An Overview of the Various Systems Available for Privacy-Focused Phones

Privacy oriented OS

 

If you've got a new phone or tablet built around security, you might already be thinking about some of these things: encryption, anonymity, biometrics, etc. There are also a bunch of other options for keeping your information secure. Which ones should you look into?

The mobile device ecosystem has evolved rapidly over the last decade, and consumers now expect their devices to deliver both features and security at every level, from hardware to software. These expectations include maintaining high levels of confidentiality and anonymity.

You might be wondering where to get a private smartphone that won't sell my data to Google or other companies. Many vendors selling devices offer some level of protection against hacking and malicious software. However, if you're looking for the ultimate protection and privacy, I suggest you get a De-Googled Phone.

As mobile usage increases, so too does the demand for greater data security. Smartphones can now perform tasks requiring a dedicated computer and high-end hardware. As such, they become integral parts of our daily life, and we share so much with that device. Unfortunately, that data is not always safe and can be sold or used to show us personalized ads and more.

To learn more about the types of phones that offer this kind of privacy, continue reading the article below. We will talk about the best-operating systems for De-Googled phones, such as the Lineage OS, Graphene OS, and Calyx OS.

Lineage OS Overview

Lineage OS overview

LineageOS is an open-source project started by a community working on improving their privacy and not letting others steal personal data. It's based on Android 9 Pie (9.0), but it still supports some older versions of Android. LineageOS aims to provide users with a custom ROM experience without compromising the user experience.

This operating system can work for both smartphones and tablets. It is derived from CyanogenMod. Cyanogen Inc. discontinued its CM support in mid-2016, but the community continued modifying and developing the OS, thus resulting in LineageOS. Over the next few months, the number of users grew rapidly from under 100,000 to over 1.6 million.

When we talk about commercial data harvesting, we usually refer to the creation of income for companies that produce the hardware or software we use. However, if we look at this from a different perspective, we could say that the operating system is free of charge for us, so why not use it?

The short answer is that it causes more harm, and it can be way more dangerous than what is made to believe. That's why operating systems like Lineage OS exist to combat this data harvesting and to offer freedom and anonymity. [1]

It comes with many useful features like:

  • Boot Manager
  • Root/Administrator Access
  • Digital Analogue World Equivalence
  • Root Access
  • PIN Scramble
  • Privacy Guard
  • Protected Apps
  • Anonymity
  • and more.

If you want to learn more about Lineage OS and get a De-Googled Phone that uses the operating system, click this link

Graphene OS Overview

Graphene OS overview

GrapheneOS is another open source project that offers a lot of benefits when compared to other operating systems. This is because it provides a full-featured version of Android, which means that it works well on all devices.

It was created by the team behind the popular XDA forum. They are also responsible for bringing the first-ever Linux kernel to the Nexus 5X. The goal of this project is to make sure that everyone has access to a secure phone that doesn’t compromise their privacy.

This operating system focuses on substance rather than brand name recognition and marketing. It takes a different approach from most security software by focusing on real-world security instead of marketing gimmicks.

It's an extremely technical project attempting to build privacy and security into an operating system rather than include various unhelpful features or bundle proprietary app choices.

Graphene OS is based on Android 8 Oreo (8.0). It includes a wide range of applications and services that help protect your privacy. [2] Some of these include:

Privacy Guard - A feature that allows you to hide apps from search results.

App Lock - This allows you to lock specific apps so that only you have access to them.

Data Saver - Automatically reduces background app activity to save battery power.

AdGuard - Blocks unwanted advertisements and malware.

VPN - Provides a safe connection between your device and the internet.

VPN Gate - Protects your IP address while using public Wi-Fi networks. 

Secure Search - Searches through encrypted content instead of sending information to Google servers.

If you want to learn more about Graphene OS and get a De-Googled Phone that uses the operating system, click this link.

Calyx OS Overview

Calyx OS overview

Calyx OS is one of the newest projects in the world of mobile security. It was developed by the same people who brought you the Calyx OS Rootkit Removal Tool. They wanted to create something that would give users complete control over their devices without sacrificing functionality.

Their main focus is to provide a fully functional version of Android that does not require root privileges. This allows users to install any application they wish without worrying about whether or not it will work properly.

The developers of this operating system believe that anyone must use a phone with privacy in mind and keep personal data safe. Their goal is to bring back the days when you could customize your phone with whatever apps you want.

