Android Without* Google?

Posted on November 4, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 147 Comments

A big part of Android’s appeal is that you can customize it to your needs and preferences. Incredibly, this includes the ability to exorcize its maker from the system to a degree that isn’t possible on iPhone.

No, you can’t fully remove Google from your Android handset. (That explains the asterisk in the title.) But you can minimize your exposure to the firm’s apps and services. And to its tracking of your activities as well.

To be clear, I don’t necessarily advocate doing this, and I certainly don’t do this myself: There are some Google apps and services that I find to be indispensable, key components of my mobile experience. And that’s true whether I’m on Android, as I am now, or using an iPhone. Google Maps is a great example, but there are many others.

That said, I do understand where Google’s critics are coming from, and why one might not trust this company.

But for those of us of a Microsoft bent, it’s even worse. The mobile world has evolved in such a way that there is no obvious answer. Both Apple and Google, and the mobile platforms they spawned, can be problematic for the Microsoft user for any number of reason.

I’m not personally interested in the two extremes here. I don’t feel that blindly trusting Google is smart. But I also don’t think that completely removing Google from your life is particularly smart either. Surely there’s a balance.

But that’s just me, and the degree to which you de-Google your Android handset is up to you, of course. So let’s discuss the ways in which one might do this. From the obvious—changing default apps, and things like your home screen (launcher), assistant, keyboard, and so on. To the less obvious. For example, what might one do to minimize Google’s tracking?

Some of this is familiar to me, obviously. I do spend a lot of time researching what’s possible here. But I also need your help. What I’m looking for specifically is the types of changes you’d like to make to Android. And any tips you may have about your own configurations.

I’m thinking this could turn into an interesting series over time, something that can be useful as a reference going forward. So I’ll start with the basics. And move forward based on feedback.

So let me know what you think, please.

 

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Comments (151)

151 responses to “Android Without* Google?”

  1. Avatar

    Jason Peter

    There are some Google apps and services that I find to be indispensable, key components of my mobile experience."


    I cringe that we live in a world where any Google/Apple/MS/ service would, by definition, be ‘indispensable’ - without any viable alternative to turn to.

    If true, something is seriously out of whack with society today...

  2. Avatar

    unfalln

    Actually I'd be just as, if not more, interested in de-Samsung-ing a phone over Google right now. Galaxies seem to run with that whole duopoly thing so it would be interesting to see one of these without the overt influence of either company.

  3. Avatar

    johanv

    Android without Google exists, and it is called LineageOS. If your phone is on the list with supported devices, the wiki will explain step by step how you can replace the current OS of your phone by LineageOS.


    The problem is, of course, that it is very hard to install apps if you don't have the Google Play Store. The wiki explains how you can install the "Google Applications", which provides the store. But to use it, you have to sign in into your Google account. :-( Nevertheless this offers you a little more flexibility about which Google apps you want to install, and which you don't.

  4. Avatar

    bart

    I know this is taking it to the extreme (for the average user), but /e/ OS is an option


    https://e.foundation/mobile-phone-os/


    Specifically made to avoid sharing data with the 'usual suspects'. The project has been going for a while (disclaimer: I did back it with a donation), and is available for a number of handsets

  5. Avatar

    toph36

    I have a Pixel 2 XL. Being in IT security related position, I like the monthly security updates and getting the feature updates first. However, coming from Windows phones after 5 years (had an iPhone 4 before that), I still prefer Microsoft services. For my phone, I am running the Microsoft Launcher, with Outlook, Edge, OneDrive, Bing and Cortana as my defaults. I do use Skype for video calls, but use Facebook Messenger for my SMS messages. As for Google, the Play Store you can't get away from, but I do use Maps and Waze as well. Occasionally I will load the Google app, mostly for the music listening. I do backup my photos and videos to Google Drive as a secondary backup to OneDrive. I would still prefer a true Microsoft phone, but this is close as I am going to get at this point. They just need all the same apps, whether Microsoft releases their own Android phone, or a true Windows phone that can run Android apps.

  6. Avatar

    justme

    I think this is a super topic for a running discussion. Personally, I would like to see a discussion of the Microsoft and Android options for the larger categories of apps, taking it even to comparing them to what Apple does. Things like the various to-do/notes programs like Evernote and Onenote, launchers, email programs (Outlook vs Gmail vs Mail type of thing) ,cloud storage, music and media . For me, I would like to have an option for an absolute bare bones OS where I can pick and choose my apps without having to "de-Google" anything first. You could make this a running series, like Ask Paul. One week or month its "Email programs" , the next its calendars.


    Here's hoping you go for it.



  7. Avatar

    christian.hvid

    While it's reasonable to criticize Google, Facebook and others for their privacy invasions, part of the blame lies with us consumers. As long as we refuse to pay outright for the services we use every day, we will be forced to give up something else instead.


    I sometimes wish Google would expand its YouTube Premium offering to a broader Google Premium service. Subscribers who pay for Premium would gain access to all Google services without being subjected to either ads or surreptious data collection, while those who prefer free services would be subjected to both. This may sound like blackmail - give us your money or give us your privacy - but I actually think it would be a fair choice. And it would obviate the need for silly "de-Googling" exercises (no offense, Paul).

  8. Avatar

    silversee

    Google should be applauded making it possible to replace so much of its own experience with alternatives, for those inclined. Neither Microsoft nor Apple are (or were) nearly as open with their own mobile platforms.


    I use mostly Microsoft alternatives to Google apps and services on my Android phone. Microsoft Launcher, Edge, Outlook and Office are actually among the best (if not the best) available apps in each of their categories. My email, calendars and contacts are in Outlook and Bing is my default search engine. I do use Google Maps, Messages, Calendar, YouTube on occasion. Though I would probably use a Microsoft Maps app on Android if one were available, since I regularly use it on my Windows devices. I even use Cortana as my assistant.


    One major pain point for Microsoft users on Android is the difficulty in setting up your phone to make proper use of Outlook.com calendars and contacts. Some years ago Google dropped support for Exchange ActiveSync and this makes it nearly impossible to use Microsoft's communications services seamlessly on Android devices. If you add your Outlook account to your phone using the Google promoted method, you get a basic IMAP account for email only, with no obvious way to sync your calendars and contacts. (I'm pretty sure Google has converted millions of users over to Gmail with this little trick alone.) While you can use the Outlook mobile app to sync your contacts, calendar sync still doesn't work.


    The solution is to set up your Outlook.com account on your Android phone manually as a Microsoft Exchange account, which enables two-way sync of all your calendars, contacts, and mail. It's not a solution most people know about, or have the knowledge to accomplish, unfortunately. Of course, if you only ever use the Outlook app, then you're fine, but I like to be able to use the stock Android apps at times, and find it helpful that I can use these tools interchangeably.


    Google Assistant is superior, but I find Cortana essential for things like setting reminders and adding calendar events by voice. I might use Google Assistant more for this (it's more convenient for being better integrated), but it is tied to Google services. So adding an event using Assistant puts it on your Gmail calendar with no way to add it to my Outlook calendar (which is shared with my wife). And so it goes.


    All in all, I'm impressed with what Microsoft has delivered on Android. I honestly prefer Edge to Chrome (which on Android uses the same Blink rendering engine), Outlook to Gmail, and Launcher to most other home screens. I couldn't have predicted that even a couple of years ago.

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to Silversee:


      The point of Google is to collect data around your interests in context. As long that they can keep collecting it, its inline with their business model so it does not matter.


      The moment you keep them from doing that, it's no game.

      • Avatar

        silversee

        In reply to nbplopes:


        Well yes, in theory. However, to completely block Google tracking while simultaneously using Android or any online Google service requires extreme compromises that not everyone is willing to take, and is often not successful.


        My strategy in response is to completely neuter what tracking they manage to accomplish. I completely disable targeted ads on my Google, Facebook, and Microsoft accounts, and also make extensive use of ad blocking and anti-tracking software. On the rare occasion that I do see an ad, it is never personalized.


        So even while I am not able to completely prohibit the collection of my personal data and simultaneously enjoy features like Google Maps, cross-device browsing history, etc, I am insulated from the worst form of its effects. If the companies buying data from Google can't effectively use that data to market, then eventually this will erode Google's business model.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Silversee:

      >Google should be applauded making it possible to replace so much of its own experience with alternatives, for those inclined. 


      I agree. Actually, that is the opening line of my post :)


  9. Avatar

    PeterC

    so tricky first hurdle. Do you start a project with anybody joining in using:


    1. any android mobile of choice means it’s about deleting and removing apps/permissions etc
    2. its install a AOSP variant and decide to add open gapps or not.


