back to article Android without Google – and yes it has apps: The Reg talks to founder about the /e/ smartphone

The /e/ Foundation has brought a de-Googled phone to market - we got one to try, and spoke to founder Gaël Duval for all the details behind this brave effort. There are two surprises when you unwrap a /e/ smartphone, insert a SIM and turn it on for the first time. One is what a pleasant experience it is, with no demands for …

  1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    Excellent

    See above

    1. Dave559 Silver badge

      Re: Excellent

      I'm an iPhone person, but a version of Android without all the Google data mining would definitely be a good thing. I wish them well and might even buy such a phone as a backup, to see what things are like on the other side.

      1. nematoad Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Excellent

        Now I'm not in the market for a mobile 'phone but if I was this might just convince me.

        Gael Duval knows what he is doing. I was a very happy user of Mandrake and then Mandriva, hell I even paid for the Powerpack versions. So if any one can pull this of he can.

        A breath of fresh air in what is to me a very claustrophobic and controlled area of technology.

        “More recently I started to wonder about privacy issues and the domination of Google,”

        Yeah, me too.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Excellent

        Not sure if app selection would work for me, and not available for my current phone, but exists for my old Sammy so I could take it for a proverbial spin

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Excellent

      Nice, I'd been thinking about replacing the battery in my old Nexus and returning to it to escape the modern Google phone crap environment. This could be a better solution.

    3. tekHedd

      Heck yeah I'm in

      I've been running a google-free Pixel phone for about 6 months now, and it's great, the only problems being the lack of an app store and the (trying very hard not to shout here) need to compile the OS myself from sources. Otherwise it's fine.

      Hope they survive until I break/lose this phone; /e/ just rose to the top of my smartphone options list.

  2. ClockworkOwl
    Thumb Up

    Damn! a real option...

    This looks like a proper option, I'll be totally lost in the huge range of apps!

    I may have to replace my Lumia 820,

    .

    .

    .

    Finally!

    Is 7+ years long enough to use a phone daily?

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Damn! a real option...

      I stopped using my Samsung S3 mini last year and it was only because I got a New Nokia 1 so... maybe? Oh and Signal stopped working on it.

    2. Richard 30

      Re: Damn! a real option...

      Ha ha - snap!

  3. lnLog

    recently bought a pixel after essential phone went under. This would have been a prefered option.

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Hope it was an A model, for some reason they end being better than the more expensive options.

      1. DM2012

        Can confirm

    2. samviskufrelsi

      You might want to look at this - https://grapheneos.org/

    3. samviskufrelsi

      Pixel

      Take a look at grapheneos - similar thing, but for pixel devices

  4. samviskufrelsi

    I have been using /e/ on a S9+ as my daily-driver now for about 3 months.

    Absolutely outstanding - A+++ cannot speak highly enough of it, and would happily recommend to any freedom lover.

    The community around the project is active and very helpful and welcoming.

    1. To Mars in Man Bras!
      Holmes

      It's OK... But...

      I'm running it on my old HTC M8, which I use for listening to 'stuff' on. It's OK and pretty nippy and stable.

      But a bit annoying that /e/ itself comes with a load of apps which cannot be uninstalled, without resorting to ADB or something like Titanium Backup --especially given the founders' criticisms of Google for likewise having uninstallable bloatware.

      Really, I think it's pretty much just a more user-friendly version of LineageOS, with all the same benefits and failings.

      1. KevinFanch

        Re: It's OK... But...

        In the next version you should be able to remove default apps.

    2. Boork!

      Can you use banking apps on a de-Googled phone? My bank informed me that I must link my bank account with my phone, which seems decidedly Orwellian. I know that banking apps will refuse to install on a device that has been rooted.

      1. KevinFanch

        Its mostly hit or miss. Some bank apps work, others don't. You can check the forum

  5. very angry man

    there's a chinese manufacture that may be interested in joining this party

    1. Jim84

      If Huawei joined that would be a real threat to Google who would then find some way to break this system (probably frequent changes to google play services that a small outfit or even a large one like Huawei cannot afford to replicate and maintain profitability).

      The Google guy saying he supports this project is basically trying to look nice because he doesn't actually feel threatened by it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks for the article

    I've been keeping an eye on them since they started (about three years ago?).

    I may well get one of their phones when I need to replace mine, to save me three days of poking around the ROM removing stuff that shouldn't be there, compiling and installing my own build, doing some more tweaking, securing the phone, etc., etc.

    Thankfully, the manufacturer I buy from are OK with their phones being rooted and will even unbrick it for a very reasonable fee (or maybe it was free? I don't recall).

    1. To Mars in Man Bras!
      Headmaster

      Re: Thanks for the article

      >to save me three days of poking around the ROM removing stuff that shouldn't be there,

      As per a previous comment of mine; /e/ also comes with uninstallable apps. It's not as bad as most other Android flavours, but it's not completely free from bloatware either.

