My poor battered Fairphone2 was on the brink of giving up, so I decided to trade it in for a Fairphone3. As part of my worries about the cetralization of power I also wanted to go without Google as much as possible; specifically not using a Google account.
The first major problem is this means you can’t download apps from Google Play. Fortunately there is away around this.
Aurora Store allows you to use Google Play anonymously - download any app without needing a Google account. You can download the APK file directly from f-droid.org using a web browser, and install it on your phone.
f-droid, by the way is another app store, specifically for free and open source sofrware. It has a different selection of software and there are a few useful apps that are available there which are not on Google Play.
Calendar, Contacts, and Email
I’m hosting my own calendar and contacts using NextCloud on an old laptop with YunoHost. This is a bit of a technical process, and while using YunoHost has made it easier, it’s still not a walk in the park.
You have to install extra software to sync your contacts and calendars to android, but it’s not a complex process. The default calendar app does require a google account, so I’m trying the aCalendar app instead.
For email I’ve decided to use my own domain name for my email address. This is a swtich I started making a while ago; I set up a forwarder to forward all emails to my gmail account and then slowly sarted switching services to use the new address. Now all I have to do is find a provider that allows using your own email (I’m trialing Tutanota) and switch where it’s pointing to.
One thing that really puzzled me for a while was how to remove the Google search bar from the home screen. I eventually realised that the home screen is itself an app, known as a launcher, which you can replace with any other launcher app. I installed OpenLauncher from f-droid, which is fairly clean, nice to use and somewhat similar to the Fairphone2 launcher.
Google have the ability to make customizing Android easy, but they’re incentivised to tie you into their ecosystem as much as possible, so they have greater control over what you see, do, and buy. I don’t want to be part of that, and I don’t want to risk giving all my data to Google just to wake up one day and find it gone.
Moving away from Google is not easy, but hopefully over time the more people who do it the easier it will become.