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Android is an open source operating system, but most of the apps and services aren’t available. What’s a free and open source software-loving person to do?

Well, it turns out there are a wide range of apps out there available to you. You won’t be able to do all the things you could with the Play Store, but you can still get a good amount of use out of your phone and use software that embraces material design Exploring Android L: What Exactly Is Material Design? Exploring Android L: What Exactly Is Material Design? You may have heard about Android L and Material Design, but what exactly is this new design philosophy and how will it affect Android and other Google products? Read More .

Here are a dozen of the best open source Android apps to choose from, in no particular order. All are available in F-Droid Want to Rid Yourself of the Android Play Store? Kiss Google Goodbye and Try F-Droid Want to Rid Yourself of the Android Play Store? Kiss Google Goodbye and Try F-Droid Did you know that Android allows the installation of app stores other than the Play Store? You might already use apps from the Amazon Appstore and GetJar—but you probably never heard that a completely free,... Read More , and most are also in the Play Store if you’re not concerned about using your device Google-free.

1) DuckDuckGo


Want to look for something online without handing over your interests to advertisers? Meet your Google replacement. DuckDuckGo is a search engine that cares about your privacy. The Android app doesn’t just look pretty, it lets you read articles inside its own internal browser, and the home page provides you with a look at current events happening across the web.

I enjoy this app so much more than I did the default Google Search app.


Download: DuckDuckGo for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

2) AntennaPod


Listening to podcasts is a solid chunk of what I do with my phone, and fortunately, there’s a great open source option out there. AntennaPod isn’t quite as feature-rich as BeyondPod (my favorite Play Store option), but it has a modern look and gives me enough control to make sure feeds don’t auto-update over mobile data. That’s good enough for me.

Download: AntennaPod for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

3) OsmAnd~


Part of buying a smartphone means you don’t have to lug around a dedicated GPS unit anymore. The thing is, most of the well-known options are all proprietary. Going open source means giving up access to Google Maps, Nokia Here, Sygic, and just about any other alternative you can think of What's the Best Maps and Navigation App for Android? What's the Best Maps and Navigation App for Android? Using the rights maps and navigation app can mean the difference between making it to your appointment on time or being late -- so we examine the best of them for you! Read More .

Well, except for one. OsmAnd~ lets you download maps from and save them to your device. You can save any number you want… from the entire world… for free. Searching for addresses can be a challenge, but if you pair the app with Address to GPS, then you should be good to go.

Download: OsmAnd~ for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

4) Muzei

Muzei is one of the best live wallpapers around 25 Awesome Android Live Wallpapers by Category 25 Awesome Android Live Wallpapers by Category Having a background on your phone that moves around is super fun and futuristic. Here we take a look at the best live wallpapers for Android. Read More . The app blurs the background, only bringing the image into focus when you hold down on the screen. The settings let you adjust the amount of blur, and there is something satisfying about how the end result really highlights your app icons.

By default Muzei chooses a different painting for your wallpaper every day or so, but there are many other sources available, and you’re welcome to use your own photos.

Download: Muzei for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

5) DashClock


DashClock is the solution to a dull home or lock screen. Use it to read email, check the weather, and keep track of alarms out of the box. When that is no longer enough, install any number of plug-ins to view content from third-party apps like Hangouts on the front of your locked phone.

Check your WiFi network, monitor battery life, and knock yourself out.

Download: DashClock for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

6) Clip Stack

Copy. Paste. Cut. Paste. Copy. No, cut. Then paste. Paste again. Wait, no, I wanted something before that. Ugh, why did I cut? Where did I get that from?

Forget it. Open Clip Stack, browse through the history of clipboard items, and copy from there. Done.

Download: Clip Stack for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)



QKSMS is one of the many alternative SMS apps Text Better with These Alternative SMS Apps for Android Text Better with These Alternative SMS Apps for Android Don't like your default SMS app? Try a new one! Read More for folks who consider their default text messaging app too basic. Thing is, this one happens to be open source. The app was one of the early adopters of material design, and it’s highly theme-able.

There’s a night mode, plenty of customization options, and features to speed up your texting like QK reply — letting you respond without leaving the app you’re in.

Download: QKSMS for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

8) Swiftnotes


Swiftnotes is a simplistic note-taking app like Google Keep without the online component. You give notes a name, body text, and a color, as if you were creating sticky notes. That’s it.

There are no tags or notifications or other forms of added complexity. If you just want to jot things down for later, this app is one to take note of.

Download: Swiftnotes for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

9) Mirakel


Android has a ton of to-do list apps 9 Best Apps For Managing To-Do Lists On Android 9 Best Apps For Managing To-Do Lists On Android If you need to keep track of what to do next, these Android apps could be a life saver. Read More , but most aren’t open source. Fortunately, Mirakel is a capable and beautiful option. The app is feature-rich enough to provide filters and tags, set reminders, and rank each job’s priority.

