Q's from Noob Looking to buy first (smart) phone


I am looking to buy a phone that is free of corporate spyware, before I do, I have a few questions. And it’s quite possible they are silly, simple questions but I wouldn’t know: I know nothing. So telling me to do a search is not helpful, I can’t do an effective search if I don’t know the correct keyword search terms. EG:

To me “system apps/applications/programs/services/etc” are programs required for the proper functioning of the operating system. Remove/delete/uninstall at your peril.

And “default apps/applications/programs” are programs provided for my convenience and can be removed/deleted/uninstalled without effecting the operating system.

So I tried to find out if I am able to remove “Default apps” from /e/. I found one post telling me to do a search - not helpful, see above. And another post telling me that “system apps” can not be removed - huh?

With in the context of /e/ what are “default apps” that I can remove? If I can not remove them, why not? And Which are “system apps” that are required for the proper functioning of the operating system?

When I say I know nothing. I mean it. I have never owned or used a “smart” phone. My, now broken, “feature” phone did everything I wanted. So I must now move into the 21st century and get a “smart” phone. Except I know nothing.

I don’t know how to use the interface. Where would I find a beginners guide to performing basic actions?

I know my way around Windows 7, so I shall use that terminology for my next few questions.

Is there an equivalent to the Start Menu? What is it called? Where do I find instructions on how I can customise it?

Can I use the Firefox web browser or one that is compatible with Firefox addons? And what’s it called?

I want to use VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections. Does /e/ have VPN capabilities? Can it use .opvn (Open VPN) configuration files? If so, what is the function/app called and where do I find the configuration instructions? Or will I need to install extra software?

Firewall: does /e/ include the functionality? If so what’s it called and where do I find configuration instructions?

I would also want to use SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) communications. Does /e/ have this capability, if so what’s it called and where do I find configuration instructions? If not, is there an alternative available?

Is there an equivalent to the Windows hosts file? Can I modify it? What’s it called? Where do I find it or details on how I can make changes?

Can I install app/programs from any source or am I limited to those provided by the /e/ app store?

Is it possible to see the apps/programs available in the /e/ app store using a web browser?

And if you’ve got this far, thank you for taking the time to read my post.


P.S. I used duckduckgo.com to perform “site:e.foundation” searches for various terms like “firewall”, but I was not able to find the kind basic/beginners’ guide information I need. I know nothing and I don’t want to buy one of your refurbished phones for it end up a landfill.

Hello @Halwende,

I am sure I am not the best to answer these questions but will try to address at least some of them.

  1. System apps and Default apps. In Android system apps are those which come together with the system. These include e-mail, web browsing, calendar etc. In Android these are not removable. The /e/ team is working on making them removable. As a shorter term solution there has been mention of a minimal installation, but I have not seen such a version yet. Default apps is incorrectly used to refer to the system apps.

  2. Beginner’s guide. I don’t know of one for /e/. The system is quite easy to use and you will quickly learn through experimentation. Specific questions can be asked on these forums and should give a fairly quick response.

  3. The “Start menu” is replaced by the launcher. In /e/ this is Bliss launcher. It is quite easy to use as all your installed applications appear as an icon (across multiple screens if you have a lot of them). It works a bit like the icons on the desktop of Windows. Just tap them to run the application (app for short).

  4. Firefox is available for Android, but there are better choices. /e/ comes with a browser which is a “de-googled” chrome derivative, and will be more responsive than firefox.

  5. VPNs are supported. OpenVPN is no problem. Someone who uses a VPN would be better positioned to recommend a suitable app.

  6. Firewall. There are various firewall type programs available. A true firewall requires administrator priveledges to install (“root” in unix / linux / android speak). There are other blocker programs which stop access to undesirable sites. These are easier to install but some are not compatible with a VPN. Personally I run Blokada which blocks access to undesirable URLs.

  7. SIP and VoIP. Yes these exist but I don’t use them so cannot provide meaningful information.

  8. Not sure why you need access to the “hosts” file, so cannot comment accurately. Note that Android is based on Linux so all that sort of thing can be done, but it is better to tell us what you are trying to do so a more accurate answer can be given.

  9. You can install apps from any source if desired. The /e/ store is quite extensive, and they are responsive to adding apps that you want. Otherwise there are programs which allow anonymous download from the Google Play store, and you can always browse to another store and install from there.

  10. It is apparently possible to web browse the /e/ app store, but I have never done so. It is very extensive and most of the more useful apps are already in the store. If not the required app can be requested and is added to the /e/ store fairly quickly.

I hope that clarifies some things for you.


@anon84098008 thank you for your quick and comprehensive reply. In Windows (7) a hosts file is a text file which is a list of IP Domains: domain.com nas.box

It can used as a way of avoiding DNS look-up. So I am able to access my NAS by typing nas.box. Many people customise the hosts file as a quick simple way of preventing any app/program from accessing a domain: facebook.com

A true firewall requires administrator priveledges to install (“root” in unix / linux / android speak)

I did a quick search for “root” and some the results talk of “rooting” a phone. Are these the same or is “root” the equivalent user name for a Windows user with Administrator Privileges?

If I need to perform a special type of install to get a firewall, that would imply that /e/ does not come with a firewall as default. Is that correct?

@Halwende yes.
As to the firewall, /e/ is super customizable, it should be super easy to install a firewall app.

@donut3 thank you for the clairification.

@Halwende so it seems what you want is to block access to certain sites. This is easily done with a Blocker app. A full firewall (as far as I am aware) requires root access which does indeed need the phone to be rooted.

There’s some mix-up here. There are system packages, like Goolag Services (GApps), that are part of the system, so removing them can break something in your android. But when it comes to things like a gallery, camera or calendar, it’s actually a regular apps, just installed in the /system folder. That’s why you can’t remove them, but you can actually do this with root access. However, a much safer way is to disable them from the settings.

There are several variants of Firefox for android, including Tor Browser. Typically, all additional applications are installed from the Goolag Play store, but we are following an alternative way here, and primarily prefer F-Droid store — the main FOSS distribution point across android ecosystem. For more convenient search within F-Droid on your desktop I recommend you to use THIS SITE.
But when it comes to getting something special from the Goolag Play, we use an third-party client Aurora Store. Note that Aurora includes integration with Exodus Privacy project that helps us to detect surveillance trackers inside the apps. They’re everywhere!

Yes. It’s located in /system/etc/. If you want to automate its usage, you can install AdAway for example.

@e.follower thank you for your informative reply.

I seem to remember M$ being criticised for bunging everything into one or two folders. :slight_smile: I am sorry to say I fail to understand how anyone can think this is a good idea.

I did a search for Goolag Play and DuckDuck helpfully changed to Google. But I found a reference in the Urban Dictionary; I like the term.

But it does bring me back to my problem with searching. How do I find information on rooting whilst avoiding gardening tips? :stuck_out_tongue:

As the hosts file is located in /system/etc/ does that mean I’ll also need to root my phone to make changes?

And now another question: how can I install an app make changes to the hosts file without rooting, if I need to root the phone to make the changes directly?

And I’m assuming that “rooting the phone” is not the same as “using root”. If I “root my phone” can I unroot it after?


Yes, or at least have TWRP recovery installed to use its file manager, which though is very inconvenient.

Yes. For the LineageOS’s native root tool AddonSU there is uninstaller provided. The Magisk Manager has a built-in ability to remove its own root. I think, these two are the main ways to get root on android today.