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Daily Authority: 🤔 Google or GrapheneOS?
🙂 Good morning, and welcome to the Daily Authority. It’s been more than a week since I’ve been at the Daily wheel, thanks to some local public holidays. It’s great to be back! I’ll be with you once again on Friday, but for now, let’s get stuck into our main story.
A date with GrapheneOS
There aren’t too many smartphones made with privacy first in mind. Sure, you can opt for Apple products each time, but you’ll sacrifice the things that make Android great, from its customization options to its variety. But there may be a middle ground. My colleague Calvin Wankhede grabbed his Google Pixel 6 and installed GrapheneOS. Here’s what he discovered.
What is GrapheneOS, and how does it work?
- GrapheneOS offers a private and secure Android experience that doesn’t lock down your device’s features.
- In short, it doesn’t get rid of Google apps and services but instead isolates them.
- This goes against the usual Android mentality, where Google apps are given special treatment.
- Google apps and services are privileged apps baked into the system, but on GrapheneOS, Google’s suite is optional.
- Interestingly, GrapheneOS lets users install the Google Play Store and Play Services as normal user apps, which forces them to adhere to Android’s tougher stance on non-privileged apps.
- “In effect, GrapheneOS allows you to reap the convenience and benefits of having Google services on your Android device without compromising your privacy,” according to Calvin.
What else does it offer?
- GrapheneOS includes additional positives beyond enhanced privacy.
- It has a nifty storage permissions system dubbed Storage Scopes.
- Like Android 13’s photo picker, Storage Scopes fools apps into believing it has access to all storage permissions. However, it can only create files.
- It’s worth noting that this works for all non-media files, not just media.
- “In fact, Storage Scopes seems like a better version and, in my usage, works extremely well for keeping less trustworthy apps from peering into my storage,” Calvin discovered.
- Another great feature is per-app network access which allows you to tweak internet permissions when you install an app.
- Multiple user profiles are more effective for further isolating apps, allowing them to run in the background in a second profile.
- Other pros like sensor permission toggles, automatic reboots, and scrambled PIN inputs are three additional security features on GrapheneOS.
Why you should think twice about installing it
- We should say that installing GrapheneOS is pretty easy, thanks to detailed online documentation.
- However, a few things must be noted before jumping headfirst into the alternative OS.
- For one, it only works on newer Pixel smartphones. You must look elsewhere if you’re stuck with a Samsung or OnePlus device.
- There’s an additional restriction: GrapheneOS only supports devices that receive Android security updates, limiting users to the Pixel 4 line or newer.
- If you’ve checked these two boxes, ask yourself how important NFC payments are.
- GrapheneOS doesn’t pass several SafetyNet checks, which means payments via Google Pay and some third-party apps will “never work.”
- Finally, app compatibility is limited due to the isolation model GrapheneOS uses.
- This isn’t a big deal breaker, but apps like Android Auto don’t work with GrapheneOS.
GrapheneOS is an exciting take on what Android could be if security and privacy are at the forefront of its development. Calvin notes that it makes for a good daily driver smartphone OS despite its few flaws. “Throughout my time using it, I never felt inconvenienced,” he concludes.
Have you given GrapheneOS a try? Would you consider using it? Be sure to vote in our latest Google vs GrapheneOS reader poll.
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Have a great week,
Andy Walker, Editor