How to “semi-degoogle” your android device and still have an usable device

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  • This topic has 8 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated Apr 8-10:26 pm by ModdIt.
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  • #57240
    Member
    AvatarPPC

    Hi folks

    During this lock down period, I’ve been informing myself on how android devices “spy” on us. I’ve always know about that, and, to some people, that may not be scary. However I did not like to learn stuff like this:
    -A recent research pointed out that, on average android/IOS devices send your private data (like phone number, IMEI, location, and possibly contacts, browsing history, etc, etc) over the net (to Google/Apple servers) and that android devices send 20 times the data IOs devices send… (I think I listened to this on Wired UK podcast title something like “your phone sends your data every 4.5 minutes”)
    -I’m going through a very bad economic situation, so I do not have a spare android device to try to install and alternative degoogled ROM, so I tried to degoogle my android 10 device as much as possible without rooting/installing a new OS.
    the end result is not perfect, but not that bad…
    At least my Samsung android 10 device allows, using the Options drop down menu, to disable “Google play” store and “Google services”.

    Before doing such extreme measure I recommend doing this:
    Go trough the Options menu on your android device you can disable stuff like personalized adds, period Bluetooth devices, clear and disable your google history, etc.- that does allow you a small increase on privacy, but not by much, and that because something I learned on the Youtube channel “Rox Braxman Tech”- do you know the “GPS” icon on your android device? That does not turn off your GPS- it simply disables it’s use from third party apps, but not Google Services- you GPS is on 24/7, and, as soon as you connect your device to the internet, that data is sent to Google’s servers.
    Also this- if you connect to a WI-fi network and your device has GPS service, the precise location of that network is sent to Google (including the rooter’s ID)…
    Even if you don’t allow third party apps access to your location, that can be estimated from your last know position, using the phone’s sensors (Braxman has a short video showing how to activate a secret android icon on the options that allows to switch off all sensors- including camera and mic (but not GPS)- you can only use your mic for phone calls if you disable sensors. It’s a instant on/off switch, very handy.

    Turning off Google Playstore does not improve your privacy by much- and you do have to turn it back on to check for application updates (for apps installed from the Play Store)
    Turning off Google Services does seem to improve your privacy by a lot, but alsos puts you, if you are a google service’s user, in a world of pain- Google Chrome, Maps, Youtube and Gmail app’s complain about not working without “Google services”- hell, even “contacts” complains about that, although it still works ok, but producing an anoying notification. Netflix complains the same way, but still works…

    I have a few suggestions to using a “semi-ungoogled device” – before turning off the Play store, install several alternative apps to use instead the default apps:
    Also, change your device from the options menu so you can side-load apps. Navigate to F-droid’s page and install it’s apk- it’s an android apps store that offers only open source aplications.
    From Playstore or f-droid install:
    “Simple Contacts Pro” – to use instead of Google’s Contacts- it’s similar and allows you to import export your contact’s list to a file and save it/upload it to whereever you want.
    “Simple Calendar” instead of Calendar – if, for some reason, your calendar does not work without google services. You also have, on f-droid “Etar – OpenSource Calendar” that’s also very good, with material design.
    “Firefox” – to use instead of “Google chrome”- if you want an extra layer of privacy install this extras: “Ublock Origin”, “Privacy Badger” and “Decentral eyes”
    Also search the web for Bromite Browser – it’s a fully open source “degoogled” Chrome for android
    “NewPipe” – a Youtube video player/downloader (or create a link to Youtube’s webpage on your home screen, using Firefox/Bromite)
    “Gmail”- create a link to gmail’s webpage on your home screen, using Firefox/Bromite. If you want to access gmail off line, install K-9 mail, from F-droid
    “Maps”- install a free and preferebly off line gps map software- in Portugal we do have MeoDrive, that’s add supported, with unusntrosive adds

    Some apps, like homebaking may not work without Google Services being active (to use them activate those services and then deactivate them again, after using your Bank)- ideally, do not use mobile devices to do your banking, use a secure computer.
    Whatsapp, Messenger, Netflix, Spotify and Kindle still work ok, without google services (but I know Netflix complains about it). Although I use Messenger for video calls, I have not tested Facebook’s app- you should not use it anyway, if you are really into social networks, use a secure browser to access them- the Facebook app has access, that is sent to FB’s servers to too much information about you, even when you are not using that app.

    If you disable Google Services, close contacts, Chrome, Maps, youtube and gmail, from your applications configuration menu, unless you want to bee bombarded by notifications to turn on Google Services.
    I’ve not tested Games that require Google Play, because I don’t have any, but they should require Google services…

    Add to the bottom of your main screen “Simple Contacts Pro” (instead of Contacts) and your selected browser instead of “Chrome”. If you want to have your opensource applications updated, install them from F-droid (search on-line on how to add Firefox’s/ Bromite’s, Newpipe’s repository to F-droid, and you’r set.

