Open Source Alternatives to Common Android Apps

| 596 words | ~3 mins


Many of our devices run Android these days. You would think that it’s open source nature would lead to a vibrant open source ecosystem, but chances are, you’re running a lot of proprietary software. This software does not respect you or your privacy. Today, we are going to look at open source alternatives to many of the apps on your phone and take back control of your Android devices.

App Store: F-Droid

Image: F-droid: the open source Android marketplace

F-Droid is an open source alternative to the Google Play store. It is an app repository containing only open source apps. Most of the apps on this list are available on F-Droid.

Features:

  • Fully open source
  • No need for google play services
  • Install beta and old versions of apps
  • Privacy focused by default

Messaging: Signal

Image: F-Signal is a messaging app that respects your privacy

Signal is a secure messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption to protect your texts and calls. Edward Snowden and Jack Dorsey endorse it for its secure and open source nature. This is the top recommendation for messaging app from us here.

Features:

  • Can be set as default messaging app
  • Video and voice calls
  • Desktop app for all major platforms
  • End-to-End encryption
  • Can be used to send text messages to people not using the app

Email Client: FairEmail

Image: FairEmail is an all in one email client

Why use Gmail when you can use a privacy focused email client like FairEmail? FairEmail lets you check all your email accounts in one place. Not only is the app free and open source, it’s the best Android email client I’ve ever used.

Features:

  • Unlimited accounts
  • Optional unified inbox
  • Offline storage
  • PGP Encryption

Web Browser: Firefox

Image: Firefox for Android

Most Android phones come with Chrome installed by default, but Firefox for Android has developed into a very competent browser. Firefox is open source, privacy focused, and fast. Mozilla has been going through a rough time over the last few years, but Firefox is still my top browser for Android.

Features:

  • Privacy focused design
  • Extension support (That includes ad blockers)
  • Backed by Mozilla, one of the most prominent advocates for an open web

YouTube: NewPipe

Image: NewPipe the YouTube alternative for Android

NewPipe is the only open source alternative to YouTube I know of for Android. NewPipe is not an alternative network like Libry, it is a proper YouTube fronted. You can subscribe to channels, read comments, and use YouTube without google services or logging in. It’s only available on F-Droid.

Features:

  • Subscribe without a YouTube account
  • Picture-in-Picture
  • Video Downloads

Android Utility Apps: Simple Mobile Tools Apps

Image: Simple Mobile Tools provides open source alternatives to many of Android's built in apps

No collection of open source Android alternatives would be complete without mentioning Simple Apps. This developer created many small alternatives to the built-in apps that come with Android. Contacts, Calendar, Phone, and more are all here and available for free on F-Droid. These apps are not the most feature field, but they get the job done and keep Google and other parties from spying on you.

Open Source is Not Perfect on Android Yet

As much as we would like to use open source alternatives to proprietary android apps, it isn’t always ideal. Some apps just don’t have a good alternative. OsmAnd is probably the best open source alternative to Google Maps, but it is a hard sell. F-Droid is great, but it will never be a full replacement for other App Stores. You are not going to find many open source games.

The good news is that you can always make things better by contributing and donating to the apps you use.

We will be covering more open source Android apps in the future, so please subscribe to our mailing list and let us know what your favorite open source apps in the comments bellow.