If you have been reading about all the privacy leaks and personal information data being collected and sold to marketing firms, a question does arise, “Is it possible to keep our data safe on our mobile?” From Facebook to Google, from VPNs to browsers, there isn’t a single app that is not designed to collect and store out personal information and send it to the main server, where this data is collected and processed to study the common surfing behaviour of the masses. This is the most critical piece of information for marketing firms and E-Commerce giants and helps to determine and formulate their strategies for the future.
The only solution to keep your personal information secure is to stop using a smartphone and a computer. But that is not possible, and it accounts for running away from the problem and not dealing with it. With two thoughts in my mind that “My Privacy is My Right”, and “Nothing Comes for Free”, I have decided to embark on a journey where I can still use the smartphone and prevent my data from being leaked or sold to marketers.
The first step I took was to remove all such programs which promised security and were free of cost. This includes VPNs, Antivirus and others. Next, I removed those that were in the news or had controversies surround them like Facebook. The biggest challenge came when I decided to install a custom Android ROM on my phone and remove Google altogether. This article will guide you on how to get rid of Google from your smartphone.
How To Install A Custom Android ROM On Your Phone And Remove Google – Prerequisite Points?
Before you decide to remove Google from your smartphone, here are a few points to consider:
- Removing Google means you would remove Google Play Services too. This service is essential and is being used continuously on your smartphone, even if you are not doing it intentionally. It helps third-party apps to connect with Google services and send push notifications, obtain locations, data backup and many other essential tasks.
- Without Google Play Services, you would face a lot of inconveniences and the only replacement available is an open-source program known as microG that can perform all the task of Play Services up to a certain extent only.
- To remove Google from your phone, you will have to format your phone and install a custom ROM that supports This process is very tricky and challenging and can lead to a bricked smartphone that would be reduced to a paperweight and nothing else.
- All the data on your smartphone will be lost. You can take a backup of all what you can, but there are certain gameplays or other app settings that would have to be reconfigured. Remember restoring from backup would not be a simple task this time as we won’t be using Google to restoring everything for us with a few taps.
- It is a known fact that Google captures your every tap, click, search and everything you do on your smartphone, including several times you unlocked your phone. However, being a reputed organisation, it has to adhere to privacy regulations set up by the Government in which it operates. However, no such laws is governing the custom ROM manufacturer, and hence you could end up compromising more personal information than you did with Google. So do research and choose your custom ROM wisely.
How To Install A Custom Android ROM On Your Phone And Remove Google – Find A Custom Rom?
As I have mentioned earlier, you must install a custom Android ROM that supports microG (Alternative to Google Play Store). The best place to get a custom Android ROM is the Lineage OS website because all Lineage ROMs support microG by default. As far as the security and privacy policies are concerned, both LineageOS and microG are safe as they are open source, which means these applications are peer controlled. However, there is no guarantee.
Disclaimer: Remember, these steps are generic and gives you a basic idea on how to install a custom Android ROM on your phone. They have worked many times, but as every phone is different, you must be careful about what steps you are performing as they might not work for some of the phones. A grave mistake might turn you working smartphone into a brick or paperweight.
Here are the steps that you need to follow to find and download a custom Android ROM:
Step 1. Open any browser in your PC and visit the Lineage OS website @ https://download.lineage.microg.org/ or click on the link below
Step 2. Once you open the page, you will find a list of custom Android ROMs. You might face difficultly in identifying your phone’s ROM because the names mentioned as not the actual names but Code Names. Every Smartphone has a code name. To identify the code name of your smartphone, you can either Google it up or visit the Lineage OS Wiki site.
Step 3. Click on your smartphone brand and make a note of the code name, then visit the website in Step 1 and download the custom Android ROM on your PC.
Step 4. These custom Android ROMs come with microG built-in along with F-Droid, which is a Google Play Store alternative. You will find a vast collection of all free and open-source software here. The Lineage OS custom Android ROM contains all the original features of Android, some of which have been excluded from branded smartphones we get in the market today.
Step 5. If you do not find a compatible ROM with the same codename as your smartphone, then you will have to download your custom Android ROM from elsewhere. There are numerous sources where you can get a custom ROM. Just make sure it is safe and secure.
Step 6. Once you download your custom Android ROM, extract the Zip file, and you will find an instructions file. These step will be different for each smartphone. Read the steps carefully and only attempt to install a custom Android ROM if you have understood those steps 100%.
