Discover the / e / OS: the open source de-googled Android version
The / e / Android operating system is a privacy-oriented and Google-free mobile operating system, a fork of Lineage OS and was founded in mid-2018 by Gaël Duval, creator of Mandrake Linux (now Mandriva Linux).
Although it made Android an open source project in 2007, Google replaced parts of the operating system with proprietary software when Android gained popularity. / e / Foundation replaced proprietary apps and services with MicroG, an alternative open source framework that minimizes device tracking and activity.
This is FOSS received Fairphone 3 with / e / OS preinstalled, a smartphone ethically created by the / e / Foundation. I used the device for a month before returning it to them and will share my experience with this privacy device. I forgot to take screenshots so I will share the generic images from the official site.
Experience with operating system / e / mobile on Ethical Fairphone device
Before I go any further, let me clarify that the Fairphone 3 isn’t the only option to get / e / into your hands. The / e / foundation gives you a few smartphone options to choose from if you are purchasing a device from them.
You do not need to purchase a device to use / e / OS. According to the / e / Foundation, you can use it on more than 100 supported devices.
Although I enjoyed using the Fairphone 3 and my personal beliefs match the Fairphone manifesto, I will not be focusing my attention on the device but only on the / e / operating system.
Apps with rated privacy
I used Fairphone 3 as a daily driver for a few days, to compare usage with my actual “regular” Android phone.
First of all, I wanted to see if all the applications that I use, are available on the “App Store” / e / foundation has created. The / e / App Store contains apps with privacy ratings.
I was able to find many apps including apps from google. This means that if someone really wants to use a Google service, it is always available as an option to download. Although unlike other Android devices, Google services are not forced on you.
While there are many apps available, I couldn’t find the UK mobile banking app I use. I have to admit that the mobile banking app can help with a certain level of convenience. As an alternative, I had to access a computer to use the online banking platform if needed.
From a usability perspective, / e / OS could replace my “standard” Android operating system with minor issues like banking apps.
If it’s not Google, then what?
Wondering what essential apps / e / OS are using instead of Google’s? Here’s a quick list:
- Magic Earth – Turn-based navigation
- Web browser – a non-fun fork of Chromium
- Mail – a fork of K9-mail
- SMS – a fork of QKSMS
- Camera – a fork of OpenCamera
- Weather – a fork of GoodWeather
- OpenTasks – Task organizer
- Calendar -Calendar: a fork of the Etar calendar
Bliss Launcher and general design
The default / e / OS launcher application is called “Bliss Launcher” which aims to create an attractive look and feel. To me, the design looked like iOS.
By swiping to the left panel, you can access some useful / e / a selected widgets.
- Search: Quickly search for preinstalled apps or search the web
- Suggested applications: the 4 most used applications will appear on this widget
- Weather: The weather widget displays the local weather. It does not automatically detect the location and it must be configured.
- Edit: if you want more widgets on the screen, you can add them by clicking on the Edit button
Overall, the user interface is clean and tidy. Being simple and straightforward improves a pleasant user experience.
DeGoogled, privacy-focused operating system
As mentioned earlier, / e / OS is a Google-free operating system based on an open source Lineage OS kernel. All Google applications have been removed and Google services have been replaced by the Micro G framework. The / e / OS is still compatible with all Android applications.
Main privacy features:
- The Google search engine has been replaced by alternatives such as DuckDuckGo
- Google services have been replaced by the microG framework
- Other default apps are used instead of Google Apps
- Checking connectivity to Google servers is removed
- NTP servers have been replaced by the standard NTP service: pool.ntp.orgs
- Default DNS servers are replaced by 188.8.131.52 and can be changed at user’s choice
- Geolocation uses Mozilla’s location services in addition to GPS
I have been using Android for over a decade. / e / OS surprised me positively. A privacy-conscious user may find this solution very appealing and, depending on the apps and settings selected, may feel safe using a smartphone again.
I could recommend it to you if you are a privacy-conscious tech buff and can find your way around on your own. The / e / ecosystem is likely to be overwhelming for people familiar with traditional Google services.
Did you use / e / OS? How did you experience it? What do you think of projects like these that focus on privacy?