Adventures with Cellular Telephones: The Actual Apps
Most of the reviews and discussions about Android and iOS center on how much you like the Apple ecosystem vs the Google ecosystem. That doesn’t give folks like me any useful information at all, because I don’t want to be a part of any dang ecosystem, unless it’s a privacy-respecting open source Linux one (which doesn’t really exist yet for mobile deivces). So here is my breakdown about apps I’m using on my new Android phone, to move away from Google as much as I can without a full OS reinstall.
Note: I have not rooted this phone, or installed a new OS. Perhaps one day, but for now I am content. I am trying to strike a balance between privacy, usability, and my current level of technical expertise. So here we are for now. We’ll see how things go in the future.
To the Apps! Starting with NetGuard
NetGuard (or something like it) is critical - it lets you control internet access (wifi and cell access) for each app.
I was able to import my text messages easily into the Pixel with the built in import tool, and that was great. But then I upgraded the phone to Android 10, and the messages app stopped working. It just crashes when you try to open it. But it made me go looking for an alternative, and I found QKSMS, which is open source and synched right up with the Pixel messsages app (it still had the data, just wouldn’t open). So it was sort of a blessing, because now I have good, open source text messaging. I tried looking at some other apps, but they didn’t handle group messages well, and I didn’t feel like trouble shooting, just wanted it to work, which QKSMS did.
Replacements for Google Apps:
- FDroid and Aurora for app installation
- K9 Mail, and Fair Email, both good email clients.
- QKSMS for text messaging
- Phonograph, Voice and VLC for music
- Antenna Pod for podcasts
- Firefox / Fennec F-Droid for web browsing
- Simple Mobile Tools has a whole suite of basics. (Their main web site doesn’t link to the apps on FDroid, but they are there.)
- Lawnchair as a home screen launcher
- Syncthing to sync files between devices locally
- Joplin Notes using Dropbox
Apps I’m testing for replacement:
- Simple Mobile Tools Camera, and Open Camera, to replace the stock Camera app
- Simple Mobile Tools Contacts, to replace stock Contacts app
- AnySoft Keyboard to replace GBoard. It works, but it’s not nearly as good with swipe typing and sensible autocorrect. It’s in active development though, so it’s worth supporting, and I’m sticking with it!
Apps I haven’t figured out yet
- Maps. I’m experimenting with OSMAnd+ app, and Qwant Maps through Firefox, but neither did well when I tried to go to the fabric store the other day.
- Photo editing. Google Photos built in photo adjustments are pretty good, and I have to experiment more to find a replacement.
- The actual Phone app. I don’t really want to break my ability to make phone calls, so I haven’t messed with that.
- I had to install AT&T Visual Voicemail, to have regular voicemail capabilities, which is kind of lame. I think that’s AT&T’s fault, not Android’s though.
Google Apps I’ve Disabled:
- Device Policy
- Google (the search box function)
- Google Play Movies and TV
- Google Play Music
- Google Speech to Text Function
I’ll disable more as I can! This is a work in progress.
Other Fun Apps:
- Tusky and Fedilab, for Mastodon and the Fediverse
- Forcastie, for weather
- Daff Moon for planetary positions and stuff
- Noice, an ambient noise app
Might try out the nifty connect your Android to Linux one of these days. I love Ubuntu Mate, but Gnome and KDE have some nifty features. Something to think about.