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Getting Started with CalyxOS

You’ve taken a big step towards removing Big Tech and government surveillance from your life by switching to a degoogled Android Pixel running CalyxOS. This guide will help you get started with your new phone and make switching from your old phone and services as seamless and painless as possible.

The CalyxOS experience is very similar in many ways to that of normal Android but is different in a few key ways. The most noticeable differences are the lack of the spyware filled Google Play Services and the Google Play Store. 

To replace the Google Play Store, CalyxOS uses of two different open source, privacy friendly app stores which are the Aurora Store and F-Droid. We’ll go over these in the first section of this documentation.

Table of Contents

Installing and Using Apps on CalyxOS

Installing and using apps on CalyxOS is a slightly different experience than on Google’s version of Android. You will use an app store to download your apps where you can search and install apps as you normally would but instead of the Google Play Store you will use F-Droid and the Aurora Store. In short F-Droid is an app store for free and open source apps and the Aurora Store serves as a privacy friendly, anonymous front-end to the Google Play Store. Additionally microG is a free and open source compatibility framework for apps downloaded from the Aurora Store that would otherwise require Google services. You won’t be interacting with microG much if at all but it is good to understand what its function is.

F-Droid

F-Droid App Icon

F-Droid is an open source app store that comes with CalyxOS by default and provides a wide variety of FOSS apps. FOSS stands for free and Open Source Software which means these apps are free to view, use, reproduce, and modify. Anyone can audit the code for vulnerabilities and spyware.

F-Droid is well integrated with automatic updates and it is ideally where you should get the majority, if not all of your apps when possible.

Closed source proprietary apps give malicious developers an easier time hiding all sorts of tracking and malicious code if they wish. The apps you download are checked for vulnerabilities and built from their source code in a secure offline environment by F-Droid.

If there are any parts of the code F-Droid was able to associate with tracking or poor privacy practices it will let you know on the install page. An app with one of these warnings is not necessarily privacy unfriendly. We are working on an article detailing how to determine an app’s trustworthiness on F-Droid and will link to it here when finished.

Aurora Store

Aurora Store App Icon

Aurora Store is an unofficial FOSS app that serves as a privacy friendly front-end to the Google Play Store. It allows you to securely download Play Store apps without signing into a Google account. Similar to F-Droid it is well integrated with CalyxOS by default and supports automatic updates.

Because many of the apps that can be downloaded on Aurora Store are closed source we recommend using it only for apps that do not have a open source alternative or web app available. When an app’s code is not available to the public it is difficult to tell what the app is capable of and what security vulnerabilities it may have. CalyxOS provides many security enhancements that reduces privacy and security risks from closed source apps so don’t completely rule out using it.

Some apps like the Brave browser are not available on F-Droid for one reason or another despite being open source. In this case we recommend using the Aurora Store to download them.

While you can download APKs from your web browser this is not ideal as updates are generally not supported and it is difficult to guarantee the file wasn’t tampered with. Downloading from the Aurora Store or F-Droid removes these concerns.

microG

microG Icon C

microG is a privacy friendly free and open source alternative for proprietary Google Android components. Some apps in the Aurora store require Google Play Services or Google Map Services for partial or full functionality and many use Google services to issue notifications. 

microG enables compatibility with these Aurora Store apps by replacing Google Play Services and Google Map Services with the privacy friendly GmsCore and GsfProxy. The code isn’t perfect yet and some more inflexible apps will still have compatibility issues but the majority of apps should gain full or partial functionality with microG enabled.

If for some reason you factory reset the phone or otherwise do not have microG installed you will need to factory reset the phone and enable microG at setup. Because of CalyxOS’s backup application this is not as much of a headache as it sounds.

Setting Up Contacts & Calendar On CalyxOS

Migrating your contacts over to your new degoogled CalyxOS phone is easy. We’ve prepared two methods of getting your contacts on to your phone with step-by-step explanations.

Use Nextcloud to privately cloud sync contacts and calendar (10 – 30 minutes) | Recommended

Store contacts on your phone by importing from a file (5 – 10 minutes)

Importing Contacts Offline

CalyxOS allows you to easily import contacts by opening vCard files in the “Files” app.

  1. Export your contacts from your old phone or contacts manager as vCards (.vcf)
  2. Move the files onto your phone which can be done any of the following ways
    • Use an adapter to transfer files via a USB storage drive
    • Connect your phone to your computer and transfer files via a USB cable
    • Upload to and download from cloud storage
    • Save as an attachment in an email draft, then log in to your email on the phone and download
  3. Open the “Files” app and navigate to the folder with your .vcf file
  4. Tap the .vcf file and accept the prompts to import contacts

Make sure you keep backups of either your vCard file or of your entire device. If your device breaks or you lock yourself out of it you will lose your contacts.

Syncing Your Contacts & Calendar With Nextcloud and Davx5

Nextcloud Logo

Nextcloud is an open source alternative for traditional cloud services like those provided by Apple, Google, and Microsoft that anyone can host. It allows you to manage, store and sync a variety of things such as tasks, contacts, calendars, notes, and bookmarks. The Nextcloud ecosystem has apps and integrations with all major desktop and mobile operating systems. It is very extensible and has integrations with collaborative document editing suites like ONLYOFFICE, password managers, media players, and more.

In this section guide we’ll first focus on how to sync your calendar and contacts quickly and easily with Nextcloud.

Creating a Nextcloud Account

To sync with Nextcloud we’ll need an account. Anyone can host a Nextcloud instance but it requires a bit of technical knowledge like port forwarding. So instead we’ll sign-up for a free account via the app with one of Nextcloud’s recommended providers. If you feel confident you can just open up the app and sign up with our recommended provider Ops One. If you need help creating an account we have a step-by-step guide below.

How To Create A Free Nextcloud Account Step-By-Step

Import Your Contacts to Nextcloud

Login to your Nextcloud in a web browser
Using a desktop browser makes this easier. If you registered using our guide you should have received a link to your login page on your verification email at signup.
Export your contacts to a vCard file

Export your contacts from your old phone or contacts manager to a vCard (.vcf) file. Save it to your Nextcloud or the device you’re logged into on the web browser.

Go to the Contacts app in Nextcloud
Nextcloud Contact Import Tutorial Image Nextcloud Contact Import Tutorial Image 1
Click on "Settings" then "Import" in the bottom left corner
  1. Open the side menu with the toggle in the top left if not open by default
  2. Click on “Settings” in the bottom left menu
  3. Click “Import”
Nextcloud Contact Import Tutorial Image 2
Select your file to import

In the prompt that appears select “Select local file” if you exported your vCard to your device or “Import from Files” if you saved to your Nextcloud. 

Connect your Nextcloud to Davx5

CalyxOS includes Davx5 as an open source, widely compatible synchronization client. It allows your phone to automatically sync contacts, calendars, and tasks to your Nextcloud server in the background.

The developers of Davx5 created this helpful visual guide showing how to connect Nextcloud.

Final note on creating contacts

When you create contacts in your phone it will ask you where you want to save the entry. Be mindful of where you’re saving it. If you save it to your SIM card it might not sync to your Nextcloud server.

Additional Resources

Check back soon, we are updating this guide daily.