Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

De-Google-ifying, part II

Google servicesLast year, in the fallout following Google’s announcement that it was killing off Reader, I decided to make an effort to reduce my dependency on Google services. The thinking behind it was essentially ‘if Google can kill off Reader, what else will they get rid of?’

Whilst I did delete all of the Google apps off my phone, barring YouTube, within a few weeks they were all back and I was basically back to where I was originally – reliant on many of the services Google offers for free.

But recently I have managed to cut back on my Google dependency.

Contacts – iCloud

I used to use Google Contacts to keep my address book in sync between my various devices – iPhone, Mac, and Windows desktop at work. Originally I used Thunderbird at work which had a couple of  unofficial extensions that synchronised the address book with Google, and my Mac and iPhone both natively supported contact sync.

And then we moved to Office 365, at which point Thunderbird just wasn’t up to the job. So I now use Outlook 2010 like everyone else, and there’s no easy way of linking Google Contacts. iCloud, on the other hand, works fine with Outlook and my Apple devices (obviously) so I successfully migrated a few months ago.

Mobile web browser – Safari

In April last year, when iOS 6 was the latest and greatest, Google Chrome was significantly better than Safari, in my opinion. However the improvements to Safari in iOS 7 and 8 have made them broadly equal in my view and so I’ve removed Google Chrome from my iPhone and iPad. Having just one web browser makes things a little easier to work with and third-party web browsers have always been second-class citizens on iOS. Plus, 1Password integrates with Safari through an app extension, which saves me having to open, close, copy and paste to retrieve passwords.

Two-factor authentication – Authy

Google Authenticator is probably the most well-known app for managing two-factor authentication codes, and indeed it was about the only one available for a long time. Now, there’s Authy, which has a few key advantages. Firstly it’s a universal app that can be installed on both iPhones and iPads, and secondly these can be kept in sync. So if I have my iPad to hand, I can use Authy on that to enter codes on my phone, rather than having to switch between apps. There are also a couple of web sites – namely Humble Bundle and Coinbase – which require Authy rather than Google Authenticator, and Authy can do everything that Google’s app can do anyway. So rather than have both, I’ve moved everything into Authy.

As for everything else, I’m still mostly using Google services. I don’t yet trust Apple Maps enough to use instead of Google Maps, even though it has improved since launch. My calendar is still in Google Calendar despite its woeful support in Outlook, because it allows Christine and I to view each others’ events. The results I get from searching with Google are better than Bing or Yahoo!. So whilst I don’t think I could ever completely give up Google, I’m pleased that I’ve been able to find better solutions elsewhere.

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