How to Completely Remove All Google Apps From Android.
Honestly, Google is awesome. It offers the best app and free services. But it cannot be denied that nothing is given for free. If you use a free service, you pay for it either by viewing ads or with your data. So, when I decided to stop Google from storing my data, I wanted to do something specific. For example, a question popped into my head – can I use my Android phone without Google?
I have seen many articles and videos on the Internet about the same thing. But mostly they switch to iPhone or ditch Android entirely. I wanted to do this on an Android phone because as far as I know it should be open source. So it shouldn’t be as hard as everyone thinks!
Completely remove all Google apps from Android
Well, custom ROM will do, but with the advent of Android, apps are increasingly using Google APIs. Thus, even after the custom ROM, applications will depend on Play Services i.e. Google API for work. Then I came across microG, which is an alternative to Play Services. It is relatively smaller than Google Apps and functions as a clone of Google’s own libraries. This means that any application that requests a Google library or API will be handled by the API and microG libraries. Thus, I have a solution to my first problem.
Fortunately, microG comes bundled with Lineage OS. So, all I have to do is flash my Android version of MicroG Lineage OS. I am using the latest build of Lineage 16.0 on top of Android Pie for my Google Pixel. Below are instructions for flashing Lineage OS for microG.
Flash Lineage OS for microG
Before starting this process, make sure you have both screen template and password disabled. In the latest version of Android, Google does not allow third party custom recovery tool to decrypt system files. So, in order to avoid further problems, disable the screen lock. In addition to that, back up your Android to your computer because we’re going to erase everything.
1. Make sure USB debugging is enabled on your device. To do this, go to the settings and enable developer mode by clicking 5 times on the build number.
Now that you have developer options enabled, navigate to it in the System Settings menu. In developer mode, go to the “Debug” section and enable “USB debugging”.
2. Next, we need to restart the phone in fastboot mode. To do this, first turn off your phone. Then press the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time until you see the following screen. Now connect your phone to your computer via USB.
Alternatively, you can also do fast phone boot via ADB. Connect your phone to PC via USB. Now open Command Prompt and navigate to ADB location. Enter the following command to boot directly into fastboot mode. adb reboot fastboot
3. Now we need to clean up and erase the previous OS files and then install Lineage OS. For this I use a special recovery tool called TWRP. You can download TWRP from here depending on the device you are working with. After downloading the file, make sure you put it in the ADB folder. Now to boot into TWRP, below is the command. fastboot loading twrp.img
4. Once you enter TWRP, you will be asked if you want to allow TWRP to make changes or leave it read-only. We need to allow TWRP to make changes, so slide your finger across the slider to allow permission.
5. Once you find yourself in the TWRP menu. Click on the second button called “Wipe”. Here we will delete the previous OS files and directories. Click on the Wipe button to go to the next page.
6. Now in the “Cleaning Options” section, click the “Advanced” button in the lower left corner of the screen.
7. Now from the Advanced Wipe menu select Dalvik / ART cache, System and Data. This will delete system files and application data from internal storage. Then swipe to erase the data.
8. After this is done, we are going to load Lineage OS. If this is a new term for you, it simply means that on my Android device the zip files are downloaded from my computer. This is just a lazy way to save the steps of transferring files from computer to phone. To switch to sideload mode on your phone, return to the main menu and click the “Advanced” button.
9. Now in advanced settings, click the ADB sideload button and swipe the screen to enter sideloading. The phone is now in sideload mode and can receive commands from ADB on the computer.
10. In unpublished download mode, go to the ADB command prompt on your PC. Now we need to flash Lineage OS for the microG zip file on the phone. Copy the Lineage OS zip file to your ADB folder. Then enter the following command. Sideload line adb-16.0-20190318-microG-sailfish.zip
11. Now you need to wait patiently for ADB to install Lineage OS. The ADB command line installation process might be halfway through, but don’t worry, that’s fine. After that, click the “Reboot System” button in the lower right corner.
12. If you receive a warning like “OS is not installed!”, Ignore this message. TWRP cannot detect recently flashed OS. Swipe to reboot the system.
