Why i think Fairphone OS should drop root and pre-install Google Apps

@danielsjohan and @ben, I never said that FP should forget about fair trade, or the efforts so far are worth nothing. I was trying to get across that there is even more FP educated me about.

I knew about African mines before. I saw them. It was rather an important reason to support a start-up which wanted to make a difference.

I did not know what kind of data my phone would send to third parties. I knew it would happen, but I still surprised every effing time I check my filters. I learned about it precisely because FP came rooted.
And I argue that this will be less an option for customers in the future, and it should not be. ,

If my previous post offended you so that my arguments did not get across, then I must have exaggerated my point too far. But I maintain its validity. Software is intrinsically an integral part of the FP, and it is therefore a step backwards to remove root access &t (see above on disclaimers, and support).

We can agree to disagree on this, and call out each other being wrong, but it is probably not worth any more posts in this heated debate. I will take a break, not to piss you guys even more off.


I will innocently step in here and confirm that there has been no official Fairphone announcement yet about the specific details on FP2 software, including items like shipping root, unlocked, Google services, or alternative operation systems.

I know many of you are interested to learn more, but the current outlook is that news about the next phone :ferris_wheel: :iphone: is expected to come in June.


absolutely not, what should be the benefit, root alone does nothing, it just means that you’re almost 100% in charge of your phone. until now i rooted all my phones since they usually come without root but why not give everyone the opportunity to install root apps out of the box which is just one significant benefit of having your phone rooted.

as a sidenote i have to tell that IMO Lollipop is without any doubt an improvment but not beautiful. out of the
box it’s indeed ugly and hurts my eyes. i know it’s a matter of taste and personal preferences, just expressing
mine here. btw we should upvote our device the receive the LINKED hardware so that we can further improve
the user experience of this phone. i even think that fairphone should partner with them to boos both enterprises
user base

thanks for taking the time to write such a long post, and I could not agree more with you. The differentiator of the FP with other phones is the emphasis on the social dimension. As little as possible conflict materials, better working conditions, and easier to recycle. This can also be found in the original mission statement (“about us”). At some point the word “fair” was translated into “open”. Following the Merriam Webster fair" can be translated as “open” in the sense of “transparent”, not in the sense of “open source”.
The arguments regarding UX are spot-on. The FP specific UI is nice, but may make the transfer from eg a Samsung to a FP more cumbersome.
Regarding privacy (more in my comfort zone): The concept of privacy has largely become meaningless in the internet age. E-mail is (temporarily) stored on a server, and if the receiving party does not use the same privacy-aware provider privacy is gone; it is as strong as the weakest link. The fear that Google may snoop on everything we do may be grounded. However, the same holds for Microsoft or Apple. No more Xbox, no more iPad.

So I agree with Ben that FP should stick to their original mission. Open source (open operating system) was not part of that mission. Allowing for developers to write their own apps, fine, maybe an app that makes installation from other sources easier, OK. Own style (exterior, UI), also fine. But the differentiator is social entrepreneur ship. There are plenty Open Source phone projects: Ubuntu, Firefox, Blackphone (not so secure after all…). As I read their current plans they are back to their original mission. Personally I don’t want to pay for technical experiments; I do want to pay a premium for their gutsy social entrepreneurship.


Thanks, i have not visited this thread for a while because it was becoming toxic to my patience. I still find the discussion valuable, if anything, the latest complaints of users trying to update to 1.8.5 have shown this: There (sadly) is a compromise between UX and all the different requirements for Privacy/Openness/Customisation.

:confused: Am, i am sorry, i need some context: “Absolutely not” should Fairphone drop root/superuser?

Exactly! I am pretty sure you are not alone! To be fair, I actually would pay a premium for open source support :wink: , but i think that should not come of the expense of a worse user experience for others.

I still think if Fairphone focuses on the social entrepreneurship and a very good device and UX, this is hugely beneficial for open source / alternative os support.

Could you elaborate on that? I’m not sure what you mean.

What I think the 1.8.5 upgrade has shown is:

  • Using root (e.g. manually repartitioning your storage) can really be dangerous as you might run into trouble updating, because you are no longer supported (Meaning the update was not made and tested for devices with “tinkered” software, NOT meaning you won’t still be helped when running into trouble.)
  • Reinstalling GAPPS is still not running very smoothly which would be a point pro preinstalling GAPPS.
  • Some users took the chance to finally stay google free after the update which shows the benefits of not preinstalling GAPPS. (I have to add, that I - a sworn Google-enemy - was the most active poster on Google Apps can’t be reinstalled but I took my role as an impartial moderator serious and only mentioned the Google-free way like two or three times, when it was appropriate)

PS: I think a great compromise (between different user-opinions - excluding the Fairphone team) would be two versions of the OS - one with and one without Google - and a few-click “enable root” function in the updater app + a message when you first use your phone:

Do you want to enable root access on your phone? Warning, root can be dangerous bla, bla… Remember that if you ever find an app you want to use that needs root access you can simply enable root in the updater app any time.
Yes No


Yes, that was pretty short: I meant that it currently seems that the user experience for users wanting Google apps is hurt by not having them pre-installed. Going the usual way of pre-installing would remove on hurdle for those users and probably make the updates more stable – at a price that users no longer have a choice of not having Google apps.