    If you want to be as google free as possible I’d go 2 but I accept people have to learn to flash a ROM and then you have to choose which one and of course some devices are easier than others.


    Seeing as you have a one plus device why not base your article on their handsets and go for a custom rom like lineage which has a lot of well documented support and widely supported handsets. You could gather the apk’s of apps your going to use and maybe create a mirror download page on your site. Or just go for the minimum open gapps package that’s basically play services and users can add whatever extra google apps or others they want.


    Those that don’t want to flash a rom can remove apps and permissions where possible on their device and experience using the app bouquet your writing about too, just not the more technical side.


    personally speaking - everyone on this site should try and learn to flash a rom. We’ve all had to similar things to windows over the years why not a mobile? I’ve made it a necessity for my kid to learn, especially as there’s so much info and support on sites like XDA.


    if you’ve got some tech help behind the scenes, maybe a company or group interested in seeing how such a rom project for ( ahem) older or mature PC users goes, then great. ( MS garage?)


    There’s enough old win mobile users still floundering around what mobile to use now that could make a nice earner for someone, you could add a fee to your premium subscription package for the ROM package...... have a dedicated support and how to guide(s), etc etc.


    considering most people’s age here ( heck of a sweeping statement possibly) why not call it...............


    The COOL GREY rom. ?


    >>>>>EDIT. Why not do the full RAMBO version and do two. Custom rom your OnePlus and “amend/delete” your Samsung device for a perspective on both experiences, it could be a Bill & Ted - double the trouble but triple the fun kinda thing! WIld Stallions.....

  10. Avatar

    bschauhan



    Unfortunately, this approach doesn't really remove or prevent google from accessing all information on the device. Everything goes through google play services, which once installed can't be disabled. It really is a case of everything or nothing and thus the proposed workaround only changes the services and applications used, not the data being collected. In fact, if the user installs the msft launcher and adds a microsoft account, user interaction is now logged by both google and msft, even though the google launcher is no longer default......

    Best budget laptops

  11. Avatar

    FalseAgent

    IMO it's impossible to get rid of Google completely. Google has an absolute monopoly in Search, Video (YouTube), and Maps. And indeed, it was the lack of access to these online services on mobile which gave Android a leg up over the competition such as Windows Phone or even BlackBerry and Palm. And now Android is also a monopoly outside of the US - especially in places like India and Indonesia where Android has above 90% market share. And of course, with Android monopoly comes the Play Store, which is also another Google "service" that we can no longer live without.


    You can, however, live without using other Google services like Gmail, Calendar, Google Photos, Drive, Music, Hangouts, Duo, Messages, Docs, Assistant, Keep, etc.


    I've also found Google's privacy controls to be pretty good - even though it's a bit tricky in certain areas like location and so-called "web & app activity". I generally turn most of it off.

    • Avatar

      kappen

      In reply to FalseAgent:
      I did it a few months ago. All the stories about google "thinking" about how to use search to manipulate the elections, their refusal to testify to congress and their refusal to bid on US government contacts while embracing China's censorship laws and their now famous slide deck cause me to make the move. The only thing I couldn't find a replacement for was youtube so I just stopped watching. The biggest thing for me was moving from Gmail to another provider. It took a few weekends and lots of failed attempts to move all my email out of gmail. Most missed app was Waze.


    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      It's possible. It's just not a good idea. Some of Google's apps and services really are superior. The point here isn't to make life more difficult. It's to strike a balance between what we want and we expect from our phones.

      • Avatar

        Minke

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Paul, the point is that what you propose doesn't do anything. If you have the Play store and Maps on an Android phone you are granting all the tracking Google needs. Add in a few must-haves like Photos and YouTube and you are in no way limiting their ability to track you. They already don't use your email for ad targeting. It sounds like people are just trying to limit what Google products they use out of spite, but with no real privacy gain. It is not clear to me that your data is any less valuable to Apple or Microsoft, so why should we assume they are using less of it than Google is?

        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          Yes, you should. http://fortune.com/2018/11/05/microsoft-will-not-use-personal-data-for-profit-says-satya-nadella/
          • Avatar

            Minke

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            Unfortunately, Nadella's statement is a lie. Microsoft does use personal data for profit and has stated so clearly on many occasions, and the facts speak for themselves. I recently deleted my LinkedIn account because of the endless spam they send me despite whatever privacy settings I choose. LinkedIn is notorious for tricking users into giving up all their contacts for spam purposes, and it works brilliantly! Endless spam from friends and others who use LinkedIn. That's just one example. Our personal data is incredibly valuable to all of these companies, and they all use it in different ways: Apple, Google, Microsoft and others. You have to determine for yourself whether or not the services you get in turn are worth it. Personally, I think all three companies offer compelling value equations that are different. To me it is not so much that I want to avoid having personal data collected, but what I get in return and how it is protected from third parties that I don't trust at all. By the way, I have worked for a large, very well regarded tech company, and many people here would be absolutely aghast at what personal information is available in plain text by ordinary employees all day, every day. You really shouldn't worry so much about Google, Microsoft, and Apple, but you should worry about your local government, tax collectors, utility providers, school systems, shops you do business with, etc. They have all sorts of information on you stored in plain text with virtually no security or even a clue as to how to make the data secure.

  12. Avatar

    nbplopes

    Who would want Android without Google?


    Windows people :)


    The vast majority , would probably choose something else, no problems.


    Although it assumes different forms, the theme of this article is one, the argument is always the same, "I WANT WINDROID!"


    This crowd does not trust anyone but the Microsoft gods. Open Source was a communist movement headed by General Linus, Apple are bunch of liars and greedy crooks and Google is a mass surveillance agency seeking to control your mind.


    Geez, complex crowd this one.

    • Avatar

      ErichK

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Nah. I have two machines at home running Linux, and I own and iPad, and I have an Android phone. And I still have a lot of Microsoft in my life.


      What bugs me is advocates of other platforms (some, not all) thinking they know what's best for me, or that I can't possibly get real work done with my "Windoze" "crap."

      • Avatar

        nbplopes

        In reply to ErichK:


        Just the fact that I'm being voted down even in my second non snarky and more "reasonable" remark after Paul clarification, shows that my initial though is correct.


        In this context, Android without* Google, has nothing to do with privacy. At most, a technical curiosity.


        I have the feeling that a lot of readers of this site, including Paul are looking at Android because they were forced out of their Windows Phones and do not consider Apple simply out of contempt. Unlike people that embraced alternatives to Windows in the mobile space, that gladly use all these systems where it makes sense.


        So it is only natural that this crowd would want a second home tailored to the Windows ecosystem. Don 't see anything wrong in wanting that. But I guess ... yes yes ... it must be down to privacy ... "can I now have 2 Amazon Dots and 2 Google Homes, plus 3 chrome cast dongles, just throw a Pixel in and ... heck why not ... haaa yes. privacy, I only need Google Maps and Google Play on my smartphone because I am educated on the subject.


        Look if the concern is privacy this can't be discussed this way. What if is not Google but some other company, an app? Take for instance the latest Facebook scandal, had nothing to do with Google, Android, iOS, .... nothing ...


        Here is an interesting article about Google.


        https://www.wired.com/story/google-privacy-data/


        I have not doubt they take privacy seriously. But also there is no doubt that friction exists between Google business model and privacy, aka Surveillance Capitalism. This friction impacts the design of their products even the way they think about them.


        For instance, Apple tries to push proximity networking and local computing / AI as much as possible. This is inline with their business model, after all they sell devices. They have no Cloud business like Google or MS have. Yet because of that both Google and MS try to push has much data and processing to the Cloud, where. their business is. Even something like copying from one smartphone to a PC, the data goes to the cloud (Cloud Clipboard), unlike what happens in the Apple ecosystem were data is transferred using local P2P networking. techniques, never reaches their servers. Even if the Internet is down it just works.


        This is just an example of how ones business model might discard what could be more consumer and privacy friendly approaches, not to mention technically more robust with less points of failure.

        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          I use iOS every day and am reviewing an iPhone XR now. So the notion that I don't consider iPhone is ... ludicrous. Sorry. I use both platforms, and what I say and write is that there are great reasons to choose in either direction.
    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Anyone who isn't worried about Google is either uneducated or clueless. This isn't about being pro-Microsoft. It's about being understandably nervous about the one company that is the gateway to the Internet and taking prudent steps to limit any negative impact it can have on our lives.

