Why Firefox is still a great browser in 2021

I see A LOT of hate for Firefox in recent years and while I do hate some things Mozilla does to Firefox and all that, the fact is, Firefox is still the most versatile browser available across all the platforms you can imagine and it’s fully open source too. And it has quite some pretty cool and unique features not found in any other browser. Lets check out few of them that I can’t live without and them being entirely absent in other browsers makes me not want to use those browsers. In fact, it just makes me confused how people prefer dumb Chrome so much when it has none of this cool stuff that makes browsing the web such pleasant experience.

Super customizable interface

Despite all the hate new Proton interface design gets, Firefox is the only browser that allows you to move actual browser elements like buttons and fields around. Granted, it used to be far more customizable in the past where you could literally move ANY browser button or element anywhere, but being able to move around bookmarks bar, search bar, as well as ANY button almost anywhere you want or even remove them entirely is pretty cool and unique. Only browser that comes anywhere close is Vivaldi, but you can’t move stuff around in real-time, you have to dig settings for all of it through main settings which is clumsy and still limited.

Just right click on empty part of tab bar on top and select “Customize Toolbar…”. You can also remove things from interface by right clicking on nearly any button or element and selecting “Remove from Toolbar”. All removed elements are stored in “Customize Toolbar…” menu from where you can just drag them back where you want them if you desire to do so.

Here are some examples of what you can do…

Better extensions

Firefox was one of the first if not actually the first browsers to offer extensions. These small addons allow you to add extra functionality to browser that doesn’t come out of the box with the browser. And from my experience of using them for many many years, Firefox still has one of the best selections of extensions. And not just that, for some reason extensions in Firefox always feel like they are more polished and done better even if they are the same extensions that are also found in Opera, Edge, Brave, Vivaldi and Chrome. They just work better and have less of dumb restrictions as well as just not being so hungry on the memory. And what I like the most, it’s up to YOU if you want them to be visible or not in toolbars and where you want to have them exactly. All other browsers have this stupid dedicated “Addons/extensions” button in the dedicated extension bar that’s always in the browser main toolbar whether you like it or not and it just hides extensions within it, if you don’t want to have their actual extension icons in the toolbar. Well, since Firefox interface is almost fully customizable, you can not only hide extension icons entirely, you can actually move them pretty much anywhere you want. Do you want some extension’s icon to be in the tab bar? You can drag it there if you want. Do you  want it on the left side next to Back/Forward, Refresh and Home buttons? Yes, you can put it there. Do you want it between Back and Forward buttons? Just drag it there! Or you can just remove it entirely from the interface and it’ll keep on working behind the scenes and not be visible to you at all. And because Mozilla is not money grabbing corporation like Google, they don’t do dumb shit like removing API’s that are required for Adblockers to work correctly and efficiently, meaning extensions often have more power to manipulate webpages than in other Chrome based browsers unless its developers specifically ignore Google’s idea of web and still allow it. Which requires extra effort and time on their side, meaning they might not always do it.

Super portable

You can grab portable version of Firefox from here. While some other browsers offer similar thing, they are for the most part super clumsy to work with and often don’t auto update which makes them really annoying to maintain. Not so much Firefox Portable. It’s super flexible and it’ll work almost in any way you can imagine or hack yourself. You can even simply extract installer files obtained from Mozilla’s FTP and drop them into portable folder if you want to use latest version, but you don’t want to wait for auto updater to pick it up which usually takes a day or two after it lands on FTP. Or convert stable version of Firefox Portable into a Nightly. And it’ll just work. It’s just cool and gives flexibility to more advanced users.

Reliable sync across all devices

My biggest issue with most other browsers is their stupid selective option to sync bookmarks, history and other stuff across devices. Chrome works for a while, but other browsers were and still are a total mess. Brave had syncing problems for months and have just fixed it recently to finally be able to sync across all devices and it’s still very glitchy and I had to rename folders and move them around after importing for it to start syncing them. Vivaldi for example doesn’t even have an iOS version yet which makes it a no go entirely. Opera, used to have fully working sync in iOS via Opera Mini and ever since they sacked it years ago, there is just nothing. On iOS, Opera Touch (now renamed to Opera Browser) only has useless MyFlow which sounds like an app to track your period and acts like a one way messenger where you send yourself snippets of things, but you can’t sync bookmarks between all devices and always have them at hand. Ridiculous and retarded beyond belief.