There’s also a DashClock extension to put your to-dos on your lockscreen.

Download: Mirakel for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

Download: Mirakel DashClock for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

10) KISS Launcher


KISS Launcher takes all the distractions away from your home screen and replaces them with a single search bar that does everything. It launches apps. It dials numbers. It accesses settings. The memory requirements are low, and it does a good job of keeping it simple.

Download: KISS Launcher for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

11) Material Audiobook Player


Material Audiobook Player provides a particularly pretty way to look at audiobooks on a modern Android device. It isn’t the most complete experience, but considering how visually unappealing many audiobook players are, this one feels like a breath of fresh air. Just make sure your collection of eBooks is DRM-free 3 Simple Ways to Listen to DRM-Free Audiobooks on Android 3 Simple Ways to Listen to DRM-Free Audiobooks on Android Want to listen to audiobooks without the restrictions of DRM? We sure have a treat for you. Read More .

Download: Material Audiobook Player for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

12) Amaze File Manager

Looking for a file manager? Amaze might just amaze you. It has the basics covered, and it comes with a few advanced features like samba support and root browsing. Also, it’s quite the looker.

Download: Amaze File Manager for Android (F-Droid | Google Play)

What Are Your Favorites?

Under the surface, Android remains an open source operating system. Proprietary software may clutter the ecosystem, but there are many good options out there for people looking for good free and open source apps.

Does proprietary code make you uncomfortable? What about being dependent on cloud services? Have you spent years waiting for a viable free and open source phone or tablet? Share your thoughts with us, and if one of your favorite apps is open source, give it a shout out!

  1. a
    February 12, 2017 at 11:03 am

    You need to add SIGNAL messenger. This app needs to be pushed into knowledge of all users. Its the Robin Hood against commercial and authority data greed.

  2. Euripides
    January 18, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    Free and open Source? Ha!...When we knew what those ... @!#@&+!!@@. Would make out of it, we would have buried ourselves six feet under the same day we invented the word's... everything made out of initial UNIX, which once was really Free... Look now, pseudo-free-code with tons of backdoors and malware... The joy is gone as the source is lost.. UNIX, LIVE FREE OR DIE

  3. Mike Vertx
    January 3, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    thanks for compiling and posting this list, i'm checking out a handful of the apps currently.

    All-ready have 'dashclock widget' :)

    looking into 'QKSMS' as an alternative to messaging as "Should I Answer" requires it for blocking/monitoring text messages while providing spam protection.

    researching 'Amaze File Manager' currently using 'file commander' and also a have tried and am a fan of 'solid explorer' as both allow me to cut/copy/paste/transfer files to/from dropbox and cloud services which seems to be the easiest way to access files between computer and phone these days (for me at-least)

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 3, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Glad to be of service. Let me know what you think of those apps once you've played around with them.

  4. Kristijan Puljek
    July 30, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    This list will never be complete without Signal.

  5. Rajah
    January 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks for the article. Netflix app, Hulu, or BBC is great on Android. If live outside USA, you can use tools like UnoTelly to get Netflix (or Hulu, or BBC, etc) on your Android.

  6. Colonel Angus
    December 16, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    I recommend KDE Connect and Axif Music Player. KDE Connect is essential to me for moving files between my phone to laptop, and Axif is a very nice audio player.

    • theRecordCorrected
      December 3, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      I saw nothing on the google play link or general search regarding the music player that remotely indicates it is Open Source. This article is about Open Source apps.

  7. hildyblog
    December 10, 2015 at 2:17 am

    How could you leave off the cross platform password (and any other confidential information) manager KeePass? I use Keepass2Android (not on F-Droid) and KeePassDroid (on F-Droid) is also available. A comparison is at:

    Storing your database in Dropbox allows it to be used by KeePass on Windows (also open source) as well.

    Less important but good for wasting time are Chris Boyle's port of Simon Tatham's Puzzle collection and VLC. Try the puzzles; you should find several in the collection that will keep you occupied.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      December 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks, these are all great recommendations! While I knew about KeePass and VLC, Chris Boyle’s port of Simon Tatham’s Puzzle collection is new to me. I don't play many Android games these days, but I may just keep this one around.

  8. john
    December 9, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Is that the stock Lollipop keyboard? How did you get the secondary functions for all the rows like the "?" option etc.?

    • Raish
      December 11, 2015 at 12:30 am

      looks like swiftkeys app mate

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      December 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      That's actually the default keyboard that comes with CyanogenMod, so it contains a few tweaks like the ones you have pointed out.

  9. likefun butnot
    December 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    I find a lot of really useful FOSS Android tools via the app repository. Most of the time, it's a great way to find simple, obvious things without getting a bunch of ad-laden crap on a device.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      December 11, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      I agree. Installing apps can feel like a surprise at times since F-Droid doesn't have screenshots, but I like knowing that I don't have to deal with obnoxious ads.

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