Review. The German Volla Phone 22 is private by default. Why aren’t everybody in the public sector – and I in private companies with industry secrets – equipped with that?
I have a love-hate relationship to my iPhone. It is a great little computer, but a horrible telephone. I keep losing the connection as if it cannot find the right network to jump onto. It works from the summer house, it works very badly whenever I sit in the car and from my apartment in an old thick-walled building in the very center of Copenhagen. Further, bot Apple and most apps harvest personal data from me – unless I make a huge effort to cut off the data harvesting, for example, I regularly have to go to the settings and turn off location, access to camera, microphone, contacts, etc. Although Apple does better on privacy than the other big phone software maker Google with Android, it is not private by default. Yes, data is stored on the device, and Apple says it will only use our data anonymised, if the users allow it. But it is what Apple is saying, not proving by e.g. independent audits.
Therefore, I said yes to trying out an alternative to iPhone and Android. Namely the German Volla phone. It is called Volla Phone 22, it is 4G and holds two sim cards and an extra memory card. It has a very long battery life (minimum two days). And it is a really good phone where the people I speak to can hear me clearly without constant shutdowns. But it is the operating system that is interesting. ‘Get your freedom back’ is the slogan on Volla’s website.
And this is what it is about: It is a big tech-free zone and, most importantly, it is private by default. A really good phone for people working in the public sector or in the private sector, where they are afraid that their secrets will be leaked through the spies in our pockets. This phone makes a huge difference, as you can start using it without having to worry if it spies on you. It doesn’t. By default. There are no apps pre-installed that harvest data and you don’t have to make the usual precautions with the settings and use a VPN to hide your location.
It is based on a free open-source Android without Google apps, and you can choose to use two operating systems on the Volla.
Further, there are two app stores. There’s Aurora for the anonymous installation of apps with tracker hints. And the F-Droid for alternative open-source apps. You can set up your own menu and only have the app you prefer and use most. You only have what you really need, and you are anonymous. What more to ask for?
You can, of course, choose to download data harvesting apps like SnapChat or Facebook and then, of course, you will be tracked when logging on them.
Despite the wonders of Volla, I will not skip my iPhone. I will keep both. I am dependent on Apple’s platform as all my stuff from my iPad, iMac, iBook, and iPhone are synched, so I have access to it all via one of the gadgets. Convenience? Yes. But also because I bother to spend time setting up my iPhone to the most private possible and keep the worst apps away.
As the Danish tech journalist Anders Kjærulf writes i Prosabladet, the Volla Phone is not perfect as of yet. “But if we are enough uses who dare going the Volla way, it will happen. Volla Phone is a tool I use, not a surveillance platform using me.”
And for all public and private companies who want to give their employees a well-functioning phone which is private by default and thus matches the spirit of GDPR – there is finally a very good choice.
It is Linux Nordic which sells the Volla Phones.