a bit

  1. system language: use the search menu in settings and enter the word for “language” in your current selected language
  2. Apps: “list installed apps” - sensible feature request, popped up at Want do see installed apps in “Apps” (#3508) · Issues · e / Backlog · GitLab
  3. … 34.

more skip

  1. icons to edit quick settings: I understand, but those are AOSP core widgets where modification can be hard
  2. yes, Tor doesn’t do UDP currently, see Advanced Privacy breaks media streaming for Talk HPB - #2 by tcecyk … might warrant a text warning on Tor inside AP
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First of all, thank you so much for generously taking the time for reading and answering all of this in such expert manner – I didnt expect this at all!

  1. thanks for the heads up, docs suggestion submitted!

  2. Login without SIM PIN: My understanding is that the setting you mention would save the PIN in the device and automatically send it to the SIM on startup, causing the device to log into the celltower. What iOS does it allows the user to cancel the PIN prompt and just not use the SIM. As far as I understand it, that way the cellular network won’t be notified of the location of the device if cellular service is not needed by the user.

  3. Calyx Datura looks super interesting. Based on the few screenshots I found, at first glance it doesn’t seem to allow fine-grained settings for each target endpoint though, like Little Snitch, NetLimiter or NoRoot Firewall would. But if it does, that seems like a great opportunity for a collaboration between the /e/ and Calyx projects.

  4. It’s difficult to check without acces to logs (might have to install No Root Firewall or finally get a Raspi with AdGuard Home at some point), but from a look at that list you linked, some extremely common tracking URLs such as facebook.net, graph.facebook.com, app-measurement.com, firebaseremoteconfig.googleapis.com and so on don’t seem to be on the list, I’m not sure what’s going on there.
    In general, there seems to be a discrepancy between what Advanced Privacy catches and what Exodus/App Lounge lists in terms of trackers for other applications as well (I tried with the extremely tracker infested SwiftScan for example). This could also be on the Exodus side, but the discrepancy between the listed trackers could weaken user trust in Advanced Privacy if it appears to block fewer tracker than the app supposedly contains.

  5. Great, exciting to see offline notes coming!

  6. and 11. Browser: I agree, and that’s why I use Fennec with addons as my main browser now, but regular users won’t know about things like third party browsers, uBlock and Decentraleys. Essentially, I think we agree the default situation could be better. And I have yet to find a replacement for ClearURLs, which blocks tracking through URL parameters, but it’s already pretty much the most privacy friendly mobile browsing experience out there.

  7. Mail folders: The setting in Mail/K9 that I found just seems to hide subfolders without an obvious way to access them, but I found this issue in the K9 bug tracker, so it seems to be a common problem that will hopefully be addressed eventually by upstream and integrated by the /e/ team.

skipping a few

  1. System language: Searching for the word for “language” in the system language only reveals System > Language and Input, the rest doesn’t seem relevant (text to speech etc.). There are options there to add languages and change their orders and manage keyboards, but nothing I can find to change the actual GUI language for the system interface. I’m really questioning my sanity here.
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  1. trackers omitted: the tracker-list repo gives build instructions on its generation and sources if you want to get to the bottom of this and diff to exodus. Nextdns is an easy way to log DNS without local setup.

  1. browser: doesn’t fennec allow all addons, so ClearURLs can be added? if not and you’re determined, with some ceremony you can use any addons in firefox nightly - [HOWTO] use any Addon in Firefox Nightly for Android

  1. language: in the language list, the topmost entry defines the system-ui language. Use drag+drop to the right of the button to sort it up
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Again, thank you so much for your kind reply!

  1. Thank you, I’ll look into setting up Nextdns and see if I can find out what’s going on there. I just need to find some free time. It looks like I could even just edit the .json file without building if I just wanted to add my own entries for testing. I suppose I’d just have to enable USB debugging and could then replace the one on my device.

  1. Mozilla did a major rewrite on their Android version some time ago and broke compatibility with desktop add-ons in the process. Since then, they have slowly added only a few of the most popular ones back, but ClearURLs is not among them. It’s not the end of the world to not have it, but I thought I’d mention it since in long-term, it might be a good feature to have in the /e/ browser by default.

  1. language: Gosh I feel super stupid now. That works perfectly of course. I didn’t think of rearranging them to change the system language. Sorry!
    Though I suppose if this confused me, it likely will confuse a lot of other people as well. So overall, managing languages and international keyboards could probably be made a bit more user friendly. To be fair, though, the majority of the usability issues seem to stem from Android itself and Google, not the decisions of the /e/ team.
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Dedicated thread opened here for point 5 about the discrepancies between Exodus and Advanced Privacy.