      1. KevinFanch

        Re: Thanks for the article

        This should be solved soon, and you will be able to uninstall default apps

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lost in translation

    What has been reported:

    > That’s very cool, what you are doing, if we find a way of cooperation, we are very open to it.

    What was (probably) said:

    Il est joli ton projet ! Ce serait dommage s'il lui arrivait quelque chose.

    1. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Lost in translation

      And Google translated for the non Francophiles:-

      Your project is pretty! It would be a shame if anything happened to him.

      And into its source language:-

      Il tuo progetto è carino, sarebbe un peccato se gli succedesse qualcosa.

      And translated into chav:-

      you're gonna get yer fuckin ed kicked in

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Lost in translation

        I think the better translation in to East Side gangster might be:

        "Nice project ya got dere. Shame if sumpin' wudd to happin to it..."

  8. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

    OK, but

    I couldn't see anything on the /e/ website that explains why you need an /e/ account. Sure, it explains why you might *want* one (free cloud storage), but not why you have to have one.

    I have a bog standard Samsung which runs fine without a Google or Samsung account, and I use Fdroid for apps. Not sure what the advantage of /e/ would be over that. If I want to go further I'll break with Android completely and get a Pinephone (and in fact it arrives tomorrow).

    1. KevinFanch

      Re: OK, but

      Well, actually you don't have to have an /e/ account. It works fine without an account.

  9. fuzzie

    SailfishOS

    Just to add to the mix of Google-free alternatives.

    The paid version does offer an Android run-time in which case you might get re-Googled.

  10. ForthIsNotDead
    Thumb Up

    So...

    This or a Pinephone or other Linux-based phone? That is the question?

    1. samviskufrelsi

      Re: So...

      No

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. gzgweilo

      Re: Can I just have an App that removes Google

      Just root and choose a suitable custom rom and you can certainly achieve a lot of what you ask for.

      However reading XDA it seems is getting harder with each successive iteration of Android especially if you want to use your phone for online financial stuff.

      1. pc-fluesterer.info

        Re: Can I just have an App that removes Google

        rooting is NOT required! What you indeed have to do is UNLOCK the BOOTLOADER. That's a different beast. I for one run LineageOS with MicroG on two Sony XA2, one is rooted (mine) and the other isn't (my wifes).

      2. pc-fluesterer.info

        Re: Can I just have an App that removes Google

        rooting is NOT required! What you indeed have to do is UNLOCK the BOOTLOADER. That's a different beast. I for one run LineageOS with MicroG on two Sony XA2, one is rooted (mine) and the other isn't (my wifes).

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Can I just have an App that removes Google

          Heard you the first time...

    2. KevinFanch

      Re: Can I just have an App that removes Google

      Then you want exactly /e/

      Totally free OS. Nothing that ties you to a company. And the best part it is easy to install and use. There is an easy installer which can be used by non-tech people.

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Oracle

    It uses a project called microG which re-implements Google’s “proprietary Android user space apps and libraries.”

    Hopefully there is nothing in microG implementations to make Google go after it using the Oracle Java/Android playbook!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Take my money

    The Fairphone looks good enough, and this OS now looks mature enough. Great project.

  14. Mage Silver badge

    This good.

    It's quite good.

    Now, why can't the Playstore PROPERLY inform about permissions and what they are for, and tracking etc BEFORE you install? Obviously I know the answer.

    Why do so many apps want my Location? Viber keeps asking.

  15. J27 Silver badge

    "Is it legal to offer all these applications without specific permission from the publishers"

    No, the answer to this question is no. It's copyright infringement. The only reason they exist at all is that many are based in jurisdictions with very lax copyright laws and they rely on the fact that each copyright holder has to sue them individually, which is a lot of effort for small publishers.

  16. Captain Hogwash

    I've been using it daily for about two years

    First on a Galaxy S3, then, when a build became available, on an S5. It's good if keeping out Google et al is what matters to you. But you do have to get your hands dirty occasionally if you don't want to wait too long for some things. E.g. the version on MicroG on my devices does not support Covid-19 bluetooth apps but you can work around this by flashing a later NanoDroid build. For people like me, recommended. For people like my SO, to be avoided.

  17. pc-fluesterer.info

    Alternative: Shiftphone

    should be mentioned here as well: https://shop.shiftphones.com/ with ShiftOS L (light).

    1. To Mars in Man Bras!
      WTF?

      Re: Alternative: Shiftphone

      That really is an unfortunate choice of name, when [as I just did] you tend to speed read.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More ways to block ******

    https://www.difteron.net/how-to/block-google-on-your-rooted-android

    NOTE: You might want to save an offline copy in case the site becomes unreachable.

    -

    Something like this can also be done for a standard Linux distribution. Although the paths maybe different.