      • Avatar

        raptor

        In reply to paul-thurrott:


        Funny, you talk about people who aren't worried about Google are either clueless or uneducated, yet you continue to forgive and conveniently forget about all of the privacy violations committed by Microsoft. Gee, I wonder why. Let's take a walk down memory lane:


        1. They slurp your data from your Windows machine
        2. They track you with their bing search engine
        3. They do targeted advertising in their OS
        4. Their cloud servers in China are run by Chinese state run companies that funnel the data of their users back to the Chinese government.
        5. They were the first to work with the NSA and have worked closely with them ever since
        6. They broke into a user's email account
        7. And it just goes on and on.


        People who aren't worried about Microsoft's privacy violations are also clueless and uneducated.

      • Avatar

        nbplopes

        In reply to paul-thurrott:


        Although your intents may be sincere your approach to the topic of digital privacy does not look like it is. Because you are eschewing the topic of personal privacy to one of getting rid of Google in Android while clearly inclined to replaced with Microsoft services when you see fit. What about smart speakers ,Alexa, so on and so forth?


        I don't think the matter of Privacy and Data ownership should be branded by any company, either negatively (case in case Google) or positively (case in case Apple). Neither should prominent members of the tech scene do so. Its just too important.


        When I see Google and Facebook (even MS by auto-proposing apps based on what I'm doing) doing bad moves and Apple capitalising on them by increasing prices it upsets me. Because indirectly we are making a world where privacy is just for some.


        TC has called to regulation on this issue, GDPR style, I think that is the serious way to do it.


        What do you think?

      • Avatar

        nbplopes

        In reply to Minke:


        I did not feel insulted considering I have been concerned about probably long before Paul. In particular with the rise of smart speakers and more broadly the IoT my concernes have increased dramatically. Not just in the Google context, but across the board. Even with how Microsoft has been building Windows 10, with unsolicited Ads, so on and so forth.


        But I must be honest, never thought that Android without* Google would be a solution for my concerns.


        Albeit understandable maybe being nervous is not the right state of mind to address the growing privacy concerns. Instead we need a state of mind that promotes clarity.

  13. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    I just don't get the animosity! Google are far from perfect, but they offer a lot of first class services and apps for nothing, yet people think Google know more about them than they'd like. Maybe they do, but this knee jerk reaction is just pointless. MS do exactly the same (maybe worse), Facebook are probably the worst of all. Look, almost every app/OS vendor will gather information about you - EVERY SINGLE ONE. Google are singled out because everyone KNOWS they collect it - but then, they don't lie about it either. You walk down the street - you're on about 20 CCTV cameras. You buy things with your credit card or store card - they all track you and build up an e-image of you. You'd have to go an live on a desert island somewhere to avoid all this totally.

    Look, if you think Google are evil, so be it, but Microsoft are also evil then, and many others are too. Your data is everything to Google (and MS), but I actually trust Google more to look after it, as their entire business is built around it. Others are far from clear what they collect, what they do with it, and how secure it's kept. Just look at the devious and underhand tactics MS used to force people onto Win10 - and that wasn't just about getting you to upgrade to their shiny new OS, no, MS needed petabytes of user data and quickly to feed their AI/ad networks, or they were going to be left in the dust by Google. Win10 is just a conduit to allow them to do this, and push people towards their subscription services.

    Just get over it, move on, enjoy life and stop worrying about things that, in reality, make little difference in your life. You'll get ill with all this paranoia and anxiety!

    • Avatar

      ragingthunder

      In reply to ghostrider:

      You don't get it because either

      1. You're too old, or
      2. You're too unimportant

      There are a 1001 reason as to why protecting one's privacy can be a priority. One of the most common is financial theft via targeted e-mails stolen from legitimate services. If you have any clue about how web analytics software work, you'd find it quite unnerving to discover most track you down to street level. This is all thanks to primarily Google software, You'd be too stupid to think that Google gives away its software for free. Just checkout the recent EU vs Google ruling.

  14. Avatar

    meek_teef

    How about just don't use Android?


    If you don't trust or like a company don't use their products or services.


    Like I wrote in a comment below, I don't use any Microsoft product or services, and it has been the case for 20 years. I also don't use any Facebook products or services. Same with Apple.


    I placed a bet on Google early because of their stance towards Open Source and their rapport with the community, especially in a era when Open Source was compared to communism, cancer, and dangerous microbes, by the most powerful tech company in the world at the time.


    Looks like I placed the right bet. Because look at what has become of Open Source and Google. Even the almighty Microsoft has reformed themselves and bent the knee to Open Source and are trying to repent for their past transgressions.

  15. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    Paul advertises compromises but I do not make any compromise for Android. I do not buy an Android device but wait for a reasonable and working Linux smartphone. I prefer to live without smartphone because an iPhone SE at €275 was by far too expensive in view of missing general file management and the malware behaviour of iTunes. Hardware at a bargain does not convince me. Respect of my rights and quality of software are essential criteria.

    • Avatar

      Eric Dunbar

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      You say you prefer to wait for a smartphone that runs Linux.


      There ALREADY exists that which you seek and it's not expensive at all.


      A few manufacturers sell new smart phones running open source Android and there are a number of good used models that can do the same.


      Might I suggest you acquire a used Samsung Galaxy S5 (2014) and install Lineage OS? Or, oftentimes people will even sell a phone that has Lineage OS already installed.


      The S5 can be had for under $80 US/£60 and still is a fast phone by today's standards with a BEAUTIFUL screen. Unlike most new phones it has an easily replaceable battery.


      Lineage OS on its own will give you a FULLY FUNCTIONAL, SECURE and MODERN smartphone with a rich array of open source applications.


      It can run COMPLETELY without any Google services, however, doing so will restrict you from accessing many of the more popular Android applications.


      PS don't root your phone! It's a security hazard.

      • Avatar

        RobertJasiek

        In reply to OntarioPundit:

        You make a good suggestion for some but I prefer a smartphone already sold with Linux. Thereby, I need not spend very much time on evaluating trust.

        • Avatar

          Eric Dunbar

          In reply to RobertJasiek:

          I'm confused. Do you mean you want a purely open source solution that is Linux?


          That exists.


          It is called AOSP, the Android Open Source Project. AOSP is part of the Linux family (it is not GNU/Linux since it doesn't use the GNU utilities). It uses the Linux kernel and all the utilities that make the operating system are released under a full open source license.


          Both TWRP, the 'recovery image' and many of the 'custom ROMs' are fully open source. Lineage OS, for example, can be compiled from scratch if you're concerned about 'trust'. Same with TWRP.


          If you want a GNU/Linux like Ubuntu, that's a different story. It seems like development of other mobile OSes has ground to a halt.


          Plus, why would you trust an open source pre compiled GNU/Linux anymore than the AOSP Linux?

          • Avatar

            RobertJasiek

            In reply to OntarioPundit:

            Open source recompiled locally is fine if one has the time for evaluation. I don't so I need to evaluate trust indirectly.

            For Lineage, I see various installers for different smartphone models and modelled Android versions. I prefer an OS that is the same for all devices of a CPU family so that there is a very much broader base for trust and I need not reeveluate trust by studying the open source for every update. Furthermore, I see Windows software required enabling installation on the smartphone. I do not want to trust even more software on a PC but just want a smartphone with Linux.

            Thanks for mentioning the Android Open Source Project. Will have a look.

            GNU Linux with mobile would be ideal because such derivates have broad, established trust. It is the problem that mobile device support is halted for these derivates, quite like it is for ordinary Windows.

  16. Avatar

    Eric Dunbar

    The headline drew me in. The article let me down. Some comments were encouraging but most left me sad about the state of our understanding of the impact of Apple, Google and Microsoft and of privacy in our lives.


    Android without Google is an opportunity to reclaim, or, at the very least, understand your privacy.


    I run Lineage OS--that's why the title drew me in.


    In Lineage OS the user gets to control their exposure to Google. In stock Android there is little control over Google and that's by design. Android isn't Android unless it runs Google apps and services and those apps and services are default and uninstallable.


    Replacing Google with Microsoft merely replaces one surveillance company with another.


    Both companies earn their profits OFF US and the only way they can do it is by harvesting our data. Microsoft isn't devoting millions of R&D dollars to Edge, Next, Microsoft Launcher, Bing, etc out of the goodness of their heart.


    Apple, the evil empire, is quite different from the other two because of how it generates a profit. Its profit comes primarily from its hardware SALES and the SALES of its services.


    The transaction is TRANSPARENT. Money changes hands.


    This transaction appears DIRTY because the transfer of money is commercial and for profit.


    Google, and to a lesser extent Microsoft, GIVE AWAY their services.


    The transaction appears VIRTUOUS because no money changes hands.


    However, there is a transaction.


    Instead of money changing hands, it's our data and that exchange keeps happening until the end of time.


