App Lounge - know all about it

App Lounge is the second iteration of the application store embedded within /e/OS. It allows everyone to access millions of applications directly from their phone home screen.

It combines common Android apps, open source apps and even progressive web apps in one single repository. It is the only app store that does this today. Like with its predecessor, Apps, you don’t need to sign in to an account to download apps.

What are we talking about?

When we speak about applications, we can refer to 2 types of apps: native applications that can be either “commercial applications” or open source applications, and progressive web apps (PWA).

Commercial applications are the usual free or paid Android apps you can find in the Google Play store or alternative app stores like Aptoide or UpToDown. These applications cover your most common needs like banking, travel, productivity, etc…. Free native apps often include advertising. Both free and paid apps often come with embedded trackers to profile you and follow you around.

Open source apps are Android applications that are released with an open source license . You can find open source apps in an alternative store like F-droid.

Finally, progressive web app or PWA is a type of application delivered through the web. It is intended to work on any platform that uses a standards-compliant browser, including both desktop and mobile devices. It is free from proprietary software from Google or Apple as these apps aren’t native apps. Unlike a native application that will need to be downloaded on your phone, a PWA works with a shortcut, similar to a web bookmark that you can store on your home screen, and they run seamlessly on /e/OS.

How does it work?

App Lounge, formerly called Apps, now provides these apps, native android apps and web apps into a single service. There is no need any longer to install several app stores if you want to install commercial applications, Open Source apps or Progressive Web Apps (PWA) on your phone.

With this evolution, you can now access millions of apps from different catalogues in one single store. Just open App Lounge and get ready to browse for your favorite apps.

These three types of apps are installed from different sources.

  1. Commercial applications: It’s the main improvement in App Lounge. It now gets commercial applications directly from the Google Play Store, relying on the Google Play API. You can install different types of commercial apps from this source. All applications are now available within App Lounge: no more “this app is missing” request! You can also, from now, install purchased applications, under certain conditions (check below). The app list is shown depending on device architecture/hardware configuration and selected locale from the device. So, users will be able to install the apps that are supported by their devices and preferred locale of the user.
  2. Open Source applications: We continue to offer these applications within our store. The Open Source applications, coming from F-Droid, are currently delivered using the CleanAPK API. When it detects an application is available on both Google Play Store and F-Droid (based on the package name), we promote the Open Source version.
  3. Progressive Web Apps (PWA): In addition to usual Android apps, we also offer to users the possibility to install PWAs in /e/OS, like any other application. We want to promote this new way to deliver applications, which reduces the dependency regarding the operating system it runs on. PWA are delivered through the CleanAPK API. Users will receive updates for all their applications. They will be notified when there are new updates available, and they will be downloaded and installed automatically in background.

Native Apps from the Google Play Store catalog without a Google account

It may seem counterintuitive for a deGoogled operating system to offer downloading apps from the Play store.

Well not really. The Play store is the widest catalog available. Distributing apps from the Play store ensures that applications are coming directly from the source and that they haven’t been tampered with.

As we want to offer users a way to access apps without tracking, we have an option to sign in to App Lounge Anonymously. With this option, we are able to offer access to commercial applications without requiring a personal Google account: it means no tracking! This option gives only access to the free catalog.

In case a user had purchased paid apps in a previous life with a Google Android phone, we also provide him/her the option to sign in with a Google Account. Please note: In order to purchase a paid app, users will need to use a Google account linked to another device that has Google Play installed.

Be informed regarding privacy

We kept one of the key feature from Apps: the Privacy Score.

In a blink of an eye, we decipher the app code for you: you can see which and how many trackers are in the app. It also documents the number of permissions the app requires to operate. With an easy-to-read scoring, you can see which apps are safe and which ones should be avoided.

Available on the search result and app detail pages, it still relies on Exodus Privacy data.

The Privacy Score is computed based on trackers and users permissions used for the app. The Privacy Score is a sum of Tracker score and Permission score.

Privacy Score = Trackers score + Permissions score

If the number of Tracker is higher than 5, then score for trackers is 0. Otherwise, the score for trackers will be the value of (9 – Number of trackers).

  • if number of trackers > 5 : 0
  • if number of trackers < 5 : 9 - number of trackers

If the number of permissions is more than 9, then the score for permissions is 0. Otherwise, the score for permissions will be the rounded value of an equation given below.

  • if number of permissions > 9 : 0
  • if number of permissions < 9 : 0.2 x ( (10 – number of permissions) / 2 )

The source code link of the Privacy Score calculation will be found at https://gitlab.e.foundation/e/os/apps/-/blob/main/app/src/main/java/foundation/e/apps/PrivacyInfoViewModel.kt

All the features users can expect from an application store

App Lounge provides all of them:

  • Automatic update
  • Homepage with recommendations,
  • Search feature to find the app you are looking for,
  • App detail page with all the information regarding the app, including some privacy related ones.

