Nicholas A. Danes, PhD
My de-Googling journey - Part 3
This 3rd part of my de-Googling journey was never meant to be written, but it’s been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs since part 2 written back in February 2021. In summary, there was a period of time in the past year that I went back to many Google services. Including, but not limited to:
- Google Photos
- Google Drive
- Google Docs/Sheets
- Google Keep
- Google Maps
This post will update where I’m at with my relationship with Google and the services I’ve replaced them with. Additionally, I will discuss what I’m still using.
Google Products/Services I’ve Left
Smart Phone: Android to iOS
Back in April 2021, I switched from a Galaxy S10e to a iPhone SE 2022; my reasons for this were outlined in this blog post. In summary, I found that the tradeoffs for iOS over Android were worth it. iOS, of course, is far from perfect, but as a US citizen, I rather have some sort of private communication via iMessage rather than resorting to SMS/MMS (which is still so dominant in the US).
Since then, around December 2021, I ended up upgrading to iPhone 13, due to the poor battery life and camera performance of the iPhone SE 2020; I was able to sell the SE 2020 for about half of what I paid used on eBay. It has been a great phone for everyday use, albeit a bit bigger than I would prefer.
Photos: From Google to Apple
Even after switching to iPhone, I went back to Google Photos on and off for a while up until recently. The photo organization and search is really hard to beat with Google Photos, but Apple Photos is slowly catching up, while also doing all this machine learning organization on-device. Additionally, iCloud photos allows me to keep a local backup of my photos both on my Windows and Mac devices, and thereby allowing me to create more backups to other drives and to a cloud service like Backblaze B2.
I eventually would like to try something like a local Nextcloud or Seafile server with a Photo Prism server in the future, but I’m not mentally ready to manage that quite yet.
Cloud Drive: From Google to Apple
I wrote a few months back on how to use Cryptomator with iCloud drive. Since that post, I jumped to Google Drive briefly as my main cloud service, before switching back to iCloud with Cryptomator. Not much else to say here, other than iCloud works “fine” on all my devices. Of course, I don’t consider it a backup and use Time Machine and Backblaze B2 for redundant backups.
Documents/Spreadsheets: From Google to Apple
Google Sheets is a web application that I really enjoy using due to its extremely streamlined mobile application. I use a spreadsheet to manage my daily budget, which involves editing it on my phone when I’m out and about. I did try applications like Collabora Office, the user experience on mobile is quite bad.
For now, I am using the freely included Apple office applications Numbers and Pages, respectively. They work fine for my limited use cases.
Google Keep: From Google to Simplenote
I’ve tried many note taking applications, but my needs are quite minimal. I just want something that can support markdown. I tried applications such as Bear and Standard Notes, but both of these services have a fee to use cloud syncing services. I also tried Joplin Notes, but their electron apps are quite bloated.
I eventually landed on Simplenote, which is owned by the same folks who own Wordpress.com and Pocket Casts; I’m actually writing this blog post on Simplenote! It’s a simple markdown note taking app that supports some basic syncing across devices. You can also export notes to markdown for backups, which is a nice touch too. I’ll probably keep using this for now.
Gmail: Still using Fastmail!
Not much has changed on my email workflow, as I’m still in a long term subscription with Fastmail. My subscription ends in November 2023 and I’ll likely be migrating to the free email inbox provided my domain provider Gandi.net to save on subscription fees.
Chrome: Firefox + Safari
The browser situation is still a mess, but for now I’m switching between Firefox and Safari depending on the device or website. Not really much else to say here, but things are grim currently with the browser market :(.
Google Services/Products I’m still using
YouTube and YouTube Music
Unfortunately, YouTube is inescapable for me, as there are so many creators I enjoy watching that are YouTube only. With iOS apps, there isn’t much workarounds for adblocking, so I’m paying for YouTube premium. I absolutely hate ads on YouTube and Premium also removes them on TV streaming apps. Additionally, a proportion of my subscription fee pays the creators I watch which I appreciate.
Since I’m paying for YouTube premium, I also use YouTube Music for music streaming, since it is included. YouTube Music isn’t exactly a great user experience, but at least I am able to upload my Bandcamp library without an extra fee.
For a while, I was trying to use Fastmail for my calendar needs, but unfortunately I have so many shared calendars on Google Calendar this was hard to avoid. I still use Fastmail to manage my calendars, which provides a way to manage Google calendars within their web interface.
Even with Apple Maps and OpenStreetMaps (OSM) available on iOS, nothing beats Google Maps for navigation. Apple Maps has taken me on non-optimal routes that has costed me time far too many times to trust it. OSM is something I still need to revisit, as contributing to the maps is the only way it will get better.
Google Smart Home Devices (Nest Hub Max, Chromecasts)
In our home, we have a Nest Hub Max in our kitchen, which has been great to stream music, listen to podcasts, watch Youtube and pull up recipes while in the kitchen. There’s not really a good alternative to this in any other Smart Home ecosystem and this is a compromise we make by keeping it in the kitchen.
I also have some chromecasts plugged into our TVs as it provides a convenient way to cast YouTube videos from my mobile devices by turning on the TV’s using HDMI-CEC. Protocols like AirPlay haven’t been nearly as reliable in my experience, so I will likely keep using these.
De-googling is an ongoing journey, and my hope with this post is that it’s okay to mess up/flounder during your own privacy journeys. Additionally, I think it’s okay to make a compromise, especially if your life is busy and/or others are involved with your decisions.
How is your own de-Googling journey going? Feel free to reach out if you’d like any suggestions from me!