ProPrivacy is reader supported and sometimes receives a commission when you make purchases using links on this site.

How to Use F-Droid & The Best Apps for F-Droid

By design, Android apps downloaded via the Google Play Store perform a huge amount of tracking. Google is, after all, the world’s largest ad broker and it the surveillance of its users is its entire business model.

In addition to this, large numbers of app developers exploit the many weaknesses in Google’s privacy and security controls to perform their own tracking of users, to install malware or to perform cryptojacking.

For more information on just how bad the Google Play Store and the apps in it are for your privacy and security, check out this excellent article by two fellows at Privacy Lab, an initiative of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.

What is F-Droid?

F-Droid is an alternative app store that only catalogs FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Android apps.  In addition to being open source, all apps submitted to F-Droid go through a much stricter auditing process that the automated system used by Google.

The F-Droid app provides a convenient way to browse, install, and keep track of updates on your device.

The result? No-one claims that any system can be 100% infallible, but with F-Droid you can be as sure as it is possible to get that apps downloaded from it are ad-free and tracker free from both Google and the app developer.

All apps are also free in every sense of the word – they cost no money and their source code is available for anyone to audit or fork as they please.

The main downside, of course, is that that F-Droid catalogs only around 2,600 apps, compared to over 1.43 million on the Google Play Store.

That said, many of the apps that are available are excellent. Check out the end of this article for a sample list.

F-Droid was audited for security in 2015, and any issues discovered then have been fixed. Another public audit is planned in 2018.

How to use the F-Droid app

You can search for and download Android apps in .apk format directly from the F-Droid website.

Doing this, however, misses out on the main advantages of using F-Droid - update notifications and additional security. To take full advantage of F-Droid you should therefore download the F-Droid app (.apk) from the website

As always when downloading FOSS software from the internet, you should check its digital signature to ensure that you are downloading the app as intended by its developers. Apps downloaded by the F-Droid app have been signed by F-Droid and should be safe.

The F-Droid app

The app’s aesthetic tends towards the functional, but it is easy to navigate and use.

F-Droid App

As with the Google Play Store, you can browse apps by category.

F-Droid App Categories

In addition to securely signed downloads, a big advantage of using the F-Droid app is secure update notifications.

F-Droid App store

Updates can be auto-downloaded and/or you can opt to receive notifications when they are available.

 F-Droid App

F-Droid Repositories

In addition to the main F-Droid repository, you can add a number of external repos to the F-Droid app. The Guardian Project repo, in particular, is recommended but is now included with the app.

Best F-Droid Apps

Fennec F-Droid - the latest version of Firefox stripped of any proprietary bits found in official Mozilla's builds.

ownCloud - self-hosted cloud storage.

NewPipe - a front-end for YouTube that does not require you to sign in to Google and bypasses regional restrictions.

OpenVPN for Android – can connect to any OpenVPN services using regular OpenVPN certificates.

Face Slim – unofficial Facebook app without the tracking and other invasive features found in the official app. Includes full Messages functionality, so no need for Facebook Messenger or the rather clumsy hack of running the Facebook website in desktop mode on your phone’s browser.

K-9 Mail - fully featured email client.

For further great F-Droid app suggestions see here and here.

F-Droid Review Conclusion

F-Droid is a fantastic alternative to Google Play store for open source malware-free apps that that won’t track you. What is not to like?

Image credit: By mindscanner/Shutterstock.

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.


on November 20, 2019
I was looking into eBook readers and the one by F-droid (called Book Reader) required ridiculous amount of permissions including my device ID and phone number. I don't see any justification for such software other than extremely intrusive and detailed data mining. FFS it's just a text reader! Permissions have full network access Allows the app to create network sockets and use custom network protocols. The browser and other applications provide means to send data to the internet, so this permission is not required to send data to the internet. view network connections Allows the app to view information about network connections such as which networks exist and are connected. read the contents of your shared storage Allows the app to read the contents of your shared storage. modify or delete the contents of your shared storage Allows the app to write the contents of your shared storage. read phone status and identity Allows the app to access the phone features of the device. This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.
DegenerateBeast replied to Lenore
on September 9, 2022
@Lenore "The one by F-Droid..." First, F-Droid aren't the devs behind whatever reader app you found there. Similar to G Play, they're the "store" for the apps. So, you'd simply choose another app with permissions that are suitable for you offered in the F-Droid store/*REPO*. On that note, be sure to check out the *known/trusted*, additional repos such as Bromite's, Newpipe's, IzzyonDroid's, etc. This is a simple way to improve your F-Droid *client* with more "stores" and thus, more apps. Of note: F-Droid's way of doing things present some security issues. The author here REALLY should have at least touched on the delayed release cycles and apk signing shenanigans. Droidify is a wrapper of sorts (an alt to using F-Droid's *client*) that improves things a bit while offering a better UX, to boot. But fundamentally, F-Droid devs/brass need to do much better. I'll leave it at that. Of course, like everything else in this realm, it's way more complicated than my simplified explanation here. But to anybody who happens to read this, hopefully my simple words can at least get you started.

Write Your Own Comment

Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

  Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

We recommend you check out one of these alternatives: