Getting Started with your Ghost Phone! ¶
By: Shane on May 16, 2023, 10:55 a.m.
MARK37 Ghost Phone
Getting Started Guide
Thank you for your purchase of a MARK37 Ghost Phone! This guide will help you get started with your new secure device. We highly recommend reading through this entire guide, as it will provide you with needed instructions, tips and a general overview on using your phone.
Our phones are set up with GrapheneOS, an Android-based, security-hardened, privacy-focused, free, open-source mobile operating system for selected smartphones. GrapheneOS is focused on privacy and security by default and when used as recommended in this guide will protect against nearly all tracking and spying attempts by BigTech and other 3rd parties.
This guide will help walk you through the basic settings and setup, step by step. Should you have any problems, advice or questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The specific device you have is a Google Pixel. Ironically, yes, Google Pixel devices are among the most secure and private phones available. Google, in this case, operates much like HP or Dell does when manufacturing laptops and desktops. One can install any flavor of operating system when purchasing an HP or Dell device, however, HP and Dell tend to have the Windows operating system set as the default. In this case, Google manufactured a device (The Pixel) that was ideally suited for the Android operating system.
Thus, the Pixel, with the open source operating system GrapheneOS, provides optimum security and privacy. This is especially the case for Pixel devices prior to the Pixel 6, as Google began embedding their own custom hardware onto the device starting with the Pixel 6. Although we do not have any indication that Google has, we do not yet fully trust that they did not also embed their own spyware within the hardware of the Pixel 6 and newer devices. Regardless which model you purchased, you are still far ahead in your privacy with one of our Ghost Phones phones than using any main stream device running a Big Tech Operating System.
There are a few other open source mobile operating systems such as LineageOS and CalyxOS with work on various other types of devices as well. However, through our testing, we have found GrapheneOS to be the most secure mobile operating system available. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, GrapheneOS works specifically and only on Pixel devices at this time. Installation of GrapheneOS on other devices is experimental at best and will likely provide only limited functionality.
ALTERNATIVE APP STORES
On our specific builds, we have installed the app stores F-Droid and Aurora Store.
F-Droid – a free and open-source app store that offers many of the apps you need to stay productive on the go.
- We recommend F-Droid to be your primary app store. If you can not find the app you want on F-droid we recommend you analyze if you really need the app and if you can get by with out it.
Aurora Store – a Google Store Spoofing client.
We recommend you be careful using this store. Only use apps from this store if you absolutely need them and can not find a usable app from the F-droid store to accomplish your need. Even without the Google apps and services many/most apps on the Aurora Store still have trackers on the apps and you will be giving up some privacy. It will still be far more private and secure than using a Google Android phone or an Apple iPhone but you will be exposing yourself to some tracking and possible spying from the company that manages and produces the app you are downloading.
Also be aware that not all apps downloaded from the Aurora Store will be fully functional or may be completely nonfunctional depending on its reliance on Google Apps and Services.
We look at the Aurora Store as a temporary fix until we have better solutions and alternatives available… which we will before the end of 2023 for certain!
Please check all of your settings on the device and adjust them to your needs. The phone is operating off of the open source framework Android, so for Google Android users, you will notice that the settings menu looks nearly identical and is fairly straightforward. Those coming from using an iPhone will have a little bit of a learning curve. Just like learning anything new, with time you will become proficient and familiar with how to navigate to what you need as the system is rather intuitive.
Several steps have already been taken on our end to get you started quicker upon receiving your phone.
Power on your de-Googled phone by pressing the small colored button on the right of the frame for
2 or 3 seconds. This will bring up a warning: ‘Your device is loading a different operating system.’ This is normal and this screen will pop up every time you start or restart the device. Leave the phone alone and it will cycle to the next screen on its own.
The Google logo will then show, which is also normal. This is part of the bootloader process. You are NOT installing any Google software on the phone. As mentioned above, this is no different than seeing the Dell or HP logo pop up when starting your laptop or desktop. Google is technically the manufacturer and so we are going to happily ignore their logo.
Next, it will show the GrapheneOS start screen.
Your phone has already been through the basic setup process, however, we recommend you adjust the settings to your specifications via the Settings menu.
Now commence the initial settings.
- Language: Set to your Country and Language - default is English (United States)
- Go to Settings > System > Languages & input > Languages > press add language
- Time and Date: Set the time zone, date, and time to your location. (Your phone has been set to Eastern Time on initial setup, please adjust as needed.)
- Go to Settings > System > Data & Time > Toggle off Set time zone automatically to set default time zone.
- Language: Set to your Country and Language - default is English (United States)
Be sure to toggle Set time zone automatically if you wish for your phone to update date times zones if you wish for it to change automatically while traveling.
- Wi-Fi: Connect to an accessible Wi-Fi network
- Swipe down from the top and tap Internet. – the available networks will automatically be visible – tap your network to connect to it. It will prompt you for your Wi-Fi network password. Enter it and press Connect
When you turn on your de-Googled phone, the Wi-Fi automatically toggles on. If ON, it will connect automatically to known Wi-Fi such as home/work. If OFF, you will need to connect manually. We usually set our toggle to OFF to ensure we are not joining a network unless by choice.
While a good VPN should give you protection, if you toggle to ON, this will also turn on Wi-Fi
scanning, so your phone will constantly be scanning for Wi-Fi which we assume many people do not want.
Insert SIM Card
This step can be skipped while you set up the phone if you set up and download your apps via Wi-Fi.
Assuming you don't have access to Wi-Fi, if you want to use cellular data in the setup process, you will need to insert a SIM. If you are inserting a new SIM, you may need to register with the Provider.
Charges may apply depending on the data used.
Decide if you want apps to be given automatic location access in your GrapheneOS setup. We typically deny and modify specific permissions on an app-by-app basis. I turned off the global Location setting on initial setup, so you will need to toggle on Location for any app that requires it. This way the phone’s location is OFF unless you specifically turn it on, or grant an app permission to use it.
