Fairphone and e Foundation are teaming up and taking the rare step of selling a non-Google Android phone to the public. The Fairphone 3, a midrange smartphone originally released in September 2019, can now come pre-loaded with the /e/ OS, a fork of Android that replaces the usual suite of Google apps and services with open source options and /e/’s cloud services. The goal of the two companies is to produce a «privacy conscious and sustainable phone.»
The new OS option, the oddly named (and impossible to Google) /e/ OS, was founded by Gaël Duval, the creator of Mandrake Linux. /e/ seems a lot like a real Linux distribution, in that it first tries to gather existing open source projects into a cohesive OS, then does whatever work is needed to fill in the gaps that exist. /e/ is based on Lineage OS, the Android community’s foundational open source operating system. Lineage (which was built out of the ashes of CyanogenMod) takes Google’s open source Android repo (AOSP) and cleans it up for individual devices, making sure all the hardware works on each device while adding a few extra features.
A major challenge for anyone trying to fork Android is keeping up with both the breakneck pace of Google’s Android development and the impossible amount of devices out there. Any users of /e/ should know they’ll most likely be on an old version of Android for the majority of the time. The LineageOS builds that /e/ is based on only hit Android 10 earlier this month, something like seven months after Google’s final release. Naturally, /e/ is still on Android 9, a 20-month-old OS.