Calyx OS is built around the idea that if you can't trust your phone's manufacturer, then you shouldn't trust anything else either. [3]

They offer many useful features such as:

  • It provides a clean interface that makes it easy to navigate.
  • Secure Networking with the Datura Firewall.
  • Tethered Network devices can use VPN or the TOR browser.
  • Free VPNs from The Calyx Institute and Riseup.
  • Cloudflare DNS is available as a Private DNS Provider.
  • microG replaces Google Play Services functionality.
  • Uses the Mozilla Location Services. 
  • Nominatim is the default geocoding Service.
  •  Verified Boot to ensure the OS is not Modified.
  • Sensitive Numbers Privacy.
  • Directly Encrypted Calls using Signal App.
  • K-9 Email Client.
  • Bromite Browser or TOR.
  • F-Droid offers free and open-source apps. 
  • Scramble Lock Pin 

If you want to learn more about Calyx OS and get a De-Googled Phone that uses the operating system, click this link.

Closing Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed learning about some of the best privacy-focused operating systems and the different ways to keep your personal data private. I found this topic very interesting because I always look for new ways to improve my privacy. If you know of other great options, please let me know in the comments below!

References: 1 - https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/LineageOS

 2 - https://grapheneos.org/features

3 - https://calyxos.org/features/
September 07, 2022 — Gabriele Limonta

Why Phone Privacy is a Must Nowadays

 

Privacy phone

Privacy has always been important, even before smartphones. The recent revelations show that we shouldn't take our privacy for granted anymore - especially now that everyone is connected 24/7.

With the increasing popularity of smartphones and mobile apps, it seems important to have some control over our data. To help you put your mind at ease, there are some phones with operating systems that make you as private as you can possibly be in this day and age. 

De-Googled phones are the future for people that don't want to share all their data online! 

There are two main reasons why phone privacy matters now more than ever. First, smart devices collect large amounts of sensitive data, and sharing them across platforms raises security concerns. Second, even though we have options to delete or disable cookies, location tracking, or other services, most of us don't read those terms and conditions carefully enough.

Continue reading the rest of the article to learn more about why you should be more concerned with Phone Privacy nowadays. 

Why Phone Privacy is Important

Importance of a privacy phone

Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

Smartphones are everywhere these days. They're used by millions of people every single day. Smartphone users generate an enormous amount of personal information. This includes everything from GPS coordinates, call logs, text messages, photos, videos, emails, browsing history, social media posts, and much more.

The problem is that companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and others know how to access this data. And they use it to target ads, track user behavior, and sell products.

The fact that smartphone owners often don't realize what's happening behind the scenes makes it easy for these companies to gather detailed profiles of individual users. These profiles include:

  • Geolocation Data
  • Social Network Activity
  • Web Searches
  • Emails Sent and Received
  • Photos Taken
  • Videos Watched
  • Apps Installed
  • Etc.

In addition, many companies also keep records of where you've been using your phone. For example, if you visit a website that uses geofencing technology, your device will send back its current location so that the site knows exactly where you are.

This means that when you go out, you may not only receive targeted ads but you could also get tracked by law enforcement agencies. If you're worried about being spied on, you might want to consider switching to one of the following phones.

De-Googled Phones

Degoogled phones

De-Googled Phones Privacy by Choice

If you're looking for a phone that doesn't store any of your data, then you need to check out the De-Googled Phones. A de-googled phone is a mobile device that was originally designed to work on Android OS but has been modified to run other operating systems like Lineage OS or GrapheneOS.

These operating systems are not only open-source but also completely transparent - meaning anyone can see what code is used within them, allowing the entire community to check if something is legitimate before installing it.

The benefit of running these operating systems rather than the default ones from Google, Samsung, or even Xiaomi is that your data is safe. We believe that your phone should be private, and these custom operating systems exist to get as close to that as possible. 

There are several different models available, including:

If you're a tablet person or simply want to have your tablet also De-Googled, then we got you covered. We currently have the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite running the Lineage Operating System. This is the first De-Googled Tablet that you're going to find on the market. 

These phones come preloaded with an operating system that blocks third-party applications from accessing your personal information and much more. In addition, they don't allow companies to track your movements through their built-in sensors.

What Data can Google Get from Your Phone?

Google collects all kinds of data from your phone. Here are some examples:

Location History

Your location history includes the places you visited and when you were there. It also shows the duration of each trip and the distance between locations. On top of that, if they really want, they can also track your live location if your GPS is turned on. This is all done without anyone’s consent.

How can you still accept that it happens by knowing all of this? Is this the price of using these services and devices?