    Also, try out iptables-persistent, and pgl, as well as /etc/hosts. Note: Before running `ptables-persistent save` stop pgl `sudo pglcmd stop`, Afterwards re-start pgl `sudo pglcmd restart`. For the hosts file 'www.WEBSITE.com' is different from 'WEBSITE.com'.

    -

    If you have multiple files of IP address to go through you can do something like...

    _temp=""; _input_1=""; _input_2=""; # you can add more $_input_N=""...

    # This gets rid of some non IP lines, sorts and removes duplicates based on the 1st column

    grep -v '^#\|^$' --no-filename -- "$_input_1" "$_input_2" | sort -u -k1,1V > "$_temp"

    -

    For windows:

    http://www.johnwillis.com/2015/12/windows-how-to-firewall-block-list-of.html

    NOTE: You might want to save an offline copy in case the site becomes unreachable.

    And the hosts file is likely something like "C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts", although I've read that this doesn't block Microsoft sites.

  19. Edz Bear

    Finally!

    Finally a phone that is just a phone, with no ties and signing your life away. I have always hated the fact that wou have to spen a fair amount of money to buy the phone and then find the hidden cost is access to the rest of your life. I congratulate you on your efforts and I will be booting off Google Android off my phone to re-install this version of Android.

    I really hope you succeed in this endeavour. I, for one will be advocating it to all my friends and colleagues.

    1. Zolko Bronze badge
      Linux

      Re: Finally!

      yeah, I agree. I had been using Mandrake Linux back then, it was a really good distro.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Finally!

        It still is, but is now Mageia.

  20. mickaroo

    I WANT ONE!

    Is it available in Canada?

  21. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    good effort but too pricey for me :-(

    will go with kaios for an outdoor mobile phone.

  22. Lorribot Silver badge

    Wish they would sell a rebadged Nokia with this around the £100-150 mark. £4-500 is a bit steep for a phone for me.

  23. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Wait just a minute

    Why get a nicely stripped phone and then go to some "app store" and load the phone down with Google, FB, INsta, etc that are all well known spyware? With very few exceptions, most apps are spyware at their core which is why every store wants you to download their app. They'll even pay you a few pence in discounts if you allow them to harvest your data and broadcast "suggestions" at you while you shop.

  24. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    anti-fragmentation agreement.

    Wait...what? Didn't we already rule these things illegal and unethical when MS were told to stop forcing PC sellers to force and MS licence on every PC sold?

  25. To Mars in Man Bras!
    Facepalm

    Ah Yes, The /e/ Foundation...

    The company that thought it was a good idea to pick a name that is literally unsearchable in a browser, as it thinks you're looking for a file called "e" at the root of your filesystem.

  26. To Mars in Man Bras!
    WTF?

    So Let Me Get This Straight...

    * The phone was made by Fairphone

    * The OS was made by LineageOS

    * The replacement Google services were made by MicroG

    So what exactly did the /e/ foundation do.. apart from bundle those other people's work together and get the tech press fawning over them, as if they'd invented all this liberating stuff themselves?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ok, I'll bite...

    I like the sound of LineageOS and eOS, but here are some important points:

    You may, and almost definitely will, have sensitive data on your mobile phone. With LineageOS 17.1 it does appear that they have done a good job with the port. However, the phone itself still speaks to google a LOT! With A-GPS - assisted GPS, in which your phone uses wifi, bluetooth and/or mobile data to send your IP address to locate you more quickly using an online database - your IMSI and IMEI (Sim card identifier and unique mobile identifier) are sent to google along with your IP address and other unique details. Many other google interactions are as default as part of the LineageOS builds. This is unacceptable to me.

    I've tried e's OS "eOS" on a Samsung S9. It's only at version 8 android (oreo), not 9(pie) or 10(nougat). This means it's an old android version and won't have many modern security updates. Is it hardened? It's difficult to tell. They have certainly taken SOME steps to harden the system and de-google it, but it is not un-googled. From what I can see the A-GPS feature that sends google your IMEI and IMSI numbers with EVERY A-GPS lookup ever means google always have your location, which is insane. From an online blog post I understand that they don't appear to have their own security team testing this and are relying on errors being found by users and interested parties. This set of blog posts (there are three, read them all) show this:

    https://infosec-handbook.eu/blog/e-foundation-final-look/

    As someone who is technical but a layman phone user, should I be using eOS software? Is it acceptable in this day and age to use eOS on android version 8 or am I really at risk of a common webpage exploit or malware? Sadly I don't think eOS offers any answers to this if they don't even have a security team.

    El-Reg: Please dig more into this. I appreciate the noble aims of eOS and LineageOS but with security being so important these days just having the aim to be secure, without checking their own homework, suggests that it's a hope of security and not a full security lifecycle. This means users could be vulnerable whilst using eOS, especially on oreo version 8. e

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