I (probably like many others) have for quite some time been watching the /e/ story unfold here from the United States. As the idea of loading an OS onto a device was daunting, I have long waited for the ability to purchase an /e/ phone with the OS already installed. Since that has not come to fruition as of yet, the choice was to either face my fear or continue to allow the “Big G” to usurp my digital sovereignty.
Fast forward, I purchased a SM-G620F (global, unlocked, Exynos processor) new in box via Ebay because it was the least expensive choice that the /e/ installer supported with the idea being if I brick the phone, I would only be out a relatively small amount of $. For anyone sitting on the fence in the US, it is imperative to purchase the “F” variant if you are new to device flashing and wish to use the /e/ installer.
The installation via the /e/ installer (under Windows) was relatively uneventful and kudos and special shout out to @Vincent for creating the tool- I don’t think I would have attempted this process without it- Just follow the onscreen prompts and any Windows user can achieve success as I did!
Post installation issues (current as of Nov 1, 2020):
VOLTE: The S6 is an “old” phone and does not support VOLTE. This is a necessity for many carriers/MVNOs such as T-Mobile and Mint. The only carrier I found that would activate the Samsung “F” variant was AT&T, which does not require VOLTE.
AT&T Activation: The only AT&T MVNOs that I found that would activate the phone are Cricket (which is owned by AT&T so no surprise there) and Red Pocket Mobile. I ended up activating the $10/mo RPM plan for testing purposes.
Voice “Echo”: A search of threads on this forum outline a persistent and on-going issue where an “echo” that is heard by the other party. Plugging in a headset will alleviate this issue, but presents its own issues!
“App Store”: the /e/ version installed with the OS is broken- again, many threads here on this issue. The work-arounds are to install Aurora Store and F-Droid from APKs and this works well without issues.
Transferring local data from one device to another: I used the Big G’s “Contacts” app (yes, I know) to seemlessly move all contacts from my old Android to the S6. After that was done, the app was deleted. SMS Backup and Restore was used for SMS/MMS without issue. Verizon’s Contact Transfer app was used for everything else.
Mail app: Protonmail works quite well as an alternative to /e/'s offering.
SMS/MMS: the pre-installed app “Signal” works well.
Other messaging: the pre-installed app “Telegram FOSS” also works well, supporting phone and videochat functions. Please be aware that the “echo” problem persists with this app as well! But, it is a formidable privacy-centric WhatsApp alternative- get a few of your closest contacts to install and say goodbye to FB. As an aside, I tested WhatsApp and the results were dismal: messages were no problem but calls were plagued with problems, but your mileage may vary if this is a must-have for you.
The Bottom Line: As much as I would like, I can’t use the /e/ device as my daily phone- the voice “echo” issue on this phone is a deal-killer as I don’t want to be tethered to a headset. If this bug was quashed, I could recommend it as a daily phone without reservation!
If I could make a constructive point to the dev team it would be to apply resources to polish and refine the /e/OS for the Samsung devices already supported by the installer- doing so would likely create a great many converts here in the US!
Last thought/question: Can anyone tell me if the S9 SM-G960F suffers from the voice “echo” bug any longer?
Hope this helps some people who may be considering the /e/ alternative. Thanks for reading and be well.