Not so long ago I wrote about how Google removed my app from Google Play, with no explanation. After that they also refused to delete my Google Play Developer account, because there might be people who still have my app even though it’s not in the store any more.

And all along even though I didn’t want to be – I was a Google slave, with my Android phone tied so tightly to Google Play Services that it might as well be an iPhone.

For years I’ve had my phone rooted, set up an iptables-based firewall (AFWall), and connected to the internet mostly through a VPN (PIA) in order to attempt to preserve a little bit of my privacy. That mostly worked, but not entirely. The firewall only started as an app (which gave apps that started before it free access to the internet) and the VPN app was often flaky, and sometimes didn’t work at all.

I don’t remember what triggered it – but I went and found a project called Lineage OS. This is the continuation of CyanogenMod, which I’ve never used because I found it intimidating. But I absolutely love it.

Because my phone is a Nexus 6p (a popular device) – LineageOS had an up-to-date version of Android for it. My phone was already unlocked and rooted, so installation was so simple that I did it several times to try different options.

Ultimately I settled on the default Lineage OS image, without any Google Apps. The results are outstanding.

Even I was surprised to see how much less garbage there is installed on the phone now. It’s not just LG and Samsung and other third parties that put bloatware on your phone. Google is the worst of them. Here’s a short list of stuff missing from my new OS that was there on the old (clean Google) image:

  • Android Pay
  • Carrier Services
  • Cloud print
  • Android connectivity metrics
  • Android partner bookmarks
  • Config updater
  • Device configuration
  • Device health services
  • Device policy
  • Drive
  • Entitlement
  • Gboard
  • Google
  • Google Backup Transport
  • Google Now Launcher
  • Google one time init
  • Google Partner Setup
  • Google Play Games
  • Google Play Movies
  • Google Play Music
  • Google Play services
  • Google Play services for AR
  • Google Play store
  • Google services framework
  • Google support services
  • Google timezone data
  • Hangouts
  • Maps
  • Market-feedback
  • Trusted face
  • Youtube

At first glance – it looks like some of these things I might actually miss. Google Maps is probably the big one for me. But I don’t use anything else from the list, and now that all this bloat is gone – my phone runs exactly as you’d expect a clean operating system to run on good hardware – fast, and pleasant.

And it’s so nice not to be reminded every time I send or receive a text message that the Google Play Services doesn’t have enough permissions (have you looked at the list of permissions that it wants?). Now there is no Play Services. And my firewall is now almost unnecessary.

I’m glad to see that the open source promise has not failed Android. Don’t be confused – Google would love nothing better than to lock everyone into their proprietary ecosystem, but there are probably billions of devices out there that do not use the Google stuff, and their manufacturers invest into keeping the open source Android not just running – but in top shape.

I do wish I could get my mobile banking apps to work (they don’t because they require the google maps library), but I am enjoying my freedom so much now – I know what I’d be missing, and I don’t see myself going back.

Long live open source!