Caution!

This is an old post. Information here may be out-dated, or the post may re­flect opin­ions or be­liefs I no longer share.

I have been in­volved in a grad­ual process of de­googling (Wikipedia, Reddit) my dig­i­tal life.

I con­sid­ered mov­ing off my con­tacts and cal­en­dar from Google to a lo­cally self hosted Nextcloud in­stance, but fi­nally set­tled on a free hosted and man­aged in­stance for re­li­a­bil­ity and peace of mind. This data is crit­i­cal and must be al­ways avail­able, re­gard­less of the power sup­ply in my home server, for ex­am­ple.

NextCloud have partenered with many providers for what they call a Simple Sign Up pro­ce­dure. You can sign up here, choos­ing what­ever provider you deem the best for your pri­vate use.

I went ahead and signed up for a free hosted so­lu­tion with a ba­sic size limit which was quite gen­er­ous for my needs. Then, I fol­lowed the NextCloud app (from Android Play Store) on what to do next.

The app prompted me to in­stall DAVx5 (from the com­mu­nity-main­tained F-Droid store) on my phone to be able to sync con­tacts (via the WebDAV pro­to­col). For sync­ing cal­en­dar sub­scrip­tions (via the CalDAV pro­to­col), I was prompted to in­stall ICSx5. This is, once again, avail­able on the F-Droid store.

You need to set these ap­pli­ca­tions up be­cause Android does­n’t na­tively sup­port WebDAV and CalDAV pro­to­cols. They act as a bridge be­tween your con­tacts and cal­en­dar apps, and the NextCloud server. They are open pro­to­cols, so it re­ally is a bit of a shame that it does­n’t fig­ure into Android by de­fault.

Endpoint auto-de­tec­tion fail­ure

Trying to set up DAVx5 im­me­di­ately threw up er­rors - it could not auto-de­tect the con­fig­u­ra­tion from the server URL alone. A quick search showed me how us­ing a spe­cific URL as the end­point of­ten rec­tify this is­sue quickly:

https://{mynextcloudservice.com}/remote.php/dav/principals/users/{username}

Configuring DAVx5 with this URL and in­putting my cre­den­tials got me up and run­ning.

You need to keep what­ever you want to sync ticked” in the app. This caught me off-guard at first, so it’s worth a men­tion!

Verdict

Integration with Android and GNOME

Android and Nextcloud look to be in good har­mony and I’m en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence. In the fu­ture, I would like to move away from my phone ven­dor’s de­fault phone/​con­tacts app as well as Google’s cal­en­dar app. Suggestions are wel­come.

GNOME na­tively sup­ports set­ting up a NextCloud ac­count, and it was a breeze. Both the Calendar and Contacts app work out of the box.

Bugs that dampen the mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

This blog post would be dis­hon­est if I did­n’t men­tion that my ex­pe­ri­ence has­n’t been en­tirely bug-free where day-to-day us­age is con­cerned.

  • So many of my con­tacts’ where their phone num­bers were spec­i­fied as London” and Temporary Landline”, for ex­am­ple, as op­posed to the usual Home” and Work”, all dis­play as just Other” or Mobile” on GNOMEs con­tacts app. It’s not easy to de­ci­pher which Other” I’m sup­poesd to dial when look­ing through sev­eral num­bers car­ry­ing the same tag. Simple Contacts han­dles this well just fine, so it could be lim­ited to GNOMEs im­ple­men­ta­tion of it.
  • Many mod­ern con­tact apps also al­low you to skip the birth year while in­putting con­tact birth­days. Unfortunately, skip­ping the birth year does not seem to play well with NextCloud/CalDAV. While the date and month still show ac­cu­rately, the year field does not. On this front, both GNOMEs Contacts app and Simple Contacts do not de­liver.

I hope to see im­prove­ments in the fu­ture on these fronts to en­cour­age more peo­ple to move to pri­vacy-friendly so­lu­tions.

Last word

All in all, it is still handy be­ing able to ac­cess my con­tacts and cal­en­dar quickly from the de­fault GNOME apps on my desk­top. I also don’t need to babysit this setup on my phone or on my lap­top. It’s nice know­ing my most per­sonal de­tails are just a lit­tle more pri­vate. I would­n’t go back to the old ways!