Can you ‘deGoogle’ a phone? Murena tried — and added a kill switch

My ancient Samsung Galaxy is ready for retirement. Cracks expand across the screen, photos are hazy blurs, and the battery barely survives a day. It’s time to buy a replacement.

The initial contenders for my cash were the usual mix: Androids and iPhones with old names, incremental upgrades, and eye-watering price tags. While mulling over the options, a serendipitous email arrived in my inbox. A budding phonemaker called Murena was building a new handset with a bullish promise: “the ultimate pro-privacy smartphone.” 

To substantiate the slogan, the company flaunted two compelling features: a physical “kill switch” to disconnect the device and an anti-tracking operating system. Consider me intrigued. 

The announcement of the phone — named the Murena 2 — was timely. Just hours later, a news story provided an inadvertent advertisement for the product.

Several US government agencies had been illegally using location data taken from mobile apps. In one case, an official had tracked coworkers for personal reasons.

Such scandals have become commonplace.

Photo of the Murena 2 on green wooden boards