It’s certainly a nice thing to write a tutorial for others – but I also did that for myself. And now that all facts seem to be together, it was time to put the theory into deeds: a self-experiment. I followed my own advice, and freed my first Droid. A second one is awaiting its freedom once I’m done with the first1. As I did with my tutorial, I will also share my experiences with you. And while I usually “publish” posts only when they’re finished, this one will be an exception: From time to time I will update it with „new findings“.
Btw: Being in the middle of my self experiment, it was nice to see I’m not the only one
Android without Google:
- 1: Introduction
- 2: ownCloud
- 3: Getting rid of unwanted bloatware
- 4: App Replacements
- 5: Free your Droid!
- 5a: microG (update to NOGAPPS in part 5)
- 6: Self-Experiment
- 7: Where do I get my apps now?
Started before this series, but clearly belonging here:
This went as described in Android without Google 5: Free your Droid! (and Android without Google 2: ownCloud). Like I already indicated with the NOGAPPS instruction, there was a little trouble flashing the MapsApi, which just gave me an
E:Error in /sdcard/Update/mapsapi.flashable.zip (Status 0) Installation aborted. The described “manual alternative” however worked fine: maps are shown in apps accessing it, tested e.g. with RF Signal Tracker (see screenshot to the right).
But though no errors were indicated on install, NetworkLocation based on OpenCellID seems not to work2: apps either say they won’t work without GPS, or claim an “unsupported location service”. I’ve posted that to the NOGAPPS thread at XDA, but no solution so far. Still hoping for the dev to turn up with some ideas. There seem to be a few alternative projects on this, though – but they all require Android 4.1 or 4.2 and higher, while the little Wildfire is running 4.0.
Following the mostly successfull install, I ran a first „initial baseline“:
- only installed a few apps: Business Calendar, DavDroid with Sync activated for calendar & contacts, and F-Droid
- no SIM, but WiFi activated
- 5-day-rundown without charging, daily battery charge left: 100% - 90% - 60% - 30% - 10% (ending after 5x24h+, so more than 5 full days)
Comparing with my other two devices: the Milestone² (comparable configuration but with SIM) went to the charger daily with ~75% battery left, my LG Optimus 4X with ~50% (the latter had even to be charged twice on the third day, as something3 was going mad again, draining the battery to 30% in just 5 hours. Though charged up to 96% after this, the device was down to 50% again in the evening).
Following the first baseline, a little testing and analysis:
- pre-installed camera app: I couldn’t find any trigger (oops?): not on the screen, nor did the volume keys work for that. So I had a nice viewfinder, but couldn’t make any photo. Neither could I find a way to define the storage. So I …
- installed Open Camera. Wow. Even comes with a levelling display (showing in percent), so your photos shouldn’t be accidentally tilted. There’s a menu to select the storage place, but it stayed empty on the Wildfire4. Shooting photos is possible, though, and images get saved to
/sdcard/DCIM/OpenCamera. Fine with me, though I wished it were possible to put them to
/sdcard/DCIM(or any other place) directly: I hate having to search different folders when using different cams.
- pre-installed gallery app (QuickPic) always crashed on start. Update via Aptoide solved this issue. Looks pretty fine – though it’s no real fun on the small (QVGA) display of the HTC Wildfire
- Played a little with different location and CellID apps. Looks like without a SIM inserted, no cells are identified. Strange, as that shouldn’t require a SIM: after all, emergency calls should be possible anyhow, and they need a cell as well. OK, so I put in a backup SIM. Still no luck (see above).
Now for the „real-life baseline“ (using a SIM of the provider „Base“ even ) – put in the SIM, switch off mobile data (as that SIM has no data plan associated). Now the battery usage should be well comparable with that of my Motorola Milestone 2, which is configured the same way (SIM, no data) – but has the full load of Google bloat installed. Thrilling. My expectation: Instead of ending up with 75% at bedtime (like the Milestone), it will have 90% battery left.
Only 10 hours later it seems my expectations are more than met: Milestone at ~85%, Wildfire still ~99% (and the LG Optimus 4X already down to ~80%). Screen-On times of Wildfire and Milestone are pretty much comparable: the latter runs my work-time recorder, the former mainly the calendar (but today I also ran some location tests on it, so it was even „busier“). Altogether, estimated Screen-On time per device ~30min (LG ~1h).
Rundown without charging: 97% - 75% - 55% - 35% - 5% Had to put it to the charger before five days were full this time. Remember the times a phones battery lasted two weeks?