Very flexible bookmarks

While we all take bookmarks for granted these days, there is still an issue with how most browsers want to shove all the bookmarks in your face and only allow you to have them fully visible. All of them. Or they are super clumsy to work with bookmarks because they behave like a webpage instead of a proper list selection like in Firefox. It’s just so much easier to copy, move, delete or even mass select bookmarks because all the commands like Ctrl+A to select all bookmarks in your view works so flawlessly. Vivaldi was a nightmare to work with as it was so stubborn with insisting its own weird ways of what’s Bookmarks bar and didn’t obey what I wanted, Brave is still all buggy and allows you to Copy or Cut bookmarks using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+X, but then doesn’t allow you to paste it with Ctrl+V for some dumb reason and you need to use right click context menu instead to paste them. WTF!? Or most often than not, when you hit Ctrl+A and it just selects entire window, including menus and buttons of the bookmarks manager, not just the actual bookmark entries inside of it. I hate that so much. It’s insane how something as simple as bookmarks management is done so idiotically and super clumsy in all other browsers, but just works right in Firefox.

In addition to that, Firefox segments bookmarks into 4 separate groups for additional organizing so you always know where things are exactly and you’re not forced to use them if you don’t want to, even though they are fixed there and can’t be deleted as such. These groups are:

  • Bookmarks Toolbar
  • Bookmarks Menu
  • Other Bookmarks
  • Mobile Bookmarks

Bookmarks Toolbar is meant to keep most regularly used bookmarks right in front of you at all times. Be it as separate bookmarks or even neatly organized in subfolders if you have tons of them.

Bookmarks Menu is dedicated folder for an extra button with same name that you can find when right clicking tab bar and selecting “Customize Toolbar…” It gives access to all bookmarks, but you can also put bookmarks in it to give them a focus in this button. Especially if you disable Bookmarks bar entirely and you use Bookmarks Menu button to access the bookmarks directly. Since I don’t use this category I just use it to store bookmarks that I don’t want to come up in any other menu. For example bookmarks to my favorite extensions and all the custom keywords and search engines stored as bookmarks, that I’ll talk about more in few moments…

Other Bookmarks can be used for bookmarks that you want to have stored, but you don’t want them visible at all times. You can enable or disable Other Bookmarks button in the Bookmarks Toolbar too if you wish. I mostly use this one for unsorted stuff. Like, when you are browsing around and you just click the star button in the URL bar to quickly save a bookmark without much hassle and you’ll check it out later. You know, all the misc bookmarks that you don’t want in front of you, but you want them there. And you have them separate from the rest so there is no mistake what they are.

Mobile Bookmarks is reserved for bookmarks saved on your mobile device that is then synced across all your devices. You can freely move bookmarks in it or from it depending on where you want them. But it’s a dedicated section so you always know it was bookmarked on your mobile device which helps with organizing of bookmarks.

Custom keyword searches and syncing of keywords and search engines

Another cool feature I can’t live without are keywords and custom searches. While some other browsers have search keywords and allow adding custom searches, NONE of them allows syncing of all this. After years of use you can create tons of custom keywords and search engines for various things and it really sucks hard having to re-do them every time you reinstall browser or operating system. And you have to re-do them on all your systems. Well, Firefox doesn’t have this issue and you can not only store keywords and custom search engines within bookmarks, because you can do so, they can actually get synced across all devices. Add custom search on one system and it’ll sync to all systems within the sync you’re using. And they are super useful.

Keywords can be any word or even a single or two letters. You use DuckDuckGo, but need Google as fallback anyway? Set “g” keyword for Google search and you can type search terms directly into URL bar with keyword in the front and it’ll search that word directly in that search engine. For example “g geforce rtx 3080” and it’ll automatically search for “geforce rtx 3080” using Google Search. Assuming you set a keyword for it beforehand (some are included by default which you can see or change in Firefox Search settings). You need to use dictionary regularly because you’re not a native English speaker? Set “d” as keyword for dictionary.com and you can type “d intriguing” into URL bar and it’ll look up “intriguing” directly in dictionary.com webpage. It’s so cool you don’t even need a dedicated search field anymore in the interface.

The above is example that I made for Geizhals.eu which is one of my favorite sites to search for good prices on tech stuff in Europe. I don’t have to open webpage first via bookmark and then manually search in it. I just type keyword and what I want to search for into URL bar and it opens up the webpage and already searches for the word I was looking for. It’s insanely convenient and fast and I can’t imagine searching online without this anymore. You can do this to any search engine or webpage that has search field and it’s ridiculously fast and convenient and because it can be synced across your devices you don’t have to manually add all of this for every webpage on every system. It works even on mobile versions of Firefox as it syncs keywords and search engines there too. Example above stored the keyword bookmark into bookmark toolbar. If you don’t want it visible there just move it to Other Bookmarks folder and it’ll still sync across devices as bookmark, but won’t be in your view all the time.

It sounds super complicated and like it requires a lot of effort, but it’s actually really simple and I guarantee, you won’t be able to browse the web without it anymore.

