As magicfab on identi.ca requested, I'm starting a journal of my experience using Android without Google's proprietary apps.
I own an HTC Eris phone which originally came with Android 1.5. A few months ago a firmware was released by a 3rd party which allows users to gain root on their phone (about time) and I've been experimenting with this since. My primary interests were removing HTC's "Sense" UI so I could use a different soft keyboard and removing the backdoors HTC, Verizon, and Google installed in the phone.
After some disturbing problems with the VanillaDroid firmware, I switched to CyanogenEris 3.0 last week. Not only did this new build not come with HTC's Sense, thanks to Google hitting them with a threatening DMCA letter, the firmware came without Google's apps either. This includes GMail, GTalk, Google Maps and Market.
Everything works on the firmware except for USB tethering (which is a feature of the firmware). I started by using the browser to download the Barcode Scanner and then used that to install other apps via QR code:
The Foursquare app I was previously using refuses to install (likely because it depends on Google Maps app) and I haven't figured out how to install the dvorak keyboard add-on to soft keyboard.
I have the standard Android Contacts app, but without Google it does not sync to my Google contacts. I plan to remove my contacts from Google and write a small app that provides ContactsProvider2 via XMPP in an effort to decentralize and federate contact syncing.
I found the web version of GMail superior to the old app, though I do miss the Google Maps app (there are various OpenStreetMaps alternatives but they don't have the same features). The biggest thing I miss is the GTalk app, though its pitiful as far as XMPP clients go and we should be able to do a lot better.
Most importantly, my phone is now 99% free software with only a few of HTC's drivers left to be reverse engineered. Even for an advertising company Google is really stretching the truth when they call Android "open source" - but it should be an attainable goal.