In this guide, we go through the steps to initialize and configure /e/OS on your mobile device. This guide assumes you have a new installation of /e/OS. Please read the instructions carefully to complete setup, install privacy-friendly apps, customize the device, and become more familiar with your new operating system.
TIP: Visit the /e/OS support topics on their website for helpful how-to's, guides, and FAQ.
Table of Contents
- Insert Sim Card
- Initial Power-on
- Configure microG
- App Lounge
- Pre-installed Apps
- Install New Apps
- Personal Customization
- Hardening Your Device
- Transfer Contacts and Personal Data
Insert SIM Card
Before inserting a SIM card into your degoogled device, see our article about how to remain anonymous while using a SIM card. Also, if this is the first time installing a SIM card, follow our tutorial for detailed instructions.
TIP: For the ultimate privacy-focused phone service on a degoogled device, check out JMP.chat. Our customers receive a phone number and one month of free service.
When powering on the device for the first time, go through these steps:
- Power On: Press and hold the power button on the side of the phone.
- Warning Messages: You can safely ignore warning messages like "This device's bootloader is unlocked and its software integrity can't be verified..." or "This device is not running official software."
- Welcome: At the welcome screen, tap Start
- Language: Select your preferred language.
- Date and Time: Set your time zone and adjust current date and time if needed.
- Turn on Cellular Data (if applicable): If your device is equipped to make phone calls and you have a SIM card installed and are not connected to a Wi-Fi network, you will have the option to use cellular data to complete the setup process.
- SIM card missing (if applicable): If your device is equipped to make phone calls and if you do not have a SIM card installed, you will get this screen with the option to install one at this point or setup eSIM.
- Internet: Connect to a WiFi network by selecting the name of your WiFi network and entering the passphrase.
- Location services: Determine whether to give apps permission to the device's location data. Optionally you may set up location data permissions within the individual app settings later.
- Navigation: Choose your preferred navigation method. This can be changed later in system settings.
- Fingerprint or Facial recognition setup: Some devices are equipped to use fingerprint or facial recognition to unlock the screen. Follow the on-screen instructions or select Skip to skip this step.
- Protect your device: Set up a PIN, password or pattern to unlock the screen. This is an optional step however it will prevent unauthorized access to your phone by another individual.
- Sync your cloud account: If you decide to use the email and cloud services offered by /e/ Foundation, choose CREATE ACCOUNT or SIGN IN. Otherwise select Skip.
- Tap Start to complete initial setup.
microG is installed on /e/OS by default and makes it possible to use apps that depend on Google Play Services, like ebay, Uber, Grubhub, Starbucks, banking apps, basically any app in which financial transactions are processed. It provides a direct but anonymous connection from your device to Google's server. To learn more about microG on /e/OS, we encourage you to read this article. If you do not intend to use your device for making financial transactions, or if you simply do not want your device communicating with Google (even anonymously) we recommend disabling microG.
Simply go to Settings app > System > microG. You'll be presented with settings to disable or enable device registration, cloud messaging, Google SafetyNet, and Exposure Notifications.
- Self Check: Enabled by default. It is recommended to leave the settings as is unless you know what you are doing.
- Account: If you have a Google account and need to sign in, go to Account and sign in with your credentials. It is highly recommended that you do not use this feature as it will connect your device and identity with Google. Instead of relying on Google services, find alternatives that accomplish the same goal but respect your privacy.
- Google Device Registration: Enabled by default. This setting registers your device to Google services and creates a unique device identifier. microG strips identifying bits other than your Google account name from registration data. In other words, it creates a required identity with Google services, but as long as you do not sign in to an account (Step 3), the registration will remain anonymous. If you decide not to install apps that require Google services then disable this setting.
- Cloud Messaging: Enabled by default. The description says "Cloud Messaging is a push notification provider used by many third-party applications. To use it you must enable device registration." Some apps that require Google services use this function to push notifications. If you notice apps that you have installed are not sending notifications, then enable this setting. Otherwise we recommend leaving it disabled.
- Google Safety Net: Enabled by default. Some apps from the Google Play Store depend on Google Safety Net to ensure the operating system is properly secured. For example banking apps like Square and PayPal, or shopping apps like Amazon require it. We recommend not to use banking apps or apps to make purchases.
- Location Modules: Go to Location Modules and check that at least one Network-based geolocation module and one Address lookup module are enabled, specifically "While using the app". For information about installing alternative modules, see more about MicroG's Unified Network Location Providers.
- Exposure Notifications: Disabled by default. To enable the functionality of Google's contact tracing, MicroG offers this feature. We recommend leaving this option disabled.
