Ungoogle your Android phone

GrapheneOS and LineageOS

This article will not explain why you would want to avoid Google on your mobile phone, it will only talk about an approach on how to do it. And if you unironically think an iPhone is a suitable solution, please leave this blog.


When it comes to smartphones you have the choice between Apple and Google which means you are caught between a rock and a hard place. Luckily Android is based on the Linux kernel, which forces Google to comply to GNU GPL v2 for the Linux kernel modifications. The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) uses the Apache License 2.0 for the userspace software, so we are good to go, right? Not exactly, because most Android devices are shipped with proprietary crap, mainly Google Play services and drivers for device specific hardware.

The latter is a big problem, but a fight you cannot win, if you don’t want to use shitty old hardware. Don’t get me wrong: Replicant is a great project and I pay respect to everyone who uses this OS in their everyday life. But lets be honest: Those hardcore GNU variants of operation systems feel like self-torture. If your ideological motivation is not big enough to endure it, they are not a real replacement. If your ideological motivation were big enough, you are probably running Replicant on your phone already, so there is no need to deal with this topic any further.

Choosing the operating system

What can be done easily, is to get rid of Google Play. There are two great options, that both depend on your Android device. LineageOS with a big variety of officially supported devices and GrapheneOS, which is limited to Google Pixel devices. That means Google Pixel devices are ironically a great option, if you want to get rid of Google. They are flawlessly supported by both alternative operating systems, that will save you from mandatory Google Play. So if you are planning to buy a new Android phone, I highly recommend to buy an at least LineageOS compatible device. Even if you don’t want to make the move yet, it’s great to have the option. But just get started with your next phone, because you have to migrate anyway.

Both operating systems are based on the AOSP mentioned earlier, so they are pretty similar. While LineageOS tries to preserve the Vanilla Android feel to as much as devices possible, GrapheneOS is primarily focused on security. Both operating systems are great and have a lot in common, so I personally would recommend to use LineageOS if you already on a compatible device. If you are getting a new device anyway, buy a Google Pixel device and install GrapheneOS, it’s basically a hardened LineageOS without the hassle of hardening it yourself.

Everyone uses their phone differently, so it can be hard to replace all the apps you are currently using with FOSS apps.

Google Play Store ⇒ F-Droid and Aurora Store

Since Google Play Store is finally gone, you’ll need a new repository and an app to download an update your apps: F-Droid is the first and only app you will have to install as an APK. After that, you should be fine, since it features most maintained FOSS apps for Android.

But there are exceptions: Despite beeing released under GPLv3 the messenger App Signal is not featured in F-Droid, which has reasons I don’t want to discuss here. Since I like Signal and still want to use it, I had to bite the bullet and install its compiled version from the Google Play Store. So, If you need and want to install proprietary apps without Google Play Store, Aurora Store gets the job done. It will download the APKs in question from Google, but you neither need a Google account or Google Play Store on you device.

Google Authenticator ⇒ Aegis Authenticator

Lots of websites like Namecheap or others feature 2FA via TOTP apps. The cool thing about this is freedom of choice: Time to choose a free and open source app with additional security features: Aegis Authenticator

Google Maps ⇒ OsmAnd

To be fair, OsmAnd doesn’t run as flawlessly for car navigation as Google Maps, because it doesn’t feature live traffic data (which is harvested from Google Maps users, so it shouldn’t count as a missing feature). It’s based on OpenStreetMap and is feature-packed. It features a car, a bicycle and a pedestrian mode for navigation, the public transport mode is yet a beta feature, but works surprisingly well in my hometown.

Runtastic ⇒ FitoTrack

FitoTrack is a privacy oriented fitness tracker, which lets you record many different workouts. It utilizes OpenStreetMap as well and lets you track bicycle rides and runs with detailed statstic insights. Obviously it doesn’t feature any social media crap and keeps your data on your device. It features the possibilty to save and restore its database, so you don’t lose track of your progress, when you lose your device.

Google Drive and Google Calendar ⇒ Nextcloud

To sync your devices without Google, you’ll probably have to host your own Nextcloud instance. There are great apps like Nextcloud for file synchronisation, DAVx⁵ for calender, task and contact synchronisation, OpenTasks for administrating your tasks and Simple Calendar Pro for your appointments.

Evernote ⇒ Joplin

Joplin is a markdown-based note app, available on F-Droid. It also features a great desktop client for Linux distributions. (Clients for iOS, MacOS and Windows are available as well) Another very nice feature is the possibility to sync it via Nextcloud.

Gmail ⇒ K-9 Mail

I hope, that you don’t use Gmail, but if you do stop it. A functional FOSS mail client for Android is K-9 Mail. It supports multiple accounts in a unified mailbox.

Telegram FOSS

Telegram’s FOSS client is available on F-Droid. Please keep in mind, that this app is just a client and Telegram doesn’t use end to end encryption by default.


Site-spefic Apps

YouTube: NewPipe

YouTube without annoying ads and the the possibility to subscribe to certain creators and creating playlists without an account? NewPipe has you covered. It also works as a client for the following sites: PeerTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and media.ccc.de

Reddit and Imageboards

If you want to browse Reddit or Imageboards without ads with a customizable UI, RedReader and KurobaEx are highly recommended.

See also