With Zorin my laptop is private - but now what about my phone?

I'm assuming many people switching to Zorin care about their privacy. I left Windows and only briefly considered a Mac because I want my data to stay private.

But what about phone usage? Do any of you run de-googled Android systems? I saw there's a Ubuntu phone but it looks like it's still in the development stages and not as stable and easy to use as a de-googled Android.

I'm using a four-year old iPhone that I'll probably only be able to get another year or so out of. With my laptop setup on Zorin, I'm now looking into the open source smartphone world.

I don't like changes in my environment and prefer to work in a calm environment. So when I go out, I go home as soon as I have done my business. If something malicious could know the information on my smart phone, it would not be interesting. So I don't have much motivation to think about this.

Smartphones are limited in size, making it difficult for them to tolerate many platforms as well as PCs. However, many users will want many applications to run reliably on their devices. That justifies the platform being closed. This problem will not be easy to solve.

I have been looking into this for a few months now, and the options aren't great these days.

Once upon a time, custom Android ROMs were everywhere and available for most devices. Now there seems to be only 3 viable options, each with quite a limited list of supported devices. I guess the fact that phone manufacturers these days pump out several new and updated models every year has made supporting a notable chunk of the market practically impossible for such projects.

  1. LineageOS
  2. /e/OS
  3. GrapheneOS

I've listed them in the order of how close of an experience they provide to "stock AOSP", with Graphene needing some serious reading beforehand to understand how it works before you go ahead and flash - it's very focused on privacy, which is a trade off for convenience.

On the totally-not-Android front, there's also postmarketOS, but I wouldn't recommend it as your daily driver. Admittedly, to test it I bought a secondhand Moto G4 Play which is a fairly low-end device, but the experience is not fun. I can't get mobile data to work at all, despite it apparently being supported and calls & SMS work fine, and the system of not very smooth or responsive - at least the Plasma version, I'm planning to try phosh on it soon, which might run better.

I've been using /e/OS for a couple of years with great pleasure so far.

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When I learned that the CEO of 1+ is part of a consortium to promote insect burgers I'd had enough. I bought a Fairphone 3+ from e.foundation, setup by Gaël Duval, founder of Mandrake Linux. It is an unhGoogled phone. I even managed to install /e/OS on my first 1+ 3 mobile. Fairphone smartphones are the most environmentally friendly phones using a lot of recycled materials, and you can repair the phone yourself should you need to, and unlike other smartphones you can replace the battery. I purchased the phone which came with Android 10 quite some time ago, and unlike mainstream providers of smartphones which only give marginal updates before you need to upgrade again, /e/OS recently updated to version 2.0, alongside upgrading to Android 13.

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I recently got a Fairphone 5 directly from Murena, with e/OS/ pre-installed. I couldn't be happier.

[EDIT: removed bit about Google Playstore since you're coming from iPhone]

The very few paid apps I use (Threema, Niagara Pro launcher...) work by paying the devs directly and they provide a license key, no need to give Google anything anymore.

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I think the main reason for this is market competition. There used to be a bunch of companies selling smartphones 10~15 years ago, but now there are only a handful overall. Most companies don't have an incentive to make it easy, if at all possible, to unlock the bootloader to install an OS that they cannot control.

Your privacy depends a great deal on how you use your phone. If you still send emails to Gmail accounts, search for information online through Google search, your GPS is wired to Google maps, and sign in to websites and other services using your Google account, then there's very little point in moving away from Android.
The same is true for your computer, by the way, Zorin OS by itself won't make you any more private if you still use software like Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome, or use services from companies that gather and sell your data for profit, like Discord or Reddit.

As with most things, moderation is key and if you are concerned about privacy I would recommend taking it one step at the time. No need to make drastic changes to your lifestyle overnight. Moving away from Windows and into Linux is already a great first step, so kudos to you.

Unfortunately things aren't looking so bright in that regard. Companies are focused on selling you a new device every few years, and as I mentioned above there's very little competition these days and thus no incentive to make the use of alternative OS any easier to the consumer.

My recommendation to you since you will definitely need to buy a new device, is to go for Google's Pixel. Ironic as it may seem at first, Google has put a lot of effort into making the Pixel phone secure and has a ton of security features built-in. In addition, it's the only hardware manufacturer (that I'm aware of) that guarantees updates for at least 5 years. Other components (camera, screen, battery life, etc) are also quite decent.
GrapheneOS is a security and privacy focused Android ROM that only runs on Pixel phones because all of this. You will have to install it yourself but it's your best bet if you need to buy a new phone and care about privacy. This is the best combination as far as privacy goes, and with the least amount and quality of life compromises.

Now, Pixels aren't the cheapest either. Other options do exist that are cheaper but you'd have to check if those devices are supported by LineageOS, DivestOS, CalixOS or whatever other ROM you choose. But to be perfectly honest, I see no point in not getting a Pixel even if you didn't care about privacy at all:

For one, Android is controlled by Google already anyway so you might as well get a phone that has the best integration with Google services and receives updates much sooner. Updates that you are guaranteed to receive for at least 5 years which is considerably longer than what any other companies promise.
All in all, it still has excellent components that can compete with other high-end smartphones. While Pixel's aren't the cheapest, the smartphone market is so consolidated (due to the lack of competition that I mentioned) that prices are rising anyway. This makes the Pixel a more viable and cost efficient option anyway.
And, of course, is the only device that supports the best security- and privacy-focused Android ROM that you can possibly install if you choose to do so.

