Like it or not, it is more or less necessary for practically everyone to have a smartphone today. Access to banking services, communication, work projects, news, entertainment often rely on a smartphone. Unfortunately, Google and Apple manage the software products that power the phones, allowing them and other businesses to track our lives. People who want to avoid tracking, however, have a choice: a Google-free (or de-Googled) Android phone. Let’s take a look at what it means to have a phone powered by eOS operating system software.
EOS software is built on the open source core code of Android operating system. All Google-related components have been removed from eOS, but since the core is Android, the apps that are available at Google Play Store or F-droid run on eOS phones as well.
Sounds simple, but e.Foundation that is behind the eOS software and the Murena phone brand has worked for a few years to make a Google-free Android phone reality. Yes, it has taken a few years from a team of professionals to make Android run without connections to Google. Now, eOS is available for download for 240 phone models, and it is also available preinstalled on a few phone models at Murena web shop.
E.Foundation believes they have managed to create a phone without any tracking – when you power on an eOS phone for the first time. There is even a tool, Advanced Privacy, that lets you view if any data is leaking out of the phone, and to prevent leaks. That’s not all. Since additional applications can be installed to the phone, many apps tend to collect user data as well. Advanced Privacy tool can stop these leaks as well. For instance, I didn’t know that Vivaldi browser that I’m using on my eOS phone has a few trackers (Advanced Privacy reported 4), but after switching blocking on, tracker data isn’t going anywhere.
If you install, for instance, Facebook and Google apps on your eOS phone, and login to any of these services, you should know what you are doing from privacy perspective. When you login to these services, they collect all user data from the phone they can. Every smartphone owner can make an informed choice what to do – it doesn’t matter which type of phone it is.
There are other products that aim at delivering a Google-free Android operating system, such as GrapheneOS, LineageOS, CalyxOS and Brax2, but eOS is the most comprehensive product package.
The key differences between a phone running on eOS and a phone with Android provided by Google
I have already mentioned some of the key differences, but here is the long list of features (from privacy-minded user’s perspective):
|Out of the box, eOS doesn’t come with software or services that track users||Google apps and services, and many preinstalled apps that come with normal Android collect user data day and night.|
|The preinstalled apps on eOS include everything needed to get started. Many of them are open source apps, not provided by Google.||Google Android phones come with Google and other apps, but you can install open source apps as well.|
|EOS comes with a tool, Advanced Privacy, that monitors data leaks and can be set to prevent tracking.||Apps are available for normal Android phones that have similar functions.|
|EOS can be set to show a fake physical location to services that ask for your location (in addition to the location on/off choice).|
|EOS can route your network traffic via e.foundation servers, hiding your true IP address.||VPN services are available for all phones, including Android phones.|
|EOS users don’t have to login to any external service to use the phone.||Normal Android phones require Google login and often, for instance, Samsung wants users to login to Samsung servers as well.|
|Downloading new apps from Google Play Store to an eOS phone can be done anonymously (without your own Google account).||Downloading apps from Google Play to normal Android phones requires Google login.|
|When searching for apps in eOS App Lounge, you can view privacy and tracking rating for each app, and evaluate if it is worth downloading.|
|EOS users who want cloud services, like email, storage space, calendar, and office applications get a free account to Murena Cloud that is run by e.Foundation without tracking or data collection.||Normal Android phones connect to Google cloud services by default.|
Is a de-Googled phone for everyone?
I have been using a phone powered by the eOS software for over a year now. Until May 2022, the operating system was beta version, but during the announcement event I downloaded the version 1.0 on my phone. The biggest changes were the App Lounge and Advanced Privacy tool. Especially the Advanced Privacy looks like a valuable addition to the eOS. I have multiple banking apps that run fine on eOS 1.0, only one of them must be updated via Aurora Store. App Lounge can update the others.
I believe eOS is a good choice for any smartphone user. It has been designed for privacy, and people who value their privacy can make use of all its features. I had removed Google from my life already earlier, so migration to other mobile apps and cloud services was easy for me.
That being said, people who couldn’t care less about their personal data being collected and traded in the advertising industry can use an eOS phone as an Android phone with any tracking app and cloud service they want.