Google Pixel 5a + CalyxOS
It’s been a few years since I have mostly moved away from the Apple eco-system and pretty much exclusively used Linux for my day-to-day. However, I was never able to really find a replacement for my iPhone. Part of it was probably because of the fact that I have been an iPhone user since iPhone 3G so there’s a comfort zone aspect that keeps driving me back to buying the latest iPhones. On the other hand, while using Android has its perks for Linux users (ie. compatibility, etc), the perks were never enough to move me especially given that in terms of privacy, it’s pretty much unchanged or potentially worse as moving to Android is just effectively shifting the vector from Apple to Google unless you are willing to do some heavy custom tweaks. Additionally, using GrapheneOS and some of the other de-googled privacy focused OS’s pretty much crippled me from using the apps needed to get on with my day-to-day life which in the end was always a deal breaker. The fact of the matter is, I just didn’t need a FBI grade locked down device but rather a mobile device that allowed enough end-user control on what I wanted to or was willing to share in exchange for technology driven convenience out of the box.
That is why I was pretty excited when I discovered CalyxOS; a mobile operating system built on top of the Android Open Source Project by a non-profit organization (NPO) founded “to educate the public about privacy in digital communications and to develop tools that anyone can use to build privacy by design into their internet access”. The founder of this NPO is also quite an interesting character who perhaps is best known for being “the first person to have a National Security Letter gag order completely lifted” while he was running an internet service provider in 2004.
What makes CalyxOS exciting is that it’s the only privacy focused mobile operating system I know that doesn’t require you to give up a massive amount of convenience and mainstream technology in exchange for security and privacy. In fact, because of not having so much bloatware as most of the mainstream Android OS’s do, it actually makes your phone feel snappier; effectively making you feel like it’s an upgrade rather than a hindrance.