Fairphone, the ethical smartphone manufacturer dedicated to cleaning up the electronics supply chain, is offering its Fairphone 3 (FP3) model with the /e/OS operating system pre-installed in place of the phone's default slight variation of stock Android.
/e/ CEO Gaël Duval describes /e/OS as a "de-Googled" fork of Android that follows the principles of privacy by design, replacing those elements that phone home unnecessarily with open-source default alternatives. So, email uses an enhanced version of K9 Mail, SMS messaging is performed by a fork of QKSMS, photos are via OpenCamera, the maps function uses Magic Earth, the browser is a Chromium fork, and so on.
The system also supports progressive web apps and there's an app store where users can quickly check the privacy credentials of any app they are thinking of downloading via a traffic light system.
As well as the privacy aspects, /e/OS is a guard against the forced obsolescence when mobile OS vendors refuse to support older phones, which fits with the philosophy behind the FP3's modular, upgradeable design. And blocking trackers should have a positive impact on performance and battery life, Fairphone says.
That works both ways, said Duval: "Since the inception of /e/OS, we realised that many of our users were not only concerned about their data privacy and willing to reconquer their digital sovereignty, they also wanted hardware that would last longer and be repairable."
The decision to partner officially with the /e/ Foundation was taken after /e/ created a version of its OS for the previous FP2 model, said Fairphone CEO Eva Gouwens.
"What we learned is that our community really loved /e/'s software. So much so that they chose /e/ as their favourite alternative OS for the FP3. This resulted in our partnership with /e/."
The /e/OS-equipped FP3 is sold through /e/'s website at €479.90 but current users can also install the OS without invalidating the phone's warranty, so long as they are careful not to modify the Android partitions when they flash /e/OS, Gouwens said.
"The warranty is not voided by the installation of /e/ itself, but to have access to the repair process and to have the warranty cover damages, the end-users would have to go back to the official Fairphone software."
Meanwhile, support for /e/OS is generally community-based said Duval.
"Of course, users who purchase a smartphone on our website will get priority support. Anyways, we have a great community of /e/ users who are doing their best to help other users, on our Telegram channels and on our community website."
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