    In many ways it's an existential question like the difference in quality of life between the United States and much of the rest of the world. In the US you fear your fellow citizens because they have the right to carry a gun and you pay the price for that freedom with higher murder, accident, police shooting and suicide rates than in other developed nations. In much of the world that freedom to carry a gun doesn't exist but your likelihood of not being killed is also much higher.


    Or, the difference between China and the US. China, in many measures, now offers a better quality of life than the much richer, and freer US.


    Apple RIGHTFULLY is viewed with suspicion but rarely for the right reasons.


    Its bread and butter is privacy and security, yet, in Android land, it has this reputation as the great privacy destroying, all-controlling evil even while Google, the (also) for-profit corporation that harvests everyone's data, is viewed as benign. Simply because it gives away the OS and the services "for free"?


    Statista: smartphone-data-collection-by-google-and-apple


    Consider Siri, Apple's AI.


    By design much of the processing happens on the device itself. The purpose is to keep as much data local as possible and share as little as possible. GA is the opposite. As little data as possible stays on the device. It means Google has more data to work with to improve its GA than Apple does Siri.


  17. Avatar

    My Hell baby speaking

    The individual attitude towards privacy is changing all the time and is solely based on trust - this is what marks the powerless.

    So although Google is offering excellent services on the basis of our data (both go hand in hand really), I happen to trust Microsoft more than Google.

    On topic: Looking at the recent EU verdict, a google-less phone would trigger my willingness to confront some inconvenience in my daily lifeand go in that direction. A phone with a well integrated 'MS Android' would probably lead me to use MS services and hand over my data to them.

    We are truely powerless. :)

    • Avatar

      Eric Dunbar

      In reply to My Hell baby speaking:

      Re: handing over data and bring powerless to stop.


      I'm slowly trying to do less of both.


      Duck Duck Go is a decent search engine and gives me 90% of what I need. For the remaining 10% I go to Google in Firefox Focus. And, I'm also using Chrome itself less because, even if you don't have Google as the search engine Chrome phones home a lot.


      I am tempted to try switching up Firefox as my primary cookies and accounts browser.


      The only thing I can't seem to get away from its Google Maps. There's just no substitute :(.

  18. Avatar

    Steven Lendowski

    Only real solution: Custom ROM, Root, load Apps as APK (Can be done with browser extension easily). Firefox or Brave as Browser, and Here Maps or OSM based Apps as Maps replacement, etc..


    You can now substitute every major Google app with equal or even better alternatives. Even the search. With "Startpage" you get Google search results, but anonymized..


    The days of no real alternatives is over. And it is quite easy if one dares the move. And very rewarding.


    You can use GAPPS where you can select which Google Apps to install, or you can go full Non-Google. All most all Apps work for me without GAPPS.


    For Google Pixel or OnePlus owners, it is super easy to root and flash ROMs. But there are many many other good options in all price ranges. Check our XDA before buying a phone or the LineageOS page for officially supported phones.


    My 2014 Xiaomi Mi4 just got an unofficial Android 9/Pie beta, with official V8 for a long time.

    Faster than my end 2016/2017 flagship LG V20. Smooth as iOS.. ;)


    Custom ROMs dont only provide more privacy.. They are much faster, with many additionally tweaks. When one likes stock Android, one can only love Lineage OS.


    Plus with rooting and flashing TWRP: I can do a full disk image style NANDROID backup. All partitions backup up in one file, and i can restore it in minutes.


    EDIT: For any infos, XDA is the place.. The central of all third party and FOSS Android development.

  19. Avatar

    rsmcomputer

    How do I get rid of the incessant ads? Completely. Just accomplishing this feat would make my world spin so much easier!

  20. Avatar

    peterh_oz

    Maps: I use Here WeGo. Why?

    1. Downloadable off line use. Mainly for travelling eg in Europe. But also in Australia, being such a big country (same size as the US) being able to get turn by turn directions without a phone signal is more than just handy.

    2. The voice of the directions is much more pleasant than Google's rushed voice.

    3. Data is accurate. Google refuses to use official street data and has incorrect street names and addresses, and private driveways showing as unnamed streets. I am involved in providing govt mapping data and Google's data is both wrong and dangerous (emergency services use official data, so a customer quoting Google's address location sometimes can't be easily found).

  21. Avatar

    Paul Thurrott

    In reply to jlv632:

    Too extreme. I want to use Android not some Frankenstein OS.

  22. Avatar

    mrdrwest

    T I L E S dang it!


    Just got my Nokia 7.1 and I'm not happy with the Android experience. It feels like I'm using a desktop OS UI on a smartphone sized screen...in-and-out-hop-around-grid-of-icons cumbersome and antiquated UI.


    Screw launchers.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to mrdrwest:

      SquareHome 2. Endlessly customizable tiles. Best dang upgrade to Android even for someone like me who hated Windows 8 and never had a Windows Phone.


      Seriously, give it a try. It will take a few minutes to get your home screen setup the way you want, but it's worth the time and trouble to me. Also, download "Whicons" (white icons) to use... it makes the tiles look nicer in my opinion.

  23. Avatar

    mojohill

    If I spend around $1000 for a phone, I should be able to remove anything I want from it. Google Apps, Samsung Apps, Carrier Apps or what ever. I paid for the phone, I should be able to use it how I see fit. There should be a way to completely remove all the crap at one time. I know you can root the phone but that's extreme.

    • Avatar

      Dashrender

      In reply to mojohill:

      You can easily spend that on a TV, but can't remove anything from a TV.


      A phone is not about as much personal customization at one might think. Especially when it comes from a carrier.

      Now the question of 'should it be' is a whole other ballgame. But to date it really never has been.

      In fact very few things in our daily lives are this way. Thinks I think of off the top : AMD64 based computer, and cars.


  24. Avatar

    RM

    Microsoft apps I have on my Galaxy 8 plus: Next (lock screen), Microsoft Launcher, Bing, Edge, Outlook, Cortana (except Cortana is neutered because of crappy Bixby), OneDrive, Authenticator, To-Do, Skype, Word, Excel, PowerPoint (though I have never used PowerPoint), OneNote, News, Sports (there are better apps for sports), weather (there are better apps for sports), and Finance. Your Phone is installed, but I have not setup yet.


    Wish list: Movies and TV, Groove (because is works better for my mp3's than anything else I have found in the Google play store and I don't need to eat my data plan or go unlimited because of music streaming), Phone and Texting apps so the Google Contacts app is no longer needed, but replaced. Complete replacement of the notifications with Next/Microsoft Launcher.


    Other issues: opening text from Next lock screen takes you to a New Text screen instead. Launcher should have option to look like Windows 10.


    What I still want to see Microsoft add:

    Just like Windows 10 and Windows 10 apps from Microsoft, not all support dark mode and all of them could.  Did I say Bixby and the Bixby dedicated button are horrible!  I should not have to root my phone to switch the button over to another assistant.


    Last, but not least, add Android apps to the Microsoft Store and replace or augment the Google store with it and offer reduced fees for developers.

  25. Avatar

    skborders

    I have tried both Waze and Google maps. They suck the life out of the battery. Even if you turn it off. Apple maps are good enough for me, and I travel 25 weeks a year.

  26. Avatar

    chrisrut

    I would have them default all notification from all apps OFF - except perhaps urgent system messages like "battery about to catch fire" or some such. As a recent transplant from Microsoft phones the feeling that i am being swarmed by blood-sucking insects is almost unbearable. A single touch of an app or a website is enough to set off an avalanche of systems eager to help me... Hate it...

  27. Avatar

    hooerm

    so in my case, it's a android one phone with MS Launcher on it. only google services i use are Maps and Youtube and sometimes assistant. i dont use all the other google services because i find the alternatives satisfying and i dont "like" google much as a company. i set MS and Apple over them. so i try to reduce the google-stuff in my life as much as i can.


    my current set up is the best compromise i can reach. im able to use the most from my Microsoft i can get on any Smartphone and I have all the other third-party-services i need in my live, including maps and youtube.


    so the only question left is why i use android one, well actually i prefer a clean and simple UI like iOS has, and the simplest UI on an Android phone is stock android. i dont want all that garbage and double apps from the OEMs.


    the privacy stuff, i'm through that, we will have to adopt to this kind of things, their will be no other choice

  28. Avatar

    markbyrn

    I find it pointless to use Android without Google and what would I use for an alternative play store? That wonderful beacon of privacy - Amazon? ;)

  29. Avatar

    jdmp10

    In 2018, to think any company doesn't collect data or track your usage habits of their apps or services is just plain silly. Sure, Google probably knows more about a single individual than most other companies combined but my argument, as are many who defend Google's tactics are that what they offer in return are services that are far more valuable. Whatever value you put on your privacy is up to you of course since most of the services Google provide are free. To Google and almost any tech company today, data is a far more valuable type of currency and commands huge company value to outsiders than liquid currency. One only has to look at Facebook's acquisition of Whatsapp for $19B as your number 1 example of this. Whatsapp annual revenue is nowhere near $1B nor do they have anything close to it sitting in the bank but what they do have are millions of users and a huge worldwide marketshare that's way more valuable to Facebook to monetize than hard cash.

