List of app replacements for your de-googled phoneSeptember 25, 2021
Switching from Apple to Android takes some adjustment. Switching from Google Android to a de-googled Android phone also takes some adjustment, but fortunately not much.
If you haven’t switched yet, here is a quick article on your options to select and set up your first de-googled phone.
Let’s get into some of these cases:
Google Play Store/ Apple App Store
Of course, a good place to start is the app to get other apps.
Aurora Store – The Aurora Store is an app store proxy for the Google Play Store. Most Android apps can be found here, and most of them will work so long as they’re not too dependent on Google’s services.
When you use the Google Play Store, you must have a Google account to download apps. This creates an identity that can be tied to you, the download, and app usage. When you open up Aurora, a false identity is created so you can access virtually all Android apps and download them without exposing your data to Google.
F-Droid – This is an app store composed entirely of indie, open-source apps. I prefer this option first and foremost, in my desire to support independent app developers, however the list of apps is only beginning and needs to grow to satisfy all your smartphone needs. I typically check here first if I need an app based on functionality, if it’s not simply a big name app.
Two-Factor Authentication is important to secure your various accounts across the internet. 2FA with a phone number, is not ideal due to your telephone company being easy to fool into changing your phone number. It’s also possible to hack your phone and receive that six digit, thus circumventing the purpose of 2FA altogether.
Aegis – This is the app that I’ve found to work the best. You can set it up with any app or website that supports device based 2FA. You can find Aegis in the F-Droid app store.
SMS, Phone, and Video Calls
Signal – Use Signal, get your friends and family to use Signal. You’ll be better off and you’ll have a good equalized messaging experience along with phone and video calls.
OsmAnd – Open Street Maps Android is my favorite mapping, navigation, and point of interest (piped in via Wikipedia) app for my de-googled phone. It operates entirely offline, which means it functions exactly the same in low-signal areas. You simply download the map for your area and you’ve got it on hand. Navigation includes estimated time of arrival, speed limits, etc.
Organic Maps – Organic Maps works the same as OsmAnd, uses the same map repository from Open Street Maps, but the user interface is a bit more modern. They don’t have as many features as OsmAnd, but I’m excited to watch this project develop.
Both of these apps are available on F-Droid.
One shortcoming of both Open Street Maps apps is that the repository is not as rich as Google Maps. When you type in an address, both apps will display which street it thinks this unit is on, and usually gets that right, but unfortunately can’t quite drop a pin on most addresses unless they have been submitted to the maps.
This works fine if you want a little adventure, it does get the street right, but if you need to see that exact location simply open up a browser and use maps.google.com, then find and pin it in your app.
Waze – Waze works on some devices, but they’re owned by Google, so I’m not so keen to use it.
AntennaPod – This app works perfectly for listening to podcasts. You can find your favorite publicly-accessible rss based podcasts, which is most of them, and download or stream them. Download AntennaPod from F-Droid.
Breez – Notable mention here. If your podcaster of choice uses Breez you can load up your app with bitcoin and donate to them directly from the app. It’s actually a bitcoin wallet and payment handler, but the podcast feature is very exciting. Download Breez from the Aurora Store.
NewPipe – NewPipe is the only way I’d watch or listen (yes, it has background play without a subscription) to Youtube videos on my phone. You can also subscribe to channels without an account, and download videos to your phone. Download the NewPipe app from their website.
What makes smartphone photos look great is the software that renders the photos as you take them. Unfortunately the native camera app is not great. Google’s camera app is great. Fortunately with Calyx OS we can use it without giving data to Google.
Simply open up the Aurora Store, type in ‘Google Camera’ and download it. Then go into your permissions settings for the app and revoke network access. There you go! You now have a flagship camera app without your photo/ video data being gathered by Google or Apple.
This same method works for Gboard, Google’s Android keyboard, and Google Photos, which also very creepily gather info on your usage. I recommend downloading them all from the Aurora Store, then revoking network access in the app permissions settings.
YouCut – This app allows you to trim, remove sound, add music and effects to videos. It also allows you to crop videos, which is where Google Photo’s native editing suite falls short, something I missed from iOS’s Camera Roll but now can do thanks to YouCut.