Secure Your Phone
Decide what kind of security you want to employ to allow your device to unlock. A fingerprint or face recognition (if your phone model supports these), a PIN and/or a password. You should set up at least one of these security features to prevent unauthorized access to your phone. * You will need to activate this upon delivery as we leave this blank. Please see the instructions further in the manual.
There are several in-built security features in GrapheneOS. The first is setting the pin to scrambling.
Scrambling allows the numerals of the keypad to show at random positions each login. Scrambling
helps from people overlooking you keying in a code and guessing the digits.
To enable this, navigate to Settings > Security > PIN Scrambling and toggle this to On.
Step 2: Initial Start of GrapheneOS
As excited as you may be to get things moving and downloaded, now is the best time to make initial
tweaks to the phone to customize it to your specifications and liking before doing anything else or launching on the Internet.
First is the navigation of menus. In this short time, you may have noticed that the swipe control is
different from what you may have used in the past. Here are a few guidance points to help you navigate your new de-Googled Ghost phone.
By default, GrapheneOS uses gesture-based navigation. This can be changed to ‘2 Button
Navigation’ or ‘3 Button navigation’.
The system navigation mode can be configured in Settings > System > Gestures > System
The same Menu is also available in Settings > Accessibility > System controls > System navigation.
The bottom of the screen is a reserved touch zone for system navigation. A line is displayed in the
center to show that the navigation bar is present across the entire bottom of the screen. In most apps,
this area will display padding.
The Home gesture is swiping up from the navigation bar while removing your finger from the screen.
The Recent Apps gesture is swiping up from the navigation bar while holding your finger on the screen before releasing.
The most recently opened activity is always on the furthest right. Each step left goes one step back
through the history of recently opened apps. Opening an app with the recent App's activity will place it on the furthest right in the recent App order, just like opening a new App.
The recent app activity has a screenshot button as an alternative to holding power and volume down
while using an app.
Rather than opening the recent App's activity, you can swipe left on the navigation bar for the Previous App and swipe right for the Next App. This will not change the recent App's order. This is usually the best way to navigate through recent apps.
Swiping from either the left or the right of the screen within the App (not the navigation bar) is the
Apps are supposed to avoid implementing conflicting gestures but have the option to override this
gesture if they genuinely need to get rid of it. You can avoid triggering the back gesture in one of 2 easy ways:
- Avoid swiping from right near the edge
- Hold your finger on the side of the screen for a moment before swiping.
The more advanced option is using a diagonal swipe pointing sharply to the bottom of the screen since this will bypass the back gesture but will still trigger most app gestures. The advanced option is the most convenient approach once you get used to doing it.
The launcher uses a swipe-up gesture starting anywhere on the screen to open the app drawer from the home screen. You need to start that gesture above the system navigation bar since any gesture starting on the navigation bar is handled by the OS as a system navigation gesture.
This may shortly be removed from GrapheneOS. Therefore we do not recommend defaulting to this
navigation. The instructions may still be viewed on the official site at
3-button navigation is Android's oldest touchscreen-based navigation system. It will remain supported for the foreseeable future to provide accessibility for users unable to easily use the gestures. It's older than 2-button navigation but isn't considered a legacy feature.
A large row across the bottom of the screen is reserved for navigation buttons. The Back button is on the left, the Home button is in the center, and the Recent Apps button is on the right.
The most recently opened activity is always on the furthest right in the recent App's activity. Each step left goes one step back through the history of recently opened apps. Opening an app with the recent App's activity will place it on the furthest right in the recent App's order, just like opening a new app.
The recent app activity has a screenshot button as an alternative to holding power and volume down
while using an app.
We find these settings to be commonly adjusted or changed. They are
changes to the default settings that you may wish to explore. We find they help with the ease of
viewing and everyday use.
We will go into the Settings menu and make our way through the basics. Once we have set the
framework, we will look at the Apps installed, and then, depending on the choices made, we will come back and tighten it up.
Network and Internet
• Settings > Network & Internet > Data Saver Toggle to ON if you have limited data.
• Only use this if necessary, as it can slow some apps down.
• Settings > Battery > Battery Percentage toggle to ON.
• This will show the percentage of battery life left in the notification bar.
• Settings > Ring and notification volume > slide to 1/2 volume.
• Settings > Display > Adaptive brightness toggle to ON
• Settings > Display > Lock screen > Privacy > Don't show notifications at all.
• Who wants strangers or colleagues to see your notifications?
• Settings > Display > Lock screen > Tap to check phone > toggle to OFF.
• It is just as easy to press the power button.
• Settings > Display > Lock screen > Double Line Clock> toggle to ON.
• Settings > Display > Lock screen > Lift to check phone > Toggle to OFF
• As above, it is just as easy to press the power button
• Settings > Display > Lock screen > Wake screen for notifications toggle to OFF
• You don't want to be continuously distracted when the phone is next to you, constantly asking for attention.
• Settings > Display > Screen timeout default to 2 minutes.
• Settings > Display > Night Light > Use Night Light toggle to ON.
• Settings > Display > Night Light > Will not turn off automatically > tap Do not use sunrise and sunset times as this means you need to give location access.
• Instead, use Schedule and set your custom start and end time.
• Settings > Display > Auto-rotate screen toggle to ON.
• Settings > Display > Increase touch sensitivity. (Not available on Pixel 3)
• You may want to toggle to ON if a thick screen protector is used.
• Settings > System > Languages & input > On-screen keyboard > GrapheneOS keyboard > This will show Languages/ Engish (US).
• This is only for the layout of the keyboard, so it is all perfectly good.
• Settings > System > Languages & input > On-screen keyboard > GrapheneOS keyboard > Preferences > Vibrate on keypress toggle to OFF.
• Settings > System > Languages & input > On-screen keyboard > GrapheneOS keyboard > Appearance & Layouts > Theme then Material Dark
* This allows the keyboard to be seen more quickly.
• Settings > System > Languages & input > On-screen keyboard > GrapheneOS keyboard > Text correction > Personalised suggestions toggle to ON.
• This is kept only in the phone and not shared with outside parties.
Security: The phone is not secure against physical exploitation unless you lock the device using a PIN, Fingerprint or Password, please do so immediately and store your password in a safe manner in order to maintain access.
