Choosing your first de-googled phone

September 16, 2021

So, you’ve decided to get a phone that doesn’t automatically send your usage and location data to Apple or Google several times per hour. Great choice. If you don’t know where to start, I hope to make it easy for you to choose a phone that balances privacy with usability.

Let’s cut to the chase, you essentially have three options.

Calyx OS

Calyx OS is the best option in terms of balancing privacy and security. You will still be able to download most Android apps, and the Calyx operating system includes privacy tools that are easy to use, as well as more advanced privacy and security features.

To get started with Calyx OS, you need a device that is supported. The Calyx Institute (a non-profit, you can view their reporting here) maintains the operating system and keeps a list of compatible devices and instructions.

If you’re looking for the most cost-effective solution, go with the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL. If you’re comfortable spending a little more money and want more up-to-date hardware, go with a Pixel 5, the latest phone with an available version of Calyx OS.

Note: the device needs to be factory/ carrier unlocked.

Full device list for Calyx OS and installation instructions can be found here.

Lineage OS

Lineage OS is also a good option. Lineage does not come with any special privacy or security features, but the Google tracking is absent. Google being the primary concern anyhow, this accomplishes the task just fine.

The advantage of Lineage OS is that their list of compatible devices is much greater in size. Many more phones work with Lineage OS than Calyx. If your current phone is compatible with Lineage, you might as well start there.

List of devices compatible with Lineage OS can be found here. Installation instructions can be found on the page for each device.

Graphene OS

Graphene OS is considered more secure, but less user friendly. Fewer Android apps will work with Graphene OS.

Graphene is geared towards heightened levels of security and privacy, which in reality only count if you know how to use them, and how to conduct yourself as part of a greater strategy. I tend to think if you need Graphene, you already know it.

I’m mentioning Graphene here because you might hear about it around the web, but I don’t recommend this operating system for most people. If you want to give it a go, check them out here.

The Bigger Picture

You’re probably not going to stop using common apps. Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, banking apps, the app for your energy company, etc have become an integral part of our lives. This is why I chose to put forth options that balance privacy with your ability to use them.

The advantage in using a de-googled is that you will be leaking as little data on yourself as possible, and this is worthwhile.

Is this going to enable you completely disappear from the data gobber’s map? No. Is using a de-googled phone a complete and comprehensive privacy solution on its own? No. So long as you’re interacting on the internet or telephone network, you are leaving some trace that might end up tied to you. That’s just the way those systems work.

However, choosing a de-googled phone is a huge step forward and solves many privacy related problems. Make a good move in the right direction.

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