Step 7. Once the installation process is complete, follow the instructions file as it will describe the steps that need to be taken to set up your custom Android ROM for the first time.
How To Install A Custom Android ROM On Your Phone And Remove Google – Applications?
Now that we have learnt about how to install a custom Android ROM on your phone, let us discuss the applications that we are going to miss and how can we replace them. An important point to consider is that there will be no auto backups to the Google server which means your Contacts, SMS and other device data have to be backed up manually. You will have to remember to do so every week; otherwise, you could lose your data with no chance of recovering it back.
Without Google Play Store, you must consider specific alternatives, and the best one among them is APK Mirror, which has almost all apps available. It has a limitation though; APK Mirror cannot update your app as Google does it automatically. You will have to manually check for updates of each app in which case you could go for F-Droidthat has a collection of open-source software and provides automatic updates. I would not recommend the Amazon App store as it follows the same policies as Google, and the dream of maintaining privacy would not be fulfilled.
Let us discuss the replacement application for most frequently used apps:
- Phone, Contacts and Message apps. All custom ROMs come with built-in essential apps, so you do not have to install them separately. You can always go for Simple Mobile Tools that are free of cost without any ads or unnecessary permissions.
- Browser. Most of the browsers we use today, including the all-new Microsoft Edge are based on Google’s Chromium engine. The only exception is Firefox which provides more security than Google. Even if you don’t install a custom ROM on your smartphone, I would still recommend you switch to Firefox from Google on your computer and smartphone.
- Emails. Outlook is one of the best alternatives to Gmail, and if you don’t want to jump from one conglomerate to another, then you could go for FairEmail, which is a free open source app that takes your privacy as a top priority.
- Navigation. One thing you are going to miss is Google Apps, as there is no application better for navigation. Among the open-source apps, you could use Axet Maps or Maps.me, which are built on OPENSTREETMAP, which is a community project.
- Cloud Storage. With G Drive out, Dropbox is the best alternative that can be considered rather than Microsoft OneDrive. Another option that can be used is Nextcloudor Syncthingwhich are available on APK Mirror and F-Droid.
- Photos. The best alternatives to Google Photos are Memoria and Pictures. Let me warn you, no other gallery application except Google has a smart AI that can sort your images and automatically tag them. So, it is going to be a simple gallery app.
- Social Media. One of the most important categories of apps is the social media platform, and the most famous of them are Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. You can install all of them from F-Droid. However, these social media apps will always remain in the circle of doubt as these apps have millions of users, and they are known to collect data for some reason or other.
- Audio and Video. This is going to be an easy task as Google did not have any multimedia players of its own. I had always been using VLC Player for both audio and video purpose, which I believe has a ton of options more than other players, including rotating video. VLC player is available on APK Mirror.
As for Streaming services are concerned, I am afraid there are not many options available yet. If you love Spotify, then I am sorry you are going to bid it goodbye as it not available outside the Google universe. You can try Tidal instead, and as for Podcasts Antenna, Pod is the best alternative. For video streaming services there will, of course, be no YouTube, and you will have to switch to Netflix until something else turns up.
- Password Manager. It is not recommended to save your password in your mobile for if it gets hacked or stolen, then your security is compromised. Most of us have always relied on Chrome to save our credentials and automatically log us in. It keeps us the time and effort and makes life quick, but all this at a price. However, if you still want a password manager, then I suggest you go for Bitwarden, which is open-source software and available on F-Droid.
- Keyboard. Google’s Gboard is a marvellous app with advanced features, especially its voice dictation. Instead, you could settle for SwiftKey,Flesky or Typewise which cannot be compared to Gboard but are pretty decent to use.
The Final Word On How To Install A Custom Android ROM On Your Phone And Remove Google?
It is challenging to remain on a smartphone that does not have Google or Apple operating system and applications. Although this might seem significant for a few days eventually you might switch back to a regular Android. It is because Google services have been inculcated in all our aspects of daily life like work, personal, entertainment and everything else. It is probably possible to live without a smartphone but very difficult to have a smartphone without Google.
Difficult – Not Impossible
Always try this on an alternative phone first and read and understand the instructions carefully before any attempt. If there was any aspect I missed in taking Google out of our life, then do share your thoughts and comments in the section below. Follow us on social media – Facebook and YouTube. For any queries or suggestions, please let us know in the comments section below. Subscribe to our newsletter to get regular updates on the tech world.