Wriggling out of Google’s embrace – part 1

Google is watching you

I’ve been using Google’s various services as much as the next person, but around the time I’ve decided to buy my FairPhone, I’ve also realized I don’t want gapps (the base package of Google Apps, including your Google account on android, the Play store and Gmail) on my new phone and that I’ll have to find some alternatives.

There are many good reasons to limit your exposure to Google. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already decided it’s worth thinking about, so I’ll focus on the how, rather than the why.

First of all, my goal isn’t to stop using Google, but to limit it’s access to me, especially on my phone. Using gapps, Google has access to practically every aspect of my phone’s state. The first step was to not install gapps on my new FairPhone. Thankfully, gapps isn’t preinstalled on the FairPhone’s default ROM.

Based on several articles, with varying degrees of OSS purism, I’ve set up the following:

  • App Repository: 1Mobile Market
    • 1Mobile Market contains the vast majority of free android apps, but doesn’t make any promises with regards to compatibility, the way Google Play does.
    • It also doesn’t let you buy the pro versions for many apps (like Titanium Backup)
    • It does manage version updates and manages your APKs reasonably well.
    • F-Droid is another alternative, but it focuses solely on OSS free software (as in both beer and speech). I find it a bit limiting in its purism, but it’s still very a very useful resource, listing apps’ anti-features (example).
  • Backup: Titanium Backup Pro (on 1Mobile Market)
    • Since I’m not using Google Play, I bought the license for the pro version directly off the author’s website and paid with PayPal. expect about 30 minutes wait between payment and receipt of the license file by email.
  • Contacts: Fruux (on 1Mobile Market)

    • Export the google contacts from your phone (exporting from the website, doesn’t include the avatars) to a VCF file, which you can then upload to Fruux.
    • I’ve had a bit of trouble with DOB records, which I had to manually remove from the file with a text editor (notepad++ FTW)
    • After merging all my contact info manually on Fruux website (I exported all contacts, so many of them had duplicates from skype and other accounts), I had a decent contact list, ready to be used on my phone.
    • Note that the VCF export on the phone uses low quality avatar images. I haven’t figured how to export these correctly, so I replaced the LQ images with better ones for the contacts I cared enough about (close friends and family) on my phone. The LQ avatars look just as good as the originals as thumbnails.
  • Calendar: Fruux (on 1Mobile Market)

    • Export your Google calendar to file, import on fruux. Nothing much to it.
    • Right now Fruux doesn’t support consuming CalDAV calendars from other providers, like your usual religious and national holiday, but you can import them into Google and export as file, so it should be good enough for the upcoming year or so, till they hopefully release that feature.
  • IM: Xabber (on 1Mobile Market)

    • OSS XMPP/Jabber client, simple and to the point.
    • Allows multiple accounts
  • Google Maps (POIs and public transit navigation)
    • You can actually use Google Maps even without a Google account set up on your phone, and I do. It simply has the best POI for traveling abroad, coupled with public transit navigation, it’s really hard to beat.
    • Moovit (on 1Mobile Market) claims to be a viable alternative for public transit navigation, but doesn’t seem to have predefined POIs or the ability to save your own POIs.
  • Google Maps Engine (My Maps): oruxmaps (on 1Mobile Market)
    • I like planning trips abroad in advance, mapping out points of interest like restaurants, museums and such.
    • This is a real treat, full featured map application able to hook onto openstreetmap and other sources.
    • For Google maps with full-featured navigation, use this hack, you can also find the onlinemapsources.xml file here.
    • You can easily export maps from Google’s MyMaps maps into KML file format, which oruxmaps supports. It’s not as dynamic as you’d be able to get using native Google My Maps (save on desktop, load on mobile), but it’s definitely close enough.
  • Other apps I use (links to 1Mobile Market):

Part 2 of this post will focus on migrating away from Gmail and GoogleTalk (now the insufferable “Hangouts”).

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