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5 Open Source F-Droid Apps That Rock

fdroid

When it comes to software that respects your privacy, the open source F-Droid store is your one-stop shop for Android apps.

Whether you’re using a fully degoogled smartphone or simply looking to use FOSS (free and open source) software on your vanilla Android smartphone, F-Droid offers some serious perks over the closed-source and spyware-laden Google Play Store.

Looking to get started with F-Droid? Here’s some of our favorite apps to get you started!

1. NewPipe

We certainly understand why people don’t like YouTube these days.

Censorship is rampant. It’s a Google property. And the YouTube app’s inability to block ads or listen to videos with your phone’s screen off (unless you pay up, of course) is problematic, to say the least.

That’s where NewPipe comes in. It’s an open-source YouTube scraper that allows you to watch videos, subscribe to creators, and even download content without using a Google account.

NewPipe is also ad-free by default!

You can even listen to videos with NewPipe while your phone’s screen is shut off. 😉 It’s a great touch for listening to podcasts and music on the go!

2. AntennaPod + Feeder

Okay, this one’s cheating a bit. AntennaPod and Feeder are two separate apps.

But they’re both RSS feed parsers, so that makes it okay, right?

AntennaPod is a podcasting app. It’s arguably the best Android podcatcher out there, open source or not. The fact that it’s available on the open source F-Droid shop is just icing on the cake.

AntennaPod can take manual RSS feed submissions if you want to subscribe to your favorite creators directly. It also supports PodcastIndex, a new podcast aggregation service trying to compete directly with iTunes and Spotify. There are even apps pushing blockchain-hosted podcasts directly to AntennaPod!

Feeder, by contrast, is for text-based RSS feeds. Why let algorithms serve your news to you? With Feeder, you can subscribe to your favorite blogs and news outlets directly and get them pushed straight to your degoogled smartphone.

Dictate by algorithm is one of the most insidious methods used by Big Tech to manipulate social outcomes. RSS-based apps like AntennaPod and Feeder go a long way in fixing this.

3. FairEmail

Your degoogled phone doesn’t have Gmail. That’s probably for the best.

But how do you manage the rest of your email accounts? Individual browser apps are cumbersome, and if you’re managing multiple inboxes, they can quickly become a chore.

FairEmail is a fantastic open source F-Droid email client. They support Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Yandex, and all POP3 accounts by default. And if you know your email server’s credentials, you can add any self-hosted email client as well.

Email is, by its nature, not a private technology. But limiting the number of services that have access to your emails by default is still a worthwhile endeavor.

As a runner-up, ProtonMail also has a closed-source app that you can install via Aurora Store. However, self-hosted email inboxes are always preferable to third-parties, even encrypted ones.

4. OsmAnd+

OsmAnd+ is an open source navigation app.

It’s not as user-friendly as Google Maps or as full-featured as Waze. But if you value your autonomy and privacy, even while using GPS, OsmAnd+ is a great option.

And if you’re using OsmAnd+ on a fully degoogled phone, then you can rest assured that Google’s location services and creepy WiFi triangulation technology aren’t active.

We’ve got a full article on using GPS with degoogled phones here.

5. Aurora Store

Aurora Store is the premier Google Play Store replacement.

It’s a portal to the same apps you know and love in Google’s Play Store, but with an open source and privacy-respecting implementation. If you simply can’t go without some of your favorite “normal” apps, Aurora Store is the best place to get them.

How does Aurora Store respect your privacy while downloading apps from Google services, though?

First and foremost, Aurora Store does not require a Google account or login. They create an anonymous account on your behalf to avoid leaking data to Google.

The second cool feature offered by Aurora Store is device spoofing. This basically allows your phone to “lie” to Google services about your device type and language when downloading apps and offers a huge privacy boost over using Google Apps directly.

But be wary – many degoogled ROMs do not actually support device spoofing by default!

All phones we sell here at PrivacyToGo support device spoofing and we have a more comprehensive article on this topic here.

In Closing

Whether you’re using a fully degoogled smartphone or simply looking to reduce your dependency on Google spyware, installing and using apps from F-Droid is a great start.

Some of the apps you’ll find in F-Droid might not be as polished or feature-rich as you’re used to, but the trade-off in terms of privacy is unparalleled. We hope this brief guide gets you started on your journey using more FOSS software on Android!

For those who want to take smartphone privacy to the next level, a fully degoogled smartphone is the natural next step.

Stay informed, stay free.

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GPS on a Degoogled Phone

One of the most common questions we get about degoogled phones is, “Can I use GPS on a degoogled phone?”

The confusion here is understandable!

By its nature, a degoogled phone will not work with Google Maps or Google Navigation services. For some people, this is a huge deal-breaker.

However, all hope is not lost. There are a lot of options for navigation outside of Google Maps, and even outside of cell phones themselves.

But before we talk about alternatives to Google Maps on degoogled phones, let’s talk about why Google Maps itself is so dangerous to your privacy.

Weaponized WiFi

Ever wonder how your Android or iPhone device has such insanely accurate location data?

“Normal” GPS is only accurate within a few hundred yards, but Google can peg your location within mere feet!

They do this through a technology called WiFi triangulation.

Your phone is constantly scanning for WiFi access points wherever it goes, and Google has been logging and stealing locations of all routers in the world for over a decade.