Super customizable and tweakable

While there were changes and limitations to ways how you can modify or tweak Firefox, it’s still browser that gives you the most freedom. We already talked about interface itself in the beginning, but there is more! Either by countless official settings found in Settings menu to bunch of hidden settings and tweaks under about:config menu (just type “about:config” without quotes into the URL bar and slam ENTER). Chrome based browsers also have a similar thing under about:flags, but the stuff there is next to useless as it’s just bunch of very gimmicky settings that don’t really affect much of anything. In Firefox however, you can change some pretty dramatic things with it.

Want to enable experimental features like new rendering engines or multi-process subsystems before they are officially supported? You can do that. Do you hate how all browsers close entirely when you close the last tab? I know I fucking hate that dumb shit and only way to fix that in most Chrome based browsers is to use extensions which all behave like some half baked hack. You can adjust that too in about:config. Want to have HTTPS padlock icon in green instead of default grey? Bam, you can do that too. Not using Pocket, screen capture tool or Developer tools? You can fully disable all this too. Not using Sync feature? You can entirely disable and remove that from menus too using single setting in about:config! Possibilities are almost endless for as long as Mozilla doesn’t hardcode a feature and can’t be changed at all. And while there are some such settings, most of them allow tweaking that other browsers just don’t have.

And if about:config just feels way too overwhelming with its endless parameters that you have no clue what they even do, well, I got you covered with that too with my Firefox Tweaker tool. You can grab it here on my blog. It’s a tweaking tool that allows you to adjust curated set of tweaks and settings using relatively simple interface where you tick few checkboxes and you’re done. All accompanied with simplified names and descriptions what they do. And if you mess it up, you can always restore it back to default if you wish in few clicks.

Powerful Tracking Protection built-in

Mozilla has been aggressively pushing anti-tracking features and Firefox is loaded with them. And while they are not full on adblocking features because they still believe ads can be beneficial part of the web to keep it free, they don’t agree with tracking methods used by advertisers. Built-in anti-tracking tech is pretty powerful and they made pretty big advancements to keep users safe from trackers and not break webpages while doing that.

Performance

People still often complain how Firefox is so much slower than Chrome based browsers. But I’m not sure where people are getting these metrics from. Sure, in all pure JavaScript/WebAssembly benchmarks it’s slower, but on real webpages that are a mix of all sorts of things, I honestly cannot see any difference. Common webpages that tend to be slow are slow in both, Firefox and Brave, even though Brave scores almost 2x points in all these benchmarks. There will always be webpages that might work faster in one and slower in other and vice versa. But I’ve never encountered any huge gaps between them.

And this is experience from variety of systems. I use a really low end ASUS Transformer netbook with Atom CPU, 2GB RAM and slow eMMC storage. I also use it on decent but already somewhat aged laptop with AMD Ryzen 2500U, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. I also use it on a high end system with AMD Ryzen 5800X, 32GB RAM and 2TB SSD. It works great within expectations for given system.

Verdict

Sure, there is plenty of things to hate about Firefox that are legit criticism, but there is also a lot of really cool things that are not found in ANY other browser or it’s present in very limited way or functionality. It’s actually so bad that even though I had a point where I said I’m done with Firefox and then realized all other browsers suck way harder. Just speed means nothing if I’m forced into doing things their way instead of browser adapting to my needs and Firefox just does that way better to a point I’m willing to forgive it occasional hiccups or dumb Mozilla’s design decisions, because I can for the most part revert them or change them. And in all honesty, I’ve been using Firefox since it’s very early versions (we’re talking before 1.0 here, the 0.x betas!) and I never actually had really huge problems with it.

This isn’t sponsored post or me being a fanboy of Firefox. It’s really the opposite. I hate tons of things that Mozilla does and its stupid fanbase defends. But ultimately, at the end of the day I despise Chrome even more and I can’t wrap my head around the fact it has like 80% market share. It’s the dumbest, most locked down and useless browser I’ve seen in my life and its only highlight is integration of Google’s crap people absolutely adore for some reason and raw speed in heavy JavaScript benchmarks. But function wise it’s pure garbage that needs billion extensions to be half useful and they just turn it into a fat sloth. Despite everything, Firefox is more flexible and can be twisted and tweaked more to serve me well. It’s why I stick with it and why I even developed Firefox Tweaker for it.

So, if you’re with Chrome because you know nothing else because everyone is raving about stupid Chrome everywhere, give Firefox a try. You might be intrigued by how flexible Firefox is.

