Protect your privacy while preserving access to applications

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Google’s conglomerate of apps and services is incredibly useful and may seem like free, but it actually comes at a cost. Google and other billionaire companies have been able to grow their empire using user data, which they use to display personalized and often intrusive ads, paid for by the highest bidder.

While an academic 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 parts of the operating system that could potentially be used for tracking and replace them with free and open source alternatives. Associations and companies like the / e / Foundation and iodéOS have embarked on this battle to help you ungoggle your phone. We’ve already taken a closer look at the first one and provided some tips for other solutions, so let’s dive into iodeOS next.

ANDROID VIDEO OF THE DAY

GOOD

Smooth and easy setup When you take an iodeOS phone out of the box for the first time, things don’t get much more complicated than with any other phone.
Access to a wide variety of applications With the preinstalled Aurora Store (a modified version of the Play Store), you have access to all the apps you could possibly need. F-Droid is also on board.
Integrated tracker blocking iodeOS prevents curious apps and websites from accessing your private data.

THE NOT SO GOOD

No warning from Aurora store Since the Aurora Store violates Google’s terms of service, you could be penalized for signing in with your personal Google account. There should be a big warning about this in iodeOS.
Camera app As with most custom ROMs, you’ll have to sacrifice camera quality if you don’t want to mess around with the required hacks.
Limited banking functionality Mobile payments and some security-oriented apps like banking apps won’t work.
Limited device support Only a handful of phones, mostly older ones, are officially supported at this time.

To install

To get started, I was provided with a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S9 + with pre-installed iodeOS, a product you can buy yourself from iodized (if you live in Europe, of course). For preconfigured units like this, setup couldn’t be simpler and is about on par with the standard Android experience, if not better.

You can start by choosing whether or not you want to use location services, and if you’ve used iOS before, you can even restore your data from a backup, much like what Google itself offers. Things get more interesting in the next step. iodeOS lets you choose your pre-installed apps, letting you simply uncheck apps you already know you won’t be using. While you cannot uninstall or resurrect these preinstalled apps from the launcher if you change your mind after setup is complete, you can do so in system settings.

By default, the operating system comes with the eponymous iodine app that serves as a tracking prevention control center – think of it like Android 12’s privacy dashboard, but a version of it that Genuinely protects you from tracking, not just malicious permissions. Iodized shows you how many requests have been blocked, which apps are the main violators, and there is an option to lower protections if an app is not functioning properly.

iodineOS-2

Unfortunately, I cannot speak to the installation process on phones not purchased directly from iodé, and I am not sure if I would be comfortable loading the ROM using only the instructions available on the website. company – while I understand them well enough personally, I feel most users would need more detail and a better introduction to the topic. Looking at the website, it’s also clear how limited the support is, with only a few officially compatible devices. More advanced users could probably also replicate the iodeOS experience with LineageOS and a few additional apps.

With sales iodized units with its OS preinstalled, this is the option I would recommend for newcomers who are not very technical.

Look and feel

Much like a lot of other custom ROMs, Iodized mostly looks like stock Android (whatever that means more). The lock screen, home screen, settings, and general system features should be familiar to anyone coming from a Pixel phone. You can even customize the icon shapes, fonts and size of the launcher grid, and it’s possible to take the customization even deeper than on many other phones.

In the system settings, you can change your navigation buttons and physical buttons as you like, changing what any of them do and adding extra features, like long press to end calls. The status bar is also customizable with a network traffic monitor and the ability to turn off system icons you don’t need. Basically, iodeROM allows the kind of freedom you expect from a custom ROM, but without being confusing or overwhelming for more casual users.

Application availability and compatibility

While iodeOS may look roughly like Android on Pixels, the standard selection of apps differs considerably. You’ll have to forgo the usual Google apps, which are replicated by open source alternatives like Notebook for notes, Magic Earth for navigation, and QKSMS for text messaging. Most of them may not seem as integrated and polished as Google’s services, but once you get used to them, they are more than enough. Most importantly, using these alternatives means that you are not ceding your data to an advertising giant.

To get more than the apps preinstalled on your phone, the operating system comes bundled with F-Droid and Aurora Store. While F-Droid is a well-established and reliable platform for acquiring free and open source software and is therefore the perfect replacement for the Play Store if you want to avoid closed source software, the Aurora Store is, in essence, the Play Boutique. It’s an open source client that connects to the same APIs as the Play Store, giving you access to Google’s vast catalog of apps, but without the company spying on you.

iodineOS-3

There is a big asterisk attached to Aurora, however. Since using the Aurora Store violates the Google Play Terms of Service, you may end up with a ban on your Google Account if you use it to download apps in Aurora. It is recommended that you sign in with a disposable Google account rather than the one you use for anything else. I suspect that privacy-conscious people who switch to iodeOS tend not to save all facets of their personal life to their Google account, as I do, but it’s still a big deal and one that iodized should focus on more of. than it currently does.

With that out of the way, the Aurora store works like a charm. It allows you to get all the proprietary services you might still need or want, like transit apps, social media, and gaming. It works even despite iodeOS shipped without the Play services which typically power everything, relying instead on the open source microG alternative. Just be aware that Aurora won’t magically let you get paid apps for free – you’ll need to log into the Play Store website and purchase apps there.

Regarding application compatibility, I am positively surprised. Almost every app I’ve tried runs on iodeOS, including two out of three banking apps and OneDrive, which I’ve always had trouble with on non-Google phones. On other custom ROMs, your mileage with more security-conscious apps will vary – I may have been lucky with the selection of apps I’ve tried here, but that bodes well for iodeOS.

Verdict

Unlike the competing / e / OS, which I have already tested, iodeOS is ready to use right out of the box. With Aurora Store, it’s easy to start a life without Google without sacrificing all the apps and games you’re used to. On the other hand, the inclusion of Aurora also gives the impression that the operating system is not in a position to ditch Google entirely. It’s basically about picking the best stuff in that it still relies on the Google Play Store for app distribution and updates, which seems spurious – although I can’t deny that this is exactly what makes iodeOS more convenient than other solutions.

If the prospect of / e / OS is too daunting, iodeOS might be the happy medium you’re looking for as the perfect first step to go without Google, all without sacrificing too much convenience. More details on the project are available on the iodéOS website.


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