Okay what?

According to the GrapheneOS website. It's a "privacy and security focused mobile OS with Android app compatibility developed as a non-profit open source project." Basically it's a system that enhances the privacy and security of Android.

As my previous device was a Samsung S5 (2014) running Android 9 LOS when it's supposed to run Android 5 TouchWiz. Of course results wouldn't be good. Thus a new phone was needed.

Selecting The Phone

You think I'd use a Samsung S5 for Graphene?

Graphene only runs on Google Pixel's. meaning if I pull out my phone in public, I seem like some tech nerd that's spent too much time watching MKBHD videos.

The main reason why Graphene only runs on Pixels is due to it's stability and it's easily unlockable bootloader. i.e. you can load any system you want on it easy.

And I wasn't bothered to spend so much money on a flagship like the Pixel 4 because if I mess up during the boot sequence, the phone's toast. So decided to go with the Pixel 3a XL because it has a headphone jack and all the cool stuff of having a big screen, but I do hate notches though.

The problem was that I searched far and wide around Kowloon and the only Pixels that shops had were the Pixel 4 (that was too expensive) or Pixel 3 and if I were to get the Pixel 3a I'd have to pay extra for these hole in the wall shops for shipping the phones in as they aren't locally sold.

So I got a Pixel 3, 64GB in Black.

Bad decision? Not really... I mean I sacrifice the headphone jack for a jacked up processor.

Installing Graphene

Spent like 4 hours trying to follow Techlore's guide in Windows and didn't work. Did it in Linux and got it running within minutes.

Used this guide, go watch.

The Experience (Updated in 2021)

In General

The main selling point of this system is the lack there of Google Play Services or anything Google for that matter. Meaning that some apps may not work especially notifications. You'll have to resort to thrid party app stores such as F-Droid and Aurora Store to get your phone up and running. It is what I asked for but may not be for everyone.

Everything works smoothly and there's a complete remove of Google including their own version of WebView so as to ensure, yes. Google is really gone.

The battery life at first on this device was great and charging speeds are super-quick. However, just like 90% of the Android phones out there... The battery drains quickly even on idle.

Downsides

The Layout

The UI is stock Android. It's very plain and I suggest people loading a launcher like Lawnchair and Frost icons from F-Droid

Some apps will not work

As mentioned earlier, due to the lack of Google Play Services. Things such as applications that rely on Google, most notifications, some Google apps and battery management will not work. This could have affects such as me missing Snapchat calls from friends or quick battery drops.

Headphone issues

This may be a Pixel 3 problem only, but the headphone jack's dongle does not work when the phone is locked. This however could be a security feature though.

The Camera

The camera quality does decrease due to the lack of Google AI support. The stock Graphene camera app doesn't even give you much options. Then, OpenCamera gives you a critical camera error half the time. This could be fixed by reloading the app once or twice? Pretty annoying if you ask me. But the camera error is common and also effects other apps too.

This could also be a OpenCamera issue itself? But taking pictures on there takes longer and it must focus before being able to take pictures. This is not seen with Snapchat however.

The Benefits

Knowing your phone is safe and private

As much as I have nothing to hide. I don't like the idea of any corporation snooping through my data and see me as another cashcow in ways. But knowing the fact that my phone is safe, secure and private makes me happier in a sense.

Social Media

When I used a normal phone, often there was the odd Facebook and Instagram preinstalled. Then the phone app stores suggest you to download this stuff. Now as much as I do use social media to primarily keep in touch with people and only use it for that purpose only. The side-effect of social media that causes people to scroll down their feeds endlessly is gone for me. It's helped increase productivity and have generally helped mentally.

Vanadium

This is the perfect Android private browser you could ever use. No Mozilla telemetry such as in GNUIceCat and Tor but also just for general usage. It's built on Chromium which is frankly the type of browser for mobile devices. It also gives you lots of customization options regarding privacy. Good app and it's well built. 10/10

Dark mde and other customization features

After Android 12, Google has added a "Styles and Customization" to Android in which allows the user to pick the colour scheme, modes, wallpapers etc... It gives people more control on the phone's look. This is also added into Graphene.

A conclusion

I've been using this for a year, it's certainly been a while. But it's done fine as a daily driver and has only failed at one occasion where the Pixel 3 Beta Update caused the phone to die. But generally been stable the whole time

In all honesty, GrapheneOS isn't bad if you know what you're doing. It's a breath of fresh air from the deeply connected society we live in. A relaxing way to use your phone where there isn't a cloud service or social feature being added left right and center. It's perfect.