- in general, no big issues: device works fine without the bloat, and Im not really missing any functionality. Reservations must be made for the apps I didnt yet transfer (more below)
- NetworkLocation not working (see installation and interim): might be specific to the device, or even to the fact its still running ICS (which the devs have no longer „in testing“). For a final result, this needs „more testing“ on the next device.
- battery usage: formidable! I feel reminded of the „early days“, before the „bloatification“ of the play services started – remembering back then my devices lasted 2+ days with a single charge. My assumption of those „services“ being a main culprit for the shortened battery-life-time seem to be confirmed.
- payed apps: I was surprised by the openness of some developers who, when asked, responded they’ve already put that on their todo lists! Light on the horizon Even more as some of my paid apps even worked without BlankStore or other help, obviously not strictly relying on some kind of license check.
Additional install recommendations
So apart from the „basic installation“ described in parts 2 and 5, are there any recommendations on what might be generally required on the device? That very much depends on what ships with the ROM used. Moreover, your mileage might vary from mine. But yes, there are some things Id recommend. Simply skip areas irrelevant to you
- Markets: somewhere our apps need to come from. My recommendation for the primary source still is F-Droid. But with their approx. 1,200 apps, the main repository doesn’t even cover all areas. For example, I found no single picture gallery there. So I pretty soon had to add a second source: Aptoide (with their „Apps“ repo, which should be pretty safe – see the corresponding market article. Of course, if you depend on apps from Google Play (e.g. payed ones with license check), none of the two would help. But the BlankStore from part 5 should fill that gap. Though you cannot buy apps with it: the shopping-part done via your web browser on the computer, it can download the app and deal with the license stuff.
- Camera: I’m not a heavy user of it (with the exception of vacations), but when I need one it should work. If the one shipping with the device doesn’t meet your needs, take a look at Open Camera. Comes for free, and seems to be pretty impressive. No field testing applied yet, though – so this purely relies on „first impression and a single shot“
- Gallery: Maybe similar to the camera stuff. When in need, take a look at QuickPic. Should be a pretty good choice.
- File manager: Open Explorer seems quite a good choice for that: graphical display of where the largest chunks are (starting from the selected directory), integrated text editor, zip support, root mode (incl. mounting
/systemread-write), „smart folders“ for media, network support to access e.g. your computer (FTP, SFTP, SMB). Free and open source, available on all three markets.
You might also wish to take a look at part 4 of this series for other recommendations. As it’s not really fun testing apps on the small 240x320px screen of the Wildfire (how did I stand that back then?), you will forgive me not going to full length with it here. I might check some more once the Milestone 2 gets its time
Just to be able to provide you some „shocking facts”, I’ve left the device in flight-mode – not using it more than once a day to check the battery stats. For results of this experiment, take a look at the corresponding screenshot to the right, giving proof to the fact that an Android phone indeed can run not only for more than two days, but even for more than two weeks without being charged
And so it came to pass that my main device, being the only one left running with Google Apps, had to be sent to service due to several hardware-related issues. To be able to communicate, I had to switch over to one of my backups. My choice fell on the Motorola Milestone 2 (aka „Droid 2“), which I meanwhile also had „freed from Google“: I’d flashed it with CM10 (Android 4.1) and installed the NOGAPPS components as described in part 5 (of course using a different image file in #4; while I again had to install MapsAPI „manually“, this time all components seem to be working fine). Following that (and preceding the factory-reset of the device-to-be-repaired) I used Adebar to back-up the latter, then transferred all the apps I’ve used to the Milestone-2. So basically, the Milestone² now has all the apps I’ve had installed before on the LG Optimus 4X5, minus the GAPPS, plus the NOGAPPS.
That was a week ago. Since then, the Milestone² was to be my „main device“. So how did I survive that „first week“? I have to admit, I’m only missing little:
- I no longer get notifications in my Stack Exchange app (that’s using Google Cloud Messaging, which is part of the Google Services I no longer have running). This is until now the only thing I really miss.
- Though I can install apps from Google Play with no issues (even paid ones) using BlankStore, I no longer get „update notifications” for them. No big deal: I can either use AppBrain Market for this, or install Changelog Droid. I’ve decided for the latter, as that is supposed to also let me watch „other sources“.6
- Speaking of which: Apps requiring an „auth token“ to work with your Google account won’t work (which is why Changelog Droid currently fails). There are possibilities, however, as (next to BlankStore) e.g. StripSearch shows, which is working fine.