Download Firefox

Doom Eternal Part Deux Reloaded 2021

Since I’m apparently a masochist and I like to punish myself in all sorts of ways, I decided to buy Doom Eternal again. It’s been over a year since its release and since I first bought and refunded it. It’s been like 15€ on Steam recently and I picked it without the expansions because people say they are shit anyway. So here’s a second take. I thought, surely it’s something wrong with me and not the game, if so many players give it such huge praise and gave it another try…

SAME OLD THING I STILL DON’T LIKE

And I basically still hold the same opinion as in my initial rant. I don’t know what devs were thinking, but this game has so many absolutely and totally unnecessary elements like they are compensating for something. And the biggest offender is still the retarded way of getting health, armor and ammo. You’re always in a clusterfuck of battle and you keep endlessly think if you need health, armor or should I maybe restock the ammo and because you don’t really have much time to decide or your stupid chainsaw is out of gas it’s just an utter and complete annoyance that you can’t even get past or ignore. Doom 2016 had this magic where you could play it in so many different ways. Either all in crazy, you could use more tactical keep them at a distance approach, you could rely on Glory Kills to restock health or just pick health through pickups only. Same for ammo. You could use chainsaw or rely entirely on pickups like I have. In Doom Eternal, there is just NO choice at all. There is just one way of playing it and it’s you being forced to use the trio of dumb Glory Kill, flame thrower and chainsaw while jumping and dashing around like an absolute lunatic. And you’re always out of ammo. Constantly. Jesus christ. I’m sure it gets better if I put all the upgrades into ammo only, but the path to there will be this stupid annoying nonsense I just don’t want to go through. And I basically only play with shotgun in grenade launcher mode and sniper rifle. One for close combat and another for really far away. Plasma gun and machine gun just feel so pointless and I didn’t even get any other weapons yet.

And if that’s not enough, all the monkey swinging nonsense has no place in Doom game. Sorry, it just doesn’t. When double jumping and swinging wasn’t enough, they put fucking double dashing into the game. WHY?! I’m this fucking badass demon slaying motherfucker and I’m swinging around like a fucking preschool kid on a school playground. Fucking hell.

Like I said in initial rant, I never had problems with such mechanic in Tomb Raider game. It’s the core element of it to jump across platforms, do monkey swings over poles, climb and do all sorts of acrobatics. I loved it and Tomb Raider without it wouldn’t be Tomb Raider.  When has that been a core element of Doom? Or any first person shooter for that matter. Mirror’s Edge maybe, but that was parkour masterpiece, this is just a mishmash of many stuffs. It’s just so unnecessarily stupid I can’t understand why they put it in the game and I still hate it from bottom of my heart even in second try.

As I’ve been pushing myself through the game, I’ve now also discovered I have this space ship where I “upgrade” my stuff and it’s also this big fucking thing filled with “stuff” to unlock. It’s yet again just so unnecessary and overwhelmingly oversized. Maybe there will be a fight in it at one point in the game which is the feeling I have, but it’s just too big for a “home base” and filled with crap I may or may not unlock someday.

It’s just more of everything and it just feels like they were already past the point of having fuck ton of everything and they crammed even more stuff in it. It’s just bah, overwhelmingly pointless and doesn’t really add up to the feel there is so much to discover as there is “my god, I’ll need to repeatedly fiddle through all this crap” to really make full use of gadgets and guns or be forced into chore with inferior tools? Ugh.

It feels tiny bit better now that I’m playing it from beginning for the second time, but at the same time I discovered so many new unnecessary things I now again hate it.

BONUS RANT

And lastly the bonus rant, something that didn’t bother me initially, all the RTX stuff. Don’t get me wrong, ray tracing is nice and I have the power to run it. Issue is, they selectively used RTX effects, mostly on reflections and some lighting effects, but ignored the rest like shadowing and global illumination which is almost non existent in this otherwise great looking game. And then you’re at a point where reflections in windows and guns look ridiculously good, but then you look across the world and it’s this washed out scene that feels like games from around 1999 that didn’t really have proper world shading, ambient occlusion and global illumination, just objects sticking out of the scene like a sore thumb. It just feels like bare polygons with some general light applied, lacking any kind of depth and feel that light is reaching it and creating shadows or darker areas. And my god, whole game looks like someone smeared vaseline across the lens of a player. It’s just so soft and muddy looking I had to slap ReShade on it with CAS sharpening, FakeHDR to give it depth and eliminate the washed out foggy feel and also use AstrayFX GloomAO which is screenspace ambient occlusion effect that adds the missing world shading and shadowing and overall depth as well as RadiantGI to actually give the game global illumination because it feels like it has none. Now, with all this stuff, it finally looks proper. Textures are sharp and feel like you’re actually using seriously high quality textures, washed out textures are gone and all the gore actually looks like blood is right about to burst out of the tentacles and guts hanging all over the levels, lava actually feels like a scorching fluid and basic things like rocks and stairs around finally have some depth because of AO/GI. Even the main menu portal with Doomguy standing there looks so much better. I mean, just look at this…

I know it fucks up with some distant objects making them too sharp for the distance, but who gives a crap about that when stone literally gets cracks and damage that doesn’t exist in shots without ReShade. Or the banner actually getting textile texture all of a sudden. Or all the little tiny shadows on steps and stones as well as on Doomguy. Sure, I’m grateful they added RTX and DLSS later and all that, but balance things a bit for god sake. You can’t just go all out on reflections and forget your entire game outside of that looks bland and smeared with almost no details anywhere. And this is all maxed out running on RTX 3080!

