Google and Android are typically a package deal and it’s hard to imagine if you run none of Google apps on your Andoird phone. Even if Samsung or Sony makes your phone, you’ll still find it loaded with Google Maps, Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, and all the other Google Play Services.
Developer Martin Pitt gives us some interesting De-Googling tips by turning his old Nexus 4 into a Google-free smartphone. He outlines the entire process in a recent blog post, which involves wiping the device, installing a new Android-based operating system, and finding third-party alternatives to all of Google’s apps.
I started experimenting on my old Nexus 4 by completely blanking it and installing current LineageOS 14.1 without the Google apps. This provides a nice testing ground that is completely free of any proprietary Google stuff.
Google Play and Free Google App Alternatives
Martin’s number one must have is the F-Droid app, which opens the door to a surprisingly large and good world of Free Software apps. Similar Google Play alternatives like APKPure, APKMirror and other [Unofficial] APK Downloader sites for Android devices. Some apps have fairly straightforward replacements:
- Google Authenticator → FreeOTP
- YouTube → NewPipe
- BlueFilter → Night Screen
- QR Scanner → SecScanQR
- ConnectBot → Termux (which is actually a magnitude more powerful and also has a better terminal implementation)
- GPS Status → SatStat
- Gmail → Martin uses his own Mail server but if you feel that’s way too complicated, try BlueMail or Aqua Mail, which both are remarkable Android email app with dozens of features.
- Google Keep → Orgzly
- Google Drive → Dropbox [No doubt]
Note: Leave your Google app alternatives or other De-Googling suggestions in the comment so our readers may have more choices.
The Bottom Line
This may sound like a lot of work, but if you’re worried that Google might be spying on you (since we don’t trust Facebook/Apple, either) taking some time to pull Google off your Android device is a decent option. At the very least, setting up a new, de-Googled smartphone is a great way to get some extra life out of an older Android device that you don’t use much anymore, and a fun way to learn more about the nitty-gritty of the Android OS.