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I have apps that I don't trust or that I just want to try. The problem is that even after deleting them they might leave files/spyware/malware/etc.

What are my options?

I have Xiaomi mi4c on MIUI with google apps but will soon format it and might replace the ROM.

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  • "Shelter is a Free and Open-Source (FOSS) app that leverages the "Work Profile" feature of Android to provide an isolated space that you can install or clone apps into." Mar 6 '20 at 20:44
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Xiaomi MIUI has a feature called SecondSpace. It sets up a completely isolated 2nd instance of Android similar to a VM. You can have completely separate settings there and not affect your "real" phone.

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Alternatively run the app as a completely new user (Settings->User). But getting the account setup might be too onerous.

As Xiaomi's SecondSpace was mentioned, I'll throw in Parallel Space for those not on a Samsung or Xiaomi device. It is an app for virtualizing other apps in one account.

Commonsware put up a blogpost explaining what is going on under the hood with this virtualization with a caveat:

However, this sort of virtualization technique – Android apps running inside other Android apps, for an Inception-style experience – requires that you trust the virtualization engine. After all, by definition, it can see all I/O between the app and Android, as it proxies all of that I/O. It is a MITM attack on the app.

So if you trust the makers of Parallel Space (or don't care) it is a option to consider.

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Besides Xiaomi, Huawei and Samsung also have similar types of virtual space environments, that they brand as Private Space and Secure Folder, respectively. All 3, of these, Second Space, Private Space and Secure Folder, are based on an Android OS feature for supporting multiple user accounts, but with some customizations so that these virtual spaces are like an anonymous user account, and only the user in the main account can switch to this (and back), besides switching to/from any of the normal user accounts.

NB: this is different from the "multiple accounts" some might associate with Android phones, which is being able to sign in to more than one Google account at the same time. Here, we are talking about Android OS-level accounts.

These virtual space accounts are one category of isolated environment. The other is the app-based isolated environments available from apps like Parallel Space, Dual Space, and dozens of related apps. The main concern about app-based isolated environments is security risks. You would be trusting the developers of such apps, that they are not malicious. Also, you would be trusting that they haven't included vulnerabilities that could be exploited by others even if they themselves do not have malicious intents.

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  • I see app "Secure folder" that claims to put an additional sandbox around apps. When I install an app in a secure folder, will this provide protection of my privacy from the app? May 31 at 8:05
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    Not necessarily every aspect of privacy protection, but some. It is like a virtual phone inside your phone, with its own home screen, etc. So it has a side effect of providing some privacy protections from the app, e.g., when run in "Secure folder", an app may not see some things that it could see in the main space. But if you have very stringent privacy protection requirements, it may be better to use a physically separate device rather than just "Secure folder". May 31 at 10:20
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For a a while Android natively has a feature called work profile, that gives you a second profile that is UX integrated into your launcher with separate data and clearly marked icons.

Googles Feature Documentation: https://support.google.com/work/android/answer/6191949?hl=en

First Opensource Workprofile Provisioner: https://github.com/PeterCxy/Shelter

First freely available Workprofile Provisionier, seems opensource too nowadays: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.oasisfeng.island

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  • Are multiple workspaces/profiles possible? Strictly for the use case one wants to isolate 1 or more apps, are there any advantages compared to "Secure folder" offered by Samsung? May 29 at 18:27

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