Google’s conglomerate of apps and services are incredibly useful and appear to be free, but it actually comes at a price. Google and other billionaire companies have grown their empires through user data that they use to serve personalized and often intrusive ads that are paid for by the highest bidder.
While a scholar once said that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, things are a little different for Android thanks to its open source nature. Avid developers can remove the parts of the operating system that could potentially be used for tracking and replace them with free and open source alternatives. Nonprofits and companies like the / e / Foundation and iodéOS have taken up this battle to help you remove your phone from Google. We’ve already taken a closer look at the former and given some tips for other solutions, so let’s dive into iodéOS next.
|Smooth and easy setup||When you first take an iodéOS phone out of the box, things aren’t much more complicated than they are with any other phone.|
|Access to a wide variety of apps||Thanks to the pre-installed Aurora Store (a modified version of the Play Store) you have access to all the apps you need. F-Droid is also on board.|
|Integrated tracker blocking||iodéOS prevents curious apps and websites from accessing your private data.|
THAT’S NOT SO GOOD
|No Aurora Store warning||Because the Aurora Store is violating Google’s Terms of Service, you may be penalized for signing in with your personal Google account. There should be a big bold warning about this in iodéOS.|
|Camera app||As with most custom ROMs, if you don’t want to dig into the necessary hacks, you’ll have to sacrifice camera quality.|
|Limited banking functions||Mobile payments and some security-oriented applications like banking apps don’t work.|
|Limited device support||Currently, only a handful of mostly older phones are officially supported.|
For this hands-on I was given a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S9 + with iodéOS pre-installed, a product that you can buy yourself from iodé (if you live in Europe). For pre-configured units like this, setup couldn’t be easier and is pretty much on par, if not better, of the standard Android experience.
You can first choose whether you want to use location services or not, and if you’ve used iodéOS before, you can even restore your data from a backup – similar to what Google does itself. The next step will be more interesting. With iodéOS, you can choose your preinstalled apps and simply turn off the apps that you already know you aren’t using. While you won’t be able to uninstall or revive these pre-installed apps through the launcher if you change your mind after the setup is complete, you can do so in System Preferences.
By default, the operating system comes with the iodé app of the same name, which acts as a control center to prevent tracking – imagine the Android 12 privacy dashboard, but a version of it that actually protects you from tracking, not just from fraudulent permissions . Iodé shows you how many requests have been blocked, which apps are the main culprits, and there is an option to reduce protection if an application is not working properly.
Unfortunately, I can’t speak for the set-up process on phones that weren’t purchased directly from iodé, and I’m not sure I want to just load the ROM off the page using the instructions on the company’s website – although I personally do them well understand enough i think most users would need more detail and a better introduction to the subject. A look at the website also shows how limited support is as few devices are officially compatible. More advanced users could likely replicate the iodéOS experience with LineageOS and some additional apps as well.
For iodé retail devices with a pre-installed operating system, this is the option I would recommend to newbies who are not very technical.
Look and feel
Just like many other custom ROMs, iodé mostly looks like stock Android (whatever that still means). The lock screen, home screen, settings and general system functions should look familiar to anyone coming from a Pixel smartphone. You can even customize icon shapes, fonts, and the grid size for the launcher, and you can go deeper into customization than many other phones.
In the system settings, you can customize both your navigation buttons and your physical buttons, change their functions and add additional functions, e.g. B. Long press to end calls. The status bar is also customizable with a network traffic monitor and the option to disable unnecessary system icons. Basically, iodéROM allows the freedom you would expect from a custom ROM, but without confusing or overwhelming for casual users.
App availability and compatibility
While iodéOS looks and feels pretty similar to Android on pixels, the default selection of apps is drastically different. You’ll have to forego the usual Google apps that are replicated by open source alternatives like Carnet for notes, Magic Earth for navigation, and QKSMS for text messaging. Most of these may not feel as integrated and polished as Google’s services, but once you get used to them they are more than adequate. It is crucial that with these alternatives you do not divulge your data to an advertising giant.
To bring more than just the pre-installed apps to your phone, the operating system comes with both F-Droid and the Aurora Store. While F-Droid is an established and trusted platform for acquiring free and open source software, making it the perfect replacement for the Play Store if you want to avoid closed source software, the Aurora Store is essentially the Play Shop. It’s an open source client that connects to the same APIs as the Play Store, so you can access Google’s extensive catalog of apps without the company snooping around on you.
However, there is a large asterisk attached to Aurora. Since using the Aurora Store is against the Google Play Terms of Service, your Google Account may be blocked if you use it to download apps in Aurora. It is recommended that you sign in with a disposable Google Account rather than one that you use for other purposes. I suspect that privacy conscious people who switch to iodéOS, unlike me, don’t have all facets of their private life on their Google account, but it’s still a big problem and one that iodé should emphasize more than it currently does.
With that out of the way, the Aurora Store works like a charm. It allows you to take advantage of any proprietary services you might still need or want, like public transit apps, social media, and games. It even works, even though iodéOS gets by without the Play Services that normally power everything and instead relies on the open source alternative microG. Note, however, that Aurora doesn’t magically get you paid apps for free – you need to log into the Play Store website and purchase apps there.
As for the app compatibility, I’m pleasantly surprised. Almost every app I’ve tried works on iodéOS, including two out of three banking apps and OneDrive, which I’ve always had problems with on non-Google phones. With other custom ROMs, your mileage will vary with more security-conscious apps – maybe I got lucky with the range of apps I’ve tried here, but that bodes well for iodéOS.
Unlike the competing / e / OS that I have already tested, iodéOS is ready to use right out of the box. It makes it easy to start a Google-free life without giving up all the apps and games that you are used to thanks to the Aurora Store. On the downside, the inclusion of Aurora also feels a bit like the operating system can’t completely let go of Google. It’s basically a cherry pick of the best parts as it still relies on Google’s Play Store to distribute and update apps, which feels insincere – although I can’t deny that this is exactly what makes iodéOS more practical than other solutions.
If the prospect of / e / OS is too daunting, iodéOS could be the perfect first step to foregoing Google without sacrificing too much convenience. Further details on the project can be found on the iodéOS website.
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