Android without Google

Android phones and Google are meant for each other, but not all relationships that are “meant to be” work out. I was able to divorce Google from my Android phone but it was a tough and soul-searching process. Having Google makes things so much easier and better, but with determination, you can do it!

Android OS

You need to figure out what open-source Android operating system you will use. The stock Android OS that comes with your phone will no doubt have Google on it. I recommend:

  • CyanogenMod – supports many devices and I really like it. When following the install instructions, it will mention flashing a google apk. Ignore doing that since it will install Google!
  • Replicant – more open source that CyanogenMod.

Google Play Store

The first obstacle is having no place to download apps from! What good is an Android device without apps! There are a few good places to get apps from. Go to each of their websites, download the app store’s apk, and install them.

  • F-Droid is an app store that only has open-source apps. You should look for anything you need from here first.
  • Amazon App Store is the second most popular Android app store after Google Play. Having it will give you a good majority of the apps that Google offers.
  • Slide Me seems to have the rest of the apps you will need. I am not exactly sure how they get their apps (developers contribute or they copy the apks).
  • apk4fun is not an App Store that you can download onto your phone, but a website where you can go to get basically any apk you would ever want.

Warning – If you paid for an app on the Google Play store, you will not be able to get it from another app store without paying for it again.

Google Play Services

Google Play Services is integrated into all of Google’s main apps. Without it, you won’t be able to run your main Google apps. So do not try to download Google Hangouts from apk4fun.com and expect it to work! Here are some apps though will not run without Google Play Services.

  • Snapchat
  • Ride Scout
  • Uber (stuck on splash screen) (8/8)
  • Authy (errors but will work)
  • Meetup (errors but will work) (added 8/1)
  • Runkeeper (Map functionality for tracking distances) (8/8)
  • Google’s Android Apps

Google location services

This hidden gem is so integrated into Android that you might not even know you used it. Google’s servers know where Wi-Fi networks and Cellular Networks are so without GPS, they can approximate your location. This is great for weather apps know your location to provide a weather forecast. Without Google location services, you will need to rely solely on your phone’s GPS, which is useless when indoors. This means your weather app might think you are in Nevada or Germany when you are actually in NJ. Also getting an accurate GPS signal seems to take longer when relying on just GPS.

Google Cloud Messaging

(Added 8/1) Many apps rely on GCM to push updates from their servers to their apps running on your phone. Without GCM, some apps will have broken functionality and will only get updates when you open them. Buyer beware.

Gmail and Google Inbox

The Gmail and Google Inbox apps are very clean and nice to use. If you have a gmail account though switching entirely from it will be difficult since people will still email you at it! Switching to another email account is another problem but

  • K9-Mail is a great open-source email app. You can set it up to read your Gmail through IMAP along with the other email accounts you have while you transition away from Gmail. (Download from F-Droid)

Hangouts – Messaging

Google’s messaging protocol is slick and it integrates well with SMS too. If your friends are used to contacting you on Hangouts, like Gmail, you can abandon the app but moving away from the service is tougher.

Hangouts – Video Calls

Google’s messaging protocol also comes with an easy to use video calling that the above apps do not support. You will need to either do video calls from your computer or get your friends to download the below replacements.

Note – I have only tested Facebook Messenger.

Google Calendar

Great online calendar (that in my opinion has not been updated in a while). The Google Calendar app has been updated and is decent but not as good as some of the alternatives.

  • Stock Calendar App
  • DAVDroid – App to sync calendar to your device (OwnCloud required) (F-Droid)
  • Business Calendar 2 (Amazon App Store) (Free but can pay to upgrade)

Note – lose Public Google Calendars like Sports Teams and imported Calendar

Google Tasks

Google Tasks is a simple program but is popular because it is so well integrated with Google Calendar.

  • Tasks – Not many features. Use if you typical have only a few tasks to do at a time. (OwnCloud Required) (F-Droid)
  • TickTick – Clean, fast, amazing sync, and super powerful to-do list (Amazon App Store)
  • Wunderlist – Close second to TickTick but falls behind in being clunky and a buggy sync (Amazon App Store)

Google Keep

A simple app that now seamlessly syncs across devices and allows sharing. I really liked it because of its simplicity.

Google Maps

The best navigation app is Google Maps but other apps are close and you can live without Google Maps.

  • HERE is very refined. You can download maps offline and different voices. (Amazon App Store)
  • OSMAnd~ is open source but was not that good when I tested it. (F-Droid)
  • Waze is a social GPS that will get you where you need to go while helping you avoid tickets from the police. It is owned by Google though but can run without Google Play Services. (Amazon App Store)

Chrome for Android

Great app but easily replaced. Switch to whatever your desktop browser is to take advantage of bookmark syncing.

Google Drive and Photos

The online editing of files is rather impressive. Storing them into the cloud makes everything easier. Try these alternatives.

YouTube

This is a tough one to replace since YouTube videos are just so much fun.

Google Play Movies & TV

You have to pay for your shows so not free like other options, but there are alternatives.

Google Play Music

A newer app that is getting much better but in a crowded market of music apps, you have your options:

Google Play Newsstand and Books

I never used these so I thought they were just bloat-ware. With not using them, here is what I would recommend to replace them:

Google App

Google’s search engine is the best. Most do not come close but if you want to sacrifice efficiency for privacy, try these:

Google Voice Search

I miss talking to my phone and it understanding what I was saying to incredible accuracy. I have not found a replacement yet that can do what Google Voice.

  • Using keyboard. 😦

Chromecast

If you have a Chromecast, no Google means no more Chromecast, making the device useless. I do not know if other devices that support Chromecast-like-screen-sharing will still work.

  • Use an old phone as a Chromecast remote
  • Use another streaming Device (Like an XBox, PS4, Wii, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick)

Google Wallet

Luckily there are so many worthy apps in sending money to friends that Google Wallet is just one of the players instead of the player. Alternatives:

  • Venmo (Amazon App Store)
  • PayPal – App was not compatible with my LG G3(Amazon App Store)
  • Bitcoin – If you use Bitcoin, you will probably know your own app to use.

Google Tracks

This is an underpowered app anyways, so any fitness tracking GPS will do fine to replace it. Here are a few:

Google Camera

This is a nice camera but you can just use your

  • Stock Camera App

Google+

If you used this social network, that is interesting. Anyways, you can use these:

Hidden Google Products

Google has acquired companies that may not require Google Play Services but are still owned by Google. Some of the notable ones:

Notes

When presenting the apps to download, I presented them from open-source to closed-source to Google source. I gave links to the Amazon App store before SlideMe because I feel the Amazon App is more well supported and more secure than SlideMe. If you prefer SlideMe, search that app store for your apps.

Full disclosure – I work for Amazon.

Sources

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One Response to Android without Google

  1. Pingback: Results of the “Android without Google” Experiment | Man and Keyboard

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