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GrapheneOS: Control over Operating System for Smartphones Regained

Posted on May 17, 2019

This is a short introduction to GrapheneOS, which is a security and privacy focused operating system for smartphones compatible with Android apps...

Introduction

In the 21st century, customer's choice of mobile phones has been reduced to smart phones equipped with only two operating systems. It has always been pointless to argue, which one is better in the terms of privacy and security, as only those companies that were able to monetise information gathered from their customers have survived. The rest is history. As a result, here and there, now and then, another hopeful project arises from the ashes in an attempt to refresh and disrupt the stale environment of mobile communication only to return back where it came from due to lack of resources, promotion or general interest.

Currently, the mythical "phoenix" has materialised into GrapheneOS, which is a mobile operating system built by Daniel Micay, who is the former author of CopperheadOS. GrapheneOS is an open source privacy and security focused mobile OS with Android app compatibility, which provides various security and privacy features that for some reason, are not implemented in the vanilla Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Furthermore, it uses alternatives to Google apps/services like F-Droid with better defaults and finer-grained permission control.

Those, who are interested are left with tho options:

The currently supported device list is quite short, though, and covers the Google released devices only, i.e.

Since Google issues AOSP updates approximately once a month, the aforementioned Google devices are provided with regular protection. Naturally, GrapheneOS updates come within the same period, which is a great asset when compared to other manufacturers that are releasing myriads of devices each year without a proper update schedule.


Possible Downsides

On the other hand, the security- and privacy-oriented measures come at a price. Not having access to Google apps/services prevents the devices from being tracked and stalked by some apps, but also substantially reduces the amount of usable services and mobile phone features, as a lot of popular apps are hardwired to the Google services system and they are very rarely available as open-source.

To name a few:


Conclusion

Considering all the details and the pros & cons mentioned earlier, everyone can make their own informed decision, options of which are summarised as follows:

Tags: #security #privacy #Android #GrapheneOS #CopperheadOS #AOSP

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