Over the whole of this last year, I observed that the chapter on CalyxOS vs GrapheneOS got a lot of attention and consistently weekly hits. In fact, it has stayed in the Top 5 since publication. I have used GrapheneOS for years and have trialled CalyxOS for a short while as well.
I believe in a world where metadata, location tracking, ANALytics and your data is worth more as most people recognize it is important to have a phone you can trust. Sadly, there is no golden bullet you can buy at the local telecom or mobile shop that will give you that perfect private solution. I have high hopes we see this in a few years. Apple has proven this last year that they are not so secure, and certainly not as private as they would like us to believe from advertising. Linux with the PinePhone and the Librem 5 are great starts. Yet, they are just not yet daily drive candidates, at least not for everyone. The Fairphone can be done right, but it all comes down to security and privacy.
This leaves me with only one real nominee for this years award! And I know many may not agree with me on this. On the one hand, the Linux and some open-source guys will always say the PinePhone is the clear winner, and honestly, I love the company, the devices and yes, they will make a huge impact in the future. We have the Apple fanboys who probably still believe everything Apple says about how private they are. We even have the Huawei fanboys who claim that everything that has been said about the company is propaganda and, in fairness, at least their phones come already deGoogled. CalyxOS guys will say CalyxOS Pixel is the best as it has MicroG, if you want, or you can chose not to use MicroG and be Google free.
Everyone has their favourites, I will go with what I know, use and trust. I go with what I can see on the development horizon. I do not care for drama, posts, tweets or fights between communities. Furthermore, I select and use what is best in my opinion, best for me, best for my daily use and most of all for my privacy. I would never recommend a product that I don't use and trust myself.
So my winner, hands down, based on development is GrapheneOS.
GrapheneOS has the option of a Sandboxed PlayService. I have never used it, so I can't judge whether it is a better sandboxed option vs microG, but sandboxed sounds like a good solution. But here is what really makes the development shines out. GrapheneOS has Android 12 hardened, days after Google released Android 12. It runs smoothly and I have no issues.
GrapheneOS has a lot of privacy and security hardening tricks up their sleeves. They also have a camera app which is under early development, even yet this camera app will better than anything you can find on F-Droid. No open-source camera app matches this one, if you know of one, please point me to it. You do not need to use a bad camera in the name of security. Maybe install Gcam to get great pictures. GrapheneOS already has a working version on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 pro, which are both killer phones. They go the extra mile, they do it fast, and they do it really well. Most of all, they have zero trackers, zero call home, zero Google on board. Privacy and security wise, GrapheneOS is second to none.