The background

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

“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

View the video on Peer Tube

Building the Google monopoly

“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.”
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Matt Pitt – De-Googling my phone

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.

privacy and apple
Apple talking about ‘privacy’ next to a whacking big camera phone (James Birch on Twiter)

There are now some credible Google and Apple free alternatives emerging.

Purism, a privacy-first independent builder of laptops will soon launch the Librem 5 phone using its own Pure OS and manual kill switches for the camera, microphone, wi-fi and Bluetooth.

Librem 5 phone

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.