Other than Google, one of the reasons why Android flourished so quickly is because it is an open source operating system. It might be possible if the world’s most famous mobile OS were proprietary, you wouldn’t have been reading this post. Because there are things that even the mighty Google failed to establish, just like these products which the search giant shut down in 2016.
Android does include some proprietary components, intended to improve functionality and user experience, but its base is the Linux kernel which puts Android in the category of open source software. The stock Android ROM has been a wellspring of various custom ROMs developed by third parties.
You might have heard about CyanogenMod which later transformed into LineageOS. MIUI developed by Xiaomi, Paranoid Android, Resurrection Remix, etc. are other custom ROMs. People install these custom ROMs on compatible smartphone and tablets after enabling root access on the devices.
Moreover, there are millions of apps and games available for the Android operating system. But a set of open source Android apps would likely complement in the open source nature of the mobile operating system. You can also check out our list of open source apps for Windows.
Best Free And Open Source Apps For Android in 2018
1. Orbot – an Android version of Tor
If you’re a big-time fan of the Tor Browser, then it won’t take much time for you to start liking Orbot. Similar to Tor, it behaves as the anonymity cover for your Android device. Developed by The Tor Project, Orbot first came into existence in 2008.
When you enable the Tor proxy using Orbot, it suggests you to use an app called Orfox – an open source web browser which borrows its source code from Tor Browser. Using any other browser won’t hide you behind Tor’s proxy.
There is an Apps VPN Mode which allows the apps on your device to connect to the web using the Tor network. However, Orbot requires a rooted device to work with full potential.
2. Firefox for Android
Firefox web browser is one of the best open source app for Windows. So, it would have been surprising if Mozilla didn’t make its open source app for Android the best. With the release of Firefox 54, the open source web browser brings multi-process, with up to four content processes, to the masses as an effort to improve performance and responsiveness.
3. Prey – find your lost device
You can use this open source Android app to track your missing device. I have written about Prey project earlier, and it’s available for other leading platforms also. The registered devices can be tracked using a web interface when they get lost.
Among many features offered by Prey, you can track device’s location, erase data, retrieve files, and even take a screenshot of the person remotely. Inevitably, an active internet connection on the lost device would be required to fetch the latest data.
Prey is available in both free and paid versions. Obviously, the free version is limited in some sense, but you can live with it if you want to track one or two devices at a time.
4. Signal – have encrypted conversations
Singal is a great open source Android app which enables end-to-end encryption for instant messages and voice calls. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who sparked global debate over privacy, has promoted the app in the past.
The app was first released in 2014 by Open Whisper Systems, and it’s also available for the iOS devices. The Signal Protocol which is the USP of the app was developed by Open Whisper’s founder Moxie Marlinspike and Trevor Perrin in 2013.
The protocol enables the end-to-end encryption in the Signal app, and it is also used in other popular instant messaging apps including WhatsApp, Messenger, and Google Allo.
5. VLC For Android
Do I need to tell you what is VLC and what is its use? For Windows OS, the open source media player is the default on most computers. On Android, MX Player might have left behind VLC, but still, it’s loved by millions of users.
The Android open source app is free to download, and it can play all the formats that it’s desktop brother does. It even outperforms MX Player when it comes to audio format support. Sadly, MX Player can’t play AC3 audio due to licensing issues.
6. DuckDuckGo – a Google Search alternative
Google might be the best search engine on the planet, but there is a Duck which says it’s better than Google because it doesn’t track people. Well, DuckDuckGo’s argument might compel people to give it a try but replacing Google would be a next to impossible task as their presence in our lives is far greater than Google founders would have imagined.
Anyways, the search engine is available for Android as an open source app, and you can use at times when you don’t want a cookie from Google.
7. Kiwix – get Wikipedia on your Android
It’s hard for someone not to like Wikipedia. The free online encyclopedia offers content in languages most of us don’t even think existed in the world. Wikipedia has its open source app for Android which is developed by the Wikimedia Foundation. But there is another open source app called Kiwix. It’s an effort by Emmanuel Engelhart and Renaud Gaudin to make Wikipedia accessible without the internet.
After launching in 2007, Kiwix initially focused on making Wikipedia articles offline. But in later years it started including content from other platforms maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation.
Although the Wikipedia app can make the articles offline, Kiwix downloads complete Wikipedia at once in a compressed ZIM format, if you want to try the offline experience. The ZIM file can be downloaded from their PC website as well and then copied to the Android device.
Other than Android, the open source app is also available for iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and as a web extension for Chrome and Firefox.
8. SpeedMeter – know how are you moving
One of the features I liked about Nokia’s Here Maps if you can recall it, was it could track my speed while walking, running, or traveling on a bus or train in real time. Even, Google Maps is capable of doing so, but it doesn’t display this kind of information.
If you feel like tracking your speed sometimes, you take the help of this open source Android app called SpeedMeter.
9. Amaze File Manager – open source file explorer
Your quest for an open source file manager app can surely end with Amaze. It has great looks, simplicity, material design, root explorer, other loads of features, and above all, its free.
It uses other apps on the device to open media like images, videos, etc. One thing I didn’t like is one can’t swipe between consecutive images. You have to go back and open the next image instead. The same is the case for video; you can’t open the next video directly.
Anyways, every app has some cons. You can give Amaze File Manager a chance. I have high hopes it won’t disappoint you.
10. AdBlock Browser – stop annoying ads
You might be familiar with the browser extension Adblock Plus. For Android, AdBlock Plus is available in the form of an open source web browser to enable blocking of unwanted advertisements. Because intrusive adverts suck, you know better.
Earlier, Adblock Plus was available as a system-wide app which routed the traffic coming to your device through a local proxy server (set up on your device), where it filtered all the ads before showing the content on the screen. On unrooted devices, Adblock Plus app could only block advertisements over WiFi connections.
Now, the ad-blocker is available in the form of a web browser. So, you don’t have to go through the tedious setup process. However, one thing you should keep in mind is there are websites which rely on ad-revenue and don’t display annoying ads. So, it’s advised to use adblocking software less often.
11. Lightning – a lightweight Android browser
How about a useful open source Android app that takes just 10 megabytes of your phone storage. Developed by New York-based Anthony Restaino, Lightning is an Android browser which comes with built-in support for Orbot proxy and I2P anonymity network. But you’ll have to download the Orbot app.
The addition of a number of privacy-related options might be of interest to the users who want to do away with unnecessary tracking while browsing the web. The only downside associated with Lightning is free version only allows users to open up to 10 tabs. If you want more, you’ll get the paid version which doesn’t cost much.
12. ProtonMail – send end-to-end encrypted emails
Developed by the team of scientists at CERN back in 2013, ProtonMail might not need an introduction. The popular email service quickly became a popular name as it provides an easy end-to-end encryption for emails.
In addition to sending secure emails, ProtonMail’s simple open source Android app allows users to set self-destruction timers, send password-protected emails, etc.
So, these were some great open source Android apps you can try on your device. I’ll try to extend this list in the future.
Do you have any suggestion for our open source Android apps list? Drop your thoughts and feedback.