Operating Systems that use Android without relying on Google services do exist…
Amazon’s Fire OS (operating system) which is used in its mobile device offering and reportedly being trialled in smart TVs, was highlighted as one of the systems negatively impacted by Google’s illegal licensing agreements for the use of Google Play Store.
See our reporting on the European Union fine of Google for Android abuse.
What is Fire OS?
The operating system is based heavily on Android, in a version of the open source operating system known as a “fork”.
Android’s origin code is called the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) which was developed by Google.
It is this AOSP that Amazon used to develop the Fire OS. The system does not differ significantly in its code from the better known and dominant version of Android, with one large exception; it’s been tweaked to run Amazon apps and services: Google has not sold the licences for its services to be used by Amazon in its Fire OS, so Fire users can only download applications through the Amazon App store.
Fire OS users, in short, have no way to officially download Google Play Store to their devices, this of course means that they can’t download Google Maps or Google Chrome.
AOSP Forks: Big in China
In order for Fire OS to have Google Play Services they would have to agree to Google products being the default applications, such as YouTube a potential competitor to Amazon Prime. The commission blames Google for stunting the growth of such potential rivals. Yet elsewhere, Android forks proliferate.
Speaking to Computer Business Review, Sameer Singh, Insights Analysis Director at App Annie told us that: “Amazon Fire is largely an exception in the West. AOSP without Google Services is very common in China, because of regulatory challenges.” (Google is banned in China).
“However, we’re yet to see a forked variant of Android achieve meaningful success other than Fire Tablets. In China, AOSP devices include those from most Chinese OEMs (original equipment manufacturer), including Huawei, Coolpal, etc. Xiaomi is technically an AOSP fork,” he added.
What Other Mobile OSs are Out in the Wild?
LineageOS is a free and open source OS that is also a forked version of the now defunct CyanogenMod, which was itself an Android fork.
LineageOS is available to be downloaded and installed on mobile devices that work using Android as its starting system.
It is one of the more complete open source OS out there, as it comes with pre-installed applications such as Phone, Browser, Camera, messaging and a Eleven a music player.
Eelo is a start-up that wants to build a mobile device using the Android Open Source Project that contains none of Google’s services or stock Android products on it.
The OS itself is a fork of the LineageOS and can run mainstream Android applications.
Its main aim is to provide a free open source alternative to other OS that collect your personal data through the default applications installed on mobile devices.
Commenting on its Kickstarter Gaël Duval stated: “I want Eelo to be a non-profit project, a project “in the public interest”. I strongly believe operating systems and web services should be a shared resource: as I explained a few years ago, they are infrastructure – just like phone networks, rail tracks, and roads.”
Replicant OS is an Android fork developed by Paul Kocialkowski and started by a team of coders in 2010.
Replicant aims to provide a free and open-source operating systems for mobile devices. It has rewritten in C language and made modifications to some of the base Linux Kernel and Drivers.
The projects main goal is to avoid or replace every proprietary component of the system, components such as libraries and firmware’s.
Replicant wants to provide an ethical operating system for phones.
However, it is very much a work in progress, it is not completely free of proprietary components and user would find their mobile devices capability extremely reduced if they were to run it as their OS.