Revisiting LineageOS (custom ROMs) on Republic Wireless


#1

So, as of November 2018 Google has end-of-lifed Android updates for my device.

Although my device is a few years old, it’s still better than lots of new devices being sold today. It’s a shame to lose security updates and new features for this phone. In the interests of staying current, I switched to a custom ROM (LineageOS), which has daily builds available off of the Android Open Source Project. It was going well until I installed the Republic app and discovered that it actively aborts setup, complaining that I need to update to the latest version of Android.

This technically is the latest version of Android, it’s a later version than the end-of-lifed official Android. It’s just not called Android.

This has been discussed previously, LineageOS and Republic Wireless but I’d like to +1 complaining about it, because this still sucks.

I understand Republic may not want to add the peculiarities and idiosyncrancies of every custom ROM on the market to their tech support team’s knowledge base. I fully expect to be told to pound sand if LineageOS doesn’t work on Republic due to some configuration problem, but to have the Republic app bomb out setup because it detected that I’m not running the official Android is a whole 'nother matter. Why do this? What’s the harm?

My Republic using family has three of these phones. Having to either live with Android circa 2018 forever or throw them away to continue to use Republic is pretty lame.

Could Republic reconsider this decision? It looks like Google’s Project Fi allows their customers to run custom ROMs so it’s a little peculiar that Republic forbids their customers from doing the same.


#2

What is your source of information for this statement?
Fi only allows certain devices with their stock OEM roms.
Recently, “Fi Compatible devices” that have very limited features and “Designed for Fi” devices that support all the Fi service features. FI has as a compatibility checker on their website.


#3

Ex XDA dev and moderator here…

There is nothing for RW to reconsider. Custom roms are impossible for RW to support or even test for support due to the huge majority of differences and customizations that both the rom developer and user can add or remove. RW’s service is very unique with their “Adaptive Coverage” and has certain dependencies. I have been told that RW also requires some sort of backend contact and collaboration with the OEM for support for future updates the OEM may push out so as not to break things. This is impossible with independent ROM makers. (who are often devs in other countries who build roms for many devices and sub models.


#4

I’m not sure this is true, but even if it is it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Fi on any device other than their primary fi supported devices, its simply T-Mobile service. It is literally nothing more than that. There’s no wi-fi magic. There’s no network switching. There is nothing extra. So to use a phone on Fi, that isn’t one of the Fi supported phones, is simply to be activating on T-Mobile. Yes you get the fi billing rates, and their international roaming agreements, but quite literally the underlying service is T-Mobile, with T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling, with T-Mobile everything else. The recent news of FIs expansion, was really little more than a PR stunt. One could always take a Fi SIM and plop it in any phone that supported T-Mobile frequencies, and it would work exactly as it does today, with overpriced T-Mobile service.


#5

I’ve seen several reports from Fi users running LineageOS (and other ROMs) confirming that it works with full features.

Are external links confirming Fi functionality with custom ROMs acceptable here? I don’t intend for this to be an advertisement for Fi, I’d really rather Republic wouldn’t forbid my use case and it doesn’t make sense to me (and others) that they won’t.


#6

No, it isn’t OK to link to competitors for service. That being said, I believe you. Still not apples-to-apples. Google’s service does not perform anywhere near the VoIP gymnastics that Republic’s services do. A call on your Google Fi phone is a call on the underlying carrier, period. There’s no blending of networks.


#7

I humbly suggest you are mistaken about Fi. Based on public information as well as user reports, which I won’t link to but you can likely find yourself through a few minutes of searching, the comparison is much more apples-to-apples than you claim. For now we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Again, I’m not here to advertise Fi, but rather understand why Republic decided to have the app deliberately bomb out during setup if it detects that I’m running a custom ROM when there are reports from happy Fi customers running custom ROMs will full features.

Being forced to obsolete three phones (or run unpatched official Android forever) over what looks like an unenlightened decision by Republic’s engineering team to forbid custom ROMs is pretty lame.

Even if we forget about Fi for the sake of argument, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable for asking why this seemingly valid use case is rejected.


