There's a new operating system on the block. It's called AphyOS. And it cares about privacy.
Apostrophy, the company behind Aphy, describes itself as "champions of data sovereignty." They believe your data is valuable. And you should know who you're sharing it with (and how they're gonna use it).
I've spent about a week now with AphyOs on the Punkt. MC02. This isn't a full review for either the software or the hardware. That's still gonna come, and it will call out the good and the bad. But right now, I am very much in the honeymoon phase with the dual excitment of testing a new operating system AND brand-new hardware at the same time. I'll be sharing my first impressions of what makes AphyOS.
1. Android without Google can work
AphyOS strips Google out of Android, leaving you with the choice to make individual agreements with each software company you allow on your device.
Aphy is built off of GrapheneOS but adds custom internal signatures for the entire end-to-end code. This allows them to create a unique experience for balancing data protection and actually being able to use your phone how you want. This experience gives you a partition where one part of your phone prioritizes security with a separate sandbox for compatiblity. You get a private spot for private work. And a public spot to use Android apps the way they were intended.
But, wait a minute. If Google is gone at the OS level, what does that mean for the Google apps you love? What if you like Gmail? YouTube? And Google Docs? You can get them all and use them fully, but with AphyOS, you get to decide on an app-by-app basis what your relationship with each app will be. By removing Google from the OS-level, this removes a level of deault oversight that you probably would've handed to Google without even thinking about it. Most people are fine with this relationship with Google anyway. But for those who are more thoughtful about those kinds of things (and actually read the terms and conditions agreements instead of quickly swiping through), AphyOS is there for you.
2. Domus and Piazza
It is so instantly obvious when using AphyOS when you're private vs. public. That's because of Aphy's segmentation between the Domus and the Piazza. We'll expand on this in a future article, but below is the short version:
The Domus is the secure and private partition of the phone. This is where the Aphy-native apps live. What happens in the Domus, stays in the Domus.
The Piazza is the public area. This is where you can add the Google Play store, use all the Android apps exactly the way they would run on any other Andorid phone -- but with one exception: your usage habits won't be shared and tracked between apps by default. You can also further dial-in more precise security on a per-app basis using The Ledger (expalined shortly).
Between the Domus and the Piazza, you get the best of both worlds on one device: a highly secure space (with a cool grayscale aesthetic) with the Domus, and an open, unrestricted area for everything else, the Piazza.
3. Digital Nomad
Digital Nomad is the on-board VPN that ships with AphyOS. It is excellent and very easy to use.
This app lives in the Domus partition of AphyOS (so you know it's extra secure). When you launch it, you will see a map of the world and a drop down menu of several different countries. By tapping on the country dropdown menu and sliding one toggle, you can quickly connect from and swap between countries with a secure VPN and dedicated domain name system.
Every VPN should aspire to be this simple to use.
4 a. The Ledger - Carbon Reduction
The fourth thing to like about AphyOS is the Ledger, but we're gonna cheat a little and break this one up into two parts: Carbon Reduction and Data Privacy.
It's one thing to care about the environment. It's another thing to take a super intangible idea, like app use on your phone, and figure out how that translates to your carbon footprint. AphyOS makes this easier with its Carbon and Data Ledger.
If you tap and hold any app, you will see a pop-up for Ledger. By launching this, Ledger shows you two dials: Data Privacy and Carbon Reduction. From an environmental standpoint, you can choose to dial up or down Carbon Reduction, which will affect background usage of the app (and, proportionately, battery life). A graph at the bottom of the Ledger shows the impact on battery.
The main goal is making your phone's battery last longer in places where it makes sense, so you're spending less time charging and sucking power from the grid. It doesn't estimate energy used by each company's servers, for example, but it's a starting point that can make you more cognizant of the connection between how you use your phone and the energy impact.
4 b. The Ledger - Data Privacy
The other part of the Ledger is the Data Privacy dial. On an app-by-app basis, you can review and easily change the privacy settings between you and any app whenever you want.
The range goes from basically no restrictions (lets the app do whatever it wants) to so many restrictions the app might not work. It gives you the ability to find that Goldilocks spot where the permissions to privacy is just right.
5 Aphy Button
Security is always a tap away! By default, the three-button navigation bar on AphyOS is enabled. And the middlemost button is the Apostrophy logo. By tapping on this, you're instantly transported back to your private Domus.
This is small, but it speaks to the thought process behind ease of use and access to security. At any time, no matter what app you're in, or what you're doing, you can quickly navigate back to the most secure area on your phone (the Domus) with the tap of a button.
Early days are encouraging
I am lucky enough to get to try a lot of new hardware before it is released. And it's always exciting to see how different companies will iterate on existing operating systems to bring new features to users.
But it has been so long since I used a new operating system on a smartphone, I just want to get some thoughts on paper (or words on screen, I guess) about what this is like. For sure, I'm gonna find stuff as time goes on that I'm not going to like or wish was different compared to using Android on something like the Google Pixel 8 Pro.
My initial AphyOS skepticism has turned to hopeful enthusiasm - they could be on to something, here
Before trying out AphyOS, and just hearing about it, I was very skeptical that anyone could come in and create an alternative operating system that actually has commercial appeal. As I'm spending time with Aphy and seeing how the level of security could be beneficial for people who really might have a strong need to keep sensitive information super confidential, like a lawyer, financial planner, journalist, etc., I'm also discovering more ways that everyday users (if there's such a thing) could find benefits with Aphy-powered devices for productivity, simplicity, or just straight up avoiding the digital grid.
AphyOS is interesting. And you're gonna be hearing a lot about it on CrackBerry as we continue to learn more (the good and the bad). For now, hit the comments section with your early questions, so we can build out some articles to cover the things you want to hear about the new Punkt. phone and AphyOs.