Apps that helped me Degoogle like a pro
Just wanted to list the apps I use the most after I’m trying to take my privacy/my own data more seriously. I took the plunge to get off Google and stopped using Google Chrome earlier this year, and when I had to replace my beloved Pixel 2 XL, I got a Pixel 5 and used it as an opportunity to start fresh with CalyxOS Day 1 and haven’t looked back.
Honestly after a while, I came to realize how much I did NOT need Google stuff at all to go about life, and any alternatives I found did 90% of what Google provided me, but more privately and sometimes with even more features/fun. I’ll try and keep adding to this list as I try more apps/tweaks I’d recommend.
(I know that CalyxOS isn’t COMPLETELY De-Googled, calm down, I can’t go COMPLETELY FOSS yet alright?!)
Obvious Heavy Hitters
CalyxOS (Alternative Android OS)
If you’re going to De-google, you might as well get RID of google. I’ve found that the least intrusive way of doing this is flashing CalyxOS on a supported Pixel phone (in my case the Pixel 5). It supports using microG as an attempted OSS alternative to emulating/rewriting the google related services but without the big G watching your every move. It also has ZERO google related apps pre-installed (though you could still add them if you wanted, with some probable jank cause of microG).
Alternatively, if you don’t want microG and want to rid your world of Google completely, format your phone with GrapheneOS and pull that tinfoil hat on even tighter and only rely on…
F-Droid (FOSS App Repo)
This is the real bee’s knees of OSS for Android. It’s an app repository that only has FOSS software. It also automatically updates any installed apps just like the Play Store. My general rule is if it’s installable via F-Droid, that’s what I’m going to do. Plus you get that warm fuzzy feeling for supporting free software ^_^
Less Obvious/more fun
Aegis Authenticator (Authenticator Alternative)
First of all, it’s pretty tiresome that you can’t export your 2FA keys out of Google Authenticator… without some jank. Luckily someone made a python script that you can run to extract/decrypt the keys for each entry so you can use them WHEREVER YOU WANT, you can find it here.
Aegis not only lets you backup your 2FA DB to something THAT OTHER APPS CAN READ, but it also lets you lock your database behind a password as another layer of security, and supports biometrics to unlock as well
Aurora Store (Play Store Alternative)
Acts as a way for you to access Play Store content, without the actual Play Store, and without a Google account to sign into it (though you can still do that if you want to). If you’re using CalyxOS, it comes with this pre-installed.
Fennec (Firefox Altern— no wait this IS Firefox)
Fennec is Firefox through and through, and is even developed by Mozilla themselves. The differences is that any telemetry/proprietary (read: GOODBYE POCKET) is already removed, and you’re allowed to tinker with the
about:config settings without hassle (which is handy for additional privacy tweaks from privacytools.io). It also lets you sign in with your Firefox account just like “regular” Firefox, so you can sync your bookmarks etc.
Gadgetbridge (FitBit Alternative)
I should really write a whole post about the idea/workflow behind Gadgetbridge, it’s a bit next level. Gadgetbridge acts a way to sync fitness devices for step counts/heartrates etc but WITHOUT syncing to a 3rd party server, and instead goes to a local sqlite db which you can backup/tinker with yourself. It has it’s own (sort of janky) app to view heart rate graphs/step counts/etc, and can track different activities.
I personally abandoned my FitBit and bought a cheap Amazfit Bip S (you can see all supported devices here). It’s sort of jank and there’s some setup, but once you’re set it’s pretty much flawless… eeeexcept the AGPS stuff, I’ll get into that in some other post.
K-9 Mail (Gmail Alternative)
Nothing fancy here, it’s a simple/straightforward mail client. I use it both for my old Gmail account and for my Mailbox.org accounts. It works really well, I can see all my inboxes in one screen if I want, and have zero complaints.
MiXplorer (File Manager)
Honestly this is the best file manager app on Android as far as I’m concerned, mainly because it supports SMB and FTP servers out of the box, and is IT’S own FTP server, out of the box. It even comes with the ability to turn on/off the FTP server from the app drawer! I use it all the time just to transfer music from my NAS wirelessly, or to take files from my phone to my PC if I don’t want to bother with SyncThing.
NewPipe (YouTube alternative)
Actually just use this instead of the native YouTube app all the time. This really deserves it’s own article about it too but at a glance, it’s just a wrapper for all youtube related links, but without YouTube at all. I’m assuming it’s doing some mpv/youtube-dl stuff to play the media files, but it all works and is SUPER clean. Other features are no ads for any videos, you can play videos in the background/screen off without a fuss, you can have subscriptions WITHOUT A YOUTUBE ACCOUNT that is local to your device, and on top of all that, you can export your subscriptions/settings to your own backup drives.
OsmAnd+ (Google Maps Alternative)
OsmAnd+ is a frontend for OpenStreetMaps with directions support, searching for addresses etc, but it also lets you download FULL OFFLINE maps, including transit systems like busses/bike paths/trails/subways/etc (provided someone provided the data obviously). I was SUPER psyched to find out I could have all of Ontario Canada available offline on my phone for a couple gigs of storage. It also supports paths and routes from other apps (like Gadgetbridge) so you can view your paths and have fun topographic/targets for your routes.
I won’t say it’s BETTER or AS GOOD as Google Maps, since that is a REALLY high bar. But I haven’t had to feel the need to use Google Maps, even in a browser, except maybe to find local businesses faster/in a pinch.
Syncthing (Google Drive Alternative)
Syncthing lets you sync directories privately to as many machines as you like. For example, I have my phone camera folder synced to my NAS, so any photos get synced over on a write only basis, and I keep my Keepass databases synced across devices as well. You could go a little more nuts with this and have your data synced on a VPS server somewhere and then have that be synced to a http server so you could share files, or pretty much ANYTHING you can think of. I just really like that it provides you just the framework of ideas on sharing files securely, and you can do what you want with that idea after that. Super cool.
Vinyl Music Player (Audio/Music Player)
Honestly, Vinyl is just super simple and it looks nice, and I can edit ID3 tags in mass if the tags are messed up on my phone so I can organize them easy. There’s no crazy cool features, but thats exactly what I’d want in a MUSIC PLAYER. TO PLAY MUSIC! It’s also super minimal and pretty.
Even Less Obvious/Other Ideas
oisd blocklist (Adblocking/DNS blacklists)
I use this blocklist both on my pfsense box to block known bad domains/DNS requests, but also their adblocker list inside uBlock Origin, which also runs in Fennec/Firefox on mobile! It’s very easy to add the list to uBlock Origin and adds ~450k rules on top of the vanilla rules. Highly recommend.