Right now Android and iOS are the most widely used OSes on mobile phones. Both owned by giant corporates and there are no other offerings that are in line with public interest, privacy, or affordability. Android is owned by Google, can’t say it is pro user privacy with all the tracking they do. iOS by Apple is a very closed OS and not to mention that it isn’t exactly affordable to the masses. Apart from some OSes in the works, there is an OS called /e/ or eelo from the creator of Mandrake-Linux, focused on user privacy.
Some OSes in the works
Google has also been working on a new OS called Fuchsia. It uses a new microkernel called Zicron created by Google, instead of Linux. It is also in the early stages and there is no clear indication behind the purpose of building Fuchsia when Android is ubiquitous in the market. Google was fined for $5B regarding Android antitrust earlier this year, maybe Fuchsia can come into picture here.
In response to EU’s decision to fine Google, Sundar Pichai said that preventing Google from bundling its apps would “upset the balance of the Android ecosystem” and that the Android business model guaranteed zero charges for the phone makers. This seems like a warning from Google to consider licensing Android to phone makers.
Will curtains be closed on Android over legal disputes? That does not seem very likely considering Android smartphones and Google’s services in these smartphones are a big source of income for Google. They would not let it go that easily and I’m not sure if the world is ready to let go of the Android OS either. It has given access to apps, information, connectivity to the large masses. However, there is growing discontent among Android users, developers and handset partners. Whether that frustration will pivot enough to create a viable market for alternative mobile OS, is something only time can tell.
Either way, there is one OS called /e/ or eelo intent on displacing Android. It has made some progress but is not an OS made from scratch exactly.
What is eelo?
The above mentioned OSes are far from complete and owned by large corporations. Here comes eelo, it is free and open-source. It is a forked LineageOS with all the Google apps and services removed. But that’s not all, it also has a select few default applications, a new user interface, and several integrated online services.
The “/e/” ROM is in Beta stage and can be installed on several devices. More devices will be supported as more contributors port and maintain for different devices. The ROM uses microG instead of Google’s core apps. It uses Mozilla NLP which will make geolocation available even when GPS signal is not available.
eelo project leader, Gaël Duval states: “At /e/, we want to build an alternative mobile operating system that everybody can enjoy using, one that is a lot more respectful of user’s data privacy while offering them real freedom of choice. We want to be known as the ethical mobile operating system, built in the public interest.”
BlissLauncher is included with original icons and support for widgets and auto icon sizing based on screen pixel density.
There are new default applications, a mail app, an SMS app (Signal), a chat application (Telegram), along with a weather app, a note app, a tasks app and a maps app.
There is an /e/ account manager in which users can choose to use a single /e/ identity ([email protected]) for all services. It will also have OTA updates.
The default search engine is searX with Qwant and DuckDuckGo as alternatives. They also plant to open a project in the personal assistant area.
How has the market reacted to eelo?
Early testers seem happy with /e/ or alternatively called as eelo.
— lowpunk (@lowpunk) October 10, 2018
I've been waiting for years for THE 3rd mobile OS. Something which would be the Linux of smartphones, respectful of its users and of their data. Now I might have found this gem : https://t.co/nGEvdRdbgS cc @gael_duval
— Rémy Vuong (@rvuong_geek) October 6, 2018
There are also some negative reactions where people don’t really welcome this new “mobile OS”.
A comment on reddit by user JaredTheWolfy says: “This sounds like what Cyanogen tried to do, but at least Cyanogen was original and created a legacy for the community.”
Another comment by user MyNDSETER on reddit reads: “Don’t trust Google with your data. Trust us instead. Oh gee ok and I’ll take some stickers as well.”
Yet another reddit user zdakat says: “I guess that’s the android version of I made my own cryptocurrency! (by changing a few strings in Bitcoin source, or the new thing: by deploying a token on Ethereum)”