- Settings > Security > Screen lock > set your preferred login PIN / Password.
- Settings > Security > Face Unlock / Fingerprint > We usually leave this off.
- Settings > Security > PIN scrambling > toggle to ON.
- This allows the numerals of the keypad to show at random positions for each login. This helps from people overlooking your keying in a code and guessing the digits.
- Settings > Security > Screen lock camera access > toggle to OFF.
- This means you cannot accidentally take videos but also helps lockdown any unwanted intrusion. *If you believe you may be in a situation where you may need to document an event instantly, you may wish to change this setting prior, then revert.
Step 3 - App Installations
Finally, we are getting something on our phone, the apps that make our lives easier and enslave us to Big Tech if not installed correctly. The fact is, we are like children without parents when it comes to technology. We know vegetables are good for us, but damn, those lollies and sweets are so good we just can't fit any other food in!
There are three ways to go here. Reckless, Careful, and Cautious. The way we see it, we have already gone this far, so we might as well be cautious.
Reckless Option for Apps
This involves quickly getting apps from the Google Play store and deleting the account.
Careful Option for Apps
Here you would set up another account on this phone that is a "sandboxed" environment. It is like having a quarantine ward in your phone that can reach the outside world but has no access to the rest of the hospital. This ward only contains malicious apps that may affect your privacy.
Cautious Option for Apps – This involves installing carefully selected apps from the Aurora Store.
- Aurora Store is a popular open-source client of the Google Play Store, allowing users to search, download, and update Android apps and games on any device. You will need to download the Aurora Store app and then explore. ::(INSTALLED)::
Safest Option for Apps – Apps installed from the F-Droid Store
- F-droid is a repository of free and open-source (FOSS) apps. Apps here have minimal permissions, and as they contain no trackers, you can be assured of a high level of privacy. This is our premium source of preferred Apps. This site can be reached at www.f-droid.org. ==(INSTALLED)==
Other safe option – App like links to web applications and websites
- For downloading from websites, we don’t necessarily suggest going to a website and downloading their App. Most of the time, you will be diverted back through to Google, which defeats the purpose of going down the privacy route. By websites, we mean something similar to Gab, or perhaps a weather page. This is where you get a shortcut icon to a webpage on your screen that look’s similar to an app icon instead of actually installing an app.
Step 4 - Internet & Browser
Okay, we admit some of this is technical and can be tedious, but before we jump on the Internet and
start downloading, but for best privacy and security some decisions should be made regarding DNS servers, Web browsers, and Search engines.
Even though they are all different components, they all tie into each other, and the choices here may
have a significant impact on our privacy. Unless we get it right, we may not be utilizing the full benefit of going to a de-Googled phone.
No one likes ads. They remind us of bothersome flies. The ones that land right where you are reading.
When you try to brush them away, they are back again, but with a vengeance.
The difficulty with ad-blockers is that you are limited to 3 methods of using them: A private DNS
(Domain Name Server) service, a Paid or free ad-blocker extension, or an ad-blocking browser.
However, as many of our apps will be coming from F-droid, we will not be experiencing as many
problems as we would through the regular Google Play Store. That means far less add tracking.
Private DNS Service
A DNS (Domain Name Server) is the Postman of the Internet. We can type in a website (domain) name (such as www.cloudflare.com,) and we are delivered to the Internet Protocol (IP) address of that site.
Examples of IP addresses: (184.108.40.206), (220.127.116.11) Think of a web address as the equilateral of you home address and a IP address as the GPS coordinates of that same location.
DNS is like the GPS navigator of web, taking our human words and routing them to the IP addresses. The problem is that your network provider typically provides the DNS. They usually take a note (log) of every site you visit. They may sell your browsing history to third parties. We have an option to override this in our settings and nominate a DNS server of our choice. The good thing about this is that some DNS providers are interested in our privacy, maintain that they do not keep records, and actually block ads, such as DNS ad-guard.
The issue with this solution, as noted at https://grapheneos.org/faq#default-dns, is that, in fact, using
the network-provided DNS servers from your mobile carrier is the best way to blend in with other
users, therefore not standing out. This means Networks and websites can fingerprint and track users based on a non-default DNS configuration. The GrapheneOS recommendation for general purpose usage is to use the network-provided DNS servers. The fall-back DNS server, in case the first one is not working, defaults to Cloudflare. Most Android phones fall back server defaults to Google, so by not going through Google, you will also retain privacy if there is a problem with your primary DNS.
In summary, if we have a Private DNS, we risk being identified by standing out, but the benefit is
having our ads blocked.
If you decide to Install a Private DNS service, navigate to Settings > Network and Internet > Private DNS > Private DNS provider hostname > then type in your server's name. Note, it is your Servers name, not IP address (so dns.ad-guard.com).
GrapheneOS comes with a hardened Browser, Vanadium, which has been built entirely with security in mind. GrapheneOS's official position is against trying to achieve browser privacy and security through piling on browser extensions and modifications. They note that adding extensions or changes to the default settings only helps isolate you as a user and generally provides more ways to track you.
As noted on their usage page https://grapheneos.org/usage#web-browsing, Chromium-based Bromite is a solid alternative to their default browser Vanadium and is the only other browser they recommend. Bromite provides integrated ad-blocking and more advanced anti-fingerprinting. For now, Vanadium is more focused on security hardening, and Bromite is more focused on anti-fingerprinting. The projects are collaborating together and will likely converge to provide a combination of the best features.
As things stand, it seems we have 2 main choices. We will discard the idea of putting an ad-blocking extension onto the default browser, Vanadium. We will only be getting a few ads from websites etc. Therefore it is not worth compromising our anonymity.
So, DNS, or Ad-blocking browser? Before deciding, let's throw another computation into the mix.
Every mobile carrier is going to log the use of your data and any website you visit. The Provider of any Wi-Fi you access will also log the use of your data and the website you visit. These records must legally be kept for years, depending upon the jurisdiction, and the metadata turned over to authorities if requested.
