While there are plenty of things to love about the Google Play Store, the success of the platform is due in large part to the fact that it is walled off from the rest of the world. That said, not everyone is willing to let Google make all of the rules when it comes to downloading free or paid applications. Fortunately, there’s another option. Yes, you can download an app store designed specifically for Android devices that offers tens of thousands of pieces of software with no sign-in credentials needed.
The advantages of an open source store include simple transparency, and the ease with which anyone can contribute to the store and make changes as needed. They have a lot to offer for consumers who appreciate the freedom to try out new apps without being forced to use non-open source software and apps that have been built using proprietary tools in closed source environments. Open source is becoming more popular all the time, and it’s interesting to see the growing number of open source Android apps hitting the Google Play Store regularly.
NewPipe is the open-source alternative to watching YouTube videos but that’s not the thing it specializes in. The app not only lets you watch YouTube but also supports subscriptions, floating player, downloading videos and audio, view history, queue videos, local playlists, and subtitles.
Besides that, the app is more privacy-orientated than YouTube since it saves your data offline by not using proprietary Google APIs that generally collects your watch history data. NewPipe also doesn’t require you to sign-in to Google and you can bypass regional restrictions with the app.
This app is a fully-featured email client, with support for POP3, IMAP and Push IMAP accounts. You can log in using multiple accounts and can export your settings and account configurations when switching between packages. Additional features include multi-folder sync, flagging, filing, signatures, BCC-self, and PGP/MIME.
Download: K-9 Mail
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In order to access Facebook without its own tracking and invasive features, F-Droid offers Face Slim which is a lightweight replacement to the otherwise memory-hogging Facebook app on Android. The app weighs at 1.3MB but includes full Message functionality and provides features that aren’t present on the official app. Additional features include dark mode support, a basic mode for usage in low-speed networks, personalization inside the feed, and more.
Download: Face Slim
Twidere for Twitter
Twidere is the only open-source app that’s officially supported by Twitter. The app comes with a built-in image and map viewer, direct messages that support conversations, multiple account support, secure and direct login with a username and password. There’s a night mode option that lets you enjoy dark theme as well as options to mute filters, schedule tweets, customize tabs, avoid ads and promotions in your timeline.
Firefox preview might be an open-source app but Fennec F-Droid is a version of Firefox stripped of any proprietary bits found in official Mozilla’s builds.
Download: Fennec F-Droid
An open-source alternative for Reddit is Slide which is material-designed, ad-free, and packs an array of features for power users. The app comes with support for over 12,000 theme combinations, has offline capabilities complete with images and gifs, Gallery and shadowbox modes, Synccit integration, multiple accounts support, and more. In terms of bonus features, Slide offers Image Flair support, replying to comments without opening a new window, a filter system to block content, viewing and deleting browsing history, and casual subscriptions that won’t show up on the front page.
ownCloud is a self-hosted cloud storage option that lets you manage files, contacts, calendars, music, pictures, and more through its app. The service allows you to browse all of your ownCloud synced files, create new ones, edit existing files, and share files to others. ownCloud supports syncing of content across all devices and you can define different paths for different types of files before uploading.
Open Camera as the name implies is an open-source camera app that offers full manual controls, customizable hotkeys, HDR support, widgets, external mic support, and multitouch zoom. The app comes with an auto-stabilize option, different focus modes, face detection, burst mode, and silenceable shutter which are something that many default camera apps don’t offer on their own.
Download: Open Camera
Amaze – File Manager
To replace your existing file manager, F-droid lists the Amaze app which is a file manager that follows the Material Design guidelines. In addition to basic features like cut, copy, delete, compress, and extract, the app offers the ability to work on multiple tabs, theme support, a navigational drawer, and an app manager. With Amaze, you can quickly access bookmarks, history and search for any files that are present on your device with Root explorer support for advanced users.
OsmAnd is a Google Maps alternative that utilizes OpenStreetMap for capturing maps data and is available for free. The app provides turn-by-turn directions, voice guidance, offline support, lane guidance, automatic re-routing, and searching for places like gas stations, museums, restaurants, and also any geographical coordinates. The app offers offline viewing with data consumption of under 200MB for a specific region.
OpenVPN for Android
OpenVPN is an open-source client to create a VPN without root. The app can be used to connect to any services using OpenVPN certificates.
From its humble beginnings, Google Play app store has come a long way, morphing into the go-to place for both developers and users alike for downloading and using apps on mobile devices. With this increasing number of app stores available though, developers have more options than ever to promote their apps and make money from them. The Android market is still far from perfect though. The restrictions placed on developers can be quite irritating at times but there will always be a workaround or two to get around it. However, one major advantage that Google Play has over other methods of marketing apps is size; while there might not be a billion users yet, the rapid rate at which it is growing ensures that the Android store will soon catch up with its rivals.