When I migrated from my Samsung S5 to an S9 smartphone last year I also made the significant step to run LineageOS without any Google Apps or frameworks on top. This has improved my privacy even further as the device does not talk to Google at all anymore now (*). The only major downside is that without the Google Play app, access to the standard app store is not possible per default. But there’s a fix for this!
You might argue that all that is needed and that should be installed anyway is available in the Fdroid store as everything from there is open source and they even compile everything themselves. And while I fully agree with that there is one app or two that I have to make an exception for. In my particular case that is the app of ‘Deutsche Bahn’ for local and national train connections, ticket sales and check-in.
There are several ways to install apps from the official Play store without the app such as for example downloading the app to the PC and from there to the device. However, the simplest method I have found so far is the YALP app in the Fdroid store. Yalp, which is ‘Play’ spelled backwards by the way, can access, download and install apps from Google’s Play store directly on the device. In other words its a direct replacement for the Play store app. By default it uses an anonymous ID to connect to the store which I like a lot because it helps privacy. This doesn’t work for apps one has paid for, however. For this case, however, its also possible to use the account credentials that have previously been used to pay for the app.
Not all apps from the Play store will run on a plain Android setup without any Google frameworks installed. The ‘Bahn’ app will complain that it can’t access Google maps, for example. Luckily, there’s a setting in the app to disable this particular feature which makes me think that whoever wrote this app made it ‘non-Google’ friendly. Thank you very much!
(*) This is only 99.9% true. In practice the device sends a plain unencrypted http ‘ping’ to a Google server whenever connecting to Wifi to see if Internet connectivity is present. The http request is plain text however and contains no identifying information.