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ANDROID ALTERNATIVES

Android is, at one level, open source. This allows other companies to use it and modify it. However, the process is difficult and there are not many alternate versions of Android. The big reason to consider any alternative version of Android is to avoid being spied on.

Topics below
Fairphone, /e/OS, Light Phone, Linux Phones, Graphene OS, Shift Phone, Assorted, See Also

FAIRPHONE  top

Fairphone is based in Amsterdam and their phones are only sold in Europe (last checked June 2024). They sell phones that run regular Android and they also sell one model that runs /e/OS. The big selling point on their Android phones is that hardware is designed to be easily replaceable. Also, they promise bug fixes for a long time.

E/OS  top

A company called /e/ (yes, a miserable name) sells smartphones running /e/ OS, which is Android with Google stripped out of it. As of June 2024, they are available in over a dozen countries, including the US and Canada. There is no Google Play Store, instead there is a variety of free and/or open source applications. You can download Android apps to the phone from F-Droid or from the /e/OS app store, which is called the App Lounge. See their Murena phones. You can also install /e/OS yourself on a handful of supported phones. One supported phone is the Pixel 6a.

LIGHT PHONE  top

The Light Phone is a minimalist phone, one that is barely smart. It does not run a stripped down or modified version of Android, it has its own Operating System called LightOS. There is no access to social media, the internet or email. The upcoming Light Phone III is expected to be released in January 2025. The available apps are: texting, Alarm clock, Timer, Calculator, Calendar, Directory, Map and Navigation, Hotspot, Music player, Notes/Voice Memo, Podcasts. There is also a low end camera and an embedded NFC chip for making payments. The screen is a black-and-white OLED. The apps are all optional and not pre-installed. The company plans to release other "utility-oriented tools in future software updates." As of June 2024, you can pre-order the upcoming model for $400 which the company claims is half-price. More: Light unveils a new minimalist phone with a black-and-white OLED screen by Lawrence Bonk for Engadget. June 11, 2024.

Article: The Best mobile device not from Google or Apple, by Mark Hurst. Last updated October 14, 2022. A list much like this page. The recommended phone was The Light Phone which, at the time, cost $300. This older model has a screen like a Kindle, so only black/white. As of February 2023, it was in stock and for sale.

LINUX PHONES  top

I know of four companies working on releasing a phone running Linux.

  1. The Librem 5 from Purism will be $700. It has been delayed a number of times and, as of Jan 2020, was still not finished. It started shipping sometime in 2020. It runs PureOS, has a user-replaceable battery and three hardware kill switches (WiFi & Bluetooth, Cellular baseband, Cameras & mic).
  2. The PinePhone from Pine64 runs multiple Linux distros. It has a removable back cover, a removable battery, and a set of hardware kill switches. It is designed to make it easy to choose your own Linux OS. The phones ship with a version of Manjaro Linux and you can boot an alternate OS by flashing it onto a bootable microSD card and inserting it in the phone. The PinePhone started shipping in January 2020. In Dec. 2020, Brad Linder wrote about new versions of Manjaro, Mobian, and OpenSUSE that all run on the PinePhone. As of January 2022, the first generation sells for $150 to $200 US. The second generation, the PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition, was expected to ship at the end of Jan. 2022. The price was supposed to be $600 US, but as of August 2022, it was $400. More here and here.
  3. postmarketOS is a real Linux distribution for phones and other mobile devices. Version 24.06 was released June 16, 2024. Quoting: "This release is geared mainly towards Linux enthusiasts. We are working hard on stability improvements and automated testing, but if you expect Android or iOS levels of polish, then this is not for you yet ... it allows to run an up-to-date Linux distribution on old hardware, making your old phone at least as useful as a Raspberry Pi, but with a built-in battery." Brad Linder wrote about it in June 2024.
  4. Necuno Solutions was working on a phone to be manufactured in Finland. Their last website update was in February 2020 (I write this in June 2024) so they appear to have disappeared. They had open source hardware and software. It seems they did release one batch of phones.

GRAPHENE OS  top

SHIFTPHONE  top

The Shiftphone, from Germany (alternate link), is available only in the EU (as of December 2022) where it costs 633 Euros. In January 2023 they were expected to announce something new. Out of the box it is Android with no bloat, just the minimal set of Google Apps are pre-installed. This article describes how to convert it to a Google-free system: Android without Google: Shiftphones. The site is mostly in German, so I could not get much from it.

ASSORTED  top

SEE ALSO  top

  1. Also see the Location Tracking topic
  2. Also see the Mobile OS Spying section which has some privacy focused Android alternatives.
  3. And see the Mobile Scanning and Sharing topic
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