- Instead of being run-down to ~50% or less at the end of the day, my battery usually has 70%+ of its juice left when placed into its cradle at night, without me changing „my device usage patterns“. Well, I can live with that Considering that Jelly Bean (Android 4.1 here) is said to be more power-hungry than Ice Cream (4.0), that sounds like a good number. I’m curious for the O4X’s numbers when it returns, as then it will have 4.1.2 running as well).
- Running on Android > 4.0, I had to say „Good-bye“ to LBE Privacy Guard. No AppOps on 4.1, so to save myself from a delay figuring alternatives, I’ve decided to try LBE Security Master (not the Chinese version from the app-store links, but a localized variant from the XDA developers). Does its job, but unfortunately does a lot more (bloated thing it is). Still have to figure how to turn off all the additional modules I don’t need; but it seems to not harm battery life: the app is not even listed in the „top consumers”. Still, I might consider switching to XPrivacy in the future.
- Speaking of „top consumers”: Battery stats look normal again, with the expected „display” being the top-dog as usual (which was not the case on the LG lately). Remaining candidates in the list seem reasonable7.
- The Moto is slower than my LG – but that’s got nothing to do with the process described here
- The little Wildfire (aka "HTC Buzz"), now „upgraded“ to be my „secondary device“ (which basically adds several phone-calls to its load) still lasts its 3+ days without being charged (no exact numbers, as I’m using that device also for testing Adebar, which requires it to be connected via USB, which again charges the device – so I can just estimate: currently, after „being disconnected“ for ~1.5 days, it has ~80% juice left).
Except for things requiring Cloud Messaging (in my case, Stack Exchange notifications), I didn’t find anything missing (YMMV). Everything seems to run smoothly, and all functionality needed was given – including markets, location, and maps.
Now Im running this self-experiment for more than two months. And during the past two-and-a-half weeks, I had to absolve a real-life test – as my only device left with Google apps on had to be sent to service. Time to finalize this report.
It were two devices with two purposes during this „final run“: The Wildfire served as „secondary“, for personal use. About 3-5 phone calls a day, plus one app Im currently testing (an "electronic worksheet", so not too much time spent on). No mobile data, so Id locked it down to GSM (aka „2G“). Like back in the old dumb-phone times, battery made it throughout the entire week, though I had WiFi permanently turned on. See screenshot to the right for „detailed stats“.
The other one was the Milestone, used for „business“: Mobile data on, let the device chose whether 2G or 3G. Mixed number of calls, another work-punch-clock (my main one), lots of reading (RSS Feeds, Twitter), Mail checking. Went to its dock each night with more than 70% juice left. Still missing my Stack Exchange notifications, but not much more.
Now, my Optimus has returned from service. So what will I do? Free it as well? Every thing has its time: I will first check how it behaves with the updates applied. And I need some device to „check against“ – plus, as Android book author, must be able to „check things Google”. So probably not that soon. But eventually, that might happen: My over-all experiences were pretty encouraging.
For you who reads this: As I wrote above, YMMV. But maybe you will decide to free some device(s) and, like me, keep one in „temporary slavery“. Until the last gaps might be closed (like GCM in my case). Or you don’t need any of the missing things, and straightly go ahead. Whatever your choice: I hope my articles here proved helpful!
This seems either to be specific to the device, or to the Android version: No such issues on the Milestone 2 running 4.1 (CM10). ↩︎
Initially I suspected Google Services being the culprit, but meanwhile I’m not that sure it’s always them. The O4X seems to have a serious baseband issue (showing up in other places as well), so it might also be connected to that – which is why it’s currently sent-in for service. ↩︎
As with the CellID-stuff, this again seems to be device or ROM specific: no such issue on the Milestone². ↩︎
With a few exceptions of apps I’d once tried but stopped using. ↩︎
Turned out it seems to heavily rely on Google Services – so on the "Google-free device" it does nothing but listing your installed apps and when you’ve updated them last – no changelog details, no update notifications. I’ve contacted the dev in the hope for a fix. ↩︎
Though I still wonder about Phone Idle and Cell Standby being at positions 2 and 3 with around 20% each. Something strange specific to my carrier? One statement by LG Support might suggest as much, as changes in the routers of that carrier a few months ago also triggered their baseband-big-trouble on their P880 and P990 devices. ↩︎