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To add to the 3 Options another: Calyx OS

Yeah, I found that pretty interesting, too. When You look at these 4 greater ROM's You will see that there all in first Place support Google Pixel Phones. Then mostly the Fairphones. And then come a couple of others.

So, to get rid off Google, You should take a Google Phone. In a Way, this is pretty funny.

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Having support for something doesn't mean they are endorsing it in any way. Mind you, the purpose of LineageOS is to have the option to customize the phone however you want, and to that effect their efforts are focused in bringing support for as many devices as possible.

GrapheneOS was created specifically as a security and privacy operating system. To achieve this, they only focus on the devices that implement the necessary hardware security features that they need. Currently, that's only found on Pixel phones.

At least with Fairphone it seems they have a deal with Murena to support /e/OS as best as they can. If you brick it, you can send it in with your 5 year guarantee.

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I think that's one of the primary problems.

And I agree about taking the privacy life slowly. I've been on the path of increasing my digital privacy for several years. My last two steps have been to switch to Linux and eventually replace my phone.

Whatever de-googled OS I choose, I'm seeing that Pixels are simply the most widely supported. So, unless I go with a Fairphone, I'll probably buy a Pixel.

That's a pretty sweet deal. I'm considering /e/OS since they designed an OS that looks a little more familiar to a long-time iPhone user like me.

That's a big selling point for me. I'm a bit absentminded at times with my phone and have left it in the car for several hours on a hot day, which is a battery killer.

If you don't care so much about privacy you could run Fairphone with /e/ or some other ROM, but you should know that they have been criticized before for lagging behind in updates.

Once again, this isn't an all or nothing situation and I'm not trying to talk anyone out of it but it may be something to consider. All in all, I really like what Fairphone is doing and deserve the support so that they can produce better products. I wish they were a little more like Framework in that regard so that choosing components individually were possible. But it's true that they are expensive phones and the quality is not up there with other products on that price range.

As for taking privacy slowly, I might add it really depends on the person. If you know what you're doing and are quick to plan such things out (and have the time + headspace of course), it doesn't have to be hard.

Earlier this year, in the space of two months, I deleted my Amazon account, my Microsoft account and my Google account. The first two I managed in half a week. De-DRMing and migrating all my ebooks out of Amazon was made possible by a little application called Calibre (it's entirely legal to do this).

As for Microsoft, I bought very little in their store (my most regretful purchase being Starfield, haha), so it was much easier. Migrating email accounts is relatively easy.

It took me a little longer to get rid of Google because I needed a while to ensure I'm not leaving anything essential behind.

I'm now finally leaving Windows behind as well (happy to be here :D), the only caveat being that I still need a dual-booted Windows to reliably access all the fancy VST virtual instruments I bought over the years (Audio producers will know what I'm talking about).

(Facebook: left that over a year ago.)

Next up: Getting rid of Whatsapp, which is more tricky since some people I know refuse to use anything else.

Bottom line: Take your time, which can be long, or short, depending on your situation.

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It would be cool if Zorin OS had a phone compatible version.

So why are you rushing? As I already said, what you are trying to do is not easy. It is better to clarify its purpose and set priorities to move forward.

Whilst there has been criticism on security updates, I would have thought this would improve as the next Android iteration is deployed. Also unlike mainstream phones you don't have to root your phone to get F-Droid. For security I use 3 products, AVLibre, Hypatia which uses ClamAV engine but works in an entirely different way with tons of databases. I also use Anti Spy from ProtectStar, and Yet Another Call Blocker to block spam phone calls.

My point is that Fairphone is not a privacy-focused smartphone manufacturer. They can only do so much to keep the updates coming to their devices due to limitations in support for the components they use for their phones. Admittedly, what they do is more than what most other companies even promise, but their focus is on sustainability, not on privacy, which is the topic of the thread.

But the Pixel receives a respectable 5 years of support, making it a great contender in terms of sustainability (since you won't have to replace it quite so soon). It's also significantly cheaper, has better components and is designed with security in mind; by extension is also a great choice for privacy when running a suitable OS, even if it's not Graphene OS.

The one thing that Fairphone should get a lot more credit than it does is how well they've been able to provide long-term support for their earliest models. They did this on a best-effort basis, without support from the SoC manufacturer, and managed to reach something like 7+ years of ongoing support. This highlights the importance of open source hardware, in terms of privacy, security and sustainability.

To get the best of both worlds, you can try to get a used Pixel that is still supported. Even if it's for a year or two, you can probably get a good deal for it so you can do some good by reducing e-waste and protecting your privacy. This can also help to see how you like the device itself and whatever OS you decide to install on it; it's a win-win-win situation.

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I totally get this. I haven't done much recording in the past ten years, but I purchased nearly $1,000 in production software and VSTs, which was a lot for a young man freshly out of college.

Linux has Ardour as its free, high powered DAW. I haven't looked into it much but it might be worthwhile.

For the last few years, my studio ran on an XP machine that never got internet access because Windows was no longer supporting it. But all my software and hardware worked best with XP.

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This post by the founder of /e/OS is a well rounded response.