In short, if your phone is ever within range of a router whose location Google knows, they also know exactly where your phone is, even without GPS.

The signal strength of your WiFi isn’t just for your convenience, it’s also used to determine your location in vicinity to a wireless access point.

With the advent of contact tracing technology, Google is now admitting they can also do this with Bluetooth in relation to other people’s phones.

Very creepy stuff! For some people, the convenience of Google Maps is worth this trade-off. But it’s important to understand just how large this violation of privacy is in order to make informed decisions.

Alternatives to Google Maps

Now that we’ve identified why Google Maps is such an affront to your privacy, let’s explore some alternatives for GPS on a degoogled phone.

This is Will Smith in Enemy of the State.

Don’t be like Will Smith.

OsmAnd+

OsmAnd+ is an open-source client that uses Open Street Maps for navigation. It is by far the most popular open-source GPS client and also the best.

In addition to being open-source and privacy-respecting by default, OsmAnd+ also has a number of unique features, like the ability to download and use maps completely offline!

OsmAnd+ is far from perfect, though. You won’t have the convenience of simply searching for a business and mapping to it as you do in Google Maps.

And sometimes, Open Street Maps will have trouble pulling a location from an address. You might have to resort to using coordinates instead.

But overall, it’s a very serviceable GPS app for occasional mapping needs.

MapQuest

Does anyone remember MapQuest? Well, they’re still alive and kicking!

Rather than use GPS directly, you can use a service like MapQuest to deliver directions to your phone. You won’t get turn-by-turn directions this way, but you will have a predefined route that you can follow.

Is this less convenient than Google Maps? Definitely.

Is using a service like MapQuest worth it to retain your privacy? That’s up to you.

Standalone GPS Unit

Before the advent of smartphones, standalone GPS was the only option for turn-by-turn navigation.

And thankfully, it’s still a great option!

GPS companies are not data surveillance companies like Google – their business is selling GPS units and making sure you get from Point A to Point B.

They make their money by providing you with a good product and service, not by spying on you and selling your data to third-parties.

GPS units aren’t cheap – a good one can cost upwards of $100, almost the cost of another budget smartphone. But they offer a great mapping experience without surrendering your autonomy in the process.

Use Two Phones

This option may sound counterintuitive at first, but it’s actually the method we use here at PriviacyToGo.

The method is simple:

  • Use your degoogled phone for 99% of your daily use
  • Keep a second phone as a backup, turned off (and ideally in a faraday cage) and use it only for GPS

This is a great option for those who have an old cell phone lying around – and who doesn’t have an old phone or two collecting dust somewhere? 🙂

You also get another benefit from going this route, and that’s the ability to use your old phone as a honeypot for your privacy.

Your old phone, whose identity Google and countless other trackers already know, will generate a “false” fingerprint of your phone usage habits. All the while, your “real” phone, the degoogled one, is not leaking this information to Big Tech.

This option is also ideal for professional couriers, like those who drive for Uber and Lyft, who require Location Services to do their job.

In Closing

When it comes to GPS on a degoogled phone, there are a lot of options at your disposal.

Some options, like standalone GPS, are even more convenient than using Google Maps. Others sacrifice some convenience in exchange for increased privacy.

If you are the type of person who only uses GPS every now and then, all of the above options are great to consider. Heavy GPS users might require a bit more forethought.

Either way, life after Google doesn’t mean a life without GPS!

Ready to take the next step? We sell degoogled phones at our shop.

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Will The Linux Phone Ever Take Off?

Let’s talk about the possibility of a user-friendly Linux Phone… by talking about the present of the Linux Desktop.

I’ve been using Linux as a daily driver for almost 10 years. My first experience was not a great one.

The Linux Desktop

Sometime in 2006, I eagerly burned a copy of Ubuntu Dapper Drake and installed it on my desktop. I didn’t know the first thing about the open-source software movement, but the idea of a free (as in beer) OS was understandably appealing to a high school kid.

My experiment ended shortly after I failed to connect to the Internet as driver support was scant in those days. D’oh! Back to the familiarity of Microsoft spyware I went.

Six years later and armed with basic command-line skills, I gave Ubuntu another shot, and I’ve run some form of Linux on all my machines ever since (Canonical has lost my trust, but that’s a story for another day).

When my dad’s aging MacBook stopped receiving software updates, I didn’t hesitate to install Linux to keep him secure and free from Big Tech snoops. My dad isn’t technical. He uses a web browser, LibreOffice, and prints the occasional document.

Yet it took the Linux desktop roughly 24 years, from 1991 to 2015, until it was usable by someone like my father for the most basic tasks.

And despite the significant advantages Linux has to offer software developers and the privacy-conscious, there’s plenty of tasks it’s still ill-equipped for! Advanced video editing, 3D modeling, and gaming, to name just a few.

What does this have to do with the future of a user-friendly Linux smartphone? Everything!

The Linux Phone

Let’s consider that the first pure implementation of Linux on a phone was in 2011 with the inception of Ubuntu Touch. Today, Ubuntu Touch has all the same problems that Ubuntu Desktop had when I tried it back in 2006.

  • It has poor hardware support
  • There are virtually no apps available
  • It’s difficult to install

Ubuntu Touch is simply not suited for daily use yet.

While I eagerly await a world where I can rid myself of Android permanently, we’re just not there. Until then, a degoogled phone is probably the best compromise of privacy and usability we can hope for.

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