A VPN connects your phone, tablet, or PC to a server on the Internet and allows us to browse the
Internet using that computer's internet connection and IP address. This encrypts the network traffic
between your device and the VPN provider and will help cloak information from your internet
All that your Provider's logs will record is an encrypted communication between your device and the VPN server and not the sites you have visited. As for the outside world, the places we see on the web, if our VPN server was in Singapore and we were in the United States, then we would appear to be in Singapore. Our own IP address (our computer number) would be hidden. The world would only see the Singapore server address.
If we visit back to the postman analogy. With a VPN, we have an encrypted connection between us and our "pretend" location in Singapore. Our Singapore connection will ask the Postman to deliver us to an address. The Postman sees us in Singapore because that is who is making the request.
One of the problems with a VPN, is that data speed can slow if your VPN is too far away. The benefit is to provide another layer of anonymity, and that can only be good.
Keep in mind that not all providers are equal. They can still see your movements and monitor your
traffic, and some well-known VPNs have been recently acquired by Big Tech or other phantom
companies. As a result, questions have been raised about their new owners.
Still, a VPN will encrypt your network traffic between your device and the VPN provider. It will help cloak information from your internet provider, who is probably more likely to sell or hand over your browsing history data than a well-researched VPN provider.
Oh, and did we mention that they also tend to be ad-blocking? So yes, a VPN service for me!
Free VPNs We Currently Recommend (in no particular order)
• ProtonVPN https://protonvpn.com/is best known for their private proton mail service.
• CalyxVPN at https://calyx.net, from the same people who bought you the CalyxOS phone. The CalyxVPN may be downloaded directly from f-droid
You could also try a paid professional VPN service with Mullvad. Each of the VPNs recommended has a strict no-logging policy, meaning they commit not to record traffic.
Possibly one of the best VPN options is your own self hosted VPN. This is not a topic for discussion here but if this sounds of interest to you, check this out:
Internet & Browser Summary
The above information leads to our recommendation to use an ad-blocking browser with a VPN, and between them both, we should have the privacy of location, be ad-free, and reasonably cloaked in anonymity.
The Brave browser also incorporates private search engines. The Brave search engine is excellent
browser option as well, Brave and Vanadium are my go to choices most of the time.
Privacy Browser (available from F-Droid) uses Mojeek search engine, which returns incredibly more unbiased search results, compared to Google.
We have also tested Startpage, which has proved reliable, safe, private, and returns decent results.
Remember that Startpage sends anonymized requests to Google, and though Google may not know
who you are, they will still only send the links to pages they want you to see. Startpage doesn't keep any data such as search requests, record IP addresses, or serve any tracking or identifying cookies. And as they are based in the Netherlands, any requests for information, not that
they have any information, have to come from the Dutch Judicial authorities.
*However. Please also consider that as Startpage uses Google (anonymously) as the search
engine, this may return the results as offered by Google!
We are keeping the default DNS settings, using Brave as the default browser, and recommending
installing a VPN service. If you decide just to keep the default Vanadium browser, we will be setting that up next so we can safely access the Internet to download the initial services and apps we need, Fdroid, your VPN of choice, Aurora store, and Brave browser.
Step 5 - Setting Up Vandadium
We need to give Vanadium permission to install unknown apps. In this instance, they are all unknown to our phone and browser. Navigate to Home page > APP Quick Access bar at the bottom of the page > Press the Browser Icon for a few seconds (this is the tri-colour circle icon to the right of the setting icon)> Click the information icon > Scroll down and enable Allow from this source Toggle to ON.
Step 6 - F-Droid
As previously discussed, Apps from F-Droid are free and open-source, minimize permissions, and do not have built-in-app trackers, thus assuring a high level of privacy.
• In the Vanadium browser, navigate to www.f-droid.org
• Close to the top of the page will be a Download f-droid tab
• Choose where to download Menu will open. It will show the file F-Droid.apk, and where to
• Accept the default, which should be the Downloads folder.
• Click the Download button.
• At the bottom of the screen, a popup will advise that this type of file can harm your device. Do you want to keep F-Droid.apk anyway? Yes, click okay.
• The file will download, and a green tick will show. (If you are distracted and miss it - on the home page quickly scroll up which will take you to all the installed apps. Click on "files", then f-droid.apk and install)
• Click Open
• A Message will pop up. Do you want to install this App? Yes, Click Install
• Once the app is installed, click okay, and close the browser.
• The first time you go to use f-droid to install you will be asked if you want to allow from this source. Click allow.
Please note: Sometimes, if you do not press download anyway, it will default to another (donate page) page, so you will need to go back and request the download again. At other times, unless you click the instructions in quick succession it will also not download.
To update f-droid on the Home screen, open F-Droid and a message may pop up that it was designed for an earlier version of Android. It will then update the repositories. Once updated, it is ready to use.
You may wish to open F-Droid and click on the settings button. Here you can make personalized
changes. The toggle switch that will show available updates is the main thing to note. As we are in a
locked-down environment, the phone will not automatically update apps, so a notification in the bottom bar of this App will show if this is kept on.
Now maybe a good time to scroll around the App to look at the available download content. This will include free VPN services Proton & Calyx; if you have decided on installing a free VPN service.
Installing Calyx VPN Service
As mentioned, we are going to install the Mullvad VPN. Use a server from somewhere nearby (as in within a state or two, don’t pick a server halfway around the world, or your internet speeds will suffer) unless you need to use a specific country server for some reason.
We appreciate that many users will be looking at the free version, so we will give the method for
installing the CalyxVPN. Also, there are no "upgrades" for paid services.
If you decide to go with Proton VPN (our top recommendation,) you must set up an account. To set up an account, it is possible to provide a different name and an incorrect email address, and also be aware that if you lose the password, you will be unable to reset it because it will be sent to your original submitted (false) email address.
- On the home page, find and click to open the F-droid App, which will take you directly to the repository you were looking at earlier.
- At the bottom right of the screen is a search icon, tap it, and it will open the search bar.
- Type in Calyx VPN
- Click on the App
- A message will come up. Do you want to install this App? Click Install
- A message will come up. For your security, your phone is not allowed to install unknown apps. To allow from this source change in Settings.
- Click Settings (in the open message)
- Toggle Allow from this source to ON
- Click the back arrow at the left top of the screen.
