Fairphone's Android Fork Offers a New Spin on the Mobile OS
Ask most people in the open source community if Android is an open platform, and a lot of them will say it is. But the folks at Fairphone have their own take. The company has built out an open source Fairphone OS that is based on the Android operating system but that doesn't include Google services. The bottom line is that users have to find their own apps for email, maps, and browsing, but they also get absolute control over the mobile OS.
According to Fairphone:
"Fairphone 2 comes preinstalled with Fairphone OS, which is based on Android, a mobile operating system developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance...
Fairphone’s high-level ambition for our phones’ software is to bring more fairness to software. To us, that means focusing on the following key principles: transparency, longevity and ownership. Transparency is about building trust with our community. Longevity means keeping the software up-to-date and secure long after the product was sold, and ownership is about putting the user in control over what happens on their phone.
In the coming months we are going to launch several programs that address different aspects of creating fairer software. For now, one of the best tools for us to reach these goals is to embrace open source principles. With this in mind and without further ado, we’re excited to announce that we are going to release the complete build environment for Fairphone OS on Fairphone 2, which contains the full open source code, all the tools and the binary blobs that will allow users to build their own Fairphone OS."
A blog post from Fairphone adds:
"Fairphone is eager to create a path for developers to contribute to the software of the Fairphone 2, and we want to engage with the community so they can help us improve on our core values of longevity and transparency. We also want our owners to feel that they can open up and control their software. The open source version of Fairphone OS will allow more flexibility for the user, for instance allowing him or her to root their phone while remaining focused on a pleasant user experience that is provided by our version of Android."
Not every user is going to want a phone that requires them to cobble together applications, but Fairphone is evidence that if you develop an open mobile OS, people will fork it and head in new directions.