There have been plenty of arguments comparing Android and iOS, but what if you want an alternative? There used to be quite the competition when it came to smartphone OSes, but Windows Mobile, Fire OS, and, Blackberry have all gone the way of the Dodo. Most people think that the big two that are left are the only choice, but you don’t have to be stuck with Apple and Google.
There are a few big caveats to using an iOS or Android alternative. You’re not going to have a wide selection of devices to choose from, and they’re frequently not flagship-level phones. You also won’t get the enormous app selection you get from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Support can be spotty as well, depending on what choice you make.
However, it is entirely possible to sever yourself from the Android and iOS ecosystems. We’ll list a few of the best alternatives below.
Best iOS and Android Alternatives
These some of the best alternatives to the two mainstream smartphone OSes that we’ve found. However, there are plenty more out there of varying quality.
If you’re more about getting Google out of your life than Android itself, you can try LineageOS. This OS uses the Android Open Source Project, and users can choose to install it without any Google services. Using open-source alternatives to Google’s apps and installing apps via alternative app stores gives users a similar experience to using a regular install of Android without any interference from the big G.
GrapheneOS is another alternative that’s built on the Android Open Source Project. It emphasizes security and privacy and can be configured to provide an experience very close to regular Android. Additionally, it supports the Google Pixel line, including the 6 and 6 Pro, so you can have an Android flagship phone without all the baggage that comes with Google’s OS.
Purism offers the Librem 5 phone line, which runs PureOS by default. PureOS is an open-source smartphone operating system that is community-built and based on Debian Linux. It uses open-source alternatives for many of the apps available on Android and iOS and claims not to have the trackers and other ethically questionable baggage that comes with mainstream phone operating systems. Interestingly, Purism offers the Librem 5 USA, which is assembled in the USA with components made in the USA. It’s expensive, but it’s also maybe the only smartphone with an entirely ethically sourced construction.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular personal-use Linux distributions. Despite that, most users don’t realize that there’s a phone OS based on it. It’s completely Google-free, and it can even serve as a desktop computer when plugged into a monitor. The biggest drawback to using Ubuntu Touch is that it can only be installed on a very eclectic range of hardware, much of which is outdated compared to the latest Android flagships.
The PinePhone was built as a low-cost alternative smartphone that comes with the Plasma Mobile interface running on top of Manjaro OS. It’s a serviceable, no-frills device that has the advantage of being entirely designed outside of Google or Apple’s sphere of influence. However, both the PinePhone and the OS are in beta, so if you’re looking for reliability, you may want to go with another entry on the list.
While it might seem weird at first, you can completely eliminate Google and iOS by not using a smartphone at all. Before 2010ish, most cellphones in use were dumbphones, and the world worked just fine. Of course, it’s a bit inconvenient not to have all of humanity’s knowledge at your fingertips, but you can adapt. Most major carriers still offer a smattering of basic phones, but unfortunately, you can’t get a sweet older phone like the Motorola Razr or LG Chocolate activated anymore.