- Click Open
- There will be a connection request.
- Click Okay
- The Key icon will pulse while connecting and then change to solid when the connection is made.
- Open the App on the Home screen.
- Open the hamburger menu at the top left of the screen.
- Click Always-on VPN and toggle ON.
It is your decision whether or not to activate the option to Block connections without VPN. We prefer to switch it on, but if we cannot connect to a site, then we make an informed decision whether to switch it off for that instance.
Click phone Settings > Apps > All apps > Calyx VPN > tap Notifications and toggle to OFF.
This just prevents the status from being shown in Notifications which becomes annoying. It will always remain on, and it does turn off, you will be notified. And the Icon will still show active.
Installing the Mullvad VPN Service
• On the home page, find and click to open the F-droid App, which will take you directly to the repository you were looking at earlier.
• At the bottom right of the screen is a search icon, tap it to open the search bar.
• Type in Mullvad.
• Click on the App.
• A message will come up. Do you want to install this App? Click Install.
• A message will come up. For your security, your phone is not allowed to install unknown apps.
• To allow from this source change in Settings.
• Click Settings (in the open message).
• Toggle Allow from this source to ON.
• Click the back arrow at the left top of the screen.
• Click Install.
• Open the Mullvad VPN.
• Tap Create account at the bottom of the screen. You may need to retry this if you have only just installed the App.
• Note your account number, then tap Buy Credit, and purchase for the amount of time and payment of your choosing. Note that you avoid giving personal details if you pay by Bitcoin, unlike paying with a credit card.
• Select the country you wish to pop out in. We try to use somewhere relatively close. The further the distance, the less the bandwidth and speed you will get while browsing.
• Tap OK for a connection.
• Wait for the Secure Connection notification. It will also advise the City you are in.
• Click on the Settings icon at the top right.
• Click Preferences.
• Auto-connect toggle to ON, and make a choice regarding local network sharing.
• Go back to Home screen Settings > Network and Internet > VPN > tap Mullvad > Always-on VPN toggle to ON and Block connections without VPN toggle to ON.
• Go back to Home screen Settings > Apps > All apps > Mullvad VPN > tap Notifications and toggle to OFF.
This just prevents the status from being shown in Notifications which becomes annoying. It will always remain on, and if it does turn off, you will be notified. The Icon will still show active.
Installing Proton’s VPN Service
For those that have a Proton Mail account, Proton offers a free VPN service. It is also a good option.
- On the home page, find and click to open the F-droid App, which will take you directly to the repository you were looking at earlier.
- At the bottom right of the screen is a search icon, tap it to open the search bar.
- Type in ProtonVPN.
- Click on the App.
- A message will come up. Do you want to install this App? Click Install.
- A message will come up. For your security, your phone is not allowed to install unknown apps.
- To allow from this source change in Settings.
- Click Settings (in the open message).
- Toggle Allow from this source to ON.
- Click the back arrow at the left top of the screen.
- Click Install.
- Allow Network Access.
- Once installed open the app and login to your Proton Account to begin using.
Step 7 - Aurora Store
The Aurora Store is a FOSS client for the Google Play Store, serving an almost identical function,
allowing you to directly download apps anonymously. You can use it to install apps that are available for free in the Google Play Store.
Typically many of the trackers and permissions associated with Google have been removed. When
"logging in" it spoofs your address. That means you can log in anonymously, and it will automatically make an address such as jane.doe@gmail, the next time as john.doe@gmail, etc., without it ever knowing your true identity.
- In F-Droid, find and install Aurora Store.
- Open the Aurora Store App and Accept terms of services.
- Next select Session Installer.
- Next select System Themes.
- Next select your preferred Accent.
- Next select Installer Permission.
- Toggle allow from this source to ON. and then click the back arrow and finish.
- Open the App Drawer (or the Home screen), long-press on Aurora Store, then tap the App info popover, which appears.
- Tap Permissions and move Files and Media from the NOT ALLOWED list to the ALLOWED list.
- Open Aurora Store.
- On the Welcome screen tap NEXT.
- On the Accounts screen tap ANONYMOUS. (NOT anonymous (insecure)). This will allow you to install apps without authenticating to the Play Store with a Google account of your own.
- As an exercise, click on any app you currently see in the Aurora Store.
- DO NOT install.
- Scroll down past the reviews.
There is a way to determine how many trackers and permissions are required for each App.
Click on the privacy arrow and to see what tracking information you are giving away to run the App.
Return, scroll down, to see what permissions will be required to run the App.
This is how you can help yourself make an informed decision on what you install. Always compare
apps before installation.
Step 8 - Brave browser
Brave is a free and open-source web browser developed by Brave Software, Inc. based on the
Chromium web browser. Brave is a privacy-focused browser, which automatically blocks online
advertisements and website trackers in its default settings. There are several ways to download brave to your phone or PC, however, the less complicated suiting most users are as below;
• In Aurora store search Brave Private Web browser • Click the default " Brave Software" icon which should appear at the top ( not the beta or nightly) • Click Install • Click " Do you want to install this app" > Install > Open • Untick " help improve brave by sending anonymous analysis" • Set Brave as default browser if you wish • Navigate to all apps (scroll up from settings to open App drawer) and open Brave browser. • In the 3 vertital dots on the right-hand side click settings • Click Search engines and change Standard tab to "startpage" or " brave" • Return, and repeat for Private tab. • Return to Home Screen and holding your finger on the default Vanadium Browser, drag it upwards to the "remove" tab. • Return to the Apps page and drag the Brave Browser across and drop it into the vacated space. • Hold your finger on the Brave browser icon for a second, open the info screen, navigate to the "Install unknown apps" and toggle ON.
Step 9 - Signal
Signal is a secure messaging app that can seamlessly manage all your messaging, both encrypted
messages and conventional texts. It can also make encrypted voice calls. It’s the best all-in-one
messaging service for most users.
If a contact has Signal, they can receive your texts encrypted to their Signal account. If they do not
have Signal, they will still receive the unencrypted message in their default message app.
If you make Signal your default messaging App, you will receive encrypted messages for contacts with Signal, and unencrypted from those without.
