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Understanding alternative OS's

Hello everybody,

I am currently thinking of buying my first fairphone but do not want to go back to “normal Google made Android”.
I have been trying to understand what the alternative OS can and can not do but as I do not know much about this topic I am bit a overwhelmed by vocabulary (microG, Gapps, with or without play services etc.)

My requirements for my perfect OS would basically come down to the following:

  1. Stable on the FP3+ with security updates
  2. As Google-free as possible in terms of background tracking
  3. Compatible with important android apps like my banking app, paypal etc.
  4. Possibility to run paid apps

I am willing to pay for an OS as I understand that if developers can not use my data to make money they have to have a traditional income. I understand though that Sailfish OS is not available for the FP3, considering requirement 3).

I would be very happy if somebody could tell me how LineageOS, Lineage OS with microG, /e/, Graphene OS etc. respond to those requirements?
Thanks a lot
Michael

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Hi and welcome to the forum, sadly Lineage and it’s version are all android, just degrees of removing google specifics.

Fairphone default FOS (Fairphone OS) is still android as would be FOOS (Fairphone Open OS)

/e/ is just another play on android :frowning:

See 13 Open Source Mobile OS Alternatives To Android in 2021

You can learn to de-google the phone to some degree. I have no google account and no google apps on FOS ~ no play store.

Hi amoun,

thanks for the reply!
I am aware that the lineage and /e/ are based on android somewhere. I should have used better phrasing in my sentence and say “normal Google made Android”.

But what I understand from your post is that my best option is to stick with the pre-installed fairphone OS and limit googles data mining differently?
Am I going to achieve beneficial side effects like increased battery life etc. by reducing google on my phone or are the services still running and eating ressources but they are just not able to link my data to my google account? I guess even if i am not logged in, google could still create a dataset of person X.

Thanks!

I wouldn’t say the best. However if you want to exploit the Fairphone 2 year warranty you would have to reinstall FOS to it’s latest update before support would look at it.

One important issue is of course your own data. I always keep everything on my SD card, which I just inserted straight from my Samsung.

If you use a fresh SD card be sure to format is as External/Portable there are a number of issues that arise otherwise, which are not restricted to FP

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Currently there are three OS options available for the FP3 and the FP3+: Fairphone OS (pre-installed, Google certified i.e. full Google integration), LineageOS (Android without Google certification, various options of customized Google integration available) and /e/OS (LineageOS plus convenience features). Both LineageOS and /e/OS offer an Android system with as little as possible or no Google integration out of the box. Fairphone Open for the FP3 or FP3+ does not exist (so far).

However, if you rely on banking apps, it has to be said that some banking apps simply demand a Google certified Android and strictly won’t work on any custom ROM. This simply cannot be generalized for all banking apps, it can only be determined case by base. The same applies to other apps that require a high security level and/or payment functionality (e.g. Netflix).

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Thanks for the answers, this helps me a lot!
I guess I will have to try if my apps work with lineage or /e/ and if they do not work go back to the pre-installed fairphone OS and try to increase privacy as good as I can.
Is there a solution out there two have two OS installed on your phone at the same time? Let’s say I am using lineage as my daily OS and if I need to use an app that requires the google certification I reboot on the different system.

Thanks

That would be useful but I haven’t heard of anyone doing it, not that it’s impossible.

Switching from one OS to another on the FP3 or FP3+ is always a complete start from scratch again. I strongly second @amoun’s microSD card suggestion – save as much of your data (not apps) on the card as possible so the “start from scratch” becomes easier if you want or need to switch. And make sure the microSD card is set up as portable storage.

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The switching between one OS to another would only make sense for me if it could be done with both systems installed. Let’s say banking app on the original fairphone OS and the rest an independent OS. If it is necessary to start from scratch and reinstall the apps (even if the data could be transported with the SD card) I do not consider this as a viable option.
But I am not a developer and was just thinking out loud here. I thought maybe somebody had done something similar before.

Thank you guys anyhow! This conversation is clearing up some questions marks for me.

Let me just give you a table with all choices and which of your requirements they fit.