Device Information

Your device information includes things such as the model number, serial number, and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. This is terrifying when it combines with knowing the serial numbers of each electronic device on your home network.

They can create large webs of interactivity tracking your activity from device to device. Even though they'll never admit to doing such a thing, they have all the necessary tools to do it. 

Browser History

Every time you visit a website, Google records the URL of the page you visited. They use this information to target advertisements at you based on where you've been browsing. On top of that, they use this information also to influence you.

There was a debate a while ago where people were saying that Ads are used to influence your decisions. Think about it. This is one of the most outrageous things anyone can do, let alone a company. The worst part about this is that it's not only one company doing it; now, there are a few. [1]

Camera Usage

When you take photos or videos using your camera, Google saves the images in its own cloud storage service called Photos. You can access this content directly from your computer, smartphone, or tablet. That's if you left it on the default setting, but you can easily change it so that it doesn't store your photos on the cloud. 

You can delete individual photos or albums by selecting them from the list. However, Google will keep any metadata associated with the image, including the date and time it was taken, who took it, and other details.

This means that Google has full control over your pictures and videos. They can save copies of them for later reference or share them with others if they really want. Once again, I'm not saying this is the standard, and they do it for everyone, but it's in their hands to do such a thing.

Voice Search

If you search for something using voice commands, Google stores the audio recording of what you said. This way, they can analyze your speech patterns and improve their services. That's a good thing since it helps improve the technology behind it; however, if you have that option enabled, Google will always be listening. 

If you don't believe us, this was a huge thing a while back, and many creators and people tried it themselves. The test was simple; you just needed to talk in English about a specific topic, such as cats, for example, and have your phone nearby. Then when you go to Google Search and click on the search bar, the first thing that will get suggested to you is a cat item or article relating to them. [2]

The Bottom Line

As you can see, Google collects a lot of data from you, and even more than that, they're able to collect it without your knowledge. It's up to you whether you want to give it away or not. If you choose to give it away, then you should know that you're giving it away to someone else for their profit.

However, if you've decided that enough is enough, then I highly suggest you get back the much-needed privacy in your life. To do that, De-Googled phones help; they don't track your Geo-Location Data, they don't work with Google, and they don't collect any sort of information on your phone, offering you the best privacy you can get in this day and age.   

 References: 1 - https://bizfluent.com/about-7414742-advertising-influence-people-.html

 2 - https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/stop-google-android-listening/

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 22, 2022 — Gabriele Limonta

A word on network compatibility of our Degoogled phones - North American carriers

UPDATE OF 21 JUNE 2022: this post has received a lot of feedback, thank you all!

We're moving this content to the Resources section and we aim at keeping it updated as we add new models.

_______________________

We get asked time and again whether a specific phone brand or model we sell on this website works with a specific network.

This sort of question seems to be more relevant mostly for the North American market - by comparison European and Australian markets seem to be way less restrictive.

We here provide some statistics that we have collected throughout the past year about what works and what doesn't. Hopefully you'll find this helpful - it was certainly helpful to us:

USA telcos:

Mint mobile Visible Verizon T-mobile
Galaxy S10 (SM-G973F/DS) YES NO NO YES
Pixel 6 (US) YES YES YES YES
Pixel 6 (JAP) YES NO NO YES
Pixel 6pro (U) YES YES YES YES
Pixel 6pro (J) YES NO NO YES
Oneplus 9 YES NO to be tested YES
Pixel 4a YES YES YES YES

 

Canadian telcos:

  Freedom Mobile Bell Rogers
Galaxy S10 (SM-G973F/DS) YES to be tested to be tested
Pixel 6 (US) NO to be tested to be tested
Pixel 6 (JAP) YES to be tested to be tested
Pixel 6pro (U) NO to be tested to be tested
Pixel 6pro (J) NO to be tested to be tested
Oneplus 9 YES to be tested to be tested
Pixel 4a YES to be tested to be tested

 

Disclaimer: the information above is provided as is for information only; it's an empirical observation and useful as such.

If there is a specific carrier which is now shown above that you would like to test before you make the purchase please drop us a note at info@de-googled.com, or use the Contact form available on the website.

Cheers,

Team degoogled.com

May 27, 2022 — Darrow Worrad
Here's a good read about first impressions on a Degoogled phone (Graphene)

Here's a good read about first impressions on a Degoogled phone (Graphene)

Just a quick post today to share a review we've received from Kevin, who recently acquired a Pixel 4a with Graphene OS and started his degoogling process.

You can read Kevin's article here.