#8

Hi @michael_b,

I think @louisdi capably answered that question.

Our service is quite different from Fi’s and we must approve every OS for compatibility with our app.

Thank you for your feedback and conviction, though. I won’t use words like “never” or “impossible” in reply to such a request, because our developers and product team do listen to these requests and look for possibilities that might allow us to break down these barriers one day.

For the sake of continuing the conversation, while we ask that you not link to our competitors, it is fine to link to third-party content on the topic. For example, if you’ve seen the confirmation you’re referencing on Android Police or Reddit, it’s fine to point to the posts.


#9

Thank you for the response.

Not quite. I think you’re both conflating what supported device means, which is confusing the issue.

There is the claim that Fi doesn’t support carrier flipping unless you run a “supported device”. Which means you’re using a device that has hardware that can support this

That is entirely different from the claim that on Fi your supported device stops being a supported device if you wipe official Android and flash a custom ROM.

I contend that the second claim is false. That on Fi supported device is only a hardware concern, and if someone were to take a phone that they’ve been using on Republic to Fi, and flash a custom ROM, on Fi there will be no loss of functionality, whereas if you stay on Republic the app aborts setup and you can’t use Republic’s service at all.

I’m asking why the difference?


#10

I haven’t been clear. I’m fully aware that there are varying levels of success using custom roms with Fi and still getting Network switching. I believe this is because Google has built much of the network switching intelligence directly into core pieces of Android including the core pieces that have been adopted by the AOSP that the custom roms are built on.

Two reasons. One, see my answer to the first question above. Two, it is still not apples to apples. Switching networks is a matter of reading multiple carrier data stored on the SIM, and much of the magic is actually in the SIM. There is no blending of these networks, sending packets over both Wi-Fi data and cellular data at the same time for quality purposes, or any of the other unique things that Republic does. The FI magic, is just simply switching networks not during an active call, but between calls, and when the cellular connection is inactive. Republic does a lot of active cellular switching including moving calls between Wi-Fi and cellular seamlessly, and not relying on VoLTE to do so. Yes they’re both things that happen on phones, but they’re very different things and not apples to apples comparison from a technology perspective, and therefore there is a difference.


#11

Thank you for clarifying, louisdi. That’s interesting information but still tangential.

Even if we accept your claim for the sake of argument that isn’t a compelling, non-loserly reason to have the Republic app reject my device because it’s running a custom ROM.

Talking about Fi is a distraction. The underlying question is and always has been why is Republic rejecting my seemingly valid use case?

Given that the only engagement I’ve received on this is from a community Expert with no access to company information who is left to conjecture, and a PR response from Republic that provided no information and misdirected the conversation, let me read between the lines.

In my experience companies attempt to minimize user fronted control (a custom ROM provides far more access to device information and more customizability) because they’re embarrassed about their backend technology and their security model. Perhaps they have fears of opening up an attack vector. Sometimes it’s overly puffed up concern about leaking “proprietary” data that actually has no value to anyone else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it happens to be blowing up my use case. Being forced to go pound sand because of internal lameness leaves me with a not favorable impression of Republic.

Given that there’s no statement from engineering about this and probably won’t be, I’ll assume I’m close the mark; giving me a straight answer would expose internal Republic lameness, so the most I can expect from hereon out is another PR response with a token amount of useless information and then ghosting.

Regardless, this is still a lame customer experience, actually even lamer than it first was. For completeness, I also had a mini version of this argument with support and they told me there’s nothing they could do and that I should register my displeasure here.

Anyway!

I’m now inspired to actually try Fi even if it’s not as sophisticated, as per louisdi’s assertion (I remain skeptical that it’s not a complete apple for apple replacement). Stand by for updates :joy:


#12

No need. I’ve tried Fi as I believe has @louisdi. I’m not overly concerned about which service is more sophisticated, I simply look at which service better meets my needs. For my use case, I’d be paying more for Fi than I do with Republic.