  30. Avatar

    PcGuy8088

    Google several years ago if one allowed javascript to run when logging into your Gmail account at least on a desktop, removed the ability for one to uncheck a box to keep me logged in to Gmail. Leaving this box unchecked caused you to be logged out automatically when you closed whatever browser you were using. Then Google made the decision to switch to a different login UI and in the process also started using Google Account chooser which displayed all of the Google accounts that you ever used on that particular device. Google also removed the check box option. Google's reason was that this option box confused people apparently. Strange that to this day other websites still have this option available to their end users.


    This meant that if you simply closed the browser anyone that has physical access to that device and was able to open the browser can get access to your gmail account. In order to prevent that one had to first remember to logout of the Google account before you close the browser. Of course this also meant that Google could track your browsing habits even if the Gmail page was not open since you are still logged in.


    One can block javascript on accounts.google.com thereby getting the old fashion login screen and the ability to be automatically logged out still occurs. The Google Account Chooser however still shows your account information which requires you to remove the accounts after each use. However that will be coming to an end in the coming months when Google will require the ability to use Javascript on the login UI otherwise you will not be able to login to your Google account. Google's excuse is that they want to run scripts to ensure that everything is secure before allowing the login process to continue.


  31. Avatar

    glenn8878

    I'm a Microsoft user of PCs. This has nothing to do with phones, in which I'm a iPhone user and don't trust Google or Facebook, but I still use Google Maps and Facebook as necessary. So perhaps the way to not be so slavish to any one maker is to diversify to different makers. I'm in an iPhone world. It is so much more convenient to use FaceTime and not deal with the buggy Skype that Microsoft managed to ruin within a few years of owning it. Amazon's Alexa just works unlike Cortana. If a new company can make technology that just works, Microsoft will swoop in and buy it and ruin it. That's the pattern.

  32. Avatar

    Red09

    I prefer android over iPhone, it is the lesser of two evils from a useability point of view but I do hate the privacy concerns. Google maps is a cracking service especially the traffic alerts and sat nav abilities. other than that I would quite happily remove all other google service if I could. I don't use gmail but can't remove the app for whatever reason. the edge browser i quite like even though it uses the chrome renderer in the background, again why?

    play store could do with being properly managed to remove the obvious scam apps. the adverts are tiresome and intrusive sometimes for apps that are free (I understand people have to make a living etc but must be a better way). also, a major bug bear and apple do this too, the annoying way that the store coerce you into thinking you have to put a credit card in.


    All phones should use android without the samsung or equivalent bloat that comes attached.


    I had a windows phone before and I miss some of its simplicity when amending anything in its system. its a bit of a nightmare on android and needs tidying up.


    android is very customisable though so if there is something I don't like (keyboard for instance) I could change it.

  33. Avatar

    Kudupa

    People cannot scream privacy and say i will kick Google and that is idiotic. I like what Paul is saying and even though i minimize Google presence on my phone, i don't completely kick out Google from my phone. For example, i need Google maps, i need gmail(even though its via outlook), i need play store.

    I wish Paul good luck in this self punishment and i will sit & wait for his write up.

    • Avatar

      wolters

      In reply to Kudupa:

      Glad I'm not the only one who uses the GMAIL Client to get Outlook.com email. I also do it with Exchange. It just integrates better with my phone. I just wish "swipe to flag" was an option. The Outlook app just had some quirks that I couldn't live with, namely delayed notifications.

  34. Avatar

    djross95

    This would be a great topic. Would love to see a comparison & commentary between the MS and Android options for the major app categories: Outlook vs Gmail, Keep vs. To Do, Pixel Launcher vs. MS Launcher, Drive vs. One Drive, etc. I go back and forth myself (a lot, lol) and can't seem to settle on the right mix. Your thoughts and perspective would be much appreciated!

  35. Avatar

    RonH

    I have a Note 9.

    I use as many MS apps as I can.

    Launcher, Office 365, OneNote. Edge..


    I diasabled Bixby and removed permissions for Samsung Apps that do what the Google Apps do; messages, contacts, photos.


    I wish Outlook would include contacts so I could use that Instead.


    I wish Microsoft could/would make their own Android phone, and keep the play store and maps

  36. Avatar

    MrKirbs

    I'd like to see how thoroughly you can de-Google a stock Android install, and what you think the cost is of individual decisions (i.e. how much worse you feel Here Maps is vs Google Maps, etc.). Preferably with some long term usage notes.


    Since you're already using a mix of Google and non-Google services, I think your rationale for why a given Google service is worth the perceived privacy trade offs would be interesting, and "Android without Google" feels like a good category to file these thoughts.

  37. Avatar

    saturn

    There’s a lot of changes that I’d make to Android. Chief among them are:


    • require phone and tablet manufacturers to provide a minimum of 2 years support for ALL Android devices they sell (this includes but is not limited to security updates)
    • have a unified control menu to enable or disable Google account sign in to various Google services across the Google apps on the device being used
    • prevent all Android devices from having pre-installed apps that are non-standard Android OS apps (i.e. games, Microsoft apps, double-up apps such as the Samsung browser)
    • disable the requirement to have a backup security option for biometric security sensors. For this, I mean to say that if the device offers a fingerprint sensor - for example - it should not be required that the user also have a backup security option such as a pin or password. I believe this will improve security rather than hamper it.


    These are just some thoughts but I think they’re important for both the long-term security and viability of Android as a platform and OS.


    In terms of the Google apps that I use, while I recently switched to an iPhone after having been with Android almost exclusively since the HTC Desire HD was a thing, I use Google Maps (not signed-in), YouTube and Google Keep. I do have some books that were free through Google Books and some purchased songs on Google Play Music - but other than that, I use other services such as Amazon Kindle, Spotify and JetAudio for owned music etc.


    As a side note, I believe the recent switch from Google Play Music streaming to YouTube Music is a disaster in terms of usability but that’s just me.

    • Avatar

      HellcatM

      In reply to saturn: Do you use Google to search and if so are you signed in? If yes to both, then why switch to an iphone, Google is collecting info with everything you do within ios, plus apple is collecting info on you as well. apple uses Google search on all their devices. You might as well use Android.


      • Avatar

        saturn

        I do use Google through Safari though I’m not signed in. Actually I use private browsing solely because I’m a bit OCD in terms of cookies and all that (not sure why tbh).


        I didn’t switch to iOS to escape Google though, I switched to iOS because I prefer using it overall to Android.

  38. Avatar

    Minke

    I've tried various things non-Google and end up giving up due to lack of performance, lack of features, hassle, etc. For example, sure you can try other search engines, but they are all worse than Google. Browsers are all worse, plus many are missing essential features or force you to create another account that then doesn't sync properly with other stuff. Turn off location tracking and you lose all sorts of maps and assistant functionality. Plus, the bottom line for me is I see nothing evil in the tracking other than supposedly targeted ads, which are only somewhat relevant. But, who cares if you see one ad or another? Personally, I trust Google security with my data much more than I do Microsoft, who can't seem to issue a Windows 10 update without destroying things. Basically, you have to take the full Google experience to get the full Google feature set. When you try to dial back on tracking, etc., you lose a lot. At that point I think you might want to consider moving to an iPhone, and watching what apps you install. You have to either take Google or leave Google.

  39. Avatar

    dcdevito

    Look into CopperheadOS for Pixel phones, it's essentially a super secure ROM without Google apps and made for Pixel phones.


    I want a mobile option that simply has no back end, just a plain Jane option that has the necessary tools for communication and navigation if and where needed. If that option isn't available I want the option to simply turn the firehose off, a fully end to end encrypted solution.


    I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and I really don't know how I feel, mostly because of the sheer amount of data that gets collected, just makes me feel cheated in some way. As a geek who grew up building and creating (which led me to my career) I don't like the feeling I don't have full control over what's happening on my devices. Of course I do love reading the benefits of doing so, I think I want to take it in another direction in the near future.

  40. Avatar

    obarthelemy

    I've done 2 things and I'm thinking of a 3rd:


    1- swap out Google apps that are subpar. This seems obvious but most people don't bother. So out with gMaps (both Bing and Here We Go are better), gMail (Outlook), the Google news feed (for RSS).

    2- This one deserves its own line: out with Chrome, I'm using Firefox because even on Android it supports full addons, so I've got uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger on it.


