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Android is a free operating system mostly developed by Google. Unfortunately, the drivers for most devices and most applications from the "market" are non-free. This page collects information about running an Android system as free as possible and tries to coordinate these efforts.
The Operating System
CyanogenMod is the most popular aftermarket distribution for Android. It runs on many phones and offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors. It also ships without Google applications and gives you more freedom over your device. CyanogenMod is Free Software developed by an active community. It still requires non-free device drivers and firmware which are fetched from a device and are included in the ROM.
In order to install CyanogenMod, your device needs to be rooted, but that is something that you probably want to do anyway. Some manufacturers consider your warranty void when your device is rooted. The Wiki of CyanogenMod contains detailed instructions on how to install it.
After the installation, your phone will be freed from all those pre-installed proprietary applications and there will be no need to connect your phone with a Google account. With the exception of some non-free device drivers, your phone should run only Free Software. (If you know about non-free software added to CyanogenMod, please let us know about it!)
For most people, the Google Android Market is the only or the main source for their applications. It doesn't even tell you whether an app is Free Software or not, let alone its license. Unfortunately, most apps from this or other markets are proprietary. Even if you install a Free Software app, there is no reason to trust the downloaded binary. Using the Google Market also requires a Google account. It is recommended to not use this market at all.
The FDroid initiative was started to change the sad Free Software app situation in the Android world. It builds a repository of easily-installable Free Software for the Android platform. There is an Android client application that makes it easy to browse Free Software applications, install them onto your device, and keep track of updates. When available it includes information about how to donate money to the authors of the app.
The FDroid repository contains details of multiple versions of each application. You can also easily create and add own repositories. But since the initiative is very active, developing in a decentralized fashion and open to collaboration, creating own repositories it not really necessary. Its goal is to include all useful Free Software Android applications and to keep up with their updates.
Adding Apps Yourself
You are encouraged to add applications yourself. There is a long queue of applications that wait to be added. Adding them works similar to FreeBSD ports and gentoo ebuilds by filling a simple recipe file which controls how a package is build from source. If you like to add apps yourself, you should read about how FDroid works with git and how to write these so called metadata files.
Synchronizing Your Data
When you run only Free Software and when you do not rely on non-free network services like the ones Google offers, you lose the convenience of synchronizing your contacts, your calender and other data with your other devices. Fortunately, there is plenty of Free Software that does this job as well:
Freeing Non-Free Apps
Unfortunately, there are still some applications that do not have a free alternative. Just using the desired proprietary app doesn't make you feel the deficit and it doesn't motivate you to change the status quo. So even if you don't know how to program, you can contact the authors of crucial apps and ask them politely for their reasons of not publishing their application as Free Software. Many apps are available without payments, so money is not always the dominating reason. Sometimes one email can make a difference and there have already been successful attempts: Chess Walk for example is now liberated.
Apps That Need To Be Liberated
Please add apps here that have no free counterpart, but are important to have on a free system. People can contact the authors of those apps and ask them why they are not Free Software.
- [please add your candidates here]
Common Reasons Why Apps Stay Non-Free
Only when we understand the motivation of programmers who keep their apps proprietary, we know what needs to be changed in order to change their minds and to convince them of liberating their own app.
- [need to be found by asking people, please add here]