Google's apps are part of almost every Android smartphone.

Google's apps are part of almost every Android smartphone.(Photo: jwa)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Android smartphone manufacturers need to install Google's entire app palette and search service on their devices. On the other hand, the European Commission is taking action, but users can also set Google limits.

Actually, Android is a free software. In practice, one feels but little of it. Through apps, services and processes, Google is deeply rooted in the system on most Android mobile devices. "Google is good at offering a lot of the basics of what we want to do and that is very convenient," says Max Mehl of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). The problem is that Google is always about collecting data for advertising. "You can just look it up in the terms of use." If you do not like it, you can easily get more privacy and control.

"That does not happen overnight, it's a gradual process," says Mehl. "The first step is to be aware of what you already use and what is undesirable." The second step is the replacement of unwanted services and apps. However, if you want to completely ban Google from the Android smartphone, you have to go further, because uninstalling pre-installed Google apps is almost never possible: "The third step would therefore be to install an operating system completely without Google in it."

Bit by bit

Meal makes the most sense but first of all to devote to the app exchange. "Otherwise I'll have the problem afterwards that I have an operating system without Google, but I do not know how to continue to use the phone as I'm used to it," he explains. "Gradual weaning is the best strategy."

The same goes for Alexander Spier from the "c't" magazine: "Android without Google works, but it's much more complicated," he says. Often restricting Google and its data collection and the use of other apps already enough. If you want to go for a way with less Google and more Android controls, you can do the following:

Google settings

"In the settings, there is the menu item Google," explains Spier. One should check and especially under "Google Account / Data & Personalization" the activity settings look through, where all sorts of data storage from location history to Internet searches can be stopped – Google calls it pause. Attention: Deleting already stored data must be done under "Manage Activity Settings". Under "Contacts & Sharing" you can also influence how Google deals with contacts and advertising.


"Basically, you can turn off that data is synchronized with Google," says Alexander Spier. This is done under "Settings / Accounts / Google" with the sliders behind the entries. "You can then create his contacts without being automatically transferred to Google."

App Sources

If you want to disconnect from Google Apps, should first find a replacement and try. A recommended source for this, according to Max flour "F-Droid": "In this App Store, there are only apps that are free software." Even the Amazon Appstore, or the pages of the app developers themselves can be good sources, says Alexander Spier. The latter offer apps in the apk format for installation, but there are no automatic app updates like app stores.

App replacements

But how can Google services be replaced by Gmail, calendar, contacts and maps? As an e-mail client app is about K-9 Mail interesting – and providers of e-mail is no shortage anyway. Often, appointments and contacts can be managed via their servers and their pages. To sync with the phone is often still a so-called CalDAV / CardDAV adapter needed – such as the app DAVdroid.

"What we always like is OsmAnd", Spier calls an Openstreetmaps based alternative to Google Maps. Further, for example, the AnySoftKeyboard could replace the Google keyboard, signal instead of Hangouts be used, serve Tresorit instead of Drive as online storage, Simple Gallery instead of Google Photos are used or Newpipe inherit the Youtube App – just try it out.

Search and browse

"The most valuable thing for Google is the search service, which manufacturers have to install by default, and the Chrome browser," says Max Mehl. However, it is possible to use other search engines that do not track the search behavior of users – such as Metager or Startpage. The latter also helps those who are actually happy with the Google search: "Startpage delivers namely Google search results, but just anonymized," explains flour. Browser alternatives can be Firefox and its offshoots, the Privacy Browser or the FOSS Browser.

Disable apps

If you are looking for alternative applications, you can go tidying up. However, many Google applications have system app status and can not be uninstalled. If anything, they can usually only be deactivated under "Settings / Apps". Alexander Spier advises to keep an eye on the status of apps because updates or other Google services could re-enable them. You can deny access to them under "Settings / Security / Usage Data Access".




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