Also revoked YouCut’s network access in the permissions settings, no reason for that to be there.
K-9 Mail – This is my preferred email client for the de-googled phone. You can connect your email accounts via IMAP, and you’re good to go. You’ll want to go into your settings and make sure your Drafts, and Sent emails are directed to the correct folder to make sure they sync with other clients.
FairEmail – FairEmail is a good notable mention, also open-source and privacy respecting.
You can find both options on F-Droid.
It’s also possible to access various email services from the browser, this is a preferred method by many, but I prefer K-9 for the notifications
Gmail does not work on these clients, however you can access your gmail account(s) via the browser.
Uber is basically a need if you travel for work, or you’re a car-less urbanite, and end up traversing cities on any regular basis. Cars and trucks also break down and you might not want to walk all the way home.
Unfortunately the app doesn’t work without Google’s underlying Android services. However, you can hail a ride from Uber using the browser at Uber.com – Problem solved!
Radar and Weather
MyRadar – I like this app for accessing radar and weather information. The free version has ads, but it works perfectly. Find MyRadar on the Aurora Store.
Weather – The pre-loaded weather app that comes with Calyx OS works great as well. I’ve had some issues with the MyRadar home screen widgets, but the Weather widgets work fine.
RSS Feed Reader
Feeder – Feeder keeps track of any blogs or news sources you choose to follow and alerts you when a new post has dropped. Find Feeder on F-Droid.
Glider – This is my preferred way to catch technology news. Glider connects into news.ycombinator.com to pull posts, and they’re working on a way for us to log in so we can thumb up, comment, etc. Find Glider on F-Droid.
Infinity – Infinity is a FOSS client for Reddit. You can use this app to sign in and interact, or browse anonymously without all the annoying popups that try to get you to download their official app. Find Infinity on F-Droid.
Twitter, IG, and FB
Unfortunately I haven’t found a satisfactory replacement for these apps. This has to do with how locked down these companies keep their apps and APIs. Fortunately, if you set up a custom profile on your Calyx device and use it there, you’ll be using them in the most privacy respecting way possible.
If you want to want to take it to another level, use Facebook and Twitter in the browser, go into the options and select “show desktop site” or whatever the congruent feature is.
KeePassDX – KeePass stores your passwords in a single encrypted file, which you can store anywhere you want and access with a single password. This enables you to use GACese1@1$%12#!@ and similar impossible to guess garble for your password on various services and simply store it for copy pasting when you need to log in. Find KeePass on F-Droid.
Bitcoin and Crypto Wallets
Muun and Samouri both work.
Coinbase, Cash App, Uphold, and Gemini all work.
Find these in the Aurora Store.
One thing I’ve noticed is that banking apps are all available on Aurora Store, you just need to adjust the security settings on Aurora. This is less secure, it’s better to simply use the desktop browser version (on the phone, laptop, or desktop) if possible, but nonetheless you can get these apps.
First check via Aurora Store. If they don’t show up, go into Settings > Networking and activate “Insecure anonymous session.” Download the apps you need, then switch it back off.
Oh, I miss it so, but there’s no turning back. There’s no one-to-one replacement for this, that I know of, but there are solutions.
Snapdrop.net allows wireless transfer of files through the browser across any phone or computer sharing the same WiFi network. Simply open up the url on both devices and it’s very straightforward.
KDE Connect – If you’re using Linux for your desktop, and you’re using a distro skinned with KDE (ie Manjaro with KDE Plasma), KDE Connect works fantastically. It’s a perfect replacement for Apple Airdrop if you’re using KDE.
Cloud Based File Hosting
Nextcloud – This is the ultimate Dropbox replacement, because you can set up your own instance on any vps or dedicated server provider on the internet. Linode makes this easy. Once you have an instance running, you can find the Android app on F-Droid and there are desktop versions as well for every operating system.
There you go
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a detailed walk through of how to go about forming your own workflows, but I hope it helps you on your way.
Use the contact form if you’d like to send in any recommendations, questions, or comments. Good luck.