If Fi’s multi-cellular network switching, international calling and roaming and/or the ability to use a custom ROM were sufficiently important to me, I’d consider paying for them. They’re not, so I don’t.


#13

People here in the past have complained about this exact issue (see the thread I linked in OP), and presumably others will in the future, along with people who just try and give up without saying anything, so I feel a small duty to evaluate a solution and report back how it works for this use case, despite your sweeping assertion on their behalf that this isn’t needed, Ambassador.


#14

I don’t believe I made any such sweeping assertion nor was doing so my intent. I merely pointed out I and no doubt others here have also tried Fi (I’m always curious).

And, yes, others have raised the issue of wanting to use custom ROMs with Republic. I would have no personal objection to Republic choosing to look the other way on that, however, the reality is Republic has made a decision to whitelist specific Android builds (those provided by the manufacturer on supported North American factory unlocked phones) only. This doesn’t exclude merely custom ROMs such as LineageOS, it also excludes manufacturer supplied flavors of Android for carrier branded and international variants as well. Republic maintains this is necessary. One accepts that and uses the service as intended or one doesn’t.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with asking Republic to reconsider that position but, for now, it is what it is.


#15

Republic can’t possibly test the bazillions of custom OS builds available across all its supported hardware. While a phone may appear to work perfectly to the user, it may not be utilizing the Republic infrastructure as it should. When this happens, it costs Republic money. Because of this they have chosen to mitigate the risk by prohibiting use on non-manufacturer OS releases.

If you go to the Verizon community and post about not being able to activate a CDMA phone sold by Sprint, does Verizon management jump on and provide an explanation? Likely, you’ll get absolutely no response at all. Republic is a business. It owes its customers no more than the service the customers have purchased. It certainly doesn’t have to justify its policies to anyone.

In my family we have 4 phones on Cricket, one on Republic and one on Fi. I’m quite aware of how they work as my daily driver is on Fi (an LG G7).

Custom OSes remain an edge use case, no matter your assertion. Those that even know what an unlocked bootloader is are the smallest fraction of a fraction of users and those from there that actually run Lineage or Remix or Resurrection or whatever are an even smaller fraction. No cell phone company spends resources trying to address this community. None.


#16

You can debate this all day…won’t change the end result or answer.
Republic does not support Custom roms on their service at this time. Period.
As far as if RW’s plans or intentions in the future, that is not known unless they release such information. SouthPaw, an employee of RW, has clearly posted the most “official” statement you will get regarding you topic.

If your requirement is that you must use a custom ROM, then you are free to use a cell provider that supports it and thus, Republic is not for you.

RW is geared towards the average consumer and it is a safe assumption that the vast majority of these consumers have no idea what a custom ROM is or even have the knowledge, let alone desire to try and modify their phones.
You certainly have a valid point in that one can flash a custom rom to an older phone and possible breath new life into it, but the average consumer just buys a new phone every couple years, or when theirs breaks or is no longer usable.

As far a Fi goes…, I have tried them. (Incoming mini-rant) Terrible experience. Their customer service is an F–. They were completely useless in trying to help resolve a technical issue caused by them with my service when I first tried them out a few months ago. In the last couple weeks, Fi Customer Service does not exist at all. They have shut off their on-line chat option, when you try to call in, they state they are not talking calls now, and emails take 2-3 weeks to get a automated response back that is “we are too busy to help you…”. Fi Forums are full of mad customers who can’t contact anyone or get any help.

Fi used to be good( so I have been told) and my preferred carrier to switch to if i ever left RW.
I was going to switch to Fi when I got my Pixel 3 on Black Friday…however I found that impossible since i could not get in contact with Fi at all and they refuse to honor the promotion of account credit for buying the phone once i finally was able to contact them.
After all of that…no way.

The Customer Service here at RW far exceeds anyone else, in my experience.
And that is very hard to give up.


#17

Hi @michael_b,

Actually, our Experts and Ambassadors are provided a great deal of company information.

