If I could get it my way, I’d probably put LineageOS or another proprietary Google and hardware manufacturer free Android version on my tablet. While this is possible with some tablets, I would however loose the pen and handwriting input which is an absolute must to use the tablet not only for media consumption but also for work. So I made the best out of the situation and here’s a short overview of my setup:
I can get most applications I need from the F-droid app store. However, there is currently no open-source PDF annotation program and Collabora’s Libreoffice for Android is also not to be found there. So I installed the Aurora Store app from F-droid that gives me access to Google’s Play store without a Google account and without entering Google account credentials into Android. It doesn’t stop Google’s privacy invading data collection completely, but at least they can’t outright tie it to a particular account.
Via the Aurora Store I then installed the Xodo PDF reader / annotation app that was recommended to me for this purpose from different people. There’s no paid version available but there is also no advertisement in the free app and there seem to be no trackers inside. I had a look at the Canadian company behind it and it seems that their business model is selling services around online PDF processing. So the PDF annotation part is covered.
For handwriting notes I use Samsung’s ‘Notes’ app that came with the tablet. It works nicely and while it asks if I want to use Samsung’s cloud store it doesn’t ask twice. Fine! Which brings me to the important point how to get files to and from the device. For this purpose I use the Nextcloud app that synchronizes with my own Nextcloud folder. As the tablet is not entirely trusted, I created a separate account with a folder that I do share with my main account. Files I want to work with on the go are put into the the shared folder and are synchronized to the device. This works well in both directions and Xodo and Samsung’s notetaking app have no problems using files there.
And for Office-like applications I use Collabora’s Libreoffice implementation for Android. They have come a long way since last year and even commenting and marking changes now work nicely. Except for the user shown for changes and comments that is called “LocalHost”. Ah well, small things…
And finally, I installed Conversations on the tablet for quickly exchanging links, text and images with the quickly. Like all other data I exchange with the device, no service in the cloud that is not controlled by me is touched.
So while it’s arguably an imperfect setup, giving the tablet only access to a shared folder in my own cloud and not using a Google account makes it trustworthy enough to be usable with most documents and information I would like to work with on a tablet.