I’ve been using CalyxOS for about a month on a Pixel 4a and I love it.

It feels so liberating to use a mobile FOSS OS without all the privacy intruding Google spyware.

Apps

While transitioning to CalyxOS I realized I was using many apps that I didn’t really need. This was the perfect time get rid of them. The less apps you have on your phone the better.

The apps that I ended up still using work well on CalyxOS. Some require microG because many of them are dependent on Google Services, but microG is entirely optional and CalyxOS can be used without it.

A common argument that I hear against de-Googled mobile OS-es is that Google Maps doesn’t work well. I’ve experienced this with GrapheneOS myself, but on CalyxOS it seems to work ok. Everytime I use it I’m greeted with a notification saying Maps won't run unless you update Google Play services yet I ignore it and continue using the app as I normally would. Google Maps is the only Google app I still use and I’m waiting on the day I don’t have to use it again, but it’s just so good that I haven’t found a decent replacement for it yet. Sigh…

One app that I find particularly helpful is Datura Firewall which blocks other apps from having a network connection. This comes in handy when you want to block network access to privacy invasing apps while not in use. Looking at you Google Maps.

When installing apps I first try to see if I can install the .apk directly. If you do this make sure you’re not downloading malware. Always validate that the .apk comes from a trusted source before installing it.

My second option is to use F-Droid which is a great FOSS repo for Android apps.

I use Aurora Store as a last resort, although I try to use it as little as possible. Aurora is a FOSS alternative to the Google Play store and you can find most Android apps there. One tip with Aurora is that sometimes the app you’re searching for might not show up in the search results. If this happens to you, try searching for the Google Play app link in a search engine (ex. DuckDuckGo) and open the link with Aurora.

Notifications

Notifications also work well. Haven’t had any problems with notification heavy apps like Protonmail, Tutanota, Signal etc.

I did experience some problems while on GrapheneOS, some app notifications weren’t working or they were arriving late, although I’ve heard they work a lot better now.

Battery life

It’s way, way better than stock Android. I can use the phone for 2 days, while before I was using it for one day.

Who would’ve thought that by not hitting the Google APIs with all of your data all the time can have such a significant impact on battery life.

CalyxOS vs. GrapheneOS

I find CalyxOS to be more user friendly and the experience has been pretty smooth so far. I think GrapheneOS is an excellent privacy focused OS and the privacy aficionados should give it a try, although my experience with it hasn’t been as smooth as with CalyxOS.

Personally I see GrapheneOS being installed on a phone that is used for sensitive information that you mostly keep at home, and CalyxOS as your daily driver. I know that Daniel Micay, the lead developer of GrapheneOS, is continuously working on improving it. One cool feature he added is the Sandboxed Play services which should provide a better overall experience.

Conclusion

I recommend CalyxOS.

If you’re a privacy enthusiast go and check it out. I also recommend this article from Seth. Try out GrapheneOS too if you want to go hard core on privacy.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to stock Android after experiencing CalyxOS.

And damn it feels good to not have Big Brother breathing down your neck all the time.