Years ago I discovered a terminal emulator for Android called Termux and it had several interesting paid add-ons on google play, but when I visited its official page it was mentioned that it was also available in an “apps store” called F-Droid.
That’s how I discovered this magnificent catalog of open source and/or libre Android applications. As I discovered more and more interesting apps I realized that google play was less and less useful to me until I ended up uninstalling it completely.
Benefits of using F-Droid.
The advantages of F-Droid are closely related to the nature of open and/or free/libre software. Some of these advantages are:
- Much more control over YOUR data. F-Droid warns you in every app when it finds features that may be unfriendly to your privacy. But, since the code of the apps is open, you can easily know what they do internally with the information they request, so even those with warnings are more respectful of your privacy than those you find in other app catalogs. Plus it doesn’t require you to create an account, leave your email address, let alone know your phone number.
- The apps here are more secure.Time has shown that having the code open to the public makes the software more secure, this is because not only the creator can audit its security, but any entity or individual can do so and propose solutions.
- Light and fast applications. Most apps have specific functions, do not require registration, do not add advertising or make unnecessary connections to external servers.
- Friendliness and community. Many applications are created by volunteers or small non-profit teams and it is often easy to contact the authors, follow the development of the app, propose ideas and even participate in the development, translation or simply participate in the community of users. Distributed social networks such as Mastodon bring together a good number of free/open app authors.
- No cost. As I mentioned at the beginning, some apps in F-Droid that can be downloaded free of charge are paid in Google Play, some examples are the add-ons for Termux, Conversations and andOSM. Of course, it is highly recommended to donate to the projects that we like the most to contribute to their maintenance and development, but after getting so many projects and participating in their communities it feels even better than buying apps.
- No advertising and no algorithms that use your information to sell/recommend apps and other products.
- Lists of apps by topic to discover apps easily.
- Dark mode is available for those who like designs in dark tones.
- Limit the presence of google on your phone. In recent years there is a trend of some groups trying to use google services to the minimum; one advantage of this catalog is that most apps do not depend on the “google services” process; which is very useful in your de-googlelization process.
- Keep access to google play apps. If you have apps for which you have not found a replacement in F-Droid, you can use applications such as Aurora Store to download them from google play, even without having an account on that service.
But of course, not everything could be advantages and it is likely that the first time you use F-Droid can become even a little disappointing. You will surely notice that:
- Relatively small catalog. Since few app creators are willing to share their code and/or want to make more money in the short term, the number of apps on F-Droid is noticeably smaller than other marketplaces. Even so, you’ll find apps with features you wouldn’t expect that are not found in other catalogs.
- Less refined designs and/or with fewer features than commercial options. Since many apps on F-Droid are not-for-profit with only one main programmer you will notice that the designs may become less elaborate and, in some cases, may not be able to compete with commercial options with teams of programmers working full time. That is why contributing donations or improvements are important for these projects.
- No lists of “popular” apps and no algorithms to sort them based on downloads, active installs, etc. Many people will miss not having direct recommendations; but over time you get used to it and even enjoy trying out the different options for what you are looking for and make decisions based on your observations.
Some interesting in F-droid.
In my opinion there is a surprising amount of good software on F-Droid and it will depend on your needs to find the ones that will go with your phone. To mention a few examples:
- Termux. Terminal emulator. It is even possible to install a GNU/Linux operating system on your phone.
- AdAway. Ads blocker at localhost level (requires root).
- AnkiDroid. Flashcard system for learning and memorizing languages, test preparation, word lists, etc. I use it to keep learning mandarin chinese and Nahuatl.
- SecScanQR. Simple but very efficient QR code scanner.
- Tusky / Fedilab. Clients for distributed social networks, such as Mastodon or PixelFed.
- Frost. Facebook client more respectful of your privacy than the official app.
- NewPipe. Youtube client more respectful of your privacy than the official app.
- Conversations. One of the best clients for jabber/XMPP messaging (used by google talk, for example).
- Aegis. OTP (One time passwords) manager. Excellent replacement for google authenticator.
- Nextcloud. Excellent replacement for dropbox and google docs.
- Tutanota. An email service with encryption and excellent alternative to Gmail.
Can F-Droid replace google
pay play completely?
For me, yes. But I admit that it may not be a complete replacement for everyone and it is true that some options from the tech giant’s app market will be missed, but it can certainly be an excellent complement and if you are interested in protecting your privacy and controlling more of YOUR information, F-Droid will be of great help and who knows, in time it could also be your main catalog of apps, but try it and find out for yourself.