I’m not in PR. If my answer wasn’t helpful to you, please just let me know what additional information you need. I’m not certain why this has to feel quite so much like an argument when it seems a conversation is what’s needed. I’m not into ghosting. I may not always to be available on your schedule and if I need to find the answers to your questions, it may take me longer to reply. Many of our staff who would have the kinds of answers you want are on vacation now. Given a little patience I might be able to answer your question. The answer isn’t going to change the fact that the phones can’t be activated on a custom ROM, though.

That would be a bad assumption. Our engineers do not monitor Community and spend their days replying here, or they would have no time left for their engineering.

Support’s role is to solve issues related to our phones, and our service. Your use case is not an issue to be solved by a support agent.

There’s been a lot discussed here, and you led the conversation with a comparison to Fi, replied to me with three paragraphs about Fi, then later said that talking about Fi is a distraction. So I’m a bit confused. Please give me, without assuming I’m going to PR you, ghost you, or do anything other than answer you, the questions you’d like answered that don’t involve Fi.


#18

I’m a little late to the party, but I thought I’d throw my two cents in.

I’ve been running LineageOS 14 (Android 7) for a long time on a Nexus 6 with Republic Wireless. I didn’t experience a single problem. Wifi calling, voice mail, Anywhere app, etc., all worked fine.

Yesterday I finally decided to reset my phone and update to the latest version of LineageOS, version 15 (Android 8). Same phone, same sim card, etc. Everything went great until I tried to activate the phone using the Republic app. No matter what I’ve tried it insists that I need to update Android. My guess is that the RW app is checking what version I’m on, and flips out because it’s not a version that the phone originally had support for from the manufacture.

I completely understand and don’t expect RW to support “custom” ROMs in anyway, but why limit the activation to only certain versions, regardless of whether they work or not? Now I basically have three bad choices due to an artificial limit:

  1. Get a new phone (total waste of money, resources, etc.) and run into the same issue a year or two from now since ALL Android makers are terrible with updates.

  2. Go back to the previous version of LineageOS, which defeats a lot of the reason to use it. I don’t root, or do anything weird with Lineage, I use it because unlike the stock ROMs, my phone actually gets security updates.

  3. Leave RW after over 5 years for a regular carrier.

I like RW, and I’ve stuck through a lot of stuff to use their services because it’s budget friendly, cutting edge, etc., but this feels like the opposite now. My phone is being artificially limited be a simple version check that may or may not actually mean the phone will work. Security is a big deal to me, and using older hardware with Lineage allows me to have the latest security updates while not being wasteful and needlessly spending money on a new phone.

I honestly don’t expect anything to come of this, and I understand where RW is coming from (I’m a software developer who deals with this type of stuff as well). I just wanted to throw it out there that it would be nice if the check was removed so people like me could at least try it. RW has always been very community driven, so why not give the community a shot?


#19

That is just not true.

The Google Pixel phones gets monthly security updates straight from Google the moment it is released, (which is often before any custom rom devs can take the time to update their own roms.) Pixels get Security updates for 3 yrs, major OS updates for 2yrs. RW supports Pixel phones as BYOP. This is the “stock” device to have if your main concern is keeping up to date.

Nokia, also gets updates just as fast as Google phones, several users ahve told me, my co-woker included. Nokia uses Stock Android. Sadly, RW does not support these phones…as of yet. (really hope they do sometime in the future).

Moto phones get frequent updates. More so and more often than Samsung and LG phones do, from what I have seen. Republic supports many Moto Phones.

You are a brave soul, to be using an “unsupported OS” with Republic for so long.

So…then…why are you wanting to update then?

Spending money is not wasteful, if it is for newer hardware that supports newer software.
Older hardware is also going to have security vulnerabilities than can not and will never be patched.
I guess it is all just relative, on how much monetary value one puts into “Security” .

Edit: It is also worth nothing, that the average user has no real active forethought into device updates or Security patches. Infact, the typical user would just be annoyed and tap the Update Notification to just go way…putting it off until much later, or never actually installing it until it forces it self upon them (like Windows updates…lol). They just “want it to work”.


#20

I’ve provided the answer to your question in my response a few answers up: