OK, so you have a GrapheneOS device, or are thinking of using one.
Great first step.
But just as important, is how do we get apps!?

Without Google Play Store or Apple Store, we have to find an alternative app store of some sort to begin customizing our phones to what we need them to do for us. We are on an Android device, so Apple Store junk will not work, which means Android apps only will work on our device. While you can install Google Play Services/Google Services Framework on a de-Googled phone, this defeats some of the purpose of going de-Googled. Try to avoid Google anything if you can. If you do require some Google service, sandboxing Google on a GrapheneOS phone is still much better than simply using a Google Android phone. With GrapheneOS, you have far more control on all of the data and permissions. GrapheneOS restricts permissions by default, they must be enabled by the user for each app.

 

There is no longer a single, central repository of ‘approved’ apps if we wish to avoid installing Google products, so instead we rely on several methods to get our apps that we need on our GrapheneOS, or de-Googled phones.

  1. F-Droid app store
  2. Aurora Store
  3. APK / Sideload, or direct from website of various apps we want

Generally I find it best practice to start at F-Droid store first for anything, while it is not as huge of a repository as the Google Play Store, it does provide about 4,000 Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) apps, start here. The apps with more intrusive permissions needed by default are labeled ‘Anti-Features‘ to warn you that there may be permissions that you don’t want, so check them carefully, and only enable those you want after installation should you choose to install any given app.

Aurora Store is my next stop, they have just about everything, it just omits the Google Services Framework code and some functions may not work properly without toggling on the Google sandbox feature on your GrapheneOS phone (under the Apps app). However, many apps function just fine with absolutely no Google whatsoever, so it’s really just trial and error to see if you need Google or not for each app you choose here. Aurora Store spoofs Google Play and leaves your device info anonymous to Google. Paid apps are the only problem, but try and find free and open source software alternatives instead before paying for an app.

Lastly, ‘sideloading’ or using APK files offers yet another option on Android / de-Googled phones to download apps outside of Google’s ecosystem, but these you should select carefully, as not all are privacy and security respecting software. Visiting some of the forums and communities will quickly show you which types of apps people are using and trust, and why they use and trust those apps. Ask questions if unsure, there are plenty of resources to help steer you in the right direction, and keep scrolling to learn more about the apps we recommend.

https://forums.mark37.com/
jeff.pro forums
Jeff.pro new website

Jeffrey_Peterson and Bones Tech Garage on Telegram are also great communities of similar people helping each other daily. Download Telegram FOSS version from F-Droid here:

Download Telegram (FOSS version)

Click on the Search icon and look for these channels:

Jeffrey_Peterson

  BonesTechGarage

these usernames should get you to the correct channels on Telegram, join in and ask questions as you explore the technology, there are many great people on these channels that are ready to assist you on getting started with FOSS technology.

An example of a direct APK download, Brave Browser website offers direct downloads if you know what type of file you need for your device, or you can use Aurora Store for an easier option, to get Brave installed on your device. Apps such as Telegram can be downloaded several different ways as another example: directly from Google Play Store, from F-Droid (FOSS Version) or directly from the Telegram website. I prefer the FOSS version from F-Droid which avoids a tracker and several permissions.

If unsure of an app, visit exodus-privacy and type in the name of any app that you want to use, this will show you the trackers, as well as required permissions for each application to gain more insight on whether it belongs on your phone or not:

 

In the example screenshot below, we performed a search for the app ‘Signal’ and we can see the trackers and permissions for ourselves, click on the correct app (third one down is the Signal app we recommend) to see a full list of the known trackers and permissions:

 

While this all may seem wild and chaotic, having multiple ways to get apps, it’s actually quite easy to conceptualize.

  1. You have complete freedom to do as you wish (which is both great, and potentially harmful)
  2. Start with F-Droid, this is the more trustworthy collection of apps available
  3. Move to Aurora Store next, this unlocks many if not all other options that exist, just manage permissions on each app per your needs.
  4. With the complete freedom, comes the need for some homework before installing some random APK file to your device, but many out there exist and are trusted and used every day. Check back here for updates with recommended and known safe apps, or keep reading below.

 

GrapheneOS is an excellent tool to shut off a massive amount of data to big tech, and gains you arguably the largest amount of privacy and security of any other consumer ready phone product, but nothing is bulletproof from careless downloading. Know that by choosing GrapheneOS, you have taken a very large and meaningful step towards protecting a ton of your data and privacy. Below is a collection of some of the better and more popular apps being used by privacy minded people, broken down by category.

Common Apps

Message Apps       Video Chat Apps

Signal  –  Session  –  Wire  –  Briar  –  Element  –  Threema  –  Jitsi Meet  –  Telegram  –  Jami

Top Messenger choices: Signal, Session

Top Video Chat choice: Jitsi Meet

Email

Proton Mail  –  Tuta Mail –  Startmail  –  Fastmail  –  K-9 Mail

Top Email choice:  Proton Mail

Video and Music Players

VLC Media Player  –  Auxio   –   Metro Music Player  –  MusicPiped  –  NewPipe  –  Antenna Pod  –  Radio Droid  –  Music  –  Pulse Music

Top Music Player: VLC and Auxio

Top Podcast Player:  Antenna Pod

Map Apps

Magic Earth  –  Organic Maps  –  OsmAnd  –  All-in-one Offline Maps (topo)

Top Map App choice:  Magic Earth, Organic Maps

Top Map App for on foot: All-in-one-Offline Maps (not FOSS)

Browsers

Vanadium (Stock GrapheneOS browser)  –  Brave  –  FireFox Focus  –  Tor  –  Mojeek (Privacy Browser)

Top Browser/Engine Choices:  Vanadium/DDG, Brave Browser/Brave

Top Browser for Anonymous Searches: Tor

VPN and Ad-Blockers

Blokada (ad-Blocker)  –  Netguard  (ad-Blocker/VPN)  –  Calyx VPN  –  Mullvad VPN  –  Proton VPN  –  IVPN  –  NextDNS

Top VPN Choices:  Proton VPN, Mullvad VPN

Top DNS Provider: NextDNS

Note Taking, Picture and Document Viewers

Standard Notes  –  Fossify Notes  –  Carnet  –  Omni Notes  – Joplin  –  Collabora Office  – PDF Scanner  –  LibreOffice Viewer  –  Calibre (e-Book reader)  –  Librera Reader (e-Book reader)

Top Notes app choice:  Standard Notes

Other Useful Apps

KeePassDX (opens KeePassXC password manager)  –  Syncthing  –  Nextcloud  –  Fossify Voice Recorder  –   Tasks.org  –  Open Tasks  –  Fossify Calendar Pro

 

Keyboards

OpenBoard  –  Swype  –  Florisboard  –  Nuance APK

 

 

more coming soon…

Ascending past the serac field on Mt. Rainier on the summit cone along Muir/DC route