I’m going to finish it since I like to punish myself and since I bought it at such discount, but this surely won’t be a game I’ll remember fondly. Not at all. Angry sheep in praetor suit, signing out.

Update NVIDIA DLSS to latest version by yourself

A lot of games these days come with NVIDIA DLSS support which is nice. However, the DLSS support at the moment is sort of “baked” into games. The DLSS logic is not provided by driver itself, it’s provided by a DLSS DLL file inside game’s folder. So, you can update it and improve performance or resolve certain artifacting. However, there’s a catch. You can only update DLSS if it’s version 2.x. If game is still using original DLSS 1.x, then you can’t update it this way. You can check this by going into game’s folder and look for file named “nvngx_dlss.dll”, right click it and select Properties. Go to “Details” tab and look at file version…

NVIDIA_DLSS_VERSIONS

On the left example from Battlefield V, you can see it’s DLSS 1.x which cannot be updated. However, the right example is from Doom Eternal which I already updated to the current latest version. As you can see from version number, it’s DLSS 2.x which can be updated by swapping the file with latest version.

You can always grab latest version from TechPowerUp and they even offer notification service via e-mail when new version is uploaded so you can always run games with latest DLSS version.

DLSS DOWNLOAD:

https://www.techpowerup.com/download/nvidia-dlss-dll/

Just download the ZIP archive and extract “nvngx_dlss.dll” file into game’s folder, replacing the file already located there. That’s all you have to do.

Don’t expect magic to happen, but I heard reports of newer version resolving certain visual issues created by DLSS itself and it’s possible that newer version might also provide higher performance. Or at least no performance degradation at better visual quality.

It’s still unknown if DLSS 3.x sometime in the future will behave the same or be updatable this way, but for DLSS 2.x based games, this is the method you can use to update DLSS.

Acceleration metrics in EV cars are the dumbest thing people brag about

Remember all the EV reviews and test drives by casuals on Youtube where literally EVERYONE constantly mention acceleration of Teslas and how stupid fast they are and whatnot and they do the same for all EV’s actually? Well, if I drank a shot of vodka every time that happens, I’d displace all water in my body with vodka…

Reason why I’m so annoyed by this otherwise entirely benign thing is because people already accelerate like half dead pensioners at traffic lights with petrol cars because accelerating normally will fuck up your fuel economy so badly. But in EV’s with already rubbish range and greater range anxiety and obsession with ecology and “fuel” economy, who gives a shit if Tesla Model XZ 23 Plaid Ludicrous can accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 1,99 seconds when people driving them will drag their stupid ass from traffic lights like they are already dead behind the wheel and only thing driving them is an auto pilot? What’s the point?

It’s just such a dumb thing to talk about when we all damn well know it’ll be used by 0.1% of drivers and serves no purpose. EV car makers should just use the Rolls Royce’s approach and call performance metrics “sufficient”. Coz if EV can drive, that’s already sufficient. It fulfills the performance metrics.

Ok, this has been my Sunday’s shower thought/rant on Tuesday, so have a nice Wednesday and don’t be a pensioner at traffic lights. Please. 🙂

Microsoft, wtf is this refresh rate idiocy?

I know this will be a petty rant, but what the fuck is this shit Microsoft?

WTF_Refresh_Rate

From decades of having nice round refresh rate entries we now have this idiocy with precision of 3 decimal places in Windows 10. Not only it looks utterly stupid, it’s also confusing to casual users and just annoying to us advanced users. Is it really so hard to write 60Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz ? Just fix this shit Microsoft. Ok, rant over.

Importance of software updates on smartphones

I’ve talked about long term software support on smartphones before, but I want to further expand on that because seeing what kind of absolutely dumb shit people say on GSMArena about quality software support on smartphones makes me believe they have absolutely no clue what it even means to the whole experience.

Comment section there is an absolute dumpsterfire on steroids where only thing they understand are hardware specs (which work solely through bigger numbers are better) and bragging what Android OS has more than iOS (bigger numbers are better again) and it makes me wonder if people are really that clueless, dumb and straight up willfully ignorant that they actively don’t want vendors to offer them better support. Every time I bring up importance of updates because they generally suck with all vendors, people bring up “muh Android has all the features 10 years ago that iPhones won’t get for 20 more years”. You dumb idiots, updates are more than just features!

There are 3 factors that define good software support and it’s not just number of features phone supports out of the box and how many it gets later via updates.

Longevity of support

Longevity essentially defines how long device receives any kind of updates as whole. From day you buy it to day it gets very last update, major or security update. And here I’m talking actual OS updates, not stuff downloaded from GooglePlay as few components that have such updating (like Android System WebView).

