Android: Custom Rom – Installing Google Play only (Customize GApps)

Due to license restrictions, Google’s proprietary applications (Play, Talk, YouTube, etc.) don’t come pre-installed with Android custom roms.

That leaves you with two options:

  1. Being happy you got rid of all the bloatware, effectively achieving a “google-free” android.
  2. Google-ify your custom rom by installing the complete “google stack” (GApps) separately.

But what if you prefer the google-free alternative but you purchased apps on Google Play before and want to keep using them?

Or maybe you just realized after hours of searching that a lot of apps cannot be found on other app stores?

You have no choice but to reinstall Google Play. However, using the GApps package as is, results in a bunch of apps and frameworks you don’t need, if you only want to have Play.

So the least thing you can do is to only install the apps/services you really need, avoiding the bloatware mentioned before.

To achieve this, you have to “customize” your GApps package.

This post shows how.

[EDIT 2015-02-08: Paranoid Android offers GApps in different packages sizes (Stock, Full, Mini, Micro, Nano, Pico). Using those might be easier than stripping them yourself. See [GAPPS][4.4.x] OFFICIAL Up-to-Date PA-GOOGLE APPS (All ROM’s) and [GAPPS][5.0.x][BETA] OFFICIAL Up-to-Date PA-GOOGLE APPS (All ROM’s). If those work for you please leave a comment, I’m very interested in any experience.]

[EDIT 2016-05-23: The Open GApps Project now conveniently offers different variants (“aroma” to “pico”) for different android versions (4.4 to 6.0) and different platforms (ARM, x86 and 64 Bits each).  You might want to give “pico” a try and skip the steps stated bellow 🙂 ]

Stripping Gapps

  1. Download the GApps bundle for your Android version
  2. Open the zip file (e.g. with 7-zip)
  3. Go to the system\app\ folder
  4. Delete all apks you don’t want.
    If you want Google Play only, you must keep the following ones:
    GmsCore.apk (Google Play Services)
    GoogleLoginService.apk
    GoogleServicesFramework.apk
    Phonesky.apk (Google Play Store)
    If you don’t keep all four of them, Play is not gonna work properly.
  5. Flash the zip file to your device (as described here, for example).
  6. Reboot
  7. Use Google Play

Further actions

If you’re a bit paranoid, I suggest using LBE Security Master to revoke permissions from Google Services Framework.

If you’re even more paranoid, don’t forget to delete your Google account from your device each type you’re done with Play 🙂

Additional packages worth mentioning

Before stripping GApps, you might consider using another nice feature (introduced with Android 4.1 I think) – offline voice typing. It provides robust voice recognition that doesn’t phone home and works without network connection.

To use it, just leave the VoiceSearchStub.apk within the system\app\ folder of GApps before you flash it.

Update (2013/04/29): This seems to work at first (you can download the offline dictionaries and tab the microphone button) but then the actual voice recognition doesn’t work. Epic Fail!

It’s much more easy to just install the Google Search App via Google Play (once you have got it installed as described above). It includes the option for downloading offline dictionaries and using the voice recognition.

And again, if you’re a bit paranoid, better stop the App from phoning home –  using for example LBE Security Master. 😉

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