What’s next?

App Lounge is already bringing great improvements in /e/OS, but we don’t want to stop there. We plan to keep improving the service and make it more efficient and useful.

We thought you could be interested in some upcoming features:

Fetching Open Source applications from F-Droid (and get rid of CleanAPK)

With the same idea we had for commercial application, we are working on fetching Open Source applications directly “from the source”. One of the challenges will be to handle alternative F-Droid repositories, that are sometimes more up-to-date than the official one.

Delivering /e/OS default application updates

Delivering /e/OS default application updates via App Lounge would allow users to receive updates as soon as they are ready, without waiting for the next OS update.

No-Google mode

We are working on an App Lounge optional mode which would allow users to fetch only Open Source applications and PWAs. This would reduce the catalog size, but would give some peace of mind to people concerned by any network connections made to Google servers, even anonymized ones.

Improved Privacy Score

The current Privacy Score computation shows some limitations. We are looking into ways to improve its accuracy regarding the privacy compliance of an application.

Why can the size displayed in App Lounge and the one displayed in GPlay be different?

App size varies based on CPU architecture/Hardware configuration or Locale/Region and Google play has more dynamic feature as well. The Google Play Store API does not provide access to this data. That is why the app size displayed in App Lounge and the one display in Google Play can sometimes appear different.

Many thanks!

All those features would have been much more complicated to deliver without the wonderful Open Source community! We would like to give a special thanks to:

  • The Aurora OSS project behind the well known Aurora Store. App Lounge is using their GPlay API library
  • The Exodus Privacy project, for their continued efforts to provide data related to app trackers
  • The /e/OS community, which helped us a lot and provided valuable feedback during the development of App Lounge

Regain your privacy! Adopt /e/ the unGoogled mobile OS and online servicesphone

23 Likes

I find it really cool that you flag and promote FOSS, but in certain cases it makes sense to install the GPlay Store version, if possible. To name a few:

  • Element (Matrix client) needs to be from GPlay Store to have proper notifications support
  • FairEmail needs to be from GPlay Store to have full GMail support

It would be great to have the option to choose.

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Can the developers clarify what Google can potentially collect from an App Lounge user who accesses it anonymously, without a Google account?
Thanks.

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Great series. This article again is clearly structured and informative. This should proactively answer some upcoming questions.

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I tried to use AppLounge to buy a paid app (Collins Bird Guide). Of course first logged in to my old Google Account. When clicking on the price tag, it says: “Purchase … When clicked confirm, it will take you to Google Play page for the app to complete the purchase using your browser.”
Indeed, now I see that app in a a browser screen (kind of, don’t know if this is really my browser).
I click on Buy again. Message: please sign in. Have to log in to my Google account again. Then I get the message: “This Google Account is not yet associated with a device. Please access the Play Store App on your device before installing apps.”

By the way, I checked my Google account and it does know that I am signed in to my GS290.

So stuck here.
Does anyone have an advice?
Is this a bug or a feature of App Lounge?
Thanks!

There is another document in the works explaining this point. Should be out in a weeks time.

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What does “full GMail support” mean? I access my GMail on at least a couple of devices with the F-Droid installed FairEmail (with Pro features paid a long time ago, directly). Honestly curious if there’s some extra functionality I’m unaware of with regards to GMail.

I’m not sure about Element but I know its fork, Schildichat, can use UnifiedPush (UP). There’s an app out there called UP-FCM which uses UP through Google’s GCM/FCM. Maybe, just maybe, the non-GPlay Element can use that for push notifications. :grey_question::grey_question:

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At some point FairEmail’s Pro features stopped working for me and from the F-Droid version I couldn’t re-enable them, so I contacted the dev and he told me I need to install the GitHub version and that then the Play versions would then work and update fine on top of the GitHub version. Great to hear the F-Droid version works (now).

AFAICR the thing with Element was that there was a more and (much?) less resource friendly way of push notifications. This might have been fixed since, it’s been a while since I read about it. I knew there used to be two different versions though.

Sorry @marcdw, forgot to answer this one:

What does “full GMail support” mean?

In my case I need to use 2FA for my work GMail, and that is a Pro feature in FairEmail, which is why I think (but can be wrong) I needed to get the GitHub version and why the Play might be different from the F-Droid one.

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I’m thinking neither. Have you ever had Google on your device? OEM stock with Google or custom ROM with GApps? If not then Google won’t have an association. Sure you can log into Google from any device (where they send emails usually asking to setup said device) but I think they don’t connect a device to your account without actual Play Services. Probably to get the actual device ID or something.

EDIT: Or even a microG setup using patched Play Store. The key may be whether or not Play Store has ever been used on a particular device.

My Teracube was purchased from Teracube so it initially had a stock ROM with Google on it. It is associated with my Google account.