Updates responsiveness

While several vendors these days claim 4 years of total support, the rate at which you get updates is often still really sad. Seeing how many phone vendors are just now updating their phones to Android 11 (which was released back on 8th September 2020!), I don’t really have much faith in any of it. Getting new OS version pretty much 1 year after it was released by Google is just pathetic. 6 months should be an absolute maximum regardless of device cost. Because they tend to do even worse on cheaper devices… And we’re not talking major OS updates only. So many companies are ridiculously late with security updates too. Google releases monthly security updates and most vendors are so late they are releasing them whole month later, sometimes even longer. So you’re getting July 2021 update at the end of that month or even in August. Another issue I have with Android phones in general that falls under this category is how they always seed updates. On iPhone, when any update is out, everyone gets it this moment. If not automatically, you can manually check and update will be there, no exceptions or regional restrictions. Good luck with that on Android phones, just in general from my experience. And that’s why you always have comment sections filled with people asking and wondering why others got the update already and they still haven’t got one after many days and even weeks and they keep on manually checking for it. One of biggest annoyances with literally every single Android phone I owned which doesn’t exist on iPhones at all.

Security updates

Most people seem to think software updates are only feature updates and fixes for said features. You know, getting new functions and settings and fixes when they are broken. The thing is, we have our entire lives on our phones these days, private photos and videos, banking and finances, logins to webpages, all our bookmarks etc, surely you don’t want that ever compromised, right? It’s why I put a lot of emphasis on long term support and praise Apple for how long they actually actively support and update their devices with security updates when feature/major OS updates already stop and why I’m not a big fan of Android’s approach of letting you run really ancient OS versions that haven’t received any updates for years and everyone just run with it like it’s a great thing.

Now, granted, apps do get updates and some key system components like WebView do get updates past software support of the actual phone vendor, but those can only go so far as they can’t patch security issues in WiFi or BT modules or core OS components that are only updatable via dedicated security updates. I’m absolutely not fond of the idea relying on these “app updates” to keep me secure and hoping they in fact cover the vulnerabilities. If they were, there would be no need for monthly security updates that have to be issues by phone maker and can’t be delivered by Google itself through GooglePlay.

There is also this general misconception that “monthly security updates” on Android phones are somehow magically delivered to ALL phones by Google itself. Which is not only incorrect, it’s straight up lie. Google releases monthly security updates to vendors and then it’s up to them to actually deliver them to specific phone models used by users. If they don’t deliver security updates to actual devices, Google can release 100 security updates and users won’t get any.

Secrecy and how vendors specify support for phones

A very big annoyance is how vendors always hide software support policies into some obscure pages and documentations so 3/4 of people have no idea how long phones actually get software updates. Why is it so damn hard to openly state this next to all the rest of phone specs like display resolution, chipset type and battery size? Why not mention it right there? You really have to be super involved into mobile devices to be on top of things and know for example Samsung offers OS updates for 3 years and 1 extra year of only security updates. Which brings me to another super annoying thing, which is how vendors specify software support…

Basically all of them market it as “3 years of OS updates and 4 years of security updates”. Now, what does that tell you? To me, this sounds like you’re getting 7 years of total software support. 3 years of major OS updates and then 4 additional years of security updates after that. However, the wording actually means 4 years in total. It’s 3 years of major OS updates and of those 3 years, security updates already run in parallel, you only get extra 1 year. One may say, but that makes perfect sense? Does it? One would expect security updates to be a normal part of OS updates because getting major OS versions means that’s period of fully active software support, security updates are when you’re in grace period of support before total discontinuation of software support. If you’re releasing those, surely you’ll be also releasing security updates through that period, right? It’s how long after major OS updates you still offer security updates that’s important to me. Why not call it 3+1 ? Or 3+2? Or just 5 years of support and you know you’ll have 5 years of both for, well, 5 years and then that’s that and you’re off relying on app updates only.

Resources to see how long Android phones are actually supported

Visit page www.androidupdatetracker.com and search for brand you’re interested in. It’ll open a list of phone models from that brand. Open any of the listed models and on that page, down below you can find “X Android Update Policy” where X is brand name. Here you can see for every brand how it treats its phones as far as software support goes.

Page maintainers seem to keep good track of it, but some vendors don’t have any policy listed. so those are the unknown.

Conclusion

This post turned into a really long one yet again, but I think it’s important for people to realize software support on smartphones is also very important and we should all demand phone vendors/makers to do better and not coddle them with stupid excuses and defend their slow and lazy software support. This is not competition whether iOS is better than Android or vice versa. It’s about having great experience from software and hardware perspective and not only focus on hardware specs non stop and ignore or dismiss software side. I always mention Apple because it has exemplary support. They support phones for incredibly long time, they release updates to all users at the same time and offer security updates for very long time even after major OS updates have stopped. I want that from Android phone makers, because despite people constantly calling me all sorts of dumb names for it, I’m really not a fan of Apple as brand outside of things they do well and that I like or are important to me. And if I’ll ever want to return to Android they need to do better with software updates than pathetic support they offer currently. And that goes to nearly all phone makers in existence! You all suck at software support compared to Apple, even if Apple is sometimes late on certain specific features/functions.