Many thanks, Kevin.

May 17, 2022 — Darrow Worrad
How to set-up your new phone de-googled with CalyX OS

How to set-up your new phone de-googled with CalyX OS

We previously published a blog post on how to set-up a brand new Graphene OS phone; with this post we share how to initiate a Calyx OS phone instead.

Hope this helps!

January 21, 2022 — Gabriele Limonta
Graphene OS set up Guide

How to set-up your Graphene OS phone when you receive it

We have received quite a number of requests on how to properly set-up Graphene OS once the De-googled phone is received.

Indeed setting up the phone may look like a bit daunting at first, and that is due to the fact that stock GrapheneOS (ie: what you get once you finish the initial setup) comes by default only with Vanadium and a couple of other apps preinstalled.

No worries, it's actually easier than it looks like and there's plenty of good guides out there to help you install F-droid first, Aurora Store second, and then all of the other apps you need.

We suggest following this guide, which is quite accurate and complete.

Hope this helps!

January 04, 2022 — Gabriele Limonta
The most private way to purchase privacy phones

The most private way to purchase privacy phones

We have received questions asking us to explain what, in our opinion, is the most private way to purchase phones on our website.

Here below is our take on the matter:

 

Part 1 – Acquire sound money. 

Credit cards are convenient, but they’re definitely a privacy nightmare. You’re disclosing your purchases not only to the credit card company (eg: Visa, MC, etc), but to the partner bank too (unless your card is a card which is not co-branded).

Using cash would be a better proposition, but it’s confined to the physical realm, and clearly we are a web shop.

To solve the issue, you can use Monero (XMR) or Bitcoin (BTC) to pay for your phones here, and either of them is a better option from a privacy point of view. 

Acquire XMR or BTC - refer to getmonero.org or buybitcoinworldwide.com to get an idea on various methods of acquiring them – and move it to a wallet you control

 

Part 2 – Get a burner sim card. 

It should be pretty easy to find one at places like supermarkets, convenience stores, newsagents, and other places. Activate the sim card – you will need to give us a phone number so that the logistics company knows how to deliver the goods to you.

 

Part 3 – Use an address which is not your home address to get the goods. 

There is no need to disclose and use an address you reside habitually. The only requirement is that you have enough access to the address you tell us so that you can retrieve your goods.

For instance, think about using your office address, your accountant / lawyer address. If you know that you’re going to move place where you live, use the address you’ll be leaving before you leave…

And that is it… if you followed the parts above, your privacy is well protected and you can go ahead and secure your private phone, in a private way.

August 23, 2021 — Degoogled Team
Make sure that the phone we sent you has the correct Graphene OS version.

Make sure that the phone we sent you has the correct Graphene OS version.

You can use the Auditor APP that comes with Graphene OS to make sure that the OS version we installed on your phone is the original one without any modifications (Please note that unfortunately the Auditor APP no longer supports CalyxOS). 

For more information about the APP, please follow this link https://attestation.app/about. In short the Auditor APP 

"uses hardware-based security features to validate the identity of a device along with authenticity and integrity of the operating system. It will verify that the device is running the stock operating system with the bootloader locked and that no tampering with the operating system has occurred."

Use the APP already installed on your phone (or redownload it from Aurora store or any other APP store of your preference) and follow the steps indicated.

We made a very small tutorial in the video below. The phone on the left is our Google Pixel 4A with Graphene OS installed. The phone used as Auditor in the video is a Huawei.

 

 

Any device with Android 8.0 or later can run the Auditor app and use it to verify other devices. However, only devices launched with Android 8.0 or later have the necessary hardware support for being verified. Each device model also needs to be explicitly integrated into the app. The following devices are currently supported by the most recent stable release:

