Most Android phones come with Google’s fingerprints all over them. Everything from the app store (Play Store), to the default Internet browser (Chrome), to the email client (Gmail), tie into Google servers in one way or another. Then there’s Google Now which tries to dish out information about things people will be interested in without them having to ask. Fortunately Android is open enough where those of you who are concerned about your privacy, don’t want Google to track you and want to get rid of Google on your Android device can replace just about every single one of these apps. Here are many options you can choose from.
If you’re trying to live a mobile life without Google, the Play Store is the first thing you’re going to want to replace. Doing so will limit which apps you have access to, but it’s the only way to prevent Google from having an account of every app you’ve downloaded. The Amazon Appstore is the most comprehensive alternative, as it contains much of the software that’s available in the Play Store. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s F-Droid.
F-Droid is a repository of apps that qualify as free and open source software. If you happen to own a Galaxy device, you can also turn to Samsung Apps.
The web browser is next on the list of essential changes. Chrome is the default web browser on devices that ship with stock Android, and it’s often included with many devices that don’t. With the latter group, you can just turn to whichever default browser Samsung, HTC, etc. may have supplied. On others, you can install an alternative such as Firefox for Android, Opera, or the Dolphin web browser.
Android’s Gmail app is considered one of the mobile platform’s advantages over its competitors, but it’s of no use if you’re looking to get out of Google’s ecosystems. Most Android devices come with an alternative already installed. If those don’t meet your needs, consider looking at K-9 Mail, a feature-rich option, or Molto, which is much simpler.
Alternatively, you can download Yahoo Mail, Outlook, or other official apps directly.
But what about those contacts? First you’re going to want to tell your phone not to sync them to Google’s servers. But that’s not good enough if you still want the peace of mind that comes with syncing them somewhere. Contacts+ is one app that’s willing to take care of that for you.
Addappt is another option that has the added benefit of automatically updating your information on your contacts’ phones as well, assuming they also use the app.
All of the phones in our pockets are capable of broadcasting our location at any time. This makes the decision of which navigation tool to rely on one of the more important choices to make regarding your privacy. Google stores and uses all of the location data that goes through its servers. For alternative apps, consider NavFree or MapQuest if you’re looking to save money.
Google Now/Voice Search
Google Now is one of Google’s latest Android innovations, and while it’s convenient, it fundamentally relies on the company gathering and analyzing data to use. There’s no way to get around that. But if you just want to replace the voice searching portion of the app, that we can do.
Available options include Robin and Skyvi. Manufacturers also tend to produce their own options, such as Samsung S-Voice. These competing apps are better than Google’s Voice Search in some ways and worse in others, so you may have to experiment for a while to find a solution that works for you.
There you have it. Replacing Google on an Android device isn’t the easiest commitment, as it requires giving up on a great deal of the apps available in the Play Store. But that doesn’t mean it’s too difficult. The apps above should get you moving in the right direction in your quest to limit how much Google knows about your life. Feel free to share any other recommendations you have in the comments below.