    Thinking of 3- Setting up a PiHole on a Raspberry Pi, that's a combined VPN+Adblocker. What's holding me back is that my home DSL ain't great.

    • Avatar

      robincapper

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      + 1 for "Here We Go". Maybe a location thing but maps and speed limit indication better than Google in New Zealand. Their internal shopping centre and airport maps are also better.

      Sometimes use Google Maps for find, but hand over to HWG for driving nav

  41. Avatar

    Geoff

    I don't trust Google at all, so I don't have a Google account and I don't use chrome or gmail. If it was possible to have an android that accommodated that, I'd absolutely look at doing that.

  42. Avatar

    spd09232

    To play devils advocate, why shouldn't we trust Google? And what are the risks of exposing ourselves to Google? Security fraud aside (a concern with using any personal technology) what are they doing with the collected data that negativity impacts our lives?

    • Avatar

      Minke

      In reply to spd09232:

      People always fear the wrong things. They worry about "privacy" so they move to an email service that is much less secure, opening the possibility of being phished, swamped with spam, and possibly having their entire account hacked. All because they are afraid of seeing targeted advertising. That is what Google is doing--using the information they gather to target ads, which is how they make their money. They have always been totally open about that. You give up some privacy in exchange for lots of great free services, and you see some ads.

    • Avatar

      meek_teef

      In reply to spd09232:

      There's none.


      The responses you'll get are.


      - I don't like Google because I'm a Microsoft or Apple fanboy.


      - Advertising is unethical and evil.


      - Google is the boogie man.


      - And my favorite, you are the product.


      Nobody, and I mean, nobody, has yet to lay down their case in a rational, logical, and coherent manner, as to why and how using Google products and services had been detrimental to my well-being.


      It's all childish emotional bullshit.


      Think about it. How dumb is it to use an operating system from a company you hate so much and you believe is so evil. Surely, nothing good can come out of that?


      Why not just use something else?


      I don't use any Microsoft services.


      None! Zero! Zilch!


      You won't ever see me running around telling people how to use Windows without Microsoft services.


      Why?


      Because Windows is a Microsoft service.


      I keep that same energy 24/7 and I'm committed to never using Microsoft services. And trust me in the late 90s and early 2000s it was hard. Really hard.


      Fanboys are hypocritical bandwagonners that can't think for themselves. And their hatred for Google is manufactured group think.


      I was a zealous open source advocate and developer since early 2000s, I know where my hatred and distrust for Microsoft stems from.


      It's not some manufactured bullshit. There's abundant indisputable proof that Microsoft was hell bent on destroying Free and Open Source principles, software, and everything that community stood for.


      Fortunately, they were on the wrong side of history, and hence their predicament today.


      You know who wasn't on the wrong side of history?


      Google.


      • Avatar

        ErichK

        In reply to meek_teef:

        I don't distrust Google, seeing as how I use their search, Gmail, YouTube, an Android phone, etc.


        Likewise, Microsoft collects telemetry data about the PCs on which I've installed Windows 10. Doesn't bother me either.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        In reply to meek_teef:

        So, you're wrong. And there are regulators in the EU AND the US investigating this company for the very real problems it's caused, not just for individuals but for other companies that are unfairly kept out of markets because of Google.


        But the issue is complex, not some extreme take, like yours or like someone who simply refuses to use anything Google related. Some Google products and services are very valuable. So the goal here is to find a balance.


        e.g. the entire point of this post.

    • Avatar

      Elan Gabriel

      In reply to spd09232:


      It's not that you shouldn't trust it, but more of - do we want to give all of that information to a single company ? Do you think it's smart to hand out all of the political, economical, educational and connections to a single entity, whom we can't control ? Google made themselves the default "go to" service provider to anything digital, from search to navigation to consumption. I just think it's important to balance it out. Fast forward 40 years, what if they (they = a person, not Google as a company) will want to change and manipulate that data ? we're basically giving them the ultimate weapon. Now, I'm not saying that I or them care much about knowing that I searched for this, or want here or there, but collectively as a whole I find it unsettling a bit.

    • Avatar

      FalseAgent

      In reply to spd09232:

      I love how when it comes to Microsoft it's "spying" but when it comes to Google it's "why not?"

  43. Avatar

    dsharp75

    I'm with you, I absolutely do not trust Google, period. On the other hand, I will never purchase an iPhone. I've been with Microsoft since the Samsung Flash using Windows Mobile, but knew it was dead even when I purchased the Niokia 640XL after the best phone they ever made, the Nokia 1520, fell from the top of a hotel shower and it's screen cracked. ?.

    I've since gone through numerous prepaid Android devices from Alcatel to recently, BLU. Then, last month I discovered the Essential Phone PH-1. Pure Android, no bloat and only the most minimal Google effects, mostly elective: Maps, Play store. Some things are not removal like Chrome, but I just use Edge instead. I'm not a fan of not being able to uninstall things like that, but I don't have to use them either.

    Otherwise, fantastic phone. Performance is through the roof comparatively (SnapDragon 835, 4gb memory, 128gb on board) and half the cost of Samsung devices (I got this one from Best Buy for $400.) This is the second best, performant phone I've ever owned. ( Nokia 1520 is still the king to me, and I got it on day one for a mere $100 and was happy to pay it)

  44. Avatar

    HirishoSenju

    Paul, is this your new obsession about Google? First, it was scroogle, then it was European anti-trust, and not it's android. I have read all your articles with your problems with Google and I am with leo, maryjo, and others that your android problems are because of what you personally do to your phone. If you have a problem with android simply go and untrack yourself. Better yet, just use an iPhone. You are getting crazier or is are you just trying to click bait your readers?


    GO BACK TO THE IPHONE AND STOP CRYING.

  45. Avatar

    PeterC

    Oh yes, good stuff! How about a Thurrott ROM.

    Im gonna wipe my back up OPO 5T for this. You going to use lineage os and open gapps as your starting point or just stock android?

  46. Avatar

    webdev511

    It's too bad that Apps have to leverage Google's tracking and can't do it without letting the Googleplex know that it's happening. If that IS possible, I'd really like to know.

  47. Avatar

    MrOak

    Firefox OS... Ahh, one can but dream.

  48. Avatar

    gabbrunner

    Interesting topic and something I think about a lot. The one thing I have done is to switch the browser. I need to use maps, and the youtube app is a no-brainer, so I feel that I give Google too much insight into my life if they also have a list of everything I search for and my complete browsing history. I don't necessarily trust them to use it in the right way.

    I first considered Edge, which is ok on the desktop, and would sync, but don't like the mobile interface. So now I use Brave, which I like on mobile, but not on the desktop, so I at least sync passwords with LastPass. I also don't use Google photos - again, I don't trust Google with it and I'm sure they have scary facial recognition - and use OneDrive instead. Which is an inferior experience on mobile for sure, but at least not all my information is in the same place.

    So yep, lots to talk about and something a lot of us will re-evaluate all the time.

  49. Avatar

    Daekar

    What I have done:

    1) Drop all the Google apps except for Photos and sometimes Maps. I rarely use a nav app, but plan to mess with Here maps after our terrible experience with Google Maps in Venice and Rome.

    2) Disable anything in any of the settings in my phone or apps, including Google Assistant, that is necessary to enable any functionality, tracking, history, etc.

    3) Switch away from Gmail.

    4) Switch the launcher of the phone to either the Microsoft Launcher or SquareHome2.


    As amazing as it may seem, there is literally never a time where I wish I had a Google app to do something. Even Photos, as excellent as it is, is superfluous as a backup and is only ever used for its ability to let me search for individual faces - and that rarely.


    What I use:

    Email: Outlook piped through Nine

    SMS: currently the built-in Samsung app but there are loads that are fine. Use "Your Phone" for texting from a PC.

    Maps: Here Maps, or Google Maps

    Translation: Microsoft Translator

    Office suite: Microsoft Office apps, mostly Word and Excel

    Cloud Storage: OneDrive, and use OneSync to bring files to native Android filesystem instead of locking them in the OneDrive app.

    Photos: Samsung Galley, backed up to OneDrive, Amazon Photos, and Google Photos.

    Search Engine: Bing (or rarely Duck Duck Go)

    Internet Browser: Firefox or Edge

    Notes: OneNote, it really is surprisingly useful

    Music: Spotify and MediaMonkey (would use Groove, but...)

    Assistant: Cortana. Need her rarely but she actually works now.


    I believe there are much more in-depth de-Googling steps that can be taken, but I haven't messed with them or tried to find out exactly what is possible. If I can go further I'd like to hear about it.