  • BlackBerry Key2 (BBF100-1 and BBF100-6 models)
  • BQ Aquaris X2 Pro
  • Google Pixel 2
  • Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Google Pixel 3
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
  • Google Pixel 3a
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • Google Pixel 4
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
  • Google Pixel 4a
  • Google Pixel 4a (5G)
  • Google Pixel 5
  • Huawei Honor 7A Pro (AUM-L29 model)
  • Honor 9 Lite (LLD-L31 model)
  • Huawei Honor 10 (COL-L29 model)
  • Huawei Honor View 10 (BKL-L04 and BKL-L09 models)
  • Huawei Mate 10 (ALP-L29 model)
  • Huawei Mate 20 lite (SNE-LX1 model)
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro (LYA-L29 model)
  • Huawei P smart 2019 (POT-LX3 model)
  • Huawei P20 (EML-L09 model)
  • Huawei P20 Pro (CLT-L29 model)
  • Huawei Y7 2019 (DUB-LX3 model)
  • Huawei Y9 2019 (JKM-LX3 model)
  • HTC EXODUS 1
  • HTC U12+
  • LG Stylo 5 (LM-Q720 model)
  • LG Q Stylo 4 (LG-Q710AL model)
  • Motorola moto g⁷
  • Motorola One Vision
  • Nokia 3.1
  • Nokia 6.1
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
  • Nokia 7.1
  • Nokia 7 Plus
  • OnePlus 6 (A6003 model)
  • OnePlus 6T (A6013 model)
  • OnePlus 7 Pro (GM1913 model)
  • Oppo R15 Pro (CPH1831 model)
  • Oppo A7 (CPH1903 model)
  • Oppo A5s (CPH1909 model)
  • Realme C2 (RMX1941 model)
  • Samsung Galaxy A70 (SM-A705FN model)
  • Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 3 (SM-J337AZ model)
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 Core (SM-J260A, SM-J260F and SM-J260T1 models)
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 2018 (SM-J337A and SM-J337T models)
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (SM-J737T1 model)
  • Samsung Galaxy M20 (SM-M205F model)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (SM-N960F and SM-N960U models)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (SM-N970F and SM-N970U models)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ (SM-N975U model)
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 (SM-G960F, SM-G960U, SM-G960U1, SM-G960W and SM-G9600 models)
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (SM-G965F, SM-G965U, SM-G965U1 and SM-G965W models)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10e (SM-G970F model)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+ (SM-G975F model)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (SM-T510 model)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 (SM-T835 model)
  • Sony Xperia XA2 (H3113, H3123 and H4113 models)
  • Sony Xperia XZ1 / XZ1 Compact (G8341 and G8342 models)
  • Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact (G8441 model)
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 (H8216 model)
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (H8314 and H8324 models)
  • T-Mobile REVVL 2
  • Vivo 1807
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite
  • Xiaomi Mi 9
  • Xiaomi POCOPHONE F1

 

 

June 06, 2021 — Degoogled Team
Privacy and massaging apps.

Privacy and massaging apps.

Reclaiming your privacy starts with selecting the right Operating System, and that’s what we want to help you do on this website.

That’s only the first step, however; the next steps in remaining private depend largely on what app you run on your phone. 

For example, you are allowed to use WhatsApp on Graphene or Calyx OS, and WhatsApp will always try and use the data you’re willingly share with them like this.

So what can you do?

If it’s feasible, consider moving your network to better platforms that respect your privacy better and that do not tie up their services to your identity. Consider moving to Matrix / Element, Threema or Blabber. All of these instant messengers do not require personal details and they do not even require a phone number to work.

However, we understand that it’s difficult to move away from an instant messaging platform into another one; these platforms owe their success to their network effect. In simple terms, an instant messaging app is useful only if also the people you talk to are using the same platform.

Even if you decide not to move away from the platform you are using now, please consider creating a different account and using different (virtual) phone numbers to associate yourself with.

Apps like Vyke allow you to buy virtual phone numbers (also in geographical location other than the one you reside) that you control via their app. You can use these numbers to get apps like WhatsApp or Signal going, and you’ll make it more difficult for snooping parties to know what you do.
 

May 31, 2021 — Degoogled Team
iPhones give you the choice to opt out of cross app tracking.

iPhones give you the choice to opt out of cross app tracking.

So you’re lurking on this website, undecided whether to take the plunge and opt out of the system and into more private tech. Sure, take your time, we understand it takes time to get mentally committed.

However, while you think, are you using an Apple iPhone currently?

If so, please update to iOS version 14.5 now! In iOS 14.5, which started to roll out on the 11th of May, there are new privacy features that may make you feel happier. The new feature is called App Tracking Transparency. Many apps don’t just track your movements inside the app, but they track your movements outside of the app — in other words, where you go after you’ve left the app. This software update will give you the option to opt out of tracking by apps when you use your phone.

No more advertisements from companies like Facebook, Google or big tech (well, perhaps other than… Apple…), isn’t that a breath of fresh air?


Here is how you do it: 

  • Go to your iPhone’s settings and select Privacy > Tracking.

  • Beneath “Allow Apps to Request to Track,” you’ll now see a list of specific apps that have asked for that permission. You can permit or revoke that permission for each specific app.

May 22, 2021 — Degoogled Team