    I recently made a list off free apps for android, but, here are some opensource/free (add supported) nice apps to use on your android device:
    *OpenBoard- opensouce version of Google’s keyboard (get it on f-droid)
    *Joplin- opensource note/todo (get it on f-droid)
    *Xodo- PDF viewer/editor/creator (not open source, but free)
    *AntenaPod (opensource podcasts manager) (get it on f-droid)
    *FeedR (open source off-line news reader) (get it on f-droid)
    *VLC media player (opensource multimedia player, works off-line or on-line) (get it on f-droid)
    *Koreader (opensource, e-book/pdf/odt reader – not pretty, but effective- get it on f-droid)
    *Collabora Office (android’s LibreOffice port- not opensource, does not seem to be open source- but very good to read office documents (including MS office) and do small editions to those dcouments – available in PLaystore or Collabora’s website directly
    *Microsoft Lens- scan documents in pdf format- not open source, but can be used Off-line, without privacy problems)- available in Google PLaystore

    Casual games for almost all tastes, for your commute, or WC time 🙂
    *Patience Revisited (Klondike solitaire, etc)- available in Google PLaystore
    *Domination (opensource version of Risk boardgame)
    *Strategy (free version of Stratego boardgame)- available in Google PLaystore
    *CrossWords (via F-droid)- opensource, multilingual version of Scrable boardgame)
    *ChessFree (not open-source, but free Chess game, add supported- non intrusive adds, for 1 or 2 players, works off-line)- available in Google PLaystore
    *Dalmax checkers(not open-source, but free Checkers game, add supported- non intrusive adds, for 1 or 2 players, works off-line)- available in Google PLaystore
    *Puzzles (opensource puzzle games, via F-droid)- includes Sudoku (Solo), Minesweeper (Mines), Brigdes (Brigdes), Same Game (Same Game), Mastermind (Guess) and much more
    *Mahjong Builder- it’a a Mahjong solitaire, opensource, via F-droid.
    *Blockinger – very nice opensource Tetris clone, via F-droid.
    *Freedoom – opensource Doom FPS android port (untested my be)

    For using all other apps, activate google services and play store, check for updates, install whatever app you need and disable those services again… But think, before installing crap on your device- do you really need those apps installed? Are they good for you?

    Enjoy, P.

    • This topic was modified 6 days, 13 hours ago by PPC.
    #57243
    Member
    AvatarRobin

    Really good approach, PPC. I like your way.

    Maybe you want to add briar to your collection of useful apps…

    Well, I have to admit I don’t have a smartphone at all (just a normal mobile phone you can actually do nothing but phone calls with on purpose), so I’m just waiting for briar-gtk to come in my reach on desktop PC, which will be going to happen not before antiX bullsey ISO once will be available for 32bit i686 hardware.

    #57246
    Member
    Avatarskidoo

    recently announced, available April 2021
    PinePhone64 w/ factory installed Manjaro Linux
    specs here: https://pine64.com/product/pinephone-beta-edition-linux-smartphone/?v=0446c16e2e66

    manjaro forum discussion topic (beta6): https://forum.manjaro.org/t/manjaro-arm-beta6-with-phosh-pinephone/55679
    (alphas, and prior beta releases are discussed in other, separate, topics)

    subreddit chatter here: https://old.reddit.com/r/PINE64official/

    #57247
    Member
    Avatarskidoo

    For using all other apps, activate google services

    so, basically, yer suggesting that using a “left-handed smoke switcher” will eliminate all muh worries ?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fool’s_errand

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    instead, I would suggest
    https://f-droid.org/

    #57249
    Moderator
    AvatarModdIt

    Like the idea of pine phone but things like low res screen with dead pixels called normal and
    needing to carry spare batterys to keep up with the 3 to 4 days between charges I get out of my
    honor 9x pro put me off. It is a non googli phone, thanks to the greatest president the universe
    ever saw giving china a massive impulse to delevop its own electronics production.
    It will sooner than later..

    Thanks to NetGuard from GIT network is pretty quiet. Spying, doesnt matter which phone you use,
    providers track you pretty accurately through tower triangulation most places and deliver data
    to agencys, Vodafone is tier one for GHCQ = Telefonica, likely no different. US companys, Patriot
    Act applies.