  50. Avatar

    jimchamplin

    This interests me, particularly as I have to consider my choice in phones moving forward. I might not be able to stick with iPhones, though I would prefer to.

  51. Avatar

    bluesman57

    Reading this article while watching the Packers -Patriots game and just saw a commercial for Microsoft AI followed by one for Amazon AI. Interesting.


    I'm 61 and have been a tech fan most of my life. We now have a lot of the tech I used to read about in science fiction stories and Popular Science Magazine, yet now I realize what a double edged sword it is. I bought a Pixel 2 XL and am intrigued by the Google Assistant, yet I leave it turned off because I just don't trust Google. I think all the home AI speakers are cool from a technology standpoint, but there's no way I'm putting microphones all over my house for Google or Amazon employees to monitor.


    I've been wrestling with this problem a lot lately too and I just try to use Google alternates when I can.


    Edge on the Pixel 2 XL: actually prefer it to Chrome. Prefer Chrome on Windows 10, though.


    On the phone I use mostly Microsoft apps: Outlook, OneNote, ToDo, OneDrive. Don't really like the Microsoft Launcher, though.

  52. Avatar

    AnOldAmigaUser

    I will be very interested in reading this series, having asked a similar question last week in "Ask Paul".

    I am still using a Lumia 950XL, but I have very basic needs for a phone. It is mostly a communication device with a camera for me: phone calls, messaging, email, and the camera make up the bulk of my usage with navigation, weather and news a distant second. I like the ability to send SMS from the desktop, since a keyboard is so much easier than typing on a phone. HERE maps have gotten me around Europe and Southeast Asia in addition to many parts of the US. The Microsoft News app is a reasonable aggregator, otherwise, I browse the NY Times website, as it is better than the app.

    I am going to have to choose an alternative at some point in the near future. I prefer the openness and choice of price point offered by Android, but then there is Google. I like the "just works" aspect of the iPhone, but then there is the price of a really good laptop for which I am only getting a phone.

  53. Avatar

    wolters

    Just a few short years ago, I was ALL in with Microsoft: Windows, Windows Phone, Microsoft Services, Windows Media Center, Microsoft Band, Zune/Groove, XBOX, Kinect, Cortana Truly ALL In. With the demise of Windows Phone, I had to change my perspective.


    As a Microsoft fan, I've embraced a lot of Google Services and perhaps a lot more than I thought I would. Currently, my mixed ecosystem is this:


    Microsoft

    Dell XPS Tower For Home Media (Plex) and File Server

    Surface Book 2

    Surface Pro "5" (Wife)

    Surface Pro "5" (Daughter)

    Office 365

    Microsoft To-Do

    Outlook.com E-Mail Address

    OneDrive (Primary Cloud Storage)

    Cortana (Secondary Assistant)

    XBOX One X (Primary Living Room Entertainment Center)

    XBOX One S (Daughter's Room)

    Harmon Kardon Invoke (Work and Home Office, Secondary Speakers)


    Google/Android

    Pixel 3 XL

    Note 9 (secondary Phone)

    Google Assistant (Primary Assistant)

    Android Messages (Love the Desktop messages)

    Google Home

    Mini

    Home

    Hub

    Max

    Google Calendar and Contacts

    GMail App (to access Outlook.com and Exchange E-Mail)

    YouTube Premium

    YouTube Music

    YouTube TV

    Nest Hello

    Google Photos

    Google Drive (Secondary Cloud Storage)


    Other

    Amazon Prime

    (I access Alexa via Cortana to order by voice)

    Plex

    WD MyCloud (for my local media storage)

    Samsung Health (Excellent and love the Galaxy Watch)



    I've often thought about reducing my Google footprint but I honestly like and use most of their services. Plus, it keeps most of my services together and don't have to have my services spread out.


    I've considered factory resetting my secondary phone (Note 9) to be primarily a Microsoft phone: Microsoft Launcher, Outlook.com and Cortana as the default, just to see if it flows with my life. I've always liked Cortana and think it is underrated. But how it all would work day to day remains to be seen.


    I also thought about trying Samsung Services (Yes, ugggh, Bixby too)


    This is a great topic...would be interested in how "less Google" works out for some...


  54. Avatar

    jcalamita

    I have come pretty close to configuring a phone to not use google services. Many phones come with their own dialer, contacts and mail app (I used the LG dialer with outlook for email and contacts, which are synced with the lg contact app.) here maps (mapquest a little, have some devices that work with mapquest). use the amazon app store and some apk sites for apps, Amazon Music and video, Office for word, excel etc. Microsoft launcher with Cortana. Pulse for text messaging, LG camera app, Pocketcast and audible for podcasts. Think that about covers it.... google free phone. Next step may be to root and put android without and of the google stuff installed, but not to that point yet.

  55. Avatar

    DBS

    I've removed as many Google apps from my S9 as possible (and I do this on any Android phone).

    I also can't wait for the new EU rules to come into force so that I can effectively removed some of the ones I couldn't so far (like Gmail).


    Will I remove ALL Google services and apps? Of course not. Google Search is still the only viable search engine and Google Chrome is still the best browser available. I willingly use those because *I want to* and not because my hand was forced.


    That's the thing I don't understand about Google's unwillingness to allow people to uninstall their apps. People will use their services IF they're good. That's how Chrome became the supreme ruler of the browser market.


    I don't think anyone should consider a version of Android without the Google Play Store. But that's it. Nothing else on Android should be made uninstallable.

  56. Avatar

    dontbe evil

    I ditched all google services, except youtube (but without login)

  57. Avatar

    wright_is

    The first thing I do is go into the App drawer and de-install all the Google cruft I can, although a lot is "permanent".

    Then I go into settings and deactivate all the Google apps and services I don't need, like Chrome, Google Search etc.

    I use the Microsoft Launcher, Outlook and DuckDuckGo.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to wright_is:

      Just doing this goes a long way to de-cluttering a phone and cutting down on tracking. It's amazing how much stuff I don't use or want comes on a phone.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to wright_is:

      Do you sign-in to the phone with a Google account?


      I'm wondering how much of an impact not doing so would have on top of what you describe.


      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Unless you have an MDM solution at work, you have to sign into the phone with a Google account. Mine is an old Googlemail account, but my wife and daughters just have a "Google" account (it uses their email address at another provider as an ID and doesn't have GMail.

        The GMail account is just used to sign up to spammy services, I never give the address out and delete the spam every couple of months or so - I use a Hotmail address from 1995 as my primary account and a private domain as a second address these days.

        I don't use any of the Google services, with the exception of the Play Store and YouTube (I'm subscribed to 4 channels, so around half a dozen videos a week on average).

        In my account settings, I have disabled / paused all tracking that is possible (ad tracking, tracking history, video history etc.).

        On the phone the Assistant is turned off and I've removed all access rights (camera, microphone, start screen etc.). The same for all of Google's services (including YouTube, I watch it on my PC), or, where possible, the apps have been deinstalled (E.g. Google's office suite).

        I had also disabled tracking on the phone, but I started using my FitBit again and without GPS tracking turned on, it cannot sync with the phone! Why it needs GPS coordinates to dump its memory to the phone is beyond me - it also needs an Internet connection, without an Internet connection, it cannot transfer the data to the phone via Bluetooth!

        But all other apps have access to the GPS tracking disabled.

        I use navigation maybe once or twice a year. My car has a built-in navigation system, but it is good enough for the couple of times I drive somewhere new. I've found that the built-in navigation and Google's navigation never offer the best routes, they either send you primarily over the autobahn or primary over main roads. Neither really likes to mix them up for the optimal route* and neither likes using more minor streets. So I generally drive without the navigation and just use my knowledge of the area or if I am driving somewhere new, I'll look at a map and work out the best route and write it on Post-Its, which I stick over the radio display.

        The rest of the Google apps aren't used either. My main apps are:

        * Firefox

        * DuckDuckGo (Search)

        * Audible

        * DoggCatcher (podcasts)

        * Banking apps (mobile payment with NFC)

        I hope that helps you further.


        P.S. If you want to discuss it in more detail for your article, feel free to contact me over the address in my profile.


        *For example, there is no time difference between taking the Autobahn from here to Hannover (state capital) or using the main B65 to Minden, then to Stadthagen and picking the Autobahn up just before Hannover. But the latter route uses less than half of the fuel that driving on the Autobahn would (3.4L/100 (69.2 MPG US) instead of 6.3L/100 (37.3 MPG US)). If I put the foot down (drive at over 100mph), the fuel economy on the Autobahn will drop into the low 30s or high 20s. But the very best route is over an old "Landstraße", which is 70km/h pretty much the whole way, no villages, no roundabouts, just 2 traffic signals, on that route, I get around 78 MPG US and it only takes around 10 minutes longer.

