Google’s Android rules the mobile phone market like some sort of ad-flinging gorilla, and it’s not easy to escape its grasp. On a default Android phone your mouth is firmly pressed against several of Google’s teats:
- Google Play, their app store, which requires a Google account.
- Contacts (integrated with Gmail)
- Google Calendars
- Google Maps
- Online photo galleries (integrated in Google+)
- Hangouts (replaces Google Talk)
- Currents (so they know what news you read)
- News and Weather
There might even be more, but those are the worst offenders. To get rid of all of those in one shot, I moved away from Android to CyanogenMod. The transition was very smooth, I didn’t even lose the data on my (virtual) SD card. Since my phone has no physical card slots, I was a bit worried. Now that I have root, I can remove those Google apps. On a normal Google-flavored Android phone, those applications are protected and can’t be removed.
My new, slimmer phone OS syncs with my own CalDAV and CardDAV servers instead of Google’s, uses my own IMAP and SMTP systems, but what about my Google Play purchases? That one hurts: If you’ve bought apps from Google’s app store, you will have to buy them again from another store if you move away from Google. And then you’re stuck with that app store.
Some authors also support alternative ways of unlocking their apps, but most of the time you’ll be forced to reinstall at least Google Play. I haven’t tried removing Google Play after installing the app, but I’m pretty sure this will break the app as the update mechanism is usually tied to the app store.
That weird practice alone is worth an entire post, but I’ll leave it at that. I’m now self-hosted and free of Google’s products and services. I might go one step further by switching from Android to SailfishOS, but that’s for the future to decide.
Update: If you want some pointers for alternative app stores, tries the Amazon Appstore, SlideMe, F-Droid and Yandex.Store. Funnily, those Russians have way less invasive terms of service than Google…