- CalyxOS User Guide
- CalyxOS vs Stock Android
- Getting started
- Datura Firewall Guide
- SeedVault Guide
- Google Camera
- Browser choice
- Cool Tips
- CalyxOS Limitations - CalyxOS versus Stock Android
CalyxOS User Guide
Welcome to CalyxOS! You have joined a community of privacy enthusiasts, activists,journalists and everyday users interested in having greater agency over how their data is shared online.
This introductory guide will help you navigate the features, changes, differences, and setbacks that come with using a custom OS like CalyxOS.
The Calyx Institute and especially the CalyxOS team have and continue to pour a lot of effort into creating an accessible, user friendly, privacy focused experience. We value the community’s suggestions, feedback, and questions. If you ever need support or have a feature idea, please let us know at Community. There, you will find a list of Matrix rooms, such as CalyxOS. Join the main discussion at Community to get started, and a developer or community member will direct you to a focused channel if your suggestions/questions are more useful elsewhere.
Thank you for using CalyxOS!
CalyxOS vs Stock Android
CalyxOS will work differently than the Android that comes with most devices. Here are some noticeable differences.
Minimal Google: The parts of Android that send your personal data to Google have been all removed.
Alternative app stores: Install open-source apps with F-Droid, or install apps from the Play Store anonymously with Aurora Store.
- Privacy enhancements when using CalyxOS:
- Tracking prevention: no apps can track you using the advertising identifier, as it is randomized on every request.
- Better Web Browsing: the default web browser (Chromium) and the browser component used in most apps has been modified to add security enhancements and block advertising trackers.
- Datura Firewall: an easier way to block network access for particular apps.
- SeedVault: a secure way to back up your entire device.
- Signal and Whatsapp: When making a call, CalyxOS encourages you to make it via Signal or WhatsApp when possible. Signal and Whatsapp offer encrypted calling and videochat, as well as text messaging, if both parties are using Signal or both parties are using Whatsapp.
- Limitations & incompatibilities:
- CalyxOS does not yet include the ability to block advertising and trackers in all apps without running a third party VPN-based app or using Private DNS to block these.
- Paid Google Play store apps usually won’t work.
- Some free apps will not work, such as Google Wallet.
- The built-in keyboard does not support gesture typing.
- Changed defaults
- The default search engine is DuckDuckGo, an alternative to Google search. It will function similarly, but may provide slightly different results depending on the query.
CalyxOS comes with two app stores, F-Droid and the Aurora Store.
F-Droid is the preferred app store for CalyxOS. All the apps available in F-Droid are free and open source software, and contain no trackers or advertising.
Use F-Droid to install free software Android apps.
CalyxOS gives F-Droid special privileges to streamline app updates, installs, and uninstalls.
In addition to the standard F-Droid source for apps (aka “repo”), CalyxOS includes a source for CalyxOS apps, which allows us push out updates for various apps when needed.
Aurora Store is an open source, alternative way to access Google Play Store. With Aurora Store, you can download apps, update existing apps, search for apps, get details about in-app trackers, spoof your location and much more.
Aurora Store allows you to access Google Play Store using either anonymous credentials, or your own Google Account.
While we recommend using F-Droid for most of your apps, certain apps like Facebook, Instagram, Google apps, and others can only be found on the Aurora Store. When in doubt, search for your preferred app in F-Droid first. If not available, it will most likely be available in the Aurora Store.
In CalyxOS, we have replaced the proprietary parts of the Android operating system that depend on Google Play Services with an open source alternative called “microG”.
There are many problems with Google Play Services when using a custom OS and trying to maximize privacy:
Most popular apps do not work without Play Services installed. Google uses Play Services to gather data on how you are using your device, including location and advertisement tracking. Google tightly controls which vendors are allowed to install Play Services on new devices.
microG is a open source replacement for Google Play Services (and related software), but it only includes the useful parts. Unlike Play Services, microG does not have any advertising or location tracking, for example.
