Open source apps (FOSS) are becoming more and more popular - not least because they are much better at protecting your privacy and as they allow you to fully quit Google.
Google's Firebase Cloud Messaging service
However, many open source apps - even if you do not install them via Google Play store - still use Google's Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) service for push notifications. This means that you need to use these apps without push notifications - or go back to allowing Google to spy on you.
Unfortunately, FCM automatically comes with tracking code for analysis purposes so that Google can get lots of information about app users just via push notifications.
Alternatives to Google Push
Additionally, a new open source project, UnifiedPush is becoming increasingly popular. UnifiedPush is an open source, private alternative to Google for notifications.
The project is building an alternative to Google's push notification service FCM that aims at allowing any app developer to easily offer an alternative push method to their users.
Best FOSS apps without Google Push
F-Droid - being an open source Play store alternative - requires all apps to come with zero connections to Google. That is why we implemented an SSE-based push notification service in Tutanota. Thus making sure that Google can not spy on you when you use Tutanota to secure your emails, calendars and contacts.
Recommended open source apps
Here are our top nine open source apps that do not rely on Google Push:
1. Tutanota - secure email
Tutanota is an encrypted email and calendar services that puts your privacy first. All data is encrypted end-to-end, and you can even send end-to-end encrypted emails easily to anybody in the world.
In addition, Tutanota does not use Google Push. In fact, when implementing the push notification service for the calendar, Tutanota even achieve to do this in a zero knowledge way - meaning even notifications are encrypted and the server does not know anything about your events, not even when they are taking place.
If you use the Tutanota app, this happens automatically without Google Push. With other apps like Signal and Threema you have to adjust this yourself in the settings.
We explain here how the Tutanota calendar encrypts your notifications.
2. Signal - secure messaging
Signal is a free, end-to-end encrypted open source chat app that is increasingly gaining momentum as a private Whatsapp alternative. Signal does not rely on Google Push notifications but uses WebSockets to notify users about new messages on their smartphones.
3. Threema - secure messaging
Threema is another open source and fully encrypted chat app. It excels in the fact that you do not even need to share your phone number when communicating via Threema. Similar to Signal and Tutanota, Threema does not rely on Google Push notifications to users' smartphones.
4. Element - open source messaging
Another popular open source messaging and collaboration app is Element. All data is encrypted and push notifications can be send without any connections to Google vai NextPush, for example.
5. Tusky - Mastodon app
The Tusky app is a Mastodon app for Android. To fully get rid of Big Tech, you can switch from Twitter to Mastodon. You will notice that a great number of open source enthusiasts have already switched so there's a pretty nice community on there. With the goal of enabling you to leave Big Tech, Tusky obviously does not use Google Push and now also supports UnifiedPush.
FediLab is another Mastodon app that lets you access the Fediverse on mobile. It uses UnifiedPush as an alternative to Google Push.
FluffyChat is an easy-to-use, decentralized matrix messenger. It uses UnifiedPush instead of Google's Firebase Cloud Messaging system.
SchildiChat is a Matrix client based on Element with a more traditional instant messaging experience. Like FediLab and FluffyChat, it uses UnifiedPush for push notifications.
FindMyDevice is an open source app published on F-Droid that helps you to find your smartphone. For push notifications, it does not use Google, but UnifiedPush as an alternative.
Open source apps that do not use Google Push already cover most needs. The ones listed here are just a few examples and many more exist. We recommend that you search the web - and particularly F-Droid - for your favorite FOSS apps. All apps published on the Google alternative F-Droid will not rely on Google Push.
Can I run my Android without Google?
Yes, there are several operating systems that you can install on some Android phones - without any trace of Google software.
The most popular alternatives to Google's Android OS are:
- Plasma Mobile
What is the best push notifications service for Android?
App developers can choose from a multitude of push notification services for their Android apps and website.
These services do not only send push notifications about incoming messages, but they can also send mobile push notifications, web push notifications, in-app notifications, as well as email notifications.
Most push notification services are proprietary, meaning that the services can spy on app users when they handle notifications. If information like sender, content preview and more is sent along with the push notification, the service can even read and track this kind of information.
The most commonly used push notification service is Google's Firebase Cloud Messaging service. Others mostly rely on Google's push service. These are:
- Push Notifications for WordPress
The open source community mainly relies on their own implementation of push notifications, mostly based on SSE (Server Sent Events) or WebSockets. These allow for push notifications with zero tracking and, thus, enable app developers to build great alternatives to Google push services.