- In a browser, browse to https://signal.org/android/apk/.
- Scroll down past the Danger zone heading and then tap the Download button.
- Tap Download in the Download file dialogue.
- Tap OK in the This type of file can harm your device notification.
- Once the Signal-website-universal-release…apk file has been downloaded, tap Open in the notification.
- Occasionally it will not be seen that the download has finished and you will need to navigate back to the files/download folder in the main app page.
• Tap INSTALL in the Signal, Do you want to install this application? Dialogue.
• Tap Done in the Signal App installed dialogue.
• Go to the newly installed Signal App Icon and press for a few seconds. Click on app info. Scroll down to Install Unknown apps and Toggle Allow from this source to ON.
• Signal needs this permission to be able to update itself.
• Once again, go to the newly installed Signal App Icon and press for a few seconds. Then tap the App info pop-over, which appears.
• Tap Permissions and allow Camera - Only while using this App, then Microphone- Only while using this App then individually Contacts, , Phone, SMS from the DENIED list to the ALLOWED list.
• Tap the back arrow at the top left of the screen.
• Tap Notifications and toggle Other to off.
When this setting is on, you'll see an icon reminding you that Signal is running in the background. The icon appears both on the lock screen and in the notification bar of the home screen. We find this icon distracting, so we prefer not to see it.
To Register and Configure Signal
• Put your SIM card into the phone. Signal needs this to register the new device.
• Open the Signal app and follow its setup/registration process. If you have a backup to restore, make sure you select the RESTORE BACKUP button when presented on the screen.
• After the registration step, Signal shows some action confirmations towards the top of the screen in white text on a blue background.
• Tap the use as default SMS app action confirmation, then select Signal in the dialogue that appears, and tap SET AS DEFAULT.
• Tap the Import system SMS action confirmation.
• Tap the x in the top right corner of the Invite your friends! action confirmation.
• Tap the Optimize for missing Play Services action confirmation, then tap ALLOW in the Let app always run the background? Dialogue.
Step 10 - Telegram
Telegram is one of the most popular messaging services in the world and is focused on speed and
security. Its core functionality is the same as most other messaging apps. You can message other Telegram users, create group conversations, call contacts, make video calls, and send files and stickers.
There are several ways of installing Telegram onto your phone. You can choose directly from their
website at telegram.org, from the Aurora Store, or via F-Droid. We highly recommend using the FDroid ‘FOSS’ version, as it eliminates trackers present in the other versions.
The F-Droid version is an unofficial fork that removes any proprietary dependencies, like:
• GSF (Google Services Framework), so it doesn't depend on Google for notifications.
• Google Vision face detection and barcode scanning (Passport)
• Google Wallet and Android Pay integration
• Google Voice integration and replaces some aspects with FOSS equivalents
• Location sharing with OpenStreetMap (osmdroid) instead of Google Maps
• Google Play Services GCM replaced with Telegram's push service
Play Store and website versions are provided by Telegram itself, and the website version has fewer
regional content restrictions.
So if you have a de-Googled phone, you should really go with the F-Droid version.
- In F-Droid, find and install Telegram FOSS
- This will install, and the app icon will load to the home page.
- Press the icon for a second, then follow the Notifications button for an explanation of how the push notification works
Step 11 - Maps with Magic Earth & OsmAnd
We find the best map solutions is from using two separate apps. The main drawback to this approach is the storage they take. Currently, we cannot go past OsmAnd+ as an offline maps and navigation app that depends on Satellite for navigation, and Magic Earth for City/urban directions. Magic Earth is my top recommendation to start with if you only pick one. Download the maps in the areas you need (state/country) for offline use, works very well with or without cell service if you have maps downloaded to the phone.
You can dictate how much information you want to download. For example, if you want true contour lines and elevations in OsmAnd+, add-ins are available. Your price is storage.
We use OsmAnd App for mountain biking, hunting, or hiking in remote areas, and for general area
searching before visiting, to get a lay of the land.
As far as City work and driving, it gets us around but doesn't really drill down to the actual street
numbers. For that reason, we use Magic Earth in urban environments, most people will find this the
best and easiest option to replace Google Maps.
This free App features the necessities such as lane assistance, turn-by-turn navigation, 2D, 3D, and
satellite map views, route planning, the ability to use your phone as a dashcam, notification about speed cameras, and current speed limits. There are many more positives too that can be seen at their website www.magicearth.com.
• In F-Droid, find and install Maps & GPS Navigation OsmAnd+ (known as OsmAnd~).
• After Install..Open
• Click Get Started.
• If you do not have a location available by default, Open the App Drawer (or it may be on your Home screen), long-press on OsmAnd~, and tap the App info popover.
• Tap Permissions and move location from the DENIED list to the ALLOWED list. Choose Only while the App is in use.
• Open OsmAnd+.
• Tap the period.
• Tap SKIP on the Download map screen, then tap SELECT in the Skip downloading maps dialogue.
• On the Map screens that follow, keep selecting your location as the options become more specific.
• When you see a Standard map option, tap it.
• This will download a map for your area. OsmAnd~ is an offline tool, so it needs to download maps of regions in which it will be used.
• In the World overview map notification, which appears next, tap DOWNLOAD. When fully installed, navigate to the App icon, press for a second, open the info dialogue, scroll down, and enable Location, "Only allow while using this App"
Magic Earth ==(INSTALLED)==
• In Aurora Store find Magic Earth Navigation & Maps
• Click Install
• Open, then at the bottom of the screen, at the download arrow, click, then search for ‘United States’ (or wherever you need to use the map)
• Download either the country, or the States and Territories you want to navigate (it may be in excess of 1Gb, so go make a coffee) for offline use if desired.
• After installation you will need to go to the Apps page (place your finger above the setting icon on the home page and scroll up) and drag it to the home screen.
• Press the icon for a second, then open the info bubble. Scroll down to location and allow "Only while using this app"
Useful Apps to Install from F-Droid and Aurora
We'll also install some other apps using F-Droid to provide various functionality. Search for each one by name in F-Droid, then install it. After installing each App, open it and approve the permissions it requests.
