Graphene or Calyx for daily use?

I have been wanting to install a custom ROM for a long time, however I can’t decide between Graphene OS or Calyx OS.

I have checked most of my daily apps with Plexus and it seems that the majority would work pretty well without google play services so If I choose to use Calyx I might disable MicroG.

But watching Techlore’s comparison video I’ve seen that Graphene has a drop-off in performance compared to Calyx which gets me to my main questions.

1-Has the Graphene and Calyx performances respectively improved since the launch of the comparison video?
2-Does the loading times or the security measures affect daily usage in a major way?
3-Is there any inconveniences, features or limitations in both OS that would make it harder for me to use any of them as a daily driver? (excluding app incompatibility)
4-Is it worth using Calyx without Micro-G for the better user experience and the seemingly faster/more polished interfaces? Or would I be missing out on functionalities and security/privacy features from Graphene?
5-Is there any major problems with any of the OS? (eg: not supporting SMS or calls, random crashes…)
6-Provided that I’m using Calyx and even if my apps work just fine, should I still enable micro-g for future purposes?

I will be trying both as soon as I get my hands on a Pixel however I just wanted some community feedback to know what exactly I am getting into.

I appreciate your help!!

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I can’t speak for Calyx, as I’ve never tried it, but as a person who uses graphene daily, I can say there’s nothing really inconvenient about it. I’d actually go so far as to say it’s probably the best no compromises mobile OS. Speeds are just fine on my 6a, the ability to disable internet for some apps is also pretty awesome, sandboxed Google play works for about 95% of apps I’ve tested. It also has a decent implementation of Material You, and out of the box feels basically like hardened AOSP, it gives a nice base to really make your phone the way you want it. I’d say there are no real inconveniences, and no security measures get in the way of daily use. You’ll have to decide what you like more, but personally I feel like there’s no real topping graphene

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Hey, I have only been using GrapheneOS (from now on GOS) so far (3a and now 6a) so I can only comment on that.

To answer your questions in just two sentences: If you don’t care about installing sandboxed GAPPS in a profile for apps that require GAPPS (games, baking apps and so on), you will have a great experience with GOS. Most, if not all apps work flawlessly, performance is basically the same as stock OS.

To answer your questions:
1 - Unless you expect to switch between 3 profiles with lots of different apps open, you will not experience any performance problems. Games run well, having multiple apps open (switching with the state it was in saved) works without a problem, switching between profiles with multiple apps open works. Apps open pretty much instantly.

2 - Unless you require some weird apps that need privileged GAPPS (e.g. some banking apps), loading times (basically same as stock OS) and security measures will NOT affect daily usage. You just should expect to reboot your phone a couple of times per week due to system updates.

3 - I don’t know of any.

4 - I do not use Calyx OS

5 - I don’t know of any

6 - As always, have as little software installed as possible, so no. I would personally say that if every app works without micro-g, just use GOS. GOS is the superior choice for security.

And some thoughts:
Have profiles for different security/privacy steps. If you need Whatsapp, you might want to use an extra profile for it.
Do not use the admin profile if possible.
Do not use F-Droid A brief and informal analysis of F-Droid security | Wonder's Lab use Aurora
Do not use a phone that is EOL. No OS can improve the missing firmware updates.

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I tried GrapheneOS for a few days, then I tried CalyxOS. Both worked fine, but after doing further research I have decided I prefer sandwiched Google in a user profile over MicroG. And GrapheneOS is more secure.

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Thank you for your reply!
I’ll be keeping all of this in mind.

This article was very interesting I’ve never even thought about F-Droid’s security before !
I’ll definitely be looking more into this.

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That’s amazing to hear as I really care about the user experience.
Thank you!

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You’re very welcome! Always happy to help someone out

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You’re welcome!
Instead of downloading FOSS apps from F-Droid, you can download the APKs from their repo (normally GitHub).
Some apps (like NewPipe) also offer their own F-Droid repos, those generally speaking don’t have most of the problems the normal F-Droid repo has. Like the delay of updates. Other problems (like SDK version) are not properly addressed tho.

And to add on “Do not use micro-g”: micro-g is privileged on Calyx, meaning that it has full system access. This can lead to significant security threads, similar to an open root account on Linux.

A couple of more reasons as to why GOS is superior to Calyx (purely security wise):
GOS has faster updates (e.g. Android 11 was available on GOS before it was on Calyx)
The stock browser has more hardening on GOS (currently 87 vs 20 patches; Calyx uses 20 out of the 87 from GOS for their stock Browser)
The memory allocator used by GOS has more hardening and less open CVEs

For more information on why GOS is probably the best option security wise, check out Features overview | GrapheneOS

In the end, decide what works better for you. This is quite the information dump, but I do not want people to think that Calyx is the “best” option for security on an Android device. That currently is GOS.

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There is no doubt that Graphene is better than Calyx security wise I was just concerned if this affected functionality.
Thank you for clearing things out in an informative way!

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I went with CalyxOS since it has longer support than Graphene and I have an older phone. Something to consider if you end up buying an older phone as well.
I haven’t seen any noticeable bugs or performance issues, though I don’t use my phone much at all, honestly.
The installer lets you pick what you want to install from a list of default apps, most being “degoogled” alternatives to stock apps, such as Aurora store, Organic Maps and Signal. I would recommend installing it without micro-g first, and reinstalling if you find out you need it later. I find it unlikely that you would need to use any Google services with the amount of “alternative” apps we have these days, but of course, I don’t know what apps you use, so your mileage may vary.