The screenshots below show a successful purchase initiated through App Lounge. My Teracube is the “unknown” device.
The random, cheap, item I selected, sadly, doesn’t work because it does license / In-App Purchase checking but that’s okay. Just wanted to see if the purchase would work.

20220706_052730_1

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@hook That’s good to know about FairEmail.
There have been times when I have lost the Pro features. They could be re-enabled from the activation email but after time that email becomes hard to find.

Now I make sure to do backups. While testing ROMs, restoring FairEmail’s data also retains the Pro features.

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Hi all,
have successfully updated to /e/1.1 on my ancient oneplus 2. Have a working app lounge. I am keen to use chromecast for streaming and currently use an old phone with a busted screen for that. But… What are the privacy implications? I installed google home (a requirement to chromecast) anonymously, but then it wants a google account to do anything. If I give it that will my phone resume sending 10MB of data / day to google letting them know who I called, who texted, and where I went? Or will it just tell them what I watch, which I might find an acceptable tradeoff, for the convenience of casting.

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Last I remember Chromecast has never quite worked or worked fully with microG. There are other ways to cast though I’ve never tried any.

Here is a couple (of many) discussions regarding that.

Chromecast with microg - r/MicroG

Chromecast · Issue #1565 · microg/GmsCore · GitHub

Thanks @marcdw.
No, the GS290 has never had PlayStore on it and Google does not list it.

As said, when I log into AppLounge with my Google account, that does work. But when I then look via a browser in my Google account under >> Library >> My devices , it does not show up.

Would there be a way to register this device, “in PlayStore”, then buy the app, and then get rid of Google again?

Hi all!

There are some apps I’m not finding in the App Lounge. I know I may go through Aurora store to find them but any idea why this is happening ? I thought al apps within Google Play Store where within the App Lounge…

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Still not sure if Play Store is the key element or Play Services. If it is the former you may have an option.

What would be desired in that case is to install the Nanodroid patched Play Store. Normally that would be a major pain and risk involving flashing some microG installer that includes the Play Store over what we already have (bad); or manually removing FakeStore, pushing Play Store to /system, manually setting up a permissions file and pushing that to /system, hoping the ROM boots, and hoping the ROM’s signature spoofing will apply to it.

Then I just found this…
[MODULE] fakestore2playstore - microG with License Verification + In-App-Purchases | XDA Forums

Replaces FakeStore with Play Store. Nothing more. Requirement: root - Magisk.
Further reading I see an /e/OS user in that thread. So far that seems like the most painless way to get what you need. Maybe.

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Thanks again!
This seems to work indeed, according to that XDA article [MODULE] fakestore2playstore - microG with License Verification + In-App-Purchases.
But doing this safely and through new versions of /e/OS is beyond my technical capability.

So I would STRONGLY suggest to put this on the wish-list for /e/OS. It would enable us to use paid apps, which would greatly strengthen the Murena offer. But for regular users like me, who need stability above anything else, it should be integrated. Maybe as an add-in or so?

Hey @hook I just realized/forgot something. Even though I install FairEmail via the F-Droid client it is not from the F-Droid repo but IzzyOnDroid repo which means I’m using the github version. So I guess I can also use OAuth. I think originally I set up GMail using the old app password method.

So disregard any comments about me using the F-Droid version. :grin:

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In my search I found a similar idea proposed in the CalyxOS github. An instant NO.
Given that the Play Store is patched that could equal legal ramifications.
Google is not as uptight as Facebook [Barinsta got axed quickly but Vanced YouTube lasted for years] and I’m sure Murena is way below their radar but it’s probably not worth the risk.

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Hello,

I’m facing the following issue with App Lounge: it doesn’t update any of the applications installed on my phone (Fairphone 3+). App Lounge notifies me about available updates, but when I want to install them, App Lounge downloads the package and as soon as it tries to install it, it apparently fails and displays a “retry” button (“reessayer” in french). Of course it doesn’t work any better if I click on it… I cleaned the App Lounge cache and stored data with no result.

Some of my applications were installed from previous Apps, some were installed from Aurora, I don’t know if it makes any difference.

Finally, I’m running e OS 1.1 20220705.

Any idea what is going on?

FairEmail actually has a FAQ entry, I noticed:

  • The Play store version does not support Android Auto, see this FAQ for more information
  • The Play store version does not support Amazon devices with Android 5 Lollipop because there are critical bugs in this Android version of Amazon
  • The Play Store version does not support Gravatars/Libravatars due to Play Store policies
  • The GitHub version will check for updates on GitHub and is updated more frequently
  • The GitHub version has some different links, some more options (like sharing the HTML of a message) and some different default values (more geared to advanced users)
  • The F-Droid build does not support OAuth, see this FAQ about why not
  • The F-Droid build does not include Google Play Billing, so Play store purchases cannot be reused
  • The F-Droid build is supported only if the version number is the same as the the version number of the latest GitHub version, see also this FAQ
2 Likes