Agis – Two factor authentication app. (INSTALLED)
AndBible: Bible Study – a free open-source Bible study app. (INSTALLED)
AntennaPod - an open-source pod-cast manger and player. (INSTALLED)
Bible Notify – free open-source offline daily Bible verse notification app. (INSTALLED)
Blockada 5 or 6 (free) – Alternative to a VPN, this is an excellent Ad-Blocker to view all incoming and outgoing connections. Cannot be used concurrently with another VPN, choose only one of these at a time.
Briar messaging app – very anonymous and secure text message communication app.
Carnet- a powerful note-taking app with many similarities to Google Keep. Not only writes shopping but also longer texts, stories etc.
Collabora Office - can be downloaded from Aurora Store It allows you to read and edit Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and LibreOffice documents directly on your phone or cloud service. (INSTALLED)
Element (Matrix) – Element.io app offers an excellent free and open source communication app with endless features, and zero metadata tracking or collection, for both mobile and desktop systems.
Librera reader – a highly customisable and feature rich application for reading e-books in a multitude of formats.
JitsiMeet- An instant video calling and conference application for family, teams, or friends. (INSTALLED)
Joplin – A free open-source note taking app similar to OneNote. (INSTALLED)
KeePassDX - an open-source, ad-free, multi-format password manager requiring no internet connection. (This is the companion to KeePassXC, an excellent password manager app) (INSTALLED)
K-9 Mail - can be downloaded from F-Droid, Aurora Store and Google Play Store. It is designed for both novice and power users, offering features like push notifications for IMAP and POP accounts, a unified inbox, themes, attachment saving, signatures, per account notifications, and emoji support. (INSTALLED)
MusicPiped - can be downloaded from F-Droid. It is a full-featured music player that streams from YouTube instead of playing local files. You can stream any music available on YouTube for free. It does not stream video and only fetches audio files, thus eliminating heavy data usage. It’s a fully featured music player so you can enjoy background playback with notification controls, and you don’t need to keep screen on and focused to listen to your music.
NewPipe - has been created to get the original YouTube experience on your smartphone without annoying ads and questionable permissions. It offers many features that the YouTube app does not provide, like the option to download video or audio, a popup player, a background player, bookmarks, and play history – all without needing a Google account or having to log in. (INSTALLED)
Odysee - a free and open-source video player and library across a variety of genres. (INSTALLED)
ProtonMail – ProtonMail email client. (INSTALLED)
RadioDroid – a free open-source internet radio client for streaming music of all genres. (INSTALLED)
AntennaPod – probably the best podcast player in existence and it is free and open source.(INSTALLED)
Session – this is an up and coming private messenger app, very similar to Signal, but no number or email address is required, making this more anonymous. Video calling feature is coming soon, which will make this identical to Signal app.
Simple Calendar Pro - fully customizable, offline calendar with sync capability with no ads, complicated features, or unnecessary permissions. (INSTALLED)
Simple Gallery Pro - Off-line Photo and video gallery. The same version, but paid can be downloaded from Google Play Store. Browse, organize, edit, crop photos or videos, and recover deleted files from the recycle bin.
Simple Voice Recorder - is an easy way of recording any discussion or sounds without ads or internet access. (INSTALLED)
Standard Notes – a note taking app, free version is usually enough. This allows you to sync your Standard Notes to any devices you use, to work on projects and keep notes from any of your devices, right where you left off.
Tasks.org - can be downloaded from F-Droid, Aurora Store, and the Google Play Store. It is free, open-source software based on the original source code from the popular Astrid Tasks & To-Do Lists App. Tasks can be used entirely offline or synchronized with Google Tasks, CalDAV, or EteSync.
The Life – free open source Bible app. (INSTALLED)
The Light – free open source Bible app.(INSTALLED)
Truth Social – Trumps social media platform. (INSTALLED)
VLC - is a video and music player which just works! Regarded as one of the best FOSS Media players currently in the market supporting a wide range of formats for both local and remote playback.
Wire – excellent messenger app similar to Signal, but only requires email to sign up, rather than a cell number making this more anonymous if desired.
Removing Unused Apps from the App Screen
Some apps bundled with GrapeheneOS are unlikely to be used often, and others we have replaced so we'll remove them from the App Screen to keep it as uncluttered as possible. This does not remove the programs from the phone, but only from our screen.
One is Auditor, which verifies the integrity of the operating system. Others include Gallery, PDF
Viewer, and Vanadium.
- Open the App Page (put your finger near the settings icon and swipe up).
- Long-press on Auditor, then tap the App info popover which appears.
- Tap FORCE STOP, then tap OK in the confirmation dialogue.
- Tap DISABLE, then tap DISABLE APP in the confirmation dialogue.
- Repeat this process for Gallery (the black and white icon) PDF Viewer, and Vanadium browser
Now that vanadium has been removed from our phone we need to replace it with the brave browser for access. Hold the Brave browser icon with your finger and drag it down to the bottom of the screen, and release.
Now rearrange the home screen to your liking, and group like apps together.
Adjusting the Clock
Open the App Drawer and tap the Clock icon.
- Tap the 3 vertical dots icon in the top right corner of the screen and select Settings.
- Tap Home time zone and select your time zone.
- Tap Gradually increase volume and choose 30 seconds.
- This provides a less jarring experience when waking up to an alarm.
- Tap Start week on select Sunday, or whichever day you prefer.
Enhancing Jitsi Meet
Jitsi Meet is an excellent video conferencing app. It is much more private than Zoom or Google Meet.
- Open the App Drawer and tap the Jitsi Meet icon.
- Tap the 3 horizontal lines icon in the top left corner of the screen and select Settings.
- Type your first name or nickname into the Display name field.
- This identifies you in a call.
- Toggle Start with audio muted to on.
- If you leave this set to off, sooner or later, you'll find yourself in an awkward situation.
- Toggle Start with video muted to on.
- The same awkwardness could happen here as well.
