Android without Google: replace Google Android apps for better privacy

This article explains reasons why you should replace Google Android apps with alternatives – most notably to protect your privacy. I’ll point out how to change privacy-related settings on Android, and provide replacements for Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Find My Device, and Gboard. For other apps like Chrome or Drive, and replacing Google’s services in general, read my Without Google article. Finally, I’ll discuss how to uninstall obsolete Google apps and other bloatware using ADB.

Why switch?

As I’ve already discussed in my Without Google article, the main reason to avoid Google is to improve your privacy. The more services you use, the more Google knows about you. Using Google’s services on your mobile Android device just makes you more dependent, and lets Google create an even more accurate profile of you.

To illustrate this by example, consider Google Maps. Yes, it is free and offers a great experience with many features, and probably the best search results. It’s only natural that it has become the most widely used maps app on Android. On the flip side, Google knows about your every move. When you search for something in Maps, Google will learn about your interests, and also understand on which ones you follow up, as you visit places you just searched for. This also applies to the Play Store – it helps Google learn your taste in apps over time. Another example is Google Fit, an app that tracks your step count and heart rate to determine your state of health. Health data is actually very sensitive data, because it can be used to statistically determine your overall health, including indications for illnesses you might have. By using Google Fit, you’re allowing Google to compute this information, for free.

Since you’ll most likely use the same Google (Gmail) account on your Android phone as you do in your desktop web browser, Google can combine the collected behavior data of thees sources with data of their other tracking services, like Google Analytics. If all this sounds intimidating, which it does to me, then it is time to do something about it. This article will discuss how to diversify your daily life services and apps, to avoid that one single company knows too much about you.

The drawbacks

Depending on the services you use, replacing them with others may be quite a bit of work. The data migration might be difficult, too, in some cases. Some of the alternative apps have fewer features than the Google app they replace, or may be slower. For instance, it may take longer until your phone has located you on the map, or for the calendar and contacts synchronization to finish.

How to get rid of Google on your phone

In this section I’ll demonstrate how to configure your Google account settings to maximize privacy, followed by presenting a few alternatives to Google apps. To get the complete picture, also read my other article, Without Google. Finally, I’ll explain how to remove Google apps and other kinds of bloatware from your device.

Alternative: use a different Android OS distribution

For computer geeks there is yet another solution. Instead of using the Google Android distribution that came pre-installed on your phone, you can completely replace it with an open-source Android OS, e.g. Carbon ROM. This will give you 100% certainty that no Google services are active. However, this approach has significant disadvantages. It requires a high level of technical expertise, takes much longer to learn and implement, and many popular apps which depend Google’s services (like Play Services) will no longer work.

Before you install alternative solutions that replace Google’s apps, it makes sense to configure your Android phone settings for all things that are related to privacy. Unfortunately, I cannot provide a definite guide here, because the menu structures change massively between Android versions, and different device manufacturers (such as Samsung) also meddle with the menus. On “vanilla” Android, you’ll find most settings under [Settings -> Google]. Go through all sub-menus and make sure you disable features such as automatic backup of your data to Google Drive, or contacts synchronization (see my other article Without Google). You should also disable Google’s network location provider, which lets your phone locate itself based on the WiFi networks it receives. This feature only works because your phone sends the visible WiFi networks to Google and receives an estimated location with city block level accuracy. Thus, Google knows where you are, even if you don’t use Google Maps. On vanilla Android 9, you’ll find this setting in [Settings -> Lock screen & security -> Location -> Advanced -> Google Location Accuracy]. Here, disable the Improve Location Accuracy setting. The downside of this is the increased duration to get a location fix. Any maps app must now use GPS to determine your location, which may take a while, and increases battery drain slightly. While you are in the Location menu, consider going through the other sub-entries that show once you clicked Advanced and verify that only those options are enabled that you actually need.

The next subsections suggest alternatives for several Google apps. You’ll find most of these apps in the Play Store. However, you should really consider installing F-Droid, which is an alternative, free and open-source app store. It contains apps which are not allowed in Google’s Play Store, because they violate Google’s terms and conditions – in a “good” way. You will also find some apps on F-Droid for free for which you’d have to pay on Play Store!

Fix F-Droid search

If you just installed F-Droid and the search functionality won’t find anything, then this is because F-Droid uses a locally cached database for that search. To force an update of that database, go to F-Droid’s main screen and make a “pull down to refresh” gesture, which you may know from other apps like email apps.

Let’s begin replacing individual apps:


Replacing Google Maps is hard, because there is no alternative with the same set of features. You are probably used to functionality like:

  • Search functionality which finds everything (addresses, landmarks, shops, public transport stops, …), even if you look for them in a different language. For instance, if your phone and all apps are in English, but you live in Germany, Maps will still find things like “atm” or “pharmacy”.
  • Synchronization of your search history, self-made GPS tracks, etc. – you can create them on your computer or phone, and they are automatically available on the respective other device.
  • Augmented Reality navigation, which shows navigation in the camera feed.