I agree, app alternatives are usually enough to cover everything. Thanks for your thoughts!

About Calyx and longer support:
There also is an awful downside to it. The reason why GOS does NOT support phones longer than they currently do is something about so called firmware. If you follow Stallman, you might believe that firmware is the worst that could ever happen on your phone. In reality tho, any device without firmware support can only receive user space updates. The system itself will have dozens of CVEs on a lowlevel (firmware).

The “FOSS can revive your old hardware” argument (including longer support from Calyx) is basically the same as telling people to use hardware that has so many CVEs that everything you do on there is basically open for the public to look at.

Oh also Calyx does not even have the full August patch, the September patch got already released. So you also are about a month (or more) behind in this regard. Android 13 also is not ready on Calyx…
If you care about security, Calyx is NOT a good option. At least compared to the stock Pixel OS and GOS.

I’ll add a few more things I’ve learned from using GOS on a Pixel 6 as a daily driver without google. To clarify, I don’t use play services and I use an Anonymous login to the Aurora Store. I love my GOS running phone these are just some downsides to prioritizing security and privacy in the world we live.

The SMS app is old and has limited functionality. Sometimes I can’t send pictures in texts and I can’t react to messages but I can see other people reacting to my messages. I rely on Signal for messages and message reactions now. Also, I’ve learned in a small handful of situations that if my phone is turned off for days and someone has SMS messaged me during that off time that I most probably will not see that text. Hard to notice that but I now of at least 5 times this has happened to me when I never had that problem before on an iPhone. There is no better text app in my opinion FYI. I’ve seen the question asked many times and there are some alternatives out there but I don’t like any of them. Using Signal as my primary asynchronous messaging app is fine for me.

About the camera… taking pictures through the messaging app often crashes GOS so the phone has to restart. Sometimes I can fix this by clearing my camera cache but in general it’s a little touchy for me. Selfies through the camera app would crash the phone regardless for a few months there before I learned the clear cache trick. In general the camera for me has been majorly problematic - crashing my phone and glitching quite often to the point where I couldn’t rely on it for taking pictures on trips or during family time. This still happens sometimes.

Vanadium only offers five search engine options and no custom choice, which I find slightly perplexing. DuckDuckGo is an okay choice for me but I would prefer a custom option to write Searx in, for example. Also, with such a unique browser I struggled with syncing my bookmarks to other devices cross platform until I discovered Raindrop.io. LOVE Raindrop and highly recommend them. I can Share a link in Vanadium now and pipe it to my Raindrop app to reference links cross platform - brilliant!

The default image gallery is very basic - I suggest Aves as an alternative.

Aurora Store won’t notify you of app updates - you have to manually check. I’ve gotten used to it. Most apps work great but forget about banking apps and any cash apps like Venmo etc. Also, the Trezor app doesn’t work and neither does Uber or Lyft. Also an app I have for a smart lock at one of my businesses simply won’t work on GOS. Some apps will tell you they require Google Play Services to run but they run anyway without it, like Element, Monarch and some home security camera apps.

Backing up is inconvenient unless you have your own Seed Vault setup. I use Syncthing to synchronize my obsidian vault and my pictures to my Desktop computer.

I turned location finding off mostly but I’ve found that Sygic works well for maps and navigation and I can pay the $25 a year for premium through their app since I can’t use Aurora Store.

USB C adapters for ethernet connectivity work great if you have a good adapter - ask for recommendations if it’s important to you because I can’t remember the brand I was told worked well. The uGreen brand I bought cut out after a few minutes. The wifi in airplane mode connectivity option is probably my favorite part of GOS and helps me feel super secure.

There were Google Pixel problems with DACs but they were supposed to fix them this past June. I haven’t had a chance to confirm if they were yet. Something to know if you’re an audio person.

The GOS community on Matrix is very good all things considered and super helpful - I pop in there when I can :slight_smile:

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About some apps not working:
Create a new profile, add GAPPS, they should work.

You can end sessions and nothing runs in the background.

Also haven’t experienced any of your other problems (SMS, camera) in over 2 years of GOS usage. Might depend on more than we currently know.

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It’s true, Calyx is a lot slower at rolling patches than GOS.

Wow, I’ve heard of these issues a couple times, however I’m glad I don’t use SMS unless I REALLY need to.

I’m doing that on my current phone as well and I don’t see a lot of issues so far.
Sometimes the messages don’t send for some reason but that’s about it.

That’s definitely something to keep in mind, thanks for the clear cache trick!

I guess DDG is okay until I figure out a way to fix that.

I update my apps manually so I’m used to checking for updates,
as for Google Play Services digital minimalism has allowed me to find alternatives that run fine for most apps I use

That’s good to hear!

Thanks for sharing your experience!

And this alone should be more than enough reason to not even consider using Calyx. Security should be first in whatever you’re doing.
Only a secure device can protect your privacy, even if an update is only delayed by 3 days, you might already be hacked with the vulnerabilities the update patched.

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