Are Xiaomi Phones poor for privacy coming from an iPhone?

So sick of Apple smartphone prices after years of loyalty. Thinking of jumping ship to Xiaomi: better value, spec etc.

Is this a dumb move in terms of privacy? I keep password managers, crypto wallets, and banking apps on my phone. Surely surveillance is mostly via apps these days and not phone, no?

Privacy is spectrum.

Yes, but It depends. Are you planning on using Custom Rom or Xiaomi Android OS?

Apps and phone OS can be privacy invasive. It depends.

For example, iOS has a feature called App Tracking Transparency. Which apps have to ask the user consent to have your IDFA (identifier for advertisers) which is a unique a number give out to app’s to track you locally on your iPhone. Apple vs. Facebook: Why iOS 14.5 Started a Big Tech Fight | WSJ

Xiaomi and most Android device’s does not do this by default.

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Any chinese phone is a privacy nightmare out of the box and is definitely worse than an iPhone, though this can be mitigated by a large margin with a firewall and debloating of all preinstalled crap.
If you don’t want to worry about that, choose a model that supports some privacy-respecting custom ROMs.

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@attempty pretty much gave you the answer, custom rom on a chinese phone is the best Value for money. Search the device you are looking for in xda to see developer support, crdroid is nice.

though your security will be decreased ofcourse as unlocked bootloader but most don’t have that in their threat model ngl.

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Yes. Xiaomi phones, at least outside the EU and China, are spyware machines. They’re full of unwanted bloatware apps which are impossible to install or disable without root access. Sometimes you will have luck with adb, but that’s still a lot (and there are ads in the system depending on the phone). Along with that, Google play services are still included, meaning that Xiaomi, Google and whoever else xiaomi partners with will have some level of access to your data (with both xiaomi and google theoretically being able to collect everything). Simply from this perspective alone, an iphone is more private as only one company (apple) has unrestricted access to your device.

Then, there’s the trustworthiness of Xiaomi. Their privacy policy puts Google to shame, in many cases allowing them to claim copyright to content you create/use using their services. There are allegations of sending large amounts of data to China via Singapore, and there was an (unverified) Lithuanian claim which discussed the possible existence of a hardware backdoor.

HOWEVER, many Xiaomi phones support lineageOS. You need to make a Xiaomi account and wait a week or two to unlock the bootloader, but once that’s done you can flash a fully degoogled custom rom and be fairly sure there’s no spying on the OS or application level (provided you use the right apps). There’s still the lithuanian backdoor, but I’m not sure if there’s any proof regarding its existence.

In terms of security, I believe that xiaomi phones are inherently less secure if you were to install a custom ROM, as you will need to leave the bootloader unlocked. Whether that is worth it for you is a different question, but I’ve been using a degoogled Xiaomi phone with an unlocked bootloader for a couple of years with no issue.

If you’re buying new, consider a pixel. Out of the box, they’re about as private and secure as iphones on the OS level (though I wouldn’t trust the goog). However, they support grapheneOS which is probably the most secure OS to exist on a smartphone, and flashing this would give you the best of both worlds. It’s incredibly easy on pixels as well compared to Xiaomi phones (though it is still fairly simple on Xiaomi). I’d stick to pixel 6 and later in 2023 to ensure a steady stream of support.

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Why XIaomi? What region of the world are you in?

I would approach this is the reverse order that you have (instead of starting with a brand you want and trying to figure out whether it is privacy invasive or not, start your search by deciding which custom ROMs you might want to use (GrapheneOS, DivestOS, or CalyxOS for example) and then work backwards, see which devices they support (Hint: Pixel phones and maybe a few others) then choose a device from that list).

If you want a simple answer. Buy a Google Pixel phone, 6th gen or newer ideally, if they are available in your region.

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Why Xiaomi?

I’m in Thailand, and also have a geo-restricted salary that comes with that :slight_smile:

Xiaomi have stores everywhere here and the prices are so tempting - nothing seems to match them in value for what you get. I’m eager to try a few ‘tweaked’ apps and emulators too.

Ideally, I would like the coming iPhone Pro but the price is just criminal from a Thai context.

Custom roms are something I would look at; what’s a good resource for info? Is there an Android-specific website that deals with jailbreaks, privacy/security etc?

In my eyes, the price is criminal in any context.

Custom roms are something I would look at; what’s a good resource for info? Is there an Android-specific website that deals with jailbreaks, privacy/security etc?

Not sure about an Android specific resource, but here is a good primer, from a reputable source:

There is also XDA forums, this is where a lot of the custom ROM development happens and community is but for the most part that community is indifferent to or downright disdainful of privacy concerns. Still, it is a great resource for custom ROMS, and you can look to see what ROMs are available for the devices you are interested in.

I think you should also consider a used phone, if there is a good used market in thailand. I am not sure what your budget is but in my country I picked up a used iphone SE (2nd gen) for ~130 USD.

Thanks for the info :+1:t2:

Yep, the SE2 is my current phone. Nice, but crappy battery-life and the screen is pretty bad too, compared to other phones.

Yeah, battery life leaves a lot to be desired. I have no complaints about the screen though.

this. I am changing my views on used electronics these days. The urge to buy used electronics (too much supply and almost good as new, consoomerism ftw?) and liberating them is too real ( changing the software to make it as stock and private as possible)

You can check FB marketplace there, it may be active or you probably have an country specific app similar to ebay/yahoo auctions.

XDA is pretty much the GOAT here, you can watch a youtube video to get a context of everthing running and then follow a written guide to the teeth. Kindly download the builds from official sources only.

just use Samsung instead

Samsung is in NO way better. No more private, A LOT more bloated, more “ecosystemed” and more expensive (just like an iPhone bruh) than an equivalent Xiaomi device, and this is the exact reason why Xero is seeking to switch to Android.

I trust Xiaomi about as much as I trust Samsung phones. If Pixels are available in your region, get one of those instead.