iPhone users - how do you stop using iCloud drive (for photos, messages, backup etc)?

I’m an iPhone and Mac user. I don’t plan to move on from using Apple stuff necessarily, but I do like to try to avoid being locked into anything, so i’d like to move my photos and messages and stuff out of iCloud drive. The problem is Apple have obviously designed the system to keep me in there and keep me paying for iCloud drive, which I also don’t love.
Anyway - i’d love to hear of any ways others have found to use iPhones without depending on iCloud drive. Or do I just have to switch to Android?

And for bonus points: if I switch to Android am I just forced to use Google for photos and messages and backup and stuff? Because that would be… worse from my perspective.

you can turn off icloud sync for photos + use cryptomator
messages in icloud is end-to-end encrypted with advanced data protection
and I personally prefer manual backups

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I try to backup sensitive files to an E2EE cloud provider, such as proton, skiff or tresorit. I don’t use notes, keychain, or other services that I can replace with open source solutions.
But for photos, I continue to use apple photos with ADP.

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Thanks - i’m curious to see if I can also reduce the iCloud storage I pay for. It’s difficult to stay under the 200GB plan given how quickly photos occupy storage.

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iCloud backup → Tresorit. It integrates really well in iOS. The only limitation is photos only get backed up when you open the Tresorit app.
Messages → I am lucky that I was able to convert about 80% of my frequent contacts & group chats to Signal.
Keychain → BitWarden. It’s cheap and integrates really well in iOS.

All of these options are secure, easy to use, and multiplatform, so I have no problem switching between Android / iOS / macOS / Windows as needd.

For full phone backups, I would recommend plugging your phone into your computer every now and then and doing a manual encrypted backup.

My advice is to use the Apple Configurator (or iMazing) to make a profile that enforces these settings. If you load this on the iphone it won’t be changed back during updates.

Not at all. Any app on android can do automatic photo backup or have built in message sync/backup

For file syncing, I started to use Proton since I have 500 gb. For photos, it would be really challenging for now. One way is to make backups to the MacBooks, but I mostly forget it to do. After ADB, I got more attached to the iCloud Photos. I heard that there is a proton photos in Beta, but I don’t think it will be a match with iCloud.
Another thing for me is iCloud hide my email for websites blocking SimpleLogin. Some providers block SimpleLogin and other alias services, but iCloud hide my email uses the main domain of the iCloud, so it’s nearly impossible to be blocked.

I do have an iDevice but I just don’t use iCloud. It doesn’t force you to sign in to iCloud. For apps, you can sign in to only the App Store / iTunes Store without activating iCloud. So I don’t see how the system is really designed against you here, I mean obviously their own solution is quite convenient and integrated, but it’s also easy to not use their service. I also have an Android device with GrapheneOS, without installing any Play Services there is virtually nothing connecting to Google at any point.