In the Android world, one app store is king – Google Play Store. This is the “official” place to download apps and games. However, there are a few alternatives. F-Droid is one of the most interesting options out there.
Like getting Windows applications, you can get Android apps from a variety of sources. In fact, you do not even need an app store at all. Play Store just makes it much easier and safer to install apps. F-Droid aims to do the same thing, but for very different reasons.
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All about it FOSS
F-Droid is a repository of free and open source software (FOSS) Android apps. It’s completely non-commercial, which is why it’s technically not an app “store”. You can donate to developers, but none of the apps or games cost anything.
What makes open source software different is that its code is freely available for anyone to use. It’s basically like solving a mathematical equation and showing your work. Everyone can see what you have made and use it yourself.
It is important to note that there is a big difference between FOSS apps and apps that are simply free. The majority of open source software is monetary free, but that’s not really what “free” in Free and Open Source Software means.
Free refers in this context to freedom. FOSS developers are generally concerned about the ethics and morals of using and distributing software. That’s why F-Droid is the favorite app store on privacy-focused Android ROMs like GrapheneOS.
Not dependent on Google
The big difference between F-Droid and Play Store is the lack of Google. It may seem obvious, but it’s more than you might realize. Not only do you not have to use a Google-owned app store, the F-Droid apps work well on devices without Google Play Services.
This is why F-Droid is generally the preferred app store on custom ROMs like LineageOS and GrapheneOS. They do not come with Google Play Services pre-installed and many apps rely on GPS to function properly. If you’re trying to get more privacy and a security-enhanced smartphone experience, the F-Droid lets you do just that.
Basically, if you want to use Android without all the privacy compromises that come with Google products, the F-Droid app store is for you. While it is certainly possible to download FOSS apps from across the web, the F-Droid makes it much easier to find them.
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Installing F-Droid is like sideloading any other Android app. Go to the F-Droid website on your Android device and press the “Download F-Droid” button to download the APK and install it.
The F-Droid app is set up like most other app stores. There is a “Recent” tab for new apps, a “Categories” tab to browse by genre, “Nearby” lets you send apps to nearby devices, and “Updates” shows your apps that have updates available. There is also a search function.
You will notice that some apps are labeled “Anti-Features”. These are features that may not be very welcome for privacy-conscious users. They can include things like ads, in-app purchases, location tracking, source code that is no longer available, and more.
To install an app, simply visit the app’s page and press “Install”.
When it has finished downloading, an Android system pop-up will ask you to confirm by pressing “Install”.
That’s all it takes. The range of apps is much smaller in the F-Droid than the Play Store, around 3,000 compared to around 3 million, but that’s to be expected. If you want to remove Google from your life, or you just want to try some apps that have better ethics, F-Droid is a great place to go.
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