Comparison of Android and iOS long term software support

I’ve noticed people always brush against Apple’s requirement for iPhones to run relatively recent iOS at all times and claim they drop support for phones too quickly based on that, not factoring in how they actually got to that point. Well, I’ll explain how that’s not actually true and how iOS updates actually work…

With Android, Google allows you to run very old Android versions. Currently you need to run at least Android 5 (Lollipop) or 6 (Marshmallow) to still be able to use most apps and it’s my experience with Android 5.1.1. that I already lost ability to even find some apps on GooglePlay with it. So it’s more Android 6 really… And Android 6 was released in 2015. Phones generally mostly received 1 update back then, more if you were really lucky which meant you were essentially stuck with that version of Android till this day in 2021. Which is roughly 7 years of being allowed to use an old version without much or any restrictions after which support starts to slowly decline. You can use it normally, you’re just stuck with old outdated version all this time.

iOS on the other hand, it uses a bit different approach. It actually requires you to run more recent versions as rather strict requirement. And people always complain with: “But you need iOS 13 today to even use most apps!” Well, iOS is not like Android where you’re basically stuck with old version of OS, but still allowed to use it. With iOS you need to stay up to date which has many security and faster API evolving benefits. But the catch here is, while yes, you are required to use at least iOS 13 today, the difference is, you can install and use iOS 13 on an iPhone 6s which was released back in 2015. Not only that, iPhone 6s is eligible to install iOS 14 too and is planned to receive iOS 15 as well in fall 2021! Notice when was iPhone 6s released? Yeah, quite long time ago…

And if you look that iOS 13 is a requirement today when iOS 15 is almost out, it means Apple gives you a 1-2 year grace period (sometimes even more for popular models) between latest iOS version and required version in which you continue to only receive security updates and no feature updates anymore. And if you sum those times it gives you same 7 years (sometimes even more) of being able to use your device pretty much without limitations. You’re required to use latest versions and you’re also actually kept up to date the entire time.

Let me visualize it in a spreadsheet for easier understanding…

iOSvsANDROID_UPDATES

Android’s state of updating was really sad back in 2015 with most vendors only handing you a single update if at all. Samsung was really the only exception to give Galaxy S6 users 3 years of major OS updates. Which is why single major update was really an average of the industry back then, but Google allows you to use that old version from 2015/2016 version till this day and will probably continue to allow with slow decline in availability of apps when using it. There is no hard date on discontinuation of support for Android 6 Marshmallow, but seeing how Google just dropped Android 2.3 Gingerbread this year, it’s safe to assume Marshmallow will be entirely dropped in 2025 after 10 years of service just like Gingerbread.

iOS on the other hand was actively being updated for iPhone users and is guaranteed to receive major OS update this fall with iOS 15. After that it’s safe to assume it’ll not receive major updates anymore if we consider trends in the past, especially since iOS 15 will be a 6th major update for iPhone 6s which is a bit of an outlier, but this is common to happen with models that are really popular. After this period iPhone 6s will continue to receive only security updates till 2024/2025 when it’ll be entirely dropped and you won’t be able to install new apps or use any Apple services. Phone will still work with apps already on it and all that, but support will effectively cease entirely.

Conclusion

As much as people rave how Apple drops support for devices too quickly, the reality is, they actually don’t. In fact they actively support devices for longer than Android phone makers and when you draw a line and sum all things together, the long term support is about the same with both. It’s just different journey to the final point where they both cease the support entirely. iOS pushes you to run newer versions and after certain period of support is over, they stop supporting you. Android on the other hand doesn’t have much of a support and sort of leaves you with an old version, but is allowed to be used for same period as iOS overall. You need to rely on GooglePlay and app updates to address security issues which has a limited scope of reach when it comes to fixing OS core level security issues that need actual full on security updates and not what GooglePlay services can deliver.

Android’s updating of major OS versions and security updates has gotten better with 2 years being an industry average now with big players like Samsung following lead with 3 major OS updates and additional 1 year of security updates and then same yellow path of no updates, but still being functional. We’ll see how things will change for Android with Google planning to offer 5 years of full major OS and security updates starting with their new Pixel 6 phones. It would be nice if it pushed other phone makers to do better than 2-3 years of major OS updates.

But for now, this is the conclusion under existing observed conditions. Both, Android and iOS have very similar long term support with slightly different experience through this period. And if we’re honest, 7 years is a very respectable period for Android or iOS devices, especially given their “gadgetry” nature which means they are really old, slow and generally outdated devices at this point and people only stick with them because they either don’t have finances to buy new one or they really only use them for basic things for which they are still fine.