Now the first download will take about 10 minutes, so don’t panic right now. Leave the phone and let it boot. In case you get stuck in the boot loop, repeat the process one more time and this time also clear the internal memory.
After the phone boots up successfully, we can proceed with the microG setup. Since this is a MicroG variant of Lineage OS, you don’t need to install anything separately. To check if the microG is working properly, go to the microG settings in the app drawer. In the microG settings, click on the first option called “Self Test”.
You will now see many subsections in the self-test menu. We need to check if microG successfully forges the signature, if all packages are installed, and if we have all the required permissions. To do this, you need to check if all the boxes in the Signature Spoofing Support, Installed Packages and Permissions sections are checked.
If you get any warnings or problems, you can uninstall microG and reinstall it from microG official website. Now restart your phone and check the Self-Test section again for errors or warnings. Now that we have microG, we need an application repository to download applications.
F-Droid is already preinstalled, but it has an extremely limited number of applications. So, I could create an open source app repository called YALP store that uses apps from the Play Store. You can download apps indirectly from the play store without logging in. The YALP store also includes Exodus Privacy, which tells you about the various trackers in the app.
But the YALP store has a problem in that it cannot handle split APKs. So it won’t be able to install apps like Twitter, Sync, Netflix, etc. So on the same lines I found a fork of the YALP store called Aurora Store. Apart from installing split APKs, it also included automatic app updates and switching between multiple anonymous accounts.
Read: 6 Best Private Search Engines That Don’t Track You Like Google
Alternatives to GApps
Since we won’t be using Gapps, we need a perfect replacement. Below are my alternatives for GApps.
- Call and message. I already have AOSP options.
- Next, the private secure browser DuckDuckGo is a replacement for Google Chrome.
- OpenStreetMap as an alternative to Google Maps.
- There is no clear alternative to YouTube for video streaming, so I’ll try to stick with Netflix and HotStar.
- Dropbox instead of Google Drive.
- Prime Photos instead of Google Photos
- Open the camera instead of GCam, or you can use the built-in Lineage OS camera.
- And finally, ProtonMail instead of Gmail
In case you’re wondering, yes, these apps are from other tech giants. But the point is to share all your data in one place i.e. with Google, you do it centrally. Centralized data is more vulnerable and can lead to accurate profiling. However, if you share it with different companies, it will be more distributed and less vulnerable. Second, Amazon is not going to share your data with Microsoft, and Microsoft will not share it with Samsung. So this scenario is better than GApps.
Now, after a week of my experience, I had no problem installing apps from the Aurora Store. Thanks to microG, I was able to use most of the applications with minimal problems. To start talking about issues, first, most Android apps use the Google Cloud Messaging API to send server notifications to the mobile app. Works partially with microG, I get random notifications. It works great with WhatsApp, but with Instagram I often have to open the app and update it to get notifications.
Another popular Google API is the Google Maps API. Most applications now rely on the Maps API to get location or draw a map. Instagram and other apps can now perfectly extract location name using microG. But when it comes to drawing maps, problems arise. For example, the Uber app shows an extremely incorrect map. He can choose my current location and order a taxi, but the user interface is very buggy, and the map is not drawn in places.
All app alternatives worked well and I never went back to using GApps other than Open Street Maps. I had to switch to Here Maps, which has its own set of trackers and data collection. But it works well and at times I find the experience is comparable to Google Maps. So as a switch, I could live with Here Maps.
Read: YouTube Vanced – Best Alternative YouTube App for Android
This week of experience was just an eye-opening for me. I always felt that somehow I could not devote time to my hobbies in my daily routine. But in an effort to reduce the display of data from Google, I figured out where I spend most of my leisure time. YouTube guidelines are great, but they serve as a rabbit toe. Since I don’t really like movies, I ended up wasting my YouTube time reading books or with my family. It really increased my productivity and reduced my fatigue levels.
I really recommend you try this as it is practically feasible. Let me know what your experience was and if you would like to add something to mine. Chao!
READ ALSO: 50+ Open Source Android Apps For When You Want To Ditch Google