I decided to try switching over to an iPhone, as I mentioned in a previous post. The main reason is that it’s the final step in de-Googling myself, which is an achievement that I’ve been wanting to unlock for a while. I don’t really know if it’s any better for privacy than Android, but it should at least not be worse when configured properly.
My phone of choice is an iPhone 7, which I got a good deal on from Carousell a while back, for the sole purpose of setting up an Apple Watch. Although it’s a few years old now (2016), it’s still a very decent phone - good screen, responsive, and the form factor is just right for me. Sadly it’s been dropped from the latest version of iOS, which kind of limits its long-term usefulness, but I figured it would be long enough to decide whether I want to stick with iOS long enough to get an upgrade.
It’s still too early to say whether I’ll go back to my Android phone (OnePlus 9), but there were a couple of things I had to sort out first that would have been deal-breakers:
LibRedirect and Browser Extensions
The first issue I had was the browser. On Android, I’d been using Firefox with extensions for adblocking and privacy, including LibRedirect and a custom search engine (Whoogle). I soon realised Firefox wasn’t going to be an option because from what I read, Apple doesn’t really support browser extensions unless they’re for Safari. I’m OK with that - I think if you’re switching to iOS then you kind of have to buy into their browser too.
Choosing extensions was a bit trickier. I opted for Adguard for the basics, and Privacy Redirect for the LibRedirect replacement. The custom search engine took a bit longer though, since Safari doesn’t let you change this by default. I eventually found xSearch which can override Safari’s default, and I’m using this for now.
So far my Safari setup seems more or less equivalent to my Android one.
The second issue was getting access to my cloud drive. Rather than use a hosted cloud solution, I use a self-hosted one with DigitalOcean Spaces and rclone to avoid vendor lockin and keep things open-source. On Android, I used an unofficial app to directly access the drive, but on iPhone I couldn’t find anything similar. At first I thought maybe I don’t really need access to the entire drive, maybe just sync a few things over; so I considered Syncthing but found that that too wasn’t available.
So I took a different approach. Rather than mount the drive natively, I mounted it on a remote Linux server instead, and set up SFTP access from my iPhone. In some ways this is better, because the additional layer makes it harder for my cloud drive to be compromised, and I can lock down SFTP further if necessary. On the iPhone side I’m using FE File Explorer Pro, which is great. An added benefit over the Android solution is that file editing works more reliably, without having to depend on the OS integration.
Besides those, I found that almost every app I was using on Android had an iOS version too. The banking apps took a few attempts to migrate over since they’re locked to one device, but eventually it worked without having to call their support. So now I’m all set, and will be using the iPhone daily unless I hit any major problems.