Graphene OS Is Better Than Googled Android, A Plan To Make Privacy More Accessible
I’ve been an Android user all of my life. When I started learning more about technology and how large tech systems work, I start to wonder about the privacy and security of those systems. My privacy journey is a long and bumpy road; however, Graphene OS has been like a smooth highway for the past couple of months. This is my experience with Graphene OS as a daily user.
My first Android phone was Samsung Galaxy Ace, and quickly I got so used to it, so it became boring. I started tinkering with software, and I first rooted it just a few months after I bought it. It was my first experience playing with the software of the device I owned. It took me on an exciting path, from exploring Linux distributions and Android ROMs to coding and designing. I wanted to customize every piece of technology I owned. With finding open-source alternatives, I’ve also learned about privacy and security; it’s when my privacy journey started.
I’m grateful that I could experience what I did. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that experience. Privacy and using alternative open-source software is a big part of my life. All of the experience and knowledge I’ve acquired has helped me make more steps in the right direction. This is also true when it comes to installing and using Graphene OS.
Graphene OS As A Daily Driver
I’ve been using Graphene OS daily for a couple of months now. Here’s everything I’ve learned so far. I believe that privacy and security should be built-in by design. The user experience shouldn’t be impacted by the developers choice to build systems with privacy and security. Not every piece of alternative software is on the same level as the “original”, but Graphene OS is, in my opinion, better than the Googled Android.
When I first heard about the project, I was reading Permanent Record by Edward Snowden back in 2019. After finishing the book, I’ve checked Snowden’s Twitter and saw his software and hardware recommendations. Yes, his mobile OS of choice is Graphene OS, but back then I didn’t want to “sacrifice” everything Google was offering me, because I didn’t know what the currency of the payment was, my data.
Graphene OS has been my daily driver for months, and I have no complaints. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could live without all the notifications or Google Camera, but I soon realized that almost all of the problems I encounter could be fixed. Now again, this all comes down to personal preference and how much are you willing to “give up”. I installed MicroCore, anonymized, and open-source Google Play Service provider so I could use Google Camera. I eventually ended up installing a modded version of Google Pixel camera, to give just a bit of space between Google and me. It works great, and the pictures are fantastic. Notifications work for the apps that I need the most, Signal. So the notification problem for me wasn’t that big of a deal after all since I consider other notifications as spam.
The coolest features of Graphene OS are “under the hood”, and that’s the best part of it. While you can enjoy your degoogled Android, Graphene OS developer, Daniel Micay, made sure that the OS is more secure and private than the pre-installed OS.
So here’s my setup and what I use daily. I use Lawnchair, an open-sourced Android launcher that allows me to customize almost everything about my home screen. I love having only the most essential apps on the home screen and icons from Vukashin, a designer of CandyCons Unwrapped, the icon pack you can see in the setup. As my Google Play Store alternative, I use the Aurora Store, which is just fantastic. I currently use Bromite as my main browser. There’s nothing much to say about my setup.
The only problem that I find is availability. You can flash Graphene OS on Pixel Phones by Google, what an irony. But Pixel’s hardware isn’t that bad, including the Titan security chip. At first, I also found the default keyboard a bit boring, but I got used to it soon. Now it’s probably one of my favorite smartphone keyboards I used, just clean and not bloated with useless features.
I got so used to Graphene OS, that I don’t care about its drawbacks. I don’t have doubts about my decision, and I can easily live my life with Graphene OS as my daily driver. Is Graphene OS for everyone? No, with every privacy and security-minded software, you have to choose between privacy and usability. You have to ask yourself whether using Graphene OS would be a gain or a burden for you. For me, it’s an apparent gain, but for some, it might not be.
I hope to see more projects like Graphene OS, where privacy is a part of the design. I think people who are building private and open-source project should consider making their tools, apps, operating system more accessible. I understand that building software is hard enough. Still, Graphene OS proves my point, that privacy and security by design is possible and in this case, even better than the “original” software base.
Privacy and mindfulness when it comes to technology, is a journey. There are no winners; you can always be doing more. It’s good to be aware of the alternatives even if you’re not ready to switch. I see how someone might not like Graphene OS because of the lack of Google, while others might use Graphene OS just for that reason alone. It’s all about perspective, and I hope you grasp my perspective on my smartphone use.
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