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Google Play works fine as application browser, but fails to install any app when OpenVPN is active. The same problem repeats on 3 phones from different vendors.

How to investigate?

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  • Where is the OpenVNP server located (on network level). Is the Internet freely accessible from the OpenVPN server (e.g. any deep-inspection man-in-the-middle proxies active in this network)?
    – Robert
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 18:12
  • Aruba.it VPS in CZ domain. I know nothing about any DPI and MITM but I have never (during 2 years) met any problems with access to any service using this server.
    – kyb
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 18:19

1 Answer 1

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To answer the "How to investigate?":

  1. Enable ADB (Android debugging) on your phone.

    • Go to settings -> about this phone (or similar naming) and press the "Build number" 7 times. Congratulations, you are now a developer!
    • Go to settings -> Developer Options. Enable "Android debugging"
  2. Connect your phone to a PC and install adb on there.

    • On debian based Linux: apt-get install adb
    • On arch based Linux: pacman -S adb
    • Please see Google "How to install adb on YOUR_OS" for other Operating Systems
  3. Open a terminal on your PC (On Windows, make sure you are in the same directory as the adb binary. You might need to replace the adb below with ./adb or ./adb.exe on Windows.)
  4. Run adb devices to make sure your phone shows up. Confirmation on phone might be required.

  5. Run adb shell to get a shell into your phone.

  6. Within that shell, run logcat *:W (without the *:W for more verbosity).

You will now get a lot of log entries, the *:W shows only warnings and "worse". Without disconnecting USB or closing the shell, try to get something from the Play Store now. Watch the log window on your PC. Try to look for anything related in there.

My guess is that Google simply blocks downloads from your VPN (logcat should show this clearly), so have this workaround aswell:

Install F-Droid

F-Droid is an alternative App Store that has a lot of really nice open source applications.

But I want an app that isn't on F-Droid

Check out Yalp Store on F-droid!

I personally do not use Google services and removed everything Google from my phone. Nor do I have a Google account. Whenever I do need an application that's only on the Play Store though, I use Yalp. You don't need an account, you can browse apps just like in the Play Store and they install just as easily. It's kinda like a proxy to the Play Store. APKs are being downloaded from Google, not some fishy weird websites, so it's safe to use.

Depending on how Yalp works exactly, it might try to access the APK from Google's servers using your IP, which means it might still get blocked. But it's most certainly worth a try and might very well work!

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