    # For using all other apps, activate google services ?.
    Er Nuffin on FDroid for Linux. Android only store.

    #57255
    Member
    AvatarPPC

    instead, I would suggest
    https://f-droid.org/

    Hi Skidoo! I missed your sense of humor…

    I do, in fact, suggest using f-droid for installing opensource apps, and also adding to it repos for Firefox/Bromite/Newpipe to keep the browsers (and streaming app) up to date without relying on manual updates or the Play Store…

    I suggested only activating the Play store when there’s need to update software that’s not available via f-droid. There are many thousands of applications for android on the Play store (maybe millions?), and only hundreds off apps on f-droid- if the user wants to use the android device for any other use than as a phone/calendar/camera/calculator/document viewer/ media player/ opensource software/ internet related stuff, and wants/requires certain apps, I consider (maybe wrongly) that it’s safer to activate the Play store temporarily, and install/update those applications than risk installing apk’s found on-line.
    There’s also Aurora store, that supplies the free apps available on the Play store, but, as far as I know, it violates Google’s license, allowing the use of the Store without a google account… Google can deactivate your account if it finds out you’ve been using it…

    If a user does not require any particular app/game other than what comes pre installed with the OS (Facebook/messenger/and all such crap) and gets by with the apps I suggested above (you can even use open source only chess and checkers games, available on f-droid, I suggested only those I liked best)
    since stuff like webmail/ 9gag /youtube /social networks/ cloud drives/ etc, can be used via web browser, and you can create icons for those “web apps” on your device, there’s really no need to install and use android apps for that… You don’t clutter your device, you don’t have to keep updating the apps, and you close your browser, and clean the cookies/cache and there’s no great loss of privacy.

    I admit that I have many non opensource apps on my device, even some games (for me and my kid) that were installed using the Play store. There are even some console grade level games I got for free.

    As far as I know, the best image to pdf scanner for android [something I used a lot at my work] is not free- I got it for free on a sale ( MS’s app is really free, and comes very close to it in functionality, though- I don’t like MS, but I do have to admit that they do some nice and effective apps- bitch as much as I do about Windows, if it was really that bad to use, Linux would be ruling desktop computers, since Windows 7 was replaced by that appalling Windows 8)

    If people like android games- it can be used as a pretty decent portable gaming console, for some kinds of games- much cheaper than a real portable console – but some (many) apps almost ask you to promise the developer your first born son in order to use the app (many games that are “free” during a sale, for example, ask to access your contact list, and control calls, etc- Why the **** does a game not work without all that? Simple- it’s a scam- you play a “free” or cheap game, but give the Dev’s all your data…

    In an ideal world, we should all be using a really opensource phone (does not matter to me if it runs Linux, opensource only android, or as last option -a non privacy invading closed source OS, whatever… I had a old touchscreen symbian phone, some 10-12 years ago, that did some 90% of the stuff I use my android device for- I listened to stuff, read e-books, took photos, read documents, played some nice games… I only got my first android after my last “non smartphone” device died on me… and I seriously considered getting, a couple of years ago, a non android nokia phone with a nice camera to replace my then failing android device…

    Side note:
    My only tablet device is and android 4.4.1.- probably some 5-6 years old- and still works and looks brand new (except for the occasional freeze, that a reset solves- that has been happening for some months now- nothing last for ever and the hardware is probably failing…)

    P.

    #57257
    Member
    AvatarPPC

    Thanks to NetGuard from GIT

    Hi! I use Netguard, but not the GIT version, you told me about that before, I’ll eventually check it out- probably a nice complement for my present android set up.

    Maybe you want to add briar to your collection of useful apps…

    I’ve heard about it, but I’m not that much into messengers- I only use that to videochat with my kid, and I’m forced to stick to what she can use (FB’s Messenger, unfortunalty)

    P.

    #57261
    Moderator
    Brian MasinickBrian Masinick

    RE: https://f-droid.org/ I just tried it out and installed the mBrowser on my Android phone. I’ll try a few more out and see how well it works with existing Android apps and the overall system.

    Brian Masinick

    #57262
    Moderator
    AvatarModdIt

    @ masinik Bromite and Privacy browser are in my experience good and do not need google web view
    which is nice as many browsers depend on it.
    With the neccesity for gapps play store is contacted every few minutes. I found blocking
    play store on a rooted phone gave me a battery life extension of half to one day.
    Not exact as not under standardised conditions but noticeable. Google Android web view is part of
    gapps.
    Transfer the reduced neccesity for charging to millions of phones, google is comprimising energy
    efficiency and tracking users while claiming to protect them with a secure store that is anything but
    secure. It is also a cash cow just like the rotten fruit emporium.
    Milking users and devs for huge profits.

    @PPC Netguard git has an adblock functionality which I like as it works like a hosts list,
    needs android internal vpn capability but works without a rooted phone.
    I bought the netguard Pro features by a direct transfer to the dev, paid 7 euro and can
    use on a couple of devices. From same dev Marcel Bokhorst comes Fair Email which is also good.

    Phypox angulo and tri angulo are not well known but useful, use phone sensors for experiments,
    angular measurements, gyroskope, acceleration and many other and other neat tricks.

    • This reply was modified 5 days, 20 hours ago by ModdIt.
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