(From a Linux geek still happy with a "dumbphone", but considering Android)
Can you use Android without serving yourself up to Google?
Is it true that you have to have a Google account to start up your phone?
Can you (easily) install apps by just downloading them to your computer and then transferring to the phone?
Do you have to give up your credit card info and name/address to sign up for the Google app store? (In light of the recent story that app developers get all your info, I don't know if I want every 2-bit app to get that info. The info itself could be worth more than the 99 cents for the application.)
Also, do free apps also get your personal information?
Any hints or links re: using Android without the all-seeing eye?
Builtin app replacement recommendations?
The phone you buy comes pre-loaded with the Google Apps (calendar, gmail, Talk....). Those require a google account indeed, and may require you to set up one when you start the phone for the first time (through a non-skippable Wizard). But the phone is perfectly usable without ever actually using those AND with a bit of rooting, you can remove them.
Open Source being what it is, community built versions of Android ship without the google apps included (because Google forbids the distribution of those proprietary apps), so you have a perfectly usable phone without any link to google. You have to be careful while chosing your phone, though, not every phone is supported with the same level of quality (hint: these days, the Good Guys (tm) who provide some driver and low level library source are Sony with their Xperia T, V, Z, ...)