/e/ – an alternative to Android and iOS?

When it comes to smartphones, your device is almost certainly running on Android or Apple’s iOS. But if you are a bit leery about being fully embedded in the Google and the Apple worlds – there are options that can move you out of range from Google tracking.

One of the newest options is the /e/ OS from Gaël Duval. He’s the guy who created the Mandrake Linux distribution. He started his project because he wanted a smartphone that would be open source, run a range of software, and  – most importantly – protect user privacy. The result of his efforts is the e.foundation. They not only have their /E/ operating system in beta and ready to download for free, they are also selling it installed on refurbished Samsung smartphones.

Play with Google, tracked by Google

Now you might be wondering why you should stray from an OS that has worked perfectly fine for you in the past. Well, there are two primary issues with Google – privacy and proprietary. With the army of Google trackers on websites, Google services such as YouTube and Gmail, and that Google Account on your smartphone tying all the loose ends together  — you really don’t have much privacy on the mobile device level. Then there is the question of open source versus proprietary. As  MicroG – developer of the /e/ libraries — states, “It’s a look but don’t touch” kind of open. The core of the Android OS is open source, but there are a growing array of libraries and APIs that hook the user into the Google world.

/e/ is Android unhooked

/e/ is an Android-based operating system where Google services and libraries have been removed and replaced by opensource MicroG ones. This reportedly allows /E/ phone users to use slightly tweaked Android apps from the /e/ app store. In addition, the app store also gives a report on what information the app is going to share./E/ can be downloaded directly off the company’s site – and they have a list of compatible phones. The /e/ platform uses the European Qwant instead of Google and their variant of the open-source NextCloud instead of Google Drive.

Competing with Android is treacherous work

According to statcounter, Android OS has a whooping 76.23 percent of the global smartphone market with iOS having 22.17%. Below them, the next biggest share was held by the KiaOS with a tiny 0.59% share. And it’s not like there haven’t been a number of attempts to build a competitor. It’s FOSS listed seven alternatives in a recent article such as Ubuntu Touch and LineageOS. So as /E/ gets past the beta stage, we will see how it achieves acceptance — or not. But as Duval stated on his blog,  “I think that, in the long run, Apple, Google, Facebook etc. business models are harmful for our economical and social environments.”

As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.