In the privacy phones market, who do you know who to trust? Well, for phones based on Android, the main culprit on the software side for tracking us, and the one to stay away from, is Google, especially Google Play Services.
You do not want a privacy phone that has Google Play Services installed on it. Google Play Services is a proprietory piece of software that phones home to Google on a regular basis and reports various metrics of what you’re doing on the phone and where you are located.
Here’s an example of a normal Android phone that has Google Play Services and other Google Apps installed on it. (Notice that it says Google Play Services is disabled – I manually disabled it on the software side.)
So to check any Android phone that markets itself as a privacy phone, please (using an analogy used in looking for an automobile) kick the tires of that phone by checking the Settings for the existence of Google Play Services.
In my mind, if a phone has Google Play Services installed on it, stay far away from it, if your priority is privacy.
> Settings > Apps & notifications > See all apps > scroll down and look if Google Play Services is installed.
This does not mean that you can’t install the Gmail app on a degoogled privacy phone in order to check your email. You can. At this moment, the Gmail app has no trackers and you can set the permissions of the app to not have access to location, camera, microphone, etc (which might be the default setting, I’m not sure).
And if you do it in the right way, you can even use other Google apps on a degoogled privacy phone without the apps knowing who you are.