Google and Android are typically a package deal. Even if Samsung or Sony makes your phone, you’ll still find it loaded with Google Maps, Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, and all the other apps that makes up Google Play Services. But it’s possible to totally “de-Google” your Android device – strange as that sentence is to type – though it’s not exactly easy.
Developer Martin Pitt set out to do just that, transforming his old Nexus 4 into a Google-free smartphone. He outlines the entire process in a recent blog post, which involves wiping the device, installing a new Android-based operating system, and finding third-party alternatives to all of Google’s apps.
Though this doesn’t sound too difficult on paper, even Pitt admits that the process isn’t for everyone:
Setting up such a “Google free” phone requires a significant amount of time, dedication, and skill (not to mention a personal server), definitively far beyond to what I’d trust my mother to comprehend. But it’s reassuring to know that, if push comes to shove, it’s definitively still possible…
Saying goodbye to Google on your Android device
If Pitt’s warnings don’t deter you, the first thing you’ll need to do to ditch Google on your device is to root it and install LineageOS (a free, open-source operating system built on Android). From there, Pitt recommends using F-Droid (a free alternative to Google Play) to download all the other apps you’ll need to check your email (not Gmail, obviously), chat with friends, surf the web, watch YouTube videos, and look up driving directions.
This may sound like a lot of work, but if you’re worried that Google might be spying on you (and you don’t trust Apple, either) taking some time to pull Google off your device is a decent option. At the very least, setting up a new, de-Googled smartphone is a great way to get some extra life out of an older Android device that you don’t use much anymore, and a fun way to learn more about the nitty-gritty of the Android OS.