- Why Shouldn’t You Go Google-Free?
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When I first started using Google, it was to perform searches. Then it became a way to manage mail, which then turned into a place for instant messaging.
Why Shouldn’t You Go Google-Free?
Later, Google became a way to look at maps, which morphed into a GPS replacement steering me around town. Still further, it became a place for writing documents and storing files. Google became a way to browse the web and sync every page I visited. Then it turned into a way to download and manage apps, track Android devices, and wipe them remotely. Search on Android became Google Now, which then became Google Assistant, a digital assistant that uses everything Google knows about us based on our activity.
This leads us to the next reason.
This helps Google perform a number of tasks, from installing apps remotely to pulling up your location. These services also give third-party apps access to some of that functionality. The act of pinging and connecting to cell towers makes mobile phones inherently trackable.
But making this change reduces some of the information that you generate and share. And Does It Even Matter? Here we explore whether or not Android is really open source. After all, it is based on Linux! But hold on.
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Here are some reasons why you might want to exercise restraint. You might not be able to continue using much of what you rely on right now. Saying goodbye to Google means losing out on the many Android apps that Google makes. If you choose to go a step further, and use only open source software, like I did, this is even more drastic. Say goodbye to social networks, music streaming services, popular games, most navigation tools, cloud storage providers, video streaming sites, and many productivity tools. Some of these sources fall weeks or months behind. Slow updates can leave you open to known vulnerabilities.
The most common way to compromise a device is to install malicious software, typically unsuspectingly. Using an alternative app store means allowing your device to install software outside of the Play Store, opening yourself up to these kind of attacks. Unfortunately, this is a trade-off you have to consider for yourself. Even without installing a single app, our smartphones are already capable of doing a great deal.
You can place calls, send text messages, take photos, maintain a calendar, listen to music, solve math problems, take notes, and browse the web without looking for additional software. Try making it simpler, like a dumbphone, using these tips to declutter and disconnect.
Read More and stop there. How functional your phone will be out of the box depends on the manufacturer. These apps will continue to work without syncing your phone to a Google account. On a Pixel device, the situation is a bit more challenging, since these devices come loaded with Google software. Even if you remove all the apps that require a Google account to function, you will still lose some features in the apps that remain. Play Music only plays files stored locally. Despite the wide availability of music streaming services, I still buy albums and store my music locally.
Even with access to cloud services, I back up much of my data to hard drives. When given the choice to sync my browsing history and tabs, I decline. These are all habits I formed due to limited data plans, spotty coverage, inconsistent access to a reliable internet connection, and discomfort at the thought of trusting companies with such personal data.
I also wanted to exclusively use open source software. Because of this, I chose to install F-Droid, an app store of sorts that only contains free and open source software. Linux users may find that it feels more like a software repository. The service keeps logs of new apps and lets you revert to older releases if necessary. F-Droid contains over a thousand apps, and I find I can get by using just its selection. Download: F-Droid Free.
The Amazon Appstore has been around since and now contains over , apps.
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This is the default app store on Amazon Fire tablets, and its collection is large enough to keep folks who buy those devices satisfied. You will also find apps from the major social networks. Download: Amazon Appstore Free. Or don't have access to it? Here are the best alternative app stores for Android. Though getting your software from an app store is the recommended model, you also have the option to download apps directly from websites.
This is risky, so be careful which websites you trust. The downside to this approach is that you will not get automatic updates, which is a security vulnerability. What you put into this category will vary, but these are the categories where I had to go searching for good options.
Curious about DuckDuckGo but confused about how the search engine can improve your online privacy? Here's what you need to know. Read More , has an Android app that combines the two experiences into one. You can perform searches and open the resulting page all in the same place. You can also drop a widget at the top of your homescreen where you would usually see Google.
If half of your searches are on Wikipedia, you may want to install its dedicated Android app. That route is much faster than going through a browser. Google Maps may work without an account, but I had already cut down on my usage even before giving up the Play Store. Instead I tried options like Sygic and Nokia Here. These apps are still available in places outside of the Play Store.
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Since I decided to go the open source route, I eventually settled on OsmAnd. I recommend pairing OSMAnd with an address-locating app like Acastus, because the app is pretty bad at recognizing street addresses on its own. Podcasts are a major form of entertainment for me. Download: AntennaPod Free.
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I prefer apps that only store my notes locally. Fortunately, there are quite a few options:. Pretty much.