App Lounge is the default /e/OS app repository. You will be able to find many open-source and privacy-friendly apps from F-Droid in the App Lounge. Or you can connect to Google Play Store anonymously and download proprietary apps. To begin using App Lounge, follow these steps:
- Open App Lounge app
- Accept the end-user license agreement
- To view and install only open-source privacy-friendly apps from F-Droid, select PWA AND OPEN SOURCE APPS. Or, to view and install apps from F-Droid and Google Play Store Anonymously, select ANONYMOUS MODE. We recommend not selecting SIGN IN WITH GOOGLE
- The repository database will be updated and you will see a list of available apps
- Search for apps and tap to download and install
- If you want to change preferences, select Settings in the bottom right corner
/e/OS includes an impressive suite of open-source apps.
- App Lounge - A simple audio equalizer app (not available on all devices)
- Browser - A simple web browser from e Foundation
- Calculator - A straightforward calculator app
- Calendar - To start using, go to app settings to add a calendar
- Camera - Open-source camera app capable of capturing still images and video
- Clock - The Android open source clock; includes an alarm, timer, and stopwatch
- Contacts - An Android open source contacts app
- Files - A simple file browser
- Gallery - A very straightforward and easy to use photo gallery
- Mail - An IMAP and POP3 mail client that makes it easy to connect to an existing email account
- Maps - /e/OS includes Magic Earth as the default maps and navigation app
- Messaging (if applicable) - For devices equipped with carrier services, this is the open-source SMS/MMS text messaging app
- Music - A music player that sorts music by artist, album and playlists
- Notes - Simple open-source notes app
- Phone Dialer (if applicable) - For devices equipped with carrier services, this is the standard open-source phone dialer app
- Recorder - A simple voice recorder app
- Settings - Change system settings and configure the device
- Tasks - A simple open-source tasks app
Install New Apps
TIP: Before installing new apps from the App Lounge, see our complete list of recommended apps.
Simple Rules to Follow...
- Use privacy-friendly apps: Look for the open-source tag in the App Lounge for the best privacy-friendly apps.
- Stay away from Big Tech: Apps made by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and other Big Tech corporations should be avoided based on their standard practice of selling your personal data for profit and tracking your activity.
- The less apps on your device, the better the privacy. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this app?". If there is a software program you can install on a PC or laptop instead, that is a better option.
Make /e/OS feel more like your phone with these recommended settings.
- Install wallpapers: Select Settings app > Wallpaper & style to change home screen appearance (download our favorite wallpapers at https://digitalprivacy.shop/wallpaper)
- System navigation: Choose how you navigate with gestures by going to Settings app > System > Gestures > System navigation
- Add widgets: Add a clock or other widget. Hold your finger on an empty area of the home screen; In the pop-up menu tap Widgets; Select desired widget
- Display settings: Go to Settings app > Display to adjust brightness, lock screen, screen timeout, theme, font size, auto-rotate, screen saver, and more
Harden Your Device
- Reduce App Dependency: The fewer apps on your phone, the more secure and private it will be. We challenge you to only install what you need. This will increase available storage space and reduce the potential for leaked data through random apps.
- Review App Permissions: Apps don't always need the permissions they request. Go to Settings > Apps > See All ## Apps. Then select each app and review permission settings. Change to Approve, Deny, or Ask Every Time as necessary.
- Install a Firewall: Install a firewall like NetGuard to restrict network access on a per-app basis. Once installed, scan through the list of apps and decide whether to restrict network communication. Be cautious of restricting system apps that appear in the list.
- Setup Multiple User Profiles: If you must install proprietary commercial (closed source) apps, create a "Work" profile and isolate them from your personal data. Learn more.
- Activate Private DNS: Why is DNS important? Learn more. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Private DNS. Select Automatic, Quad9 or input a Private DNS provider hostname.
- Install a VPN: A virtual private network encrypts the data being sent from your device by tunneling to a VPN server, effectively cloaking your data and preventing ISP interception. Additionally, to the downstream recipient, your device's location will appear to be the location of the VPN server. This feature is useful when accessing websites that restrict access from specific countries. For a no-cost alternative that uses the TOR network, I highly recommend Orbot, by Guardian Project. There are also three free VPN services available on F-Droid: the CalyxVPN, RiseUpVPN, or ProtonVPN. However paid VPNs offer more features and higher speeds.
Transfer Contacts and Personal Data
If you are coming from an iPhone and want to migrate your contacts, photos, and other personal data, follow the guide Transferring Personal Data from iPhone. Or if you are coming from an Android device, follow the guide Transferring Personal Data from Android.
If you are migrating from an Apple iPhone to an Android, you'll need to de-register iMessages in order to get text messages from other iPhone users. Go to Apple's "Deregister iMessages" webpage and follow the instructions.