New VAT rules not that bad in EU after all

With 1st July 2021, EU declared there will be no exemptions on items under certain value like we had till this date. From now on, if you buy something for 1€ or 5000€, you’ll have VAT applied to it. Given I had experience with customs before, the times looked pretty grim for ordering anything outside EU, especially on the cheap from AliExpress as it would add massive extra costs. If stuff is stopped in customs, you get annoying delays, they slapped VAT on top of original price and their extra fees were absurd. Last time I imported stuff and went through customs, their “manipulation fee” was like 8€ or some shit. And I think it’s a fixed fee and not item value based, so if you ordered something for 2€ you’d pay 10€ because of their sticky fingers.

Well, it looks like it’s not that grim after all, at least for AliExpress in particular. AliExpress now charges VAT during purchase already for EU customers which is slight annoyance, but whatever. This is purely based on costs of the item and per my country, the VAT is at 22%. Which is not that terrible addition when buying certain cheaper gadgetry or spare parts for stuff. I was looking for some 3rd party spare parts for my robot vacuum and I got bunch of filters and side brushes for 22€. I paid a bit over 4€ of VAT for it. Given I’d get a single filter and single pair of side brushes for this price for official genuine parts, it was still well worth it. And since VAT was already paid, this means I should be exempt in the customs. They’ll see the VAT was paid and the package should go through without extra costs or delays. At least that was my experience from before anyways, if I paid VAT at purchase time already. And since they know AliExpress automatically charges VAT now, I shouldn’t even be required to provide receipt from purchase, assuming sellers properly equip packages with required documentation. We’ll see in 1 month time when stuff should arrive…

Plastic back on Samsung flagship phones is an asshole design

I’ve talked with people about this and expressed my annoyance with this decision and was met with pretty aggressive resistance which shocked me.

Anywhere I said plastic back has no place on such expensive phone (be aware, Galaxy S21, the vanilla model went for 850€!). I can understand why Galaxy A52 has a plastic back at 300€ price point, but I certainly don’t on Galaxy S21. And what shocked me even more is how furiously people defend the plastic backs on Galaxy S21 with dumbest arguments possible.

99% of the time the argument was “but muh phone drops shattering glass”. How often do you people throw phones around on the ground to shatter them? 55 times a day? 103 times a day? How butterfingered are you people!? To this date, owning many smartphones, I’ve not shattered a single phone. Not one. You know what they had in common tho? Scratches. Scratches everywhere. And worn plastic. And it all happened from just using phone rather carefully. Putting it in pockets (without keys!) and leaving it on tables. I don’t know about the youngsters today, but we had plastic smartphones in the beginning and plastic gets really nasty really quickly. When top paint layer of fancy colorful rainbow mirror effect wears off on edges and gets scratches all over it exposing solid white or whatever plastic underneath it looks horrid. Especially since all these painted models use some sort of lacquer which starts chipping off it’s just awful and nasty. And it always wears out faster on edges.

Glass on the other hand, at worst during normal use it’ll have bunch of micro scratches which, if you prefer white glass like I do, they aren’t even visible. The material is superior for normal use where you’re not tumbling phone on concrete ground. It’ll never wear out or lose coloration no matter how rough your desks are and how rough your jeans pockets are. And best part that people just straight out refuse to grasp, if you worry about glass, then stick it into a fucking silicone case. But instead, people argue plastic back on expensive phone can be protected by putting more plastic like wrap or silicone case on it. WHY for fucks sake!? If phone is glass you at least have an option to stick plastic on it or use it naked. If it’s already plastic, it’s just more of plastic. Makes no fucking sense. And glass just feels totally different and so much better in hand compared to anything plastic.

And thanks to this idiotic defending and embracing of plastic on Galaxy S21 flagship, Samsung already announced they are going to put plastic back on Galaxy S22+ too next time. Before, S21 was plastic and S21+ and S21 Ultra had glass. Now it’s two with plastic already. What’s next, Galaxy S23 Ultra coming with plastic back thanks to you all? Fucking hell.

People whine how Apple is being cheap on things and here Samsung blatantly puts plastic on their flagship device with obvious sole purpose of increasing margins and everyone is like “shut up and take my money”. Meanwhile people are bitching over iPhones potentially having titanium sides some time in the future and how wasteful this is and yadiyadida, whole frigging pages upon pages of whining on forums about it. It’s like I don’t understand people anymore or they just all got dumb as fuck over night. Companies are literally trying how far they can go with cheapening out and everyone not just lets them, they actively embrace it. !?!?!?

If you can’t have glass back on a smartphone because you’re so god damn clumsy, maybe you should look at CAT phones or you know, use a case and leave the rest of us who prefer premium materials and amazing feel in hand to actually have such phones. We can still put a case on it if shatter resistance is needed, but isn’t requirement to protect it from normal wear.