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Afri Schoedon
Afri Schoedon

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AAWWWGS! Android Apps Which Work Without Google Services!

I try to keep my device disconnected from Google by running a custom ROM without any Google services. Here is my experience and a list with apps which work great without Google.

Set and Setting

  • Device: LG Google (sic!) Nexus 5 (hammerhead)
  • System: LineageOS 14.1 (Android N 7.1.1)
  • Bootloader: factory-m4b30z (HHZ20h), latest, locked, and safe boot enabled
  • Recovery: factory-m4b30z, latest, and (un)fortunately dysfunctional in this setup
  • Miscellaneous: rooted with addonsu-arm from LineageOS

The Nexus 5 is a widely used smartphone from 2013. It has a huge community and one could say, a lot of fans. That are very fortunate circumstances, paired with the fact that the Google Nexus devices used to be very good in quality, security, and software support.

However, the official support ended in October 2016, and the last factory image was Android 6.0.1 in December 2016. Thus, I use a custom ROM and was always very satisfied with CyanogenMod (now LineageOS) both in terms of stability and functionality.

App store(s)

  • Primary app store: F-Droid
  • Secondary app store: Yalp

Due to the fact that I don't flash any Google services, I also end up without the Google Play app store. That's very inconvenient for most users, and I will not exclude myself here, because a liberated phone is nice but it's really annoying if you can not even use some of the standard apps you are usually used to.

Now, I use F-Droid, the open source Android app store. It contains basically everything you need to stuff your phone with apps for everything one could desire. But that's not enough for me, because I need some apps which are (unfortunately) only available in Google play with much better experience than the open source equivalents.

Thus, it happened that I use F-Droid for only one single application: The Yalp store! Yalp is a Google Play wrapper, which allows you to search apps, download and install them, and keep track of available updates... directly from Google Play! This is the end of problematic APK-mirror sites which do not offer any evidence that the downloaded Android Packages are full of mal-, spy- or phishware.

AAWWWGS! Here's the actual list:

  • Adobe, everything I tried so far
  • Firefox, of course
  • Lastpass
  • Periscope
  • Signal, new on that list, now works without GCM!
  • Syncthing
  • Telegram
  • Twitter, can't live without the official app
  • VLC

It's worth to maintain such a list because a lot of apps rely on Google Services which really shouldn't need to (e.g., Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest). Anything important missing? Please, let me know!

Discussion (5)

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chimo profile image
Chimo

Nice setup! I'm doing something similar with my phone. I haven't migrated from Cyanogenmod yet, however.

The list of F-Droid apps I use is here: chromic.org/blog/my-android-stack/

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5chdn profile image
Afri Schoedon Author

Thanks for sharing. Yes, I was holding back my switch to LineageOS, however, I am really satisfied now.

How's your Google-free experience? Have you ever missed anything?

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chimo profile image
Chimo

The Google-free experience has been surprisingly smooth.

Signal is one app that I wanted to play around with. Now that GCM isn't required, I might have a look at it. I don't know anyone using it though so I don't know how useful it'll be.

Keyboards like "Swype" are convenient sometimes, but not having it isn't a deal-breaker for me.

Other than that, I can't really think of anything that I'd like to have, but can't.

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gesuwall profile image
ガブリエル

So if messaging apps can't use GCM, does that mean that you never get push notifications? Or does every app run its own background service to listen for notifications? That could drain battery life significantly...

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5chdn profile image
Afri Schoedon Author

Can't speak for all of them, however, Signal uses websockets as far as I know to pull new messages. This way you still get push notifications, but it comes with drawbacks, because (1) it needs it's own background service, yes, and (2) messages could still be delayed. However, I can live with that knowing the caveats.