What it means to be 'without' google

Continuing the discussion from Fairphone Open Source roadmap discussion:

I often have the feeling that there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to be “without” Google. I will try to clarify these different “concepts” a bit by offering definitions that we all can fine tune.

“Non-Google Android”/"Google free Android"
A phone ROM that does not include any Google services and that does not use Google to verify/check things (DNS, dhcp). Or in short: An OS that does not send data to Google unless someone uses a web browser or an application.

"Apps that use the Google framework"
Applications that need google services running on the phone to fully function.

"Apps that need the Google framework and an account within Google"
Some Applications will need Google Services running on the phone and a Google Account to work.

“Google framework free apps”/Apps with a non-Google framework fallback"
Applications that do not use Google services, or that if they do and they run on a phone without those services, they also still function with alternative services (Google maps -> Open Street Map).

Note for clarification: A google framework free app could still interact with Google Servers. Example: A mail reader application that connects with Google Mail using IMAP.

"Google framework proxies"
Software like microG that allows users to run applications that use the Google framework on their phones. But with those “proxies” they do not have to to install Google services on their phones. Apps that use the Google framework will still interact with google servers and services.

Many people often do not understand these differences and this causes a lot of confusion. Please comment/correct me if I’m wrong.


Thank you for trying to make that clear.

One problem is that in most cases you don’t know whether an app will work on a google-services-free smartphone unless you try. Some will install, but not run. Some will run but cause problems while running, and some will simply not install. This behaviour may change between different app build versions.

To me it’s quite simple:

  • unrelated to google
    Software (Apps, Operating Systems, …) that doesn’t need Google Services to function properly and was not developed by Google or for an Android-based Operating System.

  • google-free

  • Operating Systems based on Google’s Android that don’t include Google Services or

  • Android-Apps that don’t need Google Services

  • google-infested
    Software that includes or needs Google Services to function properly.

I added the “unrelated to google” to the list as for me the argument “Software XY is not google-free if it is based on open code developed/funded by google” doesn’t count. That’s like saying “Cow milk that doesn’t contain lactose is not lactose-free as it was produced from cow milk.” Otherwise there would be no need for the word “google free” as you also don’t call Android “Jolla free” or iOS “Windows-free”.


True. Using F-droid apps helps a lot :slight_smile:

For Google Store applications, I check the permissions the app “needs” to run. This often helps a lot to decide if one wants to try it or not. If one really needs an application, I would checkout microG.

It’s nice to have easier definitions and most of the time these will work. But sometimes these will be too broad and confuse people (applications vs operating system vs software from Google installed on the phone vs modified Google software on the phone).

Or take Signal as an example. It uses the Google app store and Google services (Google-free? Google-infested? I’m not so sure, but Google-dependent? Yes!).

1 Like

In addition there are apps, which declare to work only if Google-Play-Services is activated (and try to activate it) but work nonetheless without any Google-app, e.g. ZDF …


Yeah, those apps - I assume - either use google’s (anti)services to spy and/or advertise or they have a contract with google and are forced to “need” google services.

Anyways this rather pointless message can be disabled by the xposed module “This App will run without Google Play Services”


Looks good: with this module I could install the GoPro-app, which claimed to need Google-framework and could not be installed. Now the app is installed and works so far. The final test is on Friday, when I’m working again and have a GoPro at hand …



Looks like they use Google’s old C2DM service for receiving messages. But C2DM was officially deprecated and replaced with Google Cloud Messaging (GCM). I wonder if they need/use it at all or if that’s the way raccoon reports it. Also most bug/crash reports are done via HTTP as far as I know. Maybe someone could ask the developers. Maybe the Google Services for those are not needed anymore?

Applications permissions as reported by Raccoon as of today:

ZDFonline (V3.5) com.zdf.android.mediathek
android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE [?]
android.permission.INTERNET [?]
android.permission.READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE [?]
android.permission.RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED [?]
android.permission.WAKE_LOCK [?]
android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE [?]
com.google.android.c2dm.permission.RECEIVE [?]
com.zdf.android.mediathek.permission.C2D_MESSAGE [?]

GoPro App (V2.12.2177)
GoPro com.gopro.smarty
android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE [?]
android.permission.ACCESS_WIFI_STATE [?]
android.permission.AUTHENTICATE_ACCOUNTS [?]
android.permission.CHANGE_NETWORK_STATE [?]
android.permission.CHANGE_WIFI_STATE [?]
android.permission.GET_ACCOUNTS [?]
android.permission.INTERNET [?]
android.permission.MANAGE_ACCOUNTS [?]
android.permission.READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE [?]
android.permission.READ_SYNC_SETTINGS [?]
android.permission.READ_SYNC_STATS [?]
android.permission.SET_WALLPAPER [?]
android.permission.USE_CREDENTIALS [?]
android.permission.WAKE_LOCK [?]
android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE [?]
android.permission.WRITE_SYNC_SETTINGS [?]
com.google.android.c2dm.permission.RECEIVE [?]
com.gopro.smarty.permission.C2D_MESSAGE [?]

Gopro works with the app and can not disturb us because it can not receive messages and can not reach the web - thanks to AFWall+ …


1 Like