Thank you for purchasing a phone from Private Phone Shop. Your new phone comes with a minimal set of apps to get started.

Apps we install:

  • F-Droid: an open-source app repository where you can find many apps not available on Google Play. If you install an app from F-Droid, you will be prompted when updates are available. Many great apps are available here, and all are open source.
  • Aurora Store: a clone of the Google Play store. Aurora anonymously requests apps from Play, and installs them on your phone. No personally identifiable information is sent to Google.
  • MicroG: an open-source project which fools apps into thinking that Google Play services are installed. Some apps (such as GCam) require the Google Play store to be installed. MicroG tricks them into thinking that it is. MicroG does not transmit any information to Google, and can be blocked in the firewall. If you don’t want anything even remotely related to Google on your phone, you can uninstall it.
  • GCam: an app based on the software for the cameras on the Pixel line of phones. GCam provides superior image processing, and is widely acknowledged as the best camera app. We block GCam in the firewall by default, just in case it tries to phone home. When taking photos in portrait mode, the Gallery app may not be able to open the photo directly from GCam since the gallery doesn’t quite know how to deal with the processing GCam does. There are two ways around this. You can either open the photo later in the gallery, after it has been processed, or you can install GalleryGo from Google. Note that you don’t need to actually use GalleryGo, and you can block internet access for it, but it installs libraries that will let you view GCam photos immediately.
  • AFWall: an open-source firewall which lets the user selectively block or allow internet access for individual apps. Unlike other firewalls which run as a pseudo-VPN (NetGuard), AFWall is a true firewall and thus required root permission. By default we configure it to allow internet access, although if you want to block access for an app the process is easy:
    • Open AFWall and you will see a list of all apps and services running on your phone.
    • Check the boxes next to the app you want to block. This will restrict wifi, mobile data, and LAN usage.
    • Tap on the three dots in the upper-right corner (menu) and choose “Apply.”
    • If you discover the app does not work without internet access, uncheck the boxes and choose “Apply” again to restore access.

If your phone came with GrapheneOS:

For GrapheneOS, we pre-install the F-droid and Aurora app repositories. If you wish to install MicroG, you can find it on F-droid, or at microg.org. Note that MicroG will not have full functionality, but some apps will work ok without it.

If you would like to install GCam, the best app for Pixel phones comes from developer cstark27. You can find the latest version here (cstark’s PXv4.5). Note that you must have MicroG installed to use GCam.

GrapheneOS has built-in network permissions, so if you wish to block internet access for an app you can do so from the permissions manager in Settings.

Apps you should probably install:

Please see the Guides section for apps that we recommend. At a minimum, you should install:

  • A better web browser. The default browser in AOSP is terrible. We recommend Brave or hardened Firefox.
  • A better messaging app. SMS (ordinary text messages) are very insecure. We recommend Signal.
  • A PDF / text file viewer such as Librera Pro (available for free via F-Droid)
  • A VPN. Most of the good ones (Mullvad, iVPN, Proton) have their own app.
  • The Tor browser, just in case you need it.
  • A better keyboard. MultiLing lets you customize absolutely everything. There is also OpenBoard. If you prefer a more mainstream keyboard like GBoard (made by google) or Swiftkey (Microsoft), you can always block internet access if you are worried it might phone home.

How do I use my new phone with my existing service?

You should be able to pop in your current SIM card and have your phone work immediately.

If that doesn’t work, you may need to contact your provider and have them provision your phone. This means giving them the IMEI of your new phone, which your provider will explain how to find. However in 95% of cases, you shouldn’t need to do anything extra.

Best practices for using your new phone:

By having a de-Googled phone, you are already ahead of 99% of the population in terms of phone privacy. However, there are several crucial ideas you should keep in mind as you use your new phone.

  • Watch the permissions! When you install a new app, pay close attention to what permissions it requests. Ask yourself if something really needs access to your contacts, or your files. If in doubt, say no. If the app still doesn’t work, you can always reconsider, or just find a different app.
  • Keep Bluetooth off unless you are actively using it. Any app can see which devices are trying to connect via BT. This means stores and other locations can place BT “beacons” which broadcast a signal ID. When an app sees them, your location is pinpointed.
  • Consider installing the Exodus app, available via F-Droid. Exodus will create reports on each app you have installed, letting you know which have trackers, and which apps are requesting what permissions.
  • Use websites, not apps. There’s a reason why so many sites prompt you to install their app. It’s so they can push notifications to your phone, and also so they can collect (and sell) your data. By using a website instead of an app, you preserve more of your privacy. For example, virtually all weather apps are chock-full of spyware. Instead, find a good weather site and create a bookmark on your home screen.

If your phone came with iVPN installed:

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you should find iVPN pre-installed on your phone with a free 1-month subscription. This subscription was purchased anonymously using Monero, without giving your name or any other information about you (or us) to iVPN.

We cannot view any of your internet traffic if you use iVPN, even though we purchased the account.

To secure your internet connection, open the app and toggle the status to "connected." Note that you can change the location or enable anti-tracking to block data trackers (although you should be using a web browser that does this anyway).

If you want to keep using iVPN after 1 month, click on the silhouette in the upper-left corner of the app. This will display your account ID. Tap on "Add more time" which will take you to iVPN’s website. You can upgrade your account here (which will allow you to connect up to 7 devices simultaneously) or add more funds. If you click "Add More Time" on their site, you can choose to log in with your Account ID. Copy and paste this from your iVPN app, and you can add funds using a credit card, cryptocurrency, or even cash.