The Android mobile operating system has its origins in Android Inc. a company which was bought by Google in 2005. Google launched the Android 2007 and it now has over 74% of the global market share.
Google provide Android on their own hardware devices like Nexus and Pixel but also licensed versions of Android to some of the biggest device manufacturers including Samsung, LG and Huawei.
The problems with Android
Privacy just not from Google
- Irrespective of any privacy settings either on the phone itself or in your Google account settings, Your phone continues to pass data about your location hundreds of times a day Google’s servers.
“Google tracks your location hundreds of times a day even with location history turned off. There is no way to meaningfully opt-out.”US Senator Josh Hawley
Building the Google monopoly
- Google makes it difficult to use all the features of an Android phone without signing up to a Google account
- Most Android phones and tablets come with pre-installed Google apps which are very difficult if not impossible to uninstall.
“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.”Matt Pitt – De-Googling my phone
- It’s difficult for a non-technically minded person to install a different OS on an Android device without risking turning it into an inoperable brick.
What can I do?
Apple has been pushing themselves as a more privacy-focused alternative to Android and it’s fair to say they are better (not hard) although it’s worth keeping an eye on how their ‘Find my phone’ function develops.
Their phones are typically very expensive and Apple is leading the opposition to the customers having the “Right to Repair” putting a question mark over their commitment to the climate crisis. They’ve also been accused of deliberately slowing down phone batteries on older models to encourage customers to buy new ones.
There are now some credible Google and Apple free alternatives emerging.
A cheaper option is a reconditioned unGoogled phone from /e/ Foundation with their own OS – they will soon allow you to send in your own phone to get the full /e/ treatment or you can download their open source software and do it yourself.
For the more adventurous and technically minded you can install a different OS on your mobile. Lineage OS and Sailfish OS are two options which have plenty of online advice for helping you switch over.
There are a number of Android free options which all have their pros and cons. This approach isn’t for everyone as you could end up with an inoperable brick.