        (That is all with my current vehicle, a Nissan Qashqai 1.5L diesel.)


      • Avatar

        gartenspartan

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Paul you pretty much have to sign into google play services to use the play store and most apps from the play store, so it's pretty hard to get around signing into google on an android phone. Which means there will always be a level of data collection from them that cannot be stopped.

      • Avatar

        Daekar

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Can you actually use an Android phone without signing in to a Google account? I was under the impression that was pretty unavoidable.


        I think I'd still keep it for YouTube and to control my Chromecast via Google Home, which I'm sure doesn't work without logging in. Of course, we haven't used the Chromecast in over a year just because we don't need it, so that one can probably just go away.

  58. Avatar

    Elan Gabriel

    I De-googled my S8 as much as I could as I don't user their services. It's much easier to do than what I expected it to be. I do have a Google account for the device backup, Google Play Store and "Locate my device" and YouTube - I don't think you can workaround that, and you shouldn't. I disabled all tracking for that account, it doesn't remember any history / won't upload pictures etc. Other than that, I just uninstalled or disabled all of the other Google/Samsung apps. Disable syncing with Google, and was good to go. Just install any alternative app you need and forget about the rest. Is it 100% google free ? No, but realistically you can't achieve that, so I'm good with 95% google free.

  59. Avatar

    gregsedwards

    I'm curious why Microsoft have never bothered developing their excellent Maps and Weather apps on either iOS or Android.

  60. Avatar

    locust infested orchard inc

    In reply to jlv632:

    There are a few alternatives to APKpure.com that do have banking apps, such as APKmonk.com, APKmirror.com, and AtoZapk.com. However can these sites be trusted to deliver the user with an unadulterated APK, particularly when the temptation to incorporate malice within the banking apps is ever so enticing ?


    Irrespective of the belligerence of Adoogle, I would strongly urge all those in their endeavour to avoid the Play Store, to bite the dust and download banking and other such data sensitive apps direct from devil we know (Adoogle), rather than the devil we don't (APKpure.com et al.), on the grounds of security.

  61. Avatar

    Awhispersecho

    Note 8 for now. I use Outlook, Edge, OneNote, OneDrive, and Waze for GPS and maps. Stock Samsung Gallery, Stock messaging. A mix of Google Assistant and Bixby. I use OK Google to ask questions or call someone. But half the time it says it can't connect to Google so I have to use Bixby. Problem with Bixby is she forgets who my contacts are after every update so... It just sucks.


    I think this is a fantastic idea for a series of articles but 1 of the things that needs to be included are guides on how to do these things. For instance, a guide on how to find some of the more hidden settings, how to remove some permissions, how to change defaults and permanently disable some things. Android settings at least on Samsung phones are a mess and there are a lot of different areas you have to navigate to to really accomplish de-googling your phone the way you want.


    Hell I wish I could get the Sign into WiFi full screen notification to stop whenever I am out and try to do something on my phone.


    I don't trust Google one bit and I absolutely hate this company. Yet, I will never give Apple a cent of my or anyone else's money so I'm stuck. So I go into Google account settings and delete everything from there once a week or so.

  62. Avatar

    Watney

    All of our efforts will fall short in one area, one area that we haven’t discussed. Location tracking. I don’t know of any way to prevent location tracking. Google uses the information to let you know how long of a wait you’ll have at Starbucks and Elmers. Good luck with that!

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Watney:

      What if you don't sign-in to a Google account on the device? That means whatever is tracked will be anonymous and not tied to "you." I suppose there is some measure of device ID-based tracking that could still happen.

    • Avatar

      overseer

      In reply to Watney:

      I totally agree that location tracking is essential to a lot of the intelligent services that our mobile devices can provide. In principal, I'm not against that, I just wish it could be done in some way that still respects my privacy and is done for my benefit and not sold off to marketers. While I believe that can be done, I in no way trust Google to do that. I think Microsoft could do it, or maybe even Apple, but ultimately they would have to have some way to monetize it, so unless people are willing to pay for it, it's always coming back to the companies profiting from our private data one way or another.

      • Avatar

        AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to overseer:

        I would pay Google to use some of their services, provided they could assure me that they were not still collecting the information and monetizing it. Fact is though, it is just in their DNA. Their systems are built to collect information and there is no way for them to stop doing it for paid subscribers.

        I worked at a large university that implemented G-Suite for faculty in addition to the Office 365 subscription. They pushed that as a way to share information when collaborating with outside researchers. At the time, I questioned whether anyone had actually gone through the TOS, and was assured that all was well. Three months later, word came down to stop using Google Drive for sharing data.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to Watney:

      My wife, who is not anti Google, runs with location turned off at the system level almost all the time just to save battery. And never has any problems just turning it in when she actually needs that functionality.

  63. Avatar

    locust infested orchard inc

    In reply to jlv632:

    When your exquisite HP Elite X3 finally calls it a day, hopefully you'll be able to make a smooth transition to the much heralded and sought after Surface Foldable™.

  64. Avatar

    F4IL

    Unfortunately, this approach doesn't really remove or prevent google from accessing all information on the device. Everything goes through google play services, which once installed can't be disabled. It really is a case of everything or nothing and thus the proposed workaround only changes the services and applications used, not the data being collected. In fact, if the user installs the msft launcher and adds a microsoft account, user interaction is now logged by both google and msft, even though the google launcher is no longer default.

    With that said, one can buy an unlock-able device, wipe it and install a trebble / aosp GSI (without google play services) and all the microsoft apps he wants. This way, the user can have a neutral OS, with msft apps and services. There will of course be no conveniences like the play store, auto updates, google maps, or anything else that makes a phone smart.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to F4IL:

      The point isn't "no" Google. It's getting to the right balance for you.

      • Avatar

        F4IL

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        In this (realistic) case, disabling and substituting google applications with msft applications would be the easiest way, imho.

        My approach is to nuke from space, install google play and the msft applications i prefer, but this can be difficult and nearly impossible with certain handsets. This way, google is still in there, but runs in the background and all you see is msft apps connected to your msft account.

  65. Avatar

    amosclan

    I'm using an iPhone SE right now, because I can't seem to find a phone on Verizon at a similar price point with the features I want or don't want (want headphone jack, adequate camera, don't want a giant phone or a glass back). With that being said, I used an older Galaxy model for a while with Microsoft Launcher, and all the companion apps - OneDrive, Outlook, etc. I still used Google's app store and apps I couldn't find substitutes for, like Waze. It felt a lot better than using the Samsung skin and synced with my workflow better than iOS. I missed iMessage and Facetime, though, because a lot of my family members use iPhones. My wife's 6S was the biggest disappointment ever, and if I can find the right phone I'd like to give the SE to her and give the other side another try.

    So tell me more. =)

  66. Avatar

    cadrethree

    In a perfect world the EU regulations would bleed over into America and go further. Google would be forced to offer only the base OS free and be required to sell the various components separately at reasonable rates without restrictions. Google play store, maps, office, sold piecemeal and affordably. No punishment if you don't carry the entire stack, maybe only required to offer the app in the Android store. That way someone like Microsoft could take the base OS, preload all their apps and pay to have the Google playstore. A Microsoft branded phone. That's my perfect world, Android OS, Microsoft apps in the phone world anyway. Opera web browser, Yahoo mail, Note, Word, Amazon Music, Microsoft news app even though it crashes all the time. OneDrive off and on, Microsoft translator.

  67. Avatar

    androne

    An integral part of the core Android system is Play Services. Which is what verifies the integrity of apps you install from the Play Store and identifies the user that's unique to a phone, preventing viruses, hackers and what not. To a non-advanced user, it can even prevent a thief from using your phone after a wipe because at boot, it will verify that you are the last person to use the phone by prompting for a pin of the owner else you cannot proceed to setup the phone.


    To remove it is like removing Windows Update from Windows 10, or iCloud from IOS.


    Personally, if anyone is even toying with the idea of removing Google from Android, then just make a separate operating system. This is an issue of pride and ego, people just want to have their own way - not an issue with the operating system.


    Live without YouTube, live without Google search. Use Baidu, Weibo and Bing. Nobody's stopping you. Surely a reputable and prominent company like Google understands the repercussions of any beach of any kind and the amount of damage they will get - if it happens.


    Would you build a business to see how it can be destroyed? Surely human nature is not that dumb as most perceive.

  68. Avatar

    pmeinl

    The example of China's social Credit Systems shows where carelessness with data privacy may lead to.

    Here a scientific article and two more interesting links:

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3215138

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/24/chinas-social-credit-system-bans-millions-travelling/

    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/china-social-credit-system-punishments-rewards-explained-a8297486.html



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