Switching to LineageOS with microG

One of the things I wanted to do when switching to more privacy-respecting providers was getting rid of Google Services on my phone. According to multiple articles, your Android phone gathers a lot of data and sends it to Google. It is true that my daily routine isn't a big secret, and any friend who asked me could probably get my location, but giving it away without my (explicit) consent is a completely different thing.

First attempt

I first installed LineageOS on my phone in January 2019. I tried installing it with Google Apps, but I then realized I was back with Google, so I decided to go with microG (a free/libre re-implementation of Google’s proprietary Android user space apps and libraries). But for some reason—unknown to me back then—, microG didn't work. As a result, the apps that required those libraries didn't work either. Apps that I wasn't willing to stop using, so I switched back to Android's stock ROM1.

Finding the problem

For some time I used Android's stock ROM, when, by chance, I read the following:

MicroG requires a patch called "signature spoofing", which allows the microG's apps to spoof themselves as Google Apps. LineageOS' developers refused (multiple times) to include the patch, forcing us to fork their project.

LineageOS' developers had their reasons to refuse to do it. Luckily, the microG project has found a solution: they forked the project to add the signature spoofing patch. This way, you can get LineageOS with microG without having to worry about the patching part. They also added the "F-Droid Privileged Extension":

[F-Droid Privileged Extension] allows F-Droid to install and update apps without the need of user interaction or the unsafe "Unknown sources" option.

You can find more information about the fork at https://lineage.microg.org/.

Second attempt

So I tried installing microG's fork. The installation process is the same, so it was very easy, as I already had all the required software installed on my computer and had already done all the steps multiple times before.

This time everything turned out fine and microG libraries worked fine. I installed the apps I needed from [F-Droid][fd] and those that weren't there, I got from the Aurora Store, an app that allows the user to download apps from the Google Play Store without actually having it installed.

Performance

I had my doubts on whether the apps that require Google's libraries would function, but most of them did (and perfectly fine!), even the ones using Google Maps—which are now using MapBox—or the ones using location services. There was one app that didn't work, a game. I am not sure which was the problem, but I wasn't playing the game much anyway, so I just deleted the app.

Most of the time I don't even notice that my OS doesn't have any Google proprietary code, as it behaves (nearly) the same as if it did. If you are thinking of moving to LineageOS, check out the fork, microG works very well!

Final comments

There is one alternative to microG's fork (besides LineageOS itself) that is also an "unGoogled" version of Android, /e/. Their product looks interesting, however, I didn't need the extra features they add on top of LineageOS so I went with the simpler option. If you are thinking about installing /e/, you might be interested in what the ewwlo website claims about the project.


  1. It wasn't actually that quick. I tried to reinstall LineageOS with Gapps once again, but, for some reason, it wouldn't work and the phone stopped working (it was stuck on the boot screen, I left it for hours). I finally got help from an acquaintance (we had to go into Emergency Download Mode using the test point) and I was finally able to go back to Android's stock ROM.