Features of microG:
Reduces battery, memory, and CPU usage. Allows you to opt-in to specific Google Services if you want. Location: typically, an Android device will using WiFi and cell-towers data from Google to help determine precise location. microG does this without using Google, and without reporting your location to Google (CalyxOS is configured to use location information from Mozilla). Notification: most chat apps depend on Play Services to be alerted when a new message should be delivered to the user. microG allows your device to use this service from Google without the full Play Services installation.
When you first start your phone, you will be given several options for the microg implementation on your device.
We recommend the default option, microG enabled, no Google Account, push notifications enabled.
Read this for more information on how microG will impact your experience.
Add an account to DAVx5
- Launch the DAVx5 app
- Follow the steps at DAVx5 website to configure an account
- Once done, wait for some time and your contacts should show up in the Contacts app.
Preferred since it syncs changes.
Copy it from another Android phone
- On the other phone, open the Contacts app
- Tap Fix & Manage at the bottom
- Tap Export to file
- Copy the “.vcf” file to your CalyxOS phone
- On your CalyxOS phone - open the Contacts app, then open Settings from the drawer on the left
- Tap Import, then choose the copied “.vcf” file
It will only be a one-time copy.
F-Droid - Catalog of open-source applications available for download.
Aurora Store - Download social media, Google apps, games, and other non-open source applications - A Google Play Store Client
Messaging - The default SMS application. Messages not encrypted.
Signal - Encrypted messaging Application.
K-9 Mail - Email Client, supports Gmail
Briar - Encrypted Messaging Application
Backup - SeedVault, a CalyxOS project
Firewall - Datura Firewall, a CalyxOS Firewall that allows for fine grain control over network permissions
Tor Browser - Private browser, no tracking, surveillance, or censorship
Chromium - Ad/tracker-free, secure, browsing via select Bromite features in the privacy-enhanced CalyxOS Chromium browser, based on Bromite
RiseupVPN - Free secure VPN powered by Bitmask
Orbot - Orbot allows access to Tor by accessing a local SOCKS or HTTP proxy
CalyxVPN - Free Calyx Institute VPN for Android powered by Bitmask
Scrambled Exif - Removes metadata from pictures before sharing
OONI Probe - Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) application that provides speed tests and checks to see if any websites or messaging applications are blocked in your network. Detects internet censorship
DAVx5 - An adapter that allows access to external contacts and calendar services (such as with Nextcloud)
MuPDF viewer - PDF viewer - transparent
Nextcloud - Backup/synchronization client
Organic Maps - Offline, crowd-sourced maps with no ads, no trackers, and no data collection
Datura Firewall Guide
To Access Datura Firewall, swipe up on the home screen to see a list of all currently downloaded apps. Open the App listed as “Firewall”.
Datura Firewall allows for fine grained control over network permissions to each application. When downloading CalyxOS for the first time, many of the applications allow network access by default.
In Datura, you will see a list of all your downloaded and System applications. Under each, you can control if the application allows network access. access via: background network services, Wi-Fi data, Mobile data, or VPN data.
The main blue toggle next to the application name will turn all of these off or on at once, or you can open the drop down menu under each app to individually control different network permissions.
Some applications, like the Aurora store, require an all or nothing approach - either all network permissions must be on or off.
Datura provides quick and easy access to these network controls, so you can quickly allow network access momentarily for an app, and then turn those permissions back off when not in use. Datura Firewall never changes your set preferences without your control.
To SeedVault, swipe up on the home screen to see a list of all currently downloaded apps. Open the App listed as “Backup”.
SeedVault will require you to enter a 12 word recoverty code to restore data. This is to protect you - only the you should be able to access backup data! Write does the 12-word recovery code somewhere secure to make sure you have access later.
Once you have entered your recovery code, SeedVault will prompt you to backup your data in one of three ways.
SeedVault is integrated into CalyxOS and can backup application data.
Seedvault is built into CalyxOS, providing native backups that can be backed-up to the user’s client of choice - WebDAV (via DAVx5), Nextcloud (not recommended), or a USB drive (recommended).
