Android Without Google
- What will be missed?
- Removing Google
- The Operating System
- Alternative applications
If you are concern about your privacy, you may have realize that you phone holds most of you private information, and that precious data should remain that PRIVATE.
I know that you have to share some information with some companies in order to have some services, the problem with Google is that you are sharing almost everything, and giving all your information to just one company it’s a bit much.
You may don’t know this but your android phone has installed one particular app that has virtually all the permissions granted in your phone (Locations, Contacts, Calendar, Storage, SMS, Call, etc). This application is Google Play Services, most of this permissions are necessary to give third-party apps access to some functionalities, but also sending all this private information to Googles servers and more important to who knows how many third part companies Google sells the data to.
Also if you check your battery usage, you will note that Google Play Service use an important percent of your battery juice.
You cannot just remove Google service from your phone and continues with your daily routine the same, if you are like most people with an Android phone, you started using it with all the applications it came when you bought it, you started to like it and embrace all it services in your life. So, yo need replace each of it services with a new one, preferably with an Open Source option, but that’s up to you.
Each Google service or application has and alternative, you may miss some features, or may need to do some job to make them works like you need them, but all that depends of your chooses criteria.
When choosing a Google service alternative, you have a lot of options, mainly divided in two big categories, Open Source and commercial (Closed Source)
Basically Open Source means, that the code for the application it’s available so you can check any line of code and knows what the applications exactly do and where all you data go, for you to understand that, you will need to have some knowledge in software development, but you can also trust that thousands of developers around the world have minutely checked the source code to check for privacy concerns. Also there are applications like F-Droid (alternative to Play Store) with do this for you and tell you whatever an applications is same to install or if there are some features that may affect your privacy.
you can check more about Open Source and it’s benefits here:
the commercial alternative, may be a good starting option, as normally the applications has more features or are easiest to install, but the downside is that, some applications may have ads, or you may need to pay to access some features. Also, being close source, we don’t know how much or what information go out of our phone and how is this information used by the application.
The main idea of removing Google is to keep your privacy, so I will recommend always the Open Source alternative.
Remove Google from your phone it’s not just tapping the uninstall button in some applications, Google Apps are installed as system apps so the user cannot uninstall them.
There are some requirements for you to be able of completely remove Google from your phone:
- root: In order to uninstall system apps or install a custom Android OS, you will need to root you phone.
Searching internet can help you to root your phone. most common root method now is Magisk, support a large number of devices, luckily your devices is supported, you can check in XDA Thread HERE:
- Custom recovery: Most of the custom OS can be easily installed using a custom recovery. you can check if your device support TWRP HERE which is used to install most of the common custom OSs.
- Computer: to install a custom recovery, in most of the cases you will need a computer with Linux, Mac or Windows, depends of your phone which one is supported
- Phone Data Cable: Your phone specific USB data cable to connect to the PC.
- Unlocked bootloader: Some carrier or phone manufacturers lock the phone bootloader to avoid user to modify the Operating system.
If your phon bootloader is locked, you can search the internet how to unlock yours, XDA is a good place to search
The Operating System
Android is per definition an Open Source Project, that’s true, the problem is that the Android version you have in your phone it is not just a pure Android OS. There is a set of applications that are installed by the phone manufacturer or the Carrier, among those applications are Google Applications (Google Play Service, Play Store, Gmail, Google App, Youtube, Google Drive, Google Keep, etc).
force uninstall apps:
You can search any good root application uninstaller, and use it to remove the Google apps, this is an easy method as you wont have to format your phone, but you may encounter some problems when trying to uninstall some app, or you may just break your Android.
Install a New OS (Custom ROM)
There is several Android versions or custom ROM to choose from, I will recommend LineageOS mainly because it don’t have Google Apps installed by default.
Installing LineageOS it’s a relative easy task, the installation process depends on your phone model, you can find all the information in the official site:
You can check if your device is supported HERE, if your phone model is not listed, you can look for some unofficial builds in the XDA forums HERE or search the web for a custom ROM without Google apps for your phone.
After you have successfully installed the OS without any Google Apps, you may encounter that some applications wont work, those applications need the Google Play Services applications to do some functions, like show your locations or to send notifications.
If you find out that you need some of this applications in your daily life, then you need an applications that replace the Google Play Service, fortunately there is one, MicroG® is an Open Source project that do exactly that, it’s not perfect, and some functions do not work but most of the common task work just perfect. After installing MicroG the applications that depends on Google Play Services will start to work properly.
You can download the MicroG applications from the official site HERE
Installing MicroG is as easy as download some file and execute them, but after installing them, there is some work to need to be done to make it work.
* The OS has to support signature Spoofing More info HERE
For achieve this there are to options:
Smali Pacher activate the Signature spoofing Patch (works with Android 10)
NanoDroid Patcher Nanodroid is a full package of applications including MicroG, you just need to install the Nanodroid Patcher not the full Nanodroid Package
* The MicroG Core app have to be installed as a system app
* Install a location Backend, can be found in the F-droid App
Alternative you can get all the package in just one OS, Lineage MicroG is a LineageOS fork that have already installed MicroG and is ready to work.
You just have to download and install the OS, all the devices supported on LineageOS are supported en MicroG+LineageOS. all the information in the official site:
All the applications or services listed here can be used on Android, I’m not providing any direct download link, because the idea is to you to know more about the service/application, so the link go directly to the official site, some of them will give you the direct Play Store download link, or you can find them in the F-droid application or any other Store alternative.
I’m just listing some options in this article to make it easy to read, but you will find plenty of list of alternative to google applications/services by searching the web.
- The Search Engine
Google started as a search engine, and every time you search in https://google.com you are telling google what you want, or what you need, or what you like, this is precious information for you, so it’s for Google too. There are plenty of search engine options out there, some of them really focused on your privacy, I personally prefer Startpage.com, but it’s up to you to see which one fits better to you needs. So you can stop “google it” and start Searching.
- The Internet Browser
When talking of browser, Google Chrome is one of the most famous ones out there, it’s fast and with a lot of extensions, can bring some great features, but it’s not the only one, there are many browser to choose from, in this case we are going to look the ones with privacy focus.
When talking about browser privacy, there is not discussion, the King is Firefox, and you may not know, but Firefox it’s not just one browser, depending of what you want there is multiple choices. here is a list with some browser you can check to replace Chrome.
- https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/ Firefox Browser
- https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/focus Firefox Focus
- https://www.torproject.org/download/ Tor Browser
- https://www.opera.com/ Opera Browser
There are multiples chooses to select a new email provider, some of them with more features or storage than others, but in terms of privacy there are two providers that highlights over the rest, if you prefer to keep your Gmail account, you can just use another application to use it instead of Gmail app
- Google Services
Calendar, Contacts, Drive, Photos, etc, are some of the services that you may be using, for this services there is also some alternatives.
Calendar and contacs, depending of the email provider you have choosen it may be included in your email and you will be able of sync it to your phone.
For Google drive, there are multiple options like Dropbox, Onedrive or Mega, all of them are commercial options, you can switch to any of this if you wants to have a easy and ready to use solution, In terms of privacy Mega ensure a End-to-End Encryption.
But if you really want to have your files private, what best that have it with your own, I prefer using self hosted cloud services, but for this option you will have to provide your own server. There are two Open Source options with great features:
With any of this you can self host your files, calendar, contacts, photos to replace any of Google services and use the Android application to sync it to your phone.
If your search the web you can find plenty of list with all the alternative to any google applications, but you don’t have to stop in just Google, you can try to go as much Open Source you can.
If you need help with setting up any applications in this article, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to help