What are the differences between LineageOS, GrapheneOS, CalyxOS, and others?

When it comes to choosing an operating system for your new phone, what is the best choice? You may have heard of the choices above, but what are the main differences between them?

LineageOS has been around longer than just about any other custom Android OS. Originally known as CyanogenMod, Lineage is meant to work on a wide range of phones. It has an easy to use interface, and has broad support by developers. The main flaw with Lineage is the phone’s bootloader must remain unlocked. That means if a skilled hacker gained physical access to your phone, they could potentially install malicious software or access data stored on your phone. However this seems like an incredibly unlikely scenario to us – most phone thieves just want to wipe your phone and resell it for a quick buck. However if you are under surveillance from state actors, it may be something to consider.

GrapheneOS is designed to provide the highest possible level of security. That means the bootloader is locked, and there are other improvements like memory hardening and app sandboxing. So what’s the issue? GrapheneOS does not allow you to run Google Play Services. There is another app called MicroG which imitates Google Play Services, and fools some apps that depend on them. But with GrapheneOS, MicroG is missing some of its key functionality (what’s called signature spoofing). While most apps will work fine, there are a few that either have limited functionality or don’t work at all without a proper version of MicroG.

Additionally, GrapheneOS has only been developed for Google’s Pixel line of phones. Some people are a little hesitant to use a Google phone to de-google their lives. While we don’t believe Google has installed any secret hardware backdoors, the hesitancy is understandable. Pixel phones are also a little pricey, and may not have all the features some users are looking for (like a microSD card slot).

In the middle sits CalyxOS. Calyx allows for a full implementation of MicroG, and will let you re-lock the bootloader, but similar to GrapheneOS it will only run on Pixel phones.

There are countless other ROMs as well such as HavocOS, ResurrectionRemix, Derpfest, PixelExperience, and others. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, and run on certain phones. On our Moto G8 Power, for example, we install HavocOS. It’s very similar to Lineage, and allows a full implementation of MicroG while still being user-friendly.

Which choice is best for you? If you’re new to using a de-googled phone, or if you don’t want a Pixel phone, we would advise against GrapheneOS. But if you want the ultimate in security, even if it means some apps might not work, GrapheneOS is for you.

Just remember that security and privacy are not the same thing. All of the phones that we sell are equally capable of providing privacy from the spying eyes of big tech.