No other backup/sync client can do that on CalyxOS.
On stock android your only option is backing up to Google, and on iOS only iCloud.
CalyxOS does not come with Google Camera and Google Photos, which are included in base Android. The CalyxOS team removes as much of Google’s software as possible from CalyxOS. However, some users may want to use Google’s photo applications to best utilize the hardware of their device.
To get Google Photos and Google Camera:
Open the Aurora Store
Search for the Google Photos and Camera applications and download Before opening either of the applications, open the Firewall app. The firewall app allows finegrain control over application network permissions. Under the Google Photos and Google Camera applications, turn off all network access.
Is Using Google Photos and Google Camera a privacy concern?
Because Datura Firewall blocks network access from these applications, much of the concern is removed. However, these applications are not open source. Developers and users are not made aware of what data these applications collect, how it is collected, where it goes, or who it is given to.
CalyxOS comes with two default browser options: Chromium and Tor Browser.
The Chromium that comes with CalyxOS is different from Google Chrome. It is heavily modified to prioritize privacy, and is based on Bromite, a privacy focused browser with ad blocking and many anti-tracking privacy enhancements.
For a high degree of anonymity, you may also consider Tor Browser with the following features:
- Better privacy than other browsers.
- All connections run over three or more network hops to anonymize your IP address.
- You can browse “onion sites” for heightened anonymity.
There can be disadvantages of using the Tor Browser:
- Incompatible with some websites.
- Slower to browse the web because of the extra network “hops”.
Curious how well your browser of choice protects you compared to Chrome, Bromite, Firefox, Safari, Tor, and more? See Privacy Tests for an overhead view of the various protections offered by your browser.
More Broswer options are available via F-Droid and the Aurora Store.
A work profile is available for all users on the phone. The CalyxOS team has made accessing the work profile easy. You do not need to restart or log out of the device.
Swipe up on the homescreen to see all of your apps. Swipe left to see the apps in your work profile. These apps will not access the data from the main profile, even if they are duplicates.
Despite the name, “work” profiles do not need to only be for your job! You can use the work profile feature to keep a good work/life balance, maintain multiple app profiles on the same device and keep seperate versions of the same apps.
Wi-fi Timeout & Bluetooth Timeout
CalyxOS allows for users to set automatic Wi-Fi and bluetooth timeouts. This prevents your device from being connected to networks and devices when either of these features are not in use.
To set Wi-Fi timeout:
- Open Settings from the application page
- Select Network & Internet
- Select Internet
- Scroll to the bottom of the page, past the list of available Wi-Fi networks if available
- Select Network Prefrences
- Select Turn off Wi-Fi automatically
- Select the timeout timeframe
To set Bluetooth timeout:
- Open Settings from the application page
- Select Connected Devices
- Select Bluetooth timeout
- Select the timeout timeframe
Installing updates is one of the most important things you can do to keep your phone secure.
CalyxOS provides automatic, monthly (at least), over-the-air security updates for the operating system to keep your phone up to date.
In order to keep apps updated, follow these steps:
- F-Droid will notify you of app updates.
- To make F-Droid automatically install application updates, open F-Droid, go to Settings and enable “Automatically install updates”.
- To update apps via Aurora Store, open Aurora Store, press the “Updates” tab at the bottom, then press “Update All”.
Note: Aurora will say that it is updating “Google Player Services” but this does nothing.
CalyxOS Limitations - CalyxOS versus Stock Android
CalyxOS does have several limitations. By removing Google Play services from the device, several applications will no longer work in CalyxOS:
- Google pay (and most other payment apps)
- Second line apps (line2, google voice, mysudo)
- Steam, a game store site and application, does not work on CalyxOS.
Things that do work:
- Most popular apps will work e.g. Google Maps, WhatsApp, Uber, Lyft, Instagram, Spotify.
Curious what changes, updates, and features are coming to CalyxOS? Check out: CalyxOS News