How to de-Google an Android-based OS

Android is one of the most popular operating system for smartphones. Though it is available for free and it is an open source project, it is commercially sponsored by Google, LLC. and it contains pre-installed proprietary software own by this company, mainly Google Mobile Services (GMS).

GMS contains, among other software:

  • Google app
  • Google Chrome browser
  • Google Play app
  • Google Play Services platform

A user that acquires a smartphone with pre-installed Android cannot to opt-out for GMS, and most of these apps and services cannot be uninstalled nor disabled.

Some users may want to use an Android-based OS on their smartphones, but go without these Google default services. This post gives advice about how to achieve this.

1. Install a stock version of Android OS on your smartphone

As an open source project, the source code of Android OS is available and known as Android Open Source Project (AOSP), and licensed primarily under an Apache License. AOSP is the most stock (factory, or vanilla) version of the Android OS, just as the makers of Android built it, without any additional modifications or features.

However, AOSP ROMs contains GMS. So if our goal is to get rid of all this Google functionalities, AOSP is not the solution.

As Android is open source, the original code can be forked, modified and distributed under other brands different to Android, because this one is own by Google. This is why we talk about Android-based OS: they are alternative projects that are very similar to Android and their apps are still compatible, but they are not Android.

Android-based OS can be open source or proprietary. Some examples of open source are LineageOS, Replicant or /r/, and an example of proprietary is Fire OS by Amazon.

Take note that Android forks may not be a stock version and add new functionality, proprietary code or default apps in the same way Google does. Check well what these versions contain.

So the first step is to choose the right Android-based OS for you or for your device (Android-based OS are not necessarily compatible with all devices). This is not covered on this post.

There are two ways to get a smartphone with an Android-based OS:

  • Get a smartphone that is shipped with Android-based-but-not-Android OS. An examples is F(x)tec Pro1-X, with LineageOS.
  • Overwrite the default Android OS with an Android-based OS. This is not a straightforward process, and still requires some technical steps.

You may need to do further research to get an Android-based OS installed on your device.

2. Install an app marketplace

There are different ways to install an app in an Android-based smartphone:

  • Use an app marketplace (like Google Play)
  • Download and install apps individually from manually downloaded APK

One of the advantage of using an app marketplace is that some of them verify that apps are malware free, and signed them. When you download an APK from the internet manually and install directly, you need to trust the distributor of the APK.

If you want to de-Google your Android-based device, you may want to find an alternative to Google Play. You can find a list here, but remember to weigh the pros and cons of your choice.

3. Find a substitute for common Google apps

Google apps are still available to download from app marketplaces different to Google Play.

As this post is about de-Google your device, you may not want to install Google apps and find alternatives.

This is the list of 9 Google apps installed by default on Android devices, and some non-Google alternatives:

  • Google Search: Firefox search widget
  • Chrome Browser: Firefox app
  • Google Drive
  • Gmail: K-9 mail, InboxPager, FairEmail, p≡p, ProtonMail
  • Google Duo
  • Google Maps
  • Google Play Music
  • Google Play Movies
  • YouTube
  • Google Play Services: microG

You can find a list of alternative to Android Google apps on this external link.

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External references

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