Be prepared that every free alternative will lack in mostly all of these departments. That’s life…

I found the following two alternatives most suitable to replace Google Maps:

  1. Here WeGo: it works online and offline (i.e. you can download maps and even get offline routing). Route calculation quality is quite good. Search will work across languages. You can create a free account which synchronizes your search history and favorite locations, between your phones and web browser.
  2. Some Open Street Map (OSM) – based app. OSM is an open, free mapping database maintained by volunteers. There are many apps and web-based services that use OSM data under the hood. As for an app, I recommend OsmAnd. The full-featured version, OsmAnd Plus, is available for free on F-Droid. With most OSM-based apps, you must first download the maps data of the region(s) you want to drive through. This requires WiFi and patience, as download sizes are typically in the hundreds of megabytes. Other disadvantages are that there is no synchronization of your search history, nor does search work across different languages.


For a change, there are apps which are better than the official app. Check out NewPipe on F-Droid. NewPipe has two major advantages over the YouTube app: it plays videos in the background (or while your screen is turned off), and it can download videos to your phone memory, for offline playback.


There are dozens of email clients out there for Android. Just google do a web search for something like “best android email app” for up-to-date reviews. Examples include Aqua Mail, K-9, Type Mail, Outlook and Nine. All of these clients support IMAP and POP3 standard protocols. See my Without Google article for further details regarding email data migration from Gmail to another provider.

Device management

A Device management app lets you remotely control your device from a website. This is useful if you lost your phone, or if it got stolen. Functionality includes locating your device on a map, make it play a sound, lock it, wipe all data, and sometimes make a backup of your data. You can replace Google’s Find my Device with alternatives like AndroidLost, Lookout Personal, Cerberus or Avira.


If you use Gboard as your default soft-keyboard, then you should configure it appropriately, to make it stop sending data to Google. Open the Gboard app, click Advanced, disable “Share usage statistics” and the entries in the “Learning” section. There are also alternative keyboards, such as SwiftKey or Anysoft keyboard.

Once you replace apps like YouTube and others, you’ll notice that you cannot truly uninstall these applications. The Android application manager only allows you to deactivate them. There is a trick to get rid of these apps anyway, without “root” access (if you don’t know what “root” means, don’t worry). However, apps uninstalled this way will reappear whenever you install a system update, due to technical reasons. Thus, you’ll have to repeat the following procedure from time to time.

The approach to uninstall apps uses ADB, or Android Debug Bridge. You have to connect your phone to your PC/MAC via USB cable and download the ADB tool from here (Windows) or here (macOS). On Windows, you also need an USB driver. If you have a Google phone (e.g. Nexus or Pixel), get the driver here. Otherwise, look at the table on this site.

After you installed the driver, you have to enable USB debugging on your phone. In the Android settings dialog, find the About phone entry, which is either directly in the settings menu, or hidden somewhere in the System sub-menu. Click on the Build number five times, you should see a message that confirms that developer options are now available. Go to System -> Developer Options, turn them on, and make sure that USB debugging is enabled.

Next, connect your Android device using the USB cable to your PC/MAC. Locate the adb tool you just downloaded and call adb devices in a terminal window. The first time you do this, you’ll see a dialog titled “Allow USB debugging” on your phone. You have to click Allow, and I recommend that you also click the “Always allow from this computer” checkbox. The output of the adb devices command should show a list of devices, with just one entry.

Each Android app is uniquely identified by a package name. That name is also part of the Google Play store URLs. For instance, for the package name is us.zoom.videomeetings. Now, to uninstall an app, you first have to determine the app’s package name, followed by uninstalling it.

  1. On your phone, open the app you want to uninstall
  2. On your PC/MAC, run the command adb shell dumpsys activity > output.txt, open the output.txt file and find the term “recent tasks”. You’ll see an entry like
    Recent #0: TaskRecord{f6abd4c #35 U=0 StackId=5 sz=1}
    which indicates that the package name of the current foreground app is
  3. Run the command adb shell pm uninstall -k –user 0 <package name> to uninstall the app, replacing <package name> with the package you just determined in step 2. This will only remove the app for your current user! It is still available to a system user (uninstalling the app globally would require root permissions). If you run into problems, e.g. because your system became unstable after uninstalling apps with ADB, you can reinstall them using the command adb shell cmd package install-existing <package name>

I recommend that you keep a list of all package names you uninstalled using the above command, to be able to recover from problems. You can find out more about the package manager pm command here. Using this trick you can get rid of both Google’s system apps and other kinds of bloatware that was pre-installed on your phone.


With the suggestions made in this article you should be able to quickly find suitable replacements for Google’s apps. In some cases there is a trade-off involved regarding the functionality. On the positive side, you will discover apps whose features exceed those of the official Google apps.

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