5

I'm looking for a smart phone.

Requirements

  • unlockable bootloader, excluding the method described as 'bad' below.
  • compatible with micro SD card
  • compatible with LineageOS or Replicant (modem works, wifi works, camera works, etc)
  • multi-touch with at least five pointers
  • use SIM card
  • compatible with Cricket Wireless (AT&T's network)
  • for use in USA
  • $0-$200, hard limit Any price?! I want the cheapest one. :)
  • Used is OK

What legally/easily unlockable bootloader means...

If you want to put your own OS (that you built) on a smart phone, you need to have an unlocked bootloader. There are different ways to get there. I think some of those methods are good and some are bad.

  • BAD Download some kind of executable from a forum and run it on your PC or smartphone. The program exploits vulnerabilities in your device to unlock it, despite the intentions of the manufacturer.
  • OKAY Download the source code for a program, inspect it and build it yourself, then run it on your PC or smartphone. The program exploits vulnerabilities in your device to unlock it, despite the intentions of the manufacturer.
  • GOOD The manufacturer offers a free (gratis) service for power users that allows them to unlock the bootloader in their device. Registration is required. Note: LG for example has this service, but only for some models of their devices.
  • BETTER The manufacturer offers a program that can unlock your device. Registration isn't required. I think this is how it works for some devices, but I'm not sure.
  • BEST The device ships with an unlocked bootloader or unlocking can be performed with off-the-shelf software such as the Android SDK. I heard this is how it works for some devices, but I don't know which ones.

Note, this question is similar to this other question from 2016. It's a great question with great answers, but there are new devices now...

  • Which of the requirements is excluding all the phones? Is it the price? The OS? Would answers start pouring in if I changed some requirement? :) – daveloyall Sep 22 '17 at 15:34
  • I think it might be hard to meet all your requirements and still come in under $200. – user1691 Sep 22 '17 at 16:30
  • Ok, I've removed the price requirement. ...and added a "used is ok" requirement. – daveloyall Sep 22 '17 at 16:37
  • Sony used to have a service which would send you a bootloader unlock code after entering the IMEI on their website. Dont know if its still there tough. – Jan Dorniak Nov 5 '17 at 19:26
2
+100

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (150$ with free shipping to the USA, no idea about possibly additional customs duty) and other Xiaomi devices. Note that some other Xiaomi devices are not supported by LinageOS. Unlocking rated (see question for meaning) good, but needs executable from vendor for Windows (bad). I couldn't find documentation on how many touch points are supported. This is a recent device, as opposed to most devices supported by LinageOS which are older.

Wileyfox Swift or the AFAIK worse Wileyfox Storm, but not newer devices (i.e. not Swift 2 or similar) from Wileyfox as they stopped their upstream support for LinageOS. Unlocking rated best with fastboot oem unlock. It has an SD card slot, supports 10 touch points, 2 SIM card slots. They are not manufactured any more so you can only buy them from resellers.

Huawei Honor 5X and other Huawei devices. Note that newer Huawei devices are not yet supported by LinageOS. Unlocking rated good with secret used with fastboot oem unlock SecretHere. I couldn't find documentation on how many touch points are supported.

There are probably more devices which fit your requirements, especially when buying older ones. Some phones can not be found on e.g. Amazon, but are much easier to come by from AliExpress, though you may need to additionally pay customs duty. LinageOS has a list with devices that they officially support. The installation instructions from LinageOS explain in more detail what steps are needed to unlock each device.

Because of your requirement for an SD card slot the following ones do not qualify which otherwise would:

  • Google branded phones which are unlocking rated best, but which also cost much more.
  • OnePlus 5 and other OnePlus devices are unlocking rated best, but also cost more.
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  • Hey thanks @Jan! You mentioned "unlocking ratings"... Where can I find a list of such ratings? – daveloyall Sep 25 '17 at 15:27
  • 1
    I used the definitions from your question for my rating. The installation instructions from LinageOS have more details. – Jan Zerebecki Sep 25 '17 at 17:42
0

I ended up buying a used Pixel 2 XL (Google edition). It meets all of my requirements except the MicroSD card, and the "unlockable" rating is "BEST", according to that scale I defined.

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