After a number of phones sold, and many hours spent using and troubleshooting these de-Googled phones, I am in a good position to make some recommendations for anyone looking to take their privacy into their own hands.
The Best De-Googled Phone
First thing off the bat, all the phones we sell are de-Googled, which means privacy is vastly improved over stock android. Graphene is the most restrictive, not even providing the option to support Google services at all. With that restriction comes security and the best chance of maintaining your privacy. Graphene comes as close to a barebones experience as possible: you’ll even need to download an app store before you can get new apps. We cover it in an article here, but we recommend downloading F-Droid, using the apps from there for as much as possible, and the Aurora store (found on F-Droid) for anything else you need. Calyx comes with both installed from the start.
Just like /e/, Calyx has the option to support Google services through microG, which means apps that rely on Google services will be more likely to work without issue. Both of these operating systems only target the Google Pixel series of devices, which means each version can be extensively tested by the development teams to ensure everything works properly. They both have automatic updates, which means it will simply let you know when you need to reboot your phone to apply an update, keeping your phone up to date and secure. Graphene does this slightly better in my opinion, but both are very streamlined and polished experiences. Other than that, these operating systems are somewhat unremarkable; they are very close to stock android as they get out of your way and they just work.
/e/ OS has gone for a different approach, casting the net far wider. /e/ targets dozens of phones at a time, ensuring that more phones have the option of being de-Googled, but also introducing a larger chance that things won’t work quite as intended. There’s just no real way of testing all the devices properly before updates are released. Updates are done manually, by looking for an update in the software update option in the settings menu of the phone. This is a little bit of a pain, but during that process, the user sees and has the chance to interact with the update process. Some phones on /e/ for example, ask for a password part way through the update. The user is supposed to press cancel instead for the update to complete, but this is just not intuitive. I have had to provide technical support to a few people that have purchased our phones. All of them were on /e/ OS, because it lacks the extensive testing and polish of Calyx and Graphene. /e/ is aiming to also provide a similar ecosystem to the one found in Google, with their own versions of cloud storage and the like. I don’t make use of any of that myself, as there are other open source options available that work just as well.
/e/ OS is a fine de-Googled phone to use on the daily, it doesn’t spy on you, and it provides support for all the apps you could want to use. But Calyx does this too, and because it does it better, I find it hard to recommend /e/ unless you’re set on using a phone other than a Pixel right now.