Brain Overflow

From iOS to GrapheneOS

I've been in the process of switching from an iPhone to a Pixel running GrapheneOS. The big question is--why? iPhones probably win as an overall package(ease of use, privacy, features) in my view compared to Android, especially if you are not a "tech person." Apple's walled garden is nice inside, but it has some critical flaws (iCloud's lack of E2EE/zero knowledge encryption, for one*).

*edit: More on the iCloud E2EE comment. I should have been more clear about this, as it's not a 'lack' of E2EE: iCloud has several categories of data that are E2EE by default. You can opt in to even more with Advanced Data Protection. However, not everything is E2EE.

I just wanted actual control over my phone, my data, and I didn't want to feel compelled to stay in the walled garden any more (especially considering I had lost a few of its benefits since I no longer use macOS).

The GrapheneOS Sell

More here @ PrivacyGuides

With GrapheneOS and similar Android forks, you don't have to wait for corps to hand you privacy controls whenever they feel like it. Granular control over an app's permissions, and other ways to prevent them from doing whatever the hell they want (like specific profiles for apps) come standard. You can download and install apps without either Google or Apple knowing about it. You don't have to deal with vendors trying their absolute hardest to force you into using the application they would prefer, you can install alternatives and set them to be the default for whatever you're trying to do, like read an .epub, or actually change your browser (underneath the hood, every web browser has to go through WebKit on iOS - src).

In some ways the switch feels (unsurprisingly) like going from MacOS to Linux, or even Windows, in that there are areas where you get options and control where none really existed before.

The Impetus

The thing that first had me wanting to switch was the news that Apple was considering starting to scan iCloud photos for CSAM. I didn't want anyone scanning my photos, even if it was 'for the children', or for improving photo recognition or whatever else. It felt like writing on the wall. A couple of other things happened--most importantly, Apple said they were delaying their plans, and then cancelled them altogether. I did see a post about on-device scanning, but it turns out that those concerns were misunderstood/overblown.

But I still switched, because I didn't like the fact that Apple actually could just be doing it anyway(I am not saying they actually are), or that they might decide to (or be forced to) one day and no amount of protest would change the decision like it did last time.

How It's Going

So it has been a bit of a...task. You use a device extensively for years on end and you end up with a lot on your hands when you want to quit using it. As I write this, I'm still not really 'done', I'm probably like 90% of the way there.

To be clear, none of the difficulty with transfering to GrapheneOS is really due to switching to a custom ROM. That was easy. It's more that at the same time, I am trying to a) get my data under control, b) do some things that I have been ignoring for a while, and c) upgrade my privacy-related practices. So it is a handful. It also means that switching to GrapheneOS, for me, has not just been about switching OSes, it's been closer to a (I feel really corny right now) journey involving multiple facets of my digital life.

But, for now I feel it is worth it. I've found a lot of great privacy/security-oriented services that are cross-platform, so if in the future I want to switch back to iPhone, I'll be covered. I've even picked up a bit of experience with a couple of technologies that I hadn't worked with before, like jq. I will also be..."up a creek" to a much lesser degree if something ever destroyed my phone. On top of all that, I just get to learn more about privacy and security as they relate to phones in general.

I'll be going over the actual process of switching and the choices I've landed on for now in another post(s), if anyone is curious. I actually found that the "switch to GrapheneOS" guides I found were usually a few years old, so I figure the internet could do with a newer one.

#android #ios #privacy #tech