These days, you can find an Android app for just about anything. Want to know what the weather will be like next week? No problem. Need to explore your device’s file system? It’s easy. Dying to waste a few hours playing high-quality games? There are thousands to choose from.
But the app-for-everything nature of the store does have a notable downside: privacy. Honestly, how many of you research an app’s stance on privacy and security before you install it?
The result of our collective laissez-faire approach to software installation is a growing number of apps that are a privacy nightmare. We’ve covered some of the worst offenders elsewhere on the site.
So, now it’s time to look at the Google Play Store from the other side of the fence. What are the most privacy-friendly Android apps? Let’s take a look.
1. Keyboard: AnySoftKeyboard
If you’re a keen observer, you might have noticed that your default Android keyboard may occasionally use your Wi-Fi connection and “phone home.” Clearly, such behavior is not desirable.
AnySoftKeyboard is an open-source keyboard app that doesn’t ask for any internet permissions. The only other open-source keyboard worth considering is Hacker’s Keyboard, but it’s not as feature-rich as AnySoftKeyboard.
The app supports multiple languages, has swipe-to-type functionality, offers predictive text, voice input, numerous themes, and much more.
Download: AnySoftKeyboard (Free)
2. Browser: DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo needs no introduction. It’s one of the most well-known privacy-friendly search engines in the world. The Android version of the app is a browser that can only run the DuckDuckGo search engine.
The downside of DuckDuckGo is only noticeable when you’re running obscure searches. Google will perform better. As a solution, use StartPage Private Search. It lets you search privately on Google and Bing.
Download: DuckDuckGo (Free)
3. Instant Messenger: Telegram
Telegram is one of many WhatsApp alternatives. Sure, WhatsApp uses encrypted chat, but it’s owned by Facebook — and we all know that privacy isn’t a strong point of Zuckerberg’s company.
Telegram, on the other hand, is not owned by a social media behemoth. It’s quickly gained traction, picking up more than 100 million active users in just two and a half years.
The app uses a combination of 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, 2048-bit RSA encryption, and Diffie-Hellman secure key exchange to keep your messages secure.
It’s also faster than WhatsApp. It uses a distributed network of data centers around the planet to get your message to its intended recipient in mere nanoseconds.
The final unique feature is synced typing. You can start a message on your phone and finish it on your computer.
Download: Telegram (Free)
4. App Store: F-Droid
The Google Play Store is a disaster for privacy-conscious users. Google knows exactly what you’ve installed, which device you installed it on, where you were when you installed it, which link or website led you to the app’s installation page, how often you update your apps, and a whole lot more.
For a more private app store, check out F-Droid. It doesn’t track you or your device, you don’t need an account to download apps, and any apps that track you are hidden from the store by default. You can go to Preferences > AntiFeatures > Tracking to enable them.
Best of all, the apps in the F-Droid store are open source. If you’re a talented programmer, you can check the source code of all the apps yourself and make sure they’re not leaking your personal data.
The downside of the app store is that you won’t find the mainstream apps you probably use every day.
Download: F-Droid (Free)
5. Calendar: Simple Calendar
Designed by Simple Mobile Tools, a project dedicated to releasing privacy-friendly apps, Simple Calendar is a worthy rival to the stock Android calendar app.
The app is ad-free and only requests the absolute minimum number of permissions in order to function. By default, the permissions include access to your photos and contacts, but that’s only to allow the app to function more effectively. You can disable the permissions and the app’s core functions will still work.
Download: Simple Calendar (Free)
6. Fitness App: Pedometer
Fitness apps are another category that often send data back to the parent company. Typically, the data includes GPS locations, journeys you took, and even personal data you entered into the app like height, weight, and gender.
If you’re looking for a privacy-friendly fitness tracker, check out Pedometer. Developed by the SECUSO privacy research group at Technische Universität Darmstadt, the app only needs two permissions: Run at startup, and prevent phone from sleeping. The app is also entirely ad-free.
The app counts your daily steps and the number of calories you burned. All the data is displayed on beautiful and easy-to-understand charts. You can even customize different walking modes to suit your style.
Download: Pedometer (Free)
7. Weather: Weather
The unimaginatively-named Weather is another app from the Technische Universität Darmstadt.
Using the data from OpenWeatherMap, the app shows the current temperature as well as a three-hour and five-day forecast.
You can save locations, but you can also make them “non-permanent.” This means they will be deleted as soon as you leave the location’s weather data. There will be no evidence of the search within the app.
Feature-wise, the app provides a useful Radius Search. You can use it to find the best conditions within a set distance from a given location.
Download: Weather (Free)
8. File Manager: OI File Manager
OI File Manager is one of the most full-featured and easy-to-use file managers in the Google Play Store. Most importantly, it’s also one of the most privacy-friendly. The app is ad-free and does not require the internet access permission.
The app is also open source. You can check all the code before installing it to make sure there are no data leaks.
OI File Manager lets you create directories, rename, copy, move, and delete files. You can also browse removable storage. Finally, the app adds an extension to the Open With and Save menu items.
Download: OI File Manager (Free)
9. Game: Memo
Memo takes a leaf out of the once-popular brain training games.
The premise is simple — you need to find identical cards by turning them over in pairs. It’s a test of patience and memory. You can even use your own images rather than the typical four suits. The game offers three difficulty levels: a 4×4 board, a 6×6 board, and an 8×8 board.
So, what makes the app unique? Well, it doesn’t require any permissions. Zero. The developer ran a comparison with other similar games in the Google Play Store. In the top 10 apps, the average number of permissions required was 3.9 per app.
Download: Memo (Free)
Which Privacy-Friendly Apps Do You Use?
In this article, we’ve introduced you to nine awesome privacy friendly apps. The apps we’ve discussed cover some of the most popular categories.
Which privacy-friendly apps do you use on a regular basis? And which apps do you avoid? As always, you can leave your tips and suggestions in the comments section below.