Setting up Seedvault Backups
( We consider this a high priority task once you start using your phone to prevent the loss of data )
SeedVault is an encrypted backup app that is bundled with GrapheneOS. For this step, you'll need a
USB flash drive (with a USB-C adapter) to be the target for the backup. Ideally, it will be at least the same size as your phone's storage. This will provide you with a recovery drive essentially (minus the shared data as outlined in the next section) so keep this USB drive backup of your device in a safe place. Note that some apps such as Signal, due to their security protocols, will not display past messages, only current and ongoing on the new device that you install the recovery file onto. However all of your contacts and other app data will be present.
The data which Seedvault backs up doesn't include your phone's shared storage. Backups for that will be handled in the next step.
- Go to Settings > System > Backup.
- Tap Recovery code and Generate new code at the bottom. Carefully record it somewhere secure.
- Tap the CONFIRM CODE button.
- Enter the recovery code and tap the DONE button.
NOTE: You should not have to Generate a new code for future back ups once you generate you first one. But if you do you will still need the previous code to recover back ups made using that code. So be sure to keep copies of all generated codes.
- Plug the flash drive into the phone.
- Tap CANCEL in the F-Droid > Open F-Droid to handle…dialogue.
- Tap your flash drive's name on the Choose where to store backups screen.
- Toggle Back up my data to ON on the Backup screen.
- Tap the 3 vertical dots icon in the top right corner of the screen and select backup now to run
your first backup.
Setting Up Shared Storage Backups
Because Seedvault doesn't back up the phone's shared storage, we need to back up shared storage in a separate step. We recommend backing it up to a second flash drive which is fully encrypted.
- Plug the flash drive into your computer, then mount and unlock it.
- Connect the phone to the computer.
- Copy the phone's shared storage to the flash drive.
It may not be necessary to do this right now, as you've just set your phone up and the amount of data in shared storage is probably minimal. This is a procedure you should carry out regularly from now on though based on your need for frequency.
Google Apps & Services
It is possible to install Google Apps & Service on your Ghost Phone. GrapheneOS as provided this as an option and made it simple to do.
We recommend that you avoid installing Google Apps & Service on your Ghost Phone at all cost. Before doing so we highly recommend that you give this serious consideration and weight out all options and the actual necessity before doing so. Ask questions like, can be done through a web browser, our is it just inconvenience thing like not being able to do mobile check deposits. If after carefully consideration and looking at all options you still must have Google Apps & Service on your phone you it can be done and doing it with GrapheneOS is probably you safest option.
GrapheneOS installs apps in sandbox environments, so all apps must be given permission to access anything outside that sandbox they run in. Google Apps & Service installs just like any other app so it can be run quite securely and safely if you are extremely careful about your permission settings.
There are two ways to do this, the first and best option is to create a second user account in which you install Google Apps & Service and only run the apps needing such in this account. We call this a sandbox account. This will be the safest most private way to use Google Apps & Service on your device. This way if you ever were to accidentally give any apps using Google Apps & Services permission to access all of your files or any some access to other apps, you are not in danger of give Google access to the private information stored on your phone but only to what information and data that is stored in this sandboxed user account. It is for this reason we suggest to never store pictures, files or any other personal data you are not willing for big tech or anyone else to get their hands on inside this sandbox account.
The second option is to just install Google Apps & Service in you primary account. This is not very good or recommended at all, but still better than using a Google Phone. All apps in GrapheneOS are sandbox to prevent cross app tracking so it does help with privacy and tracking, but only if you are very careful in managing your permission and never make a mistake. Installing Google Apps & Service in this account can done fairly safely, but only if you are managing permissions properly. For this guide we will only provide instructions here for installing Google Apps & Service in a sandbox account. Which is the only way we recommend it be done.
Go to Settings > System > Multiple users.
In here toggle Allow multiple users to ON. Then tap Add user. You can read the pop-up and press OK. Next you will be given the option to add a profile photo and give the account a name. I suggest naming this account Sandbox but you can give it any creative name you wish.
The next screen gives you the ability to control how this account is used. Here you can choose what type of apps can be installed if any. You can disallow calls and SMS messaging here if you like also. I would allow installing apps as the purpose of this account is to install apps that you do not want in your primary user account. One thing we should do here is install The Aurora store. To do this click on Available apps and check Aurora Store. You may also check any other apps you wish to have installed. I would be very careful of installing any other apps as you are wanting to only use this account for apps requiring Google Apps & Services. Once you have made your choices press Switch to New user. Next tap Set up now.
The next steps are used for setting up the Account.
- Press Start
- Choose your language and press Next.
- I suggest leaving Location Services unchecked and only allowing location services as need in the account.
- Next set up your Finger print, Face ID or Pin. Depending on what want to use and your device’s options.
- Once you are at Restore Apps press skip.
- Then press Start and you will be in the Sandbox account.
Now we can begin the process of installing Google Apps & Services.
Swipe Up from the bottom to display all the apps in you sandbox account. In the right top corner you should see an icon that looks like a box labeled Apps. Click on it. Then at the bottom of this page you will see Google Play services. Open this and you will see three items listed under Dependencies. We will install all three. To install the items press the button near the top that says Install. It will begin downloading the dependencies. After a moment a pop up will appear. Here will need to leave Network permissions checked and press install. Two more pops will appear after the first and you will do the same with them first pop up.
Once the installation is complete you can go to the home screen. You will see the Google Play store in your list off Apps now. But I suggest you do not use it but instead wish the Aurora Store for downloading your needed apps unanimously.
You can now safely download and use apps requiring Google Play services safely separated from you main account. You do need to be aware though that any data, personal info used in any app on this account can likely be accessed by Google and possible other third party entities that Google has partnerships with. Although these apps can not share data with each other this only prevents the apps themselves from sharing data with each other and the creator of those apps from seeing any data from others and any cross app tracking. Google still has a tunnel into each app that is using its services and any data, files or sensors you have given that app permission to access.
We hope this document as provided you with the information you need to started successfully using you Ghost Phone and to make informed decisions on operating your phone in a secure & private way. If you have any questions or need more support, please email us at email@example.com, or visit https://forums.mark37.com to access our forums for more information.
Thank you again, we look forward to assisting you with your new de-Googled MARK37 phone!
~ The Team at MARK37.COM