What to expect when moving to a privacy-oriented Android ROM?

I don’t want this to be a mud-slinging match between different privacy ROM communities, so please just keep it “in general.”

I have a friend who is not very tech savvy. Today, he expressed to me his privacy frustrations with Apple and Google. He said he was determined to buy a Linux phone. I advised against that and instead I told him about the privacy-oriented custom ROMs you can install on Google Pixel phones. He told me he was very interested, and that he was going to buy one. He asked me if I was willing to set it up for him. I agreed to help him out.

I wasn’t able to ask why he wanted to do this; I had limited time to chat with him. But knowing him, I could tell that something finally broke the camel’s back.

My question for you today is this:

What are some things a person like him should expect when moving from stock Android over to a privacy-oriented ROM? What kind of hand-holding or conveniences will he no longer have that I should mention to him? How can I effectively communicate to him he’s going to have to change his habits?

How would you prepare your family member for the same challenge? How would you do it?

I don’t care if he becomes a hardcore privacy advocate or not. I just want him to learn how to use the phone he wants and be comfortable with it. That’s my greatest concern.

If the OS you’re getting them to switch to is GrapheneOS, then the biggest impact you’ll have is that the default apps are’re very pretty, and that on some rare occasions you may have to play around with settings (exploit compatibility toggle, secure app spawning, etc) to get a few apps to work.

There would be the matter of fewer Google services being integrated into the OS, so a few things may be a bit more inconvenient, but seeing as your friend is switching over to get away from Google, that’s probably a benefit more than a drawback.

Most things will probably work about as well as you’d expect them to on the stock OS, if not better.

As already stated on privacyguides website the only and best alternative OS for a pixel phone should be GrapheneOS so I’ll be referring to that.
Not being tech savvy is not a real problem if your friend is already familiar with android he will be comfortable since it’s almost AOSP with great hardening under the hood.
Also the web installer makes flashing the os very easy.
You will lose some bells and whistles but nothing major imho.
There’s some settings maybe to learn to tweak but again, nothing to worry about since grapheneos has an excellent forum with great community willing to help noobies too.
99% of the android apps will work without issue.

However there are some things that WILL NOT work and could be a problem for the average user:

  • Android Auto will not works since it requires elevated privileges
  • Payments with Gpay will not work for the same reason
  • Some bank apps MAY not work (although many are reported to work just fine)

Things that don’t come out of the box but could be installed and configured or with some limitation:

  • multilingual text support keyboard
  • text to speech
  • contacts and calendar sync
  • casting
  • backups (you can’t have a full phone backup but you can export separate settings and data apps)

I think that the challenge to him could be more towards switching apps (avoid google ecosystems in favor to privacy respecting ones) than the OS change itself.
But again, nothing really to worry about since there are great alternatives for almost any app/service.

So once the phone setup and apps configured it will be easy to operate and comfortable to use.

Also make sure your friend understands that installing GOS helps very little if he just throws Messenger, WA, Instagram, TikTok and all the other fun apps on it regardless.