In the table below:

  • Stock refers to the OS preinstalled on the FP3+ by Fairphone
  • /e/ refers to /e/OS
  • Lineage refers to Lineage without anything added
  • Lineage (microG) refers to LineageOS for microG
  • Lineage (GPlay) refers to LineageOS with Google Play manually added
  • Ubuntu Touch refers to, well, Ubuntu Touch
  • Y = Yes
  • M = Mostly
  • B = Barely
  • N = No
Stock /e/ Lineage Lineage (microG) Lineage (GPlay) Ubuntu Touch
Stable Y Y Y Y Y M
Google-free N M (1) Y M (1) N Y
Hostile app compat (5) Y B (2) B B (2) M N (4)
Paid apps Y N (3) N (3) N (3) Y N (4)

(1) microG is an Open Source reimplementation of Google Play Services. It will track you much less, but to work it will sometimes have to talk to Google servers. It therefore will give Google some ability to track you.
(2) While microG is pretty amazing at what it does, it is not a bug-for-bug-compatible reimplementation of Google Play Services and some Android apps depending on Google Play Services won’t work. Which apps those are, well, “it depends”.
(3) Paid apps are a no-go outside of the Google Play Store because of Google’s license verification system. You will have to sacrifice this (with the exception of a very small amount of apps having other ways to pay like FairEmail).
(4) Ubuntu Touch is not Android-based and cannot really run any Android apps (at least not easily, some may work under Anbox). As we speak I do not know of any paid apps for Ubuntu Touch.
(5) I have called “Compatible with important android apps like my banking app, paypal etc.” “Hostile app compat” as these applications tend to be much more strict as to where you are allowed to run them. You know, “for your safety”. I have been luckily with my banking apps (Rabobank Netherlands, ING Bank Netherlands and PayPal run fine) but not everyone is so lucky and they can break at any moment.

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

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Oh, I see this now. That is not possible at all, there is no “dual-boot” option. You will have to reinstall everything every time you switch OS.

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Sadly Microsoft and Huawei had plans to do a dual boot (both at the same time even?) but they gave up some 6 years ago. I’ve not heared of any other combination even two Androids.

Ah! you can buy two Fairphones :slight_smile:

While I understand compromises have to be made in summarising something complex, I think somebody has to mention that /e/ actively remove Google stuff from LineageOS, which is left in LineageOS because degoogling is not the priority or raison d’être of LineageOS.

Whether to live with microG in /e/ or with some basic Google stuff left in LineageOS may then be the choice of every interested user. But LineageOS “Google-free”? Hmmm … it’s not that simple, I’m afraid.

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Then you can read about it … supposedly it even actually worked for a brief period of time …

But nowadays … nope.

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Fair point! /e/OS does talk even less to Google servers than Lineage. However, Lineage for microG has more frequent microG updates and thus likely slightly better compatibility with “hostile apps”. Pick your poison, I guess :slight_smile:

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Ok that looks interesting and for further reading @michaelb

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Hi,

great table! This is exactly what I was hoping for to find out.

Interesting to see that people have already been developing in this direction. I am interested to see if somebody will pick it up again. Sadly this means though “Pick your poison” remains.
Great answers by the way, I am positively surprised by the constructive discussion in this forum!

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I dont fully agree at this point. But some banking apps make it really complicated indeed. There are yet no apps without fix for custom rom.

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Quote:
(3) Paid apps are a no-go outside of the Google Play Store because of Google’s license verification system. You will have to sacrifice this (with the exception of a very small amount of apps having other ways to pay like FairEmail).

Its possible to use aurora store to buy paid apps using play.google.com and download them with aurora store. It use google servers, but its way better then default play store. Its without the google play store app

What would a fix typically look like? In my case I would not trust “home-made” fixes that let me use my banking apps, mainly because I would not understand the fix. I am not skilled enough to do so. I would trust using my banking apps on lineage let’s say, but not if i have to install or introduce code of unknown origin to bypass security mechanisms.

Interesting, would you mind explaining a bit how the aurora store works?
Thanks,