F-Droid is more than just an alternative to the Play Store. It is one of the only real places to discover open-source apps, which promote mutual benefit through inclusive licensing. They would have been otherwise undiscovered, whether because they are obscured by freemium shitware on the Play Store or just neglected on a website no one goes to. However, it has more potential than even that. Many of its apps function very well, where you could use them day-to-day without much issue. These apps, especially, are highly underappreciated just because of the lack of freedom on mobile. So, I'll be sharing with you some of the apps on F-Droid that I found pretty neat and I feel that you will as well.
This is another multiplatform emulator, similar to Retroarch, which is highly-acclaimed for being both free and open-source. In fact, this is based off of Retroarch, being a fork of its mobile version. However, what separates it from Retroarch is the quality-of-life improvements that make Lemuroid worth using.
First off, it has all of the emulation cores set up for you. There's no fiddling with the menus, trying to even just download the list of cores (that you still have to download afterwards). All of the emulators are set up for you, provided you have the game ROMs for each of them. Basically, it's just like any other plug-and-play single-platform emulator you've used in the Play Store, but with the flexibility of Retroarch. Second, it has accomplished one quite important, yet neglected aspect of mobile emulation: usable touch controls. You're not really fighting with the D-Pad to get the character to move. You don't even have to adjust the controls all that much in order to play well. The touch controls just work, where I could almost play how I would with a normal controller. Maybe you don't have to buy a bluetooth controller after all if you have a hard time saving up for one.
Altogether, Lemuroid is a promising alternative to even Retroarch, which was already better than other emulators that you have to pay or watch ads for.
As bad as Youtube can be, it's actually one of the best social networks amongst mainstream tech platforms. There's so many people making high-quality animations, documentaries, and otherwise valuable creative works, which cannot be said for other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or even Tiktok (a platform that also, though exclusively, plays short videos). It's just that the platform itself is awful, with its user interface (even the search bar) being driven entirely by algorithms, which are only incentivized to promote what gets you staying on the platform (Regardless of quality, and it maybe even disincentivizes quality works, since they often take longer to make than low-value, forgettable shit). So, moving to a third-party platform, which preserves access to all of the creative works you want to see, while changing the user interface to cater to what the user actually wants, is something that's more than worth considering. This is where Newpipe, which does exactly that, comes in.
It is one of the best ways to watch Youtube videos. First, it lacks an algorithm as a way to discover videos. So, you're left alone to watch what you actually want to see. You could just search what you're interested in, or see what people you followed, and thus actually care about, have uploaded. Plus, there's no real incentive for you to see low-value works anymore. You might be initially bothered without some background noise to shut up your brain, but eventually, you would find yourself pleased that you're going out and discovering for yourself what you actually want, or even accomplishing something meaningful and producing high-quality works yourself.
Second, it adds back features you actually want on a video platform. Background playback, for example, is completely usable, enabling you to just listen to music. There's no needing a subscription, which directly funds one of the world's most notorious monopolies, or a separate music streaming service, which forces ads (aka mind viruses) between what you want to listen to, You just listen by pressing the Headphone icon on a video's page or a playlist's menu. There's also video downloads, which sadly are almost never an option in the internet. It not only allows you to watch videos offline, so you don't waste data, you can truly keep a video, making it last even after the channel behind it dies or after Youtube or even the internet itself collapses. Really, it's one of the only options for preserving important media in the internet age.
Finally, it's not to mention other small, but useful features, like grouping subscriptions, blocking ads and trackers, keeping small video thumbnails for a more navigable homepage, and such, which also improve the user experience of Newpipe.
Ultimately, Newpipe is an app that truly values its users and the creative works they want to watch.
One of the most important things a phone needs is a web browser. There's just too many things that you need on the internet, which browsers access, and that apps just cannot. There's sites like blogs and other personal websites, whose authors just lack the resources to make an app, since a webpage (which just needs the fairly easy HTML and CSS languages and cheap hosting to join the open web) is just objectively easier to make than an app (which requires a learning a *proper* programming language, not to mention having to promote it on the rigged and hypercompetitive Play Store). There's also online resources like Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster, and Terms of Service; Didn't Read, where it's just impractical to waste space on your phone, especially when you just don't go to these sites too often and that there's no performance benefit with an app vs. a website. Lastly, some sites worth using just ... don't have apps that are available to use, so you have to use the web browser anyways. However, many web browsers, especially the most popular ones, are only available on the Play Store, and if you're trying to avoid it or have a phone that cannot use it (Ex: Phones with privacy-respecting versions of Android), then you just have to help Google anyways. Still, there's quite a number of web browsers to download outside of the Play Store. Fennec Browser is one of them, and it's one of the best, in fact.
First off, it's not only a fork of Firefox, but it's almost effectively Firefox, with the major difference being just with the name. So, everything that's already good with Firefox also applies to this browser. You can access the same great extensions, like UBlock Origin and Privacy Badger, as in Firefox, and you have the same great user interface, which has custom shortcuts for your favorite websites, a bottom toolbar for convenient one-handed use on smartphones, and such. Essentially, people who already love Firefox will feel at home with this browser.
Still, there's some minor changes in that browser that improve the already great Firefox interface. It cuts out useless crap that no one uses, like the Pocket service, Sponsored shortcuts, Google as the default search option, and otherwise privacy-invasive options when first installing Fennec. In addition, it adds in user-friendly changes, like a set of privacy-respecting search engines to make the default and default shortcuts to some admirable digital freedom organizations (Ex: F-Droid and the EFF). Overall, this cuts out the work that people have to do in order to increase their online privacy.
Ultimately, even without most other companies offering their browsers outside of the Play Store, finding alternatives to them and that are just as usable is incredibly easy, as Fennec Browser has demonstrated.
Ironically, trying to find decent music players is kind of hard on the Play Store. It's supposed to be an easy thing, since these apps are only designed to play music, but apparently, not a lot of them do that job well. Most of the apps there don't feel trustworthy. Maybe they have a security backdoor, or maybe they don't. Google cannot be trusted with making sure people feel safe with the apps they download anyways (Remember reading the numerous articles where many popular apps are actually malicious trojanware?). It doesn't help that most of these apps are also ugly (Like, how can so many of these devs be so bad at designing an app?). Plus, most music players aren't actually included in modern phones (My Note 10 didn't have one when it first arrived), so you're left looking for one that may be suboptimal.
However, there's one music player that I can rely on: Auxio.
It does what it's expected to do: play music. That's it. There's no features that you have to fiddle with, nor any glitches you have to get past. You can just play music with this app and go along your day.
Not only that, it's also a well-designed app. Yeah, it's a basic user interface with the expected rounded elements of a Google app, plus the simple sans-serif fonts seen in any other phone. However, these elements, though basic, make the app look pleasing to the eye. Honestly, this app feels quite professional, actually.
Generally, this app just does what it needs to do, and it does it quite well, which is to just play music.
To wrap up things, there's a lot of F-Droid apps worth using. They can iterate on already great projects. Lemuroid brings ease-of-use to the free-and-open-source Retroarch, and Fennec improves privacy on a browser already famous for advocating for it. They can also serve basic functions well. Auxio is a simple and neat music player, which just works. They can even improve on what would've been malicious and often unusable services. Unlike Youtube, Newpipe gives its users a feature-rich and online-freedom-respecting user interface.
So, I hope you understand why you should try these apps. They have provided useful services highly effectively, even without the resources that developers for Play Store apps have. So, I hope you can use them and find them helpful.