The recent US ban on Huawei may have reignited the debate over Android’s dominance and Google’s control over the smartphone market.
The result of the ban is that Huawei had to come up with a new OS that doesn’t even have an inkling of Google’s proprietary software. For the rest of us, we have different third-party ROMs which try to remove Google from our phones in some way.
Moving along similar lines is E Foundation, led by Gael Duval. He is better known as the creator of Mandriva Linux.
His foundation created an open source OS for smartphones which goes by the name /e/. It’s not exactly new as it has been in development since last year. Primarily, /e/ OS is a fork of the popular LineageOS, which itself, is based on Android. So technically, it does have Google’s AOSP code built-in.
But the main goal of /e/ is to take away Google’s control over the device. It doesn’t include any Google apps that you’d normally find on Android phones. Other than UI tweaks and pre-loading all the essential apps like Browser, Contacts, Calendar, Messaging, it even has an App Store of its own. You can also have an /e/ account, and take advantage of its cloud storage service, mail, and search.
Further, the foundation has also used open source software called microG. It’s designed to mimic the role of the Google Play Services software suite developed by Google.
Loading /e/ OS on Android devices
After starting a Kickstarter project in 2018, the foundation now has plans to sell refurbished Android devices running the /e/ OS. The few devices available right now include Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S9, ad S9 Plus.
In the future, more brands and devices are likely to be added. As far as the price is concerned, for the S7, it could be around €279 while it could be €549 for S9 Plus.
These devices will be fully compatible with Android apps, unlocked for all carriers, and will offer a 1-year warranty.
Duval told Android Authority that around 1300 people have registered for these devices, which exceeds their initial expectation of 1000. Still, this doesn’t mean they’ll actually sell these many smartphones.
How can I use /e/ OS?
If you want, you can send your own devices to the foundation, and they’ll install their software on it. Duval said that this service will most likely begin in June. People from all over the world would be able to send their device and it would cost around $50/50 Euros.
If you can do the flashing part on your own, the /e/ OS beta ROM is already available for download (use this link). Right now, 81 devices are supported, including the ones from Google, Motorola, Huawei, Samsung, etc.