Fairphone users were “easily” able repartition their devices only to run into serious issues with the update, some blaming Fairphone in the full knowledge they had repartitioned there device following unofficial advice. Note the the crazy original partitioning the original fairphone came with was a serious departure by MediaTek from the way it’s normaly done on Android. They did this to provide users a “virtual” sd-card next to the device storage (on numerous other devices using MediaTek chipsets as well).

So may statement meant that if Fairphone had decided to go the “standard” way: One internal paritition for the OS, Google apps already included in the software etc., this would have made for a better experience for a lot of users.

I absolutely agree to this points and notice you not making that thread a crusade against Google! Thank your for that :thumbsup:.

I agree, minus the first use message. Great idea to integrate superuser install into the Updater (would require a reboot to recovery for install, but the Updater can already do that). :thumbsup:. I disagree a bit on the first time message because i don’t know if users know what that means at that point. They simply want to use the new device and have to through, i think this possibility is better mentioned in the users guide, forum, blog etc. So it’s easy to find for users wanting to do this, but also implemented that users only enable superuser of they need to.

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I think it is a misconception to think that you would have to pay more for root access, and that it would be a “technical experiment”. It is about ownership. “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it” is one of the claims FP used - and that’s true for both software and hardware.

I still don’t see the point that it’s making user experience “worse”:

Exactly. :sunny: It is strange how all the warnings that re-partitioning, installing apps which interfere with system processes and basically experimenting with your phone is dangerous and can cause problems, e.g., with the update process can be ignored by people who then get mad at Fairphone (as as company) or at the device (as a, erm, device) for giving them the liberty to do so.

I can empathise if someone posts in frustration, thinking that the re-partitioning solution was totally official and so on. But I can’t see that this is a reason to drop root. It’s a reason not to deliver a device with two partitions, and we can seriously be mad at MediaTek. (Ok, well, FP chose them, and we can still be mad at FP for doing so…)

Agreed - if this would not mean that I loose warranty or support, as in case of nearly all other comapnies. I want this device to be be my device, to own it as far as is possible in the age of EULAs.

Well said. I would still implement it there as well, so if the customer knows what he/she’s doing, he could. Adding an option in the Fairphone updater app to \root the FP2 would be nice. But this should also mean to add an option of installing FP OS without Google Apps pre-installed, then, right? And also mean that, in the future, I would expect FP to deliver multiple update flavours: one for users with GApps, one for users without GApps, and possibly a vanilla Android. Maybe even more.

A major question remains for me: is that any different from the situtation now?
The notable exception from people who caused their own grievances by doing stuff which requires root are now those who have trouble with some apps which don’t run because the device is rooted. The whole lot of other problems, for example people installing plain FP OS, adding GApps, and in the processloosing all their calendar entries, contacts and whatnot, will probably still be there. I don’t see that this is really causally related to the two-step procedure of installing the OS, and than adding GApps. Those things still can go wrong if GApps came pre-installed. They are not root-related.

Dear @ben, I hope you still do, and my post isn’t intoxicating. We should probably have been discussing hot subjects like this over cold beverages… :beer:


This is about ideology, isn’t it? Do we think that people can handle their devices responsibly or do we think they need to be protected by Fairphone (as a company)?

My opinion is the following: Put everything (root, Android Vanilla, Google Apps) in the advanced section of the Fairphone Updater and ship with an unrooted Fairphone OS without Google. Also Google Apps have to be treated responsibly and we cannot trust average users that they can handle them. (Saying this half-ironically.)


The yes/no open OS discussion overlooks a very fundamental issue: liability. If FP would allow you to “mess around” with the OS and does not clearly distance itself from the modifications FP has to repair the device when things go wrong (consumer protection). It also can get sued for damages indirectly due to non-intended use of the phone (eg., changed OS). So the terms and conditions should read: we guarantee the phone “out of the box”. Any modification in HW or OS will null-and-void this guarantee. I know that you technically can re-install the OS such that there is no difference with the factory OS, but that’s beside the point here.

I understand and appreciate the eagerness of the tech community to have an ethical, completely open, phone that they can modify. But, as argued before, FP cannot/should not sell those. With an alternative OS the FP-specific UI/UX disappears, and the FP becomes just like any other phone (apart from the ethical dimension)

My (probably heretic) proposal is to make two ethical phones. The first is the FP-branded phone as-we-know-it (UX/UI, support, integration with existing services) and one non-branded ethical phone with all technical wizardry. With this approach you also serve two communities with the same device, the “I want a social smartphone and want the warranty” community and the “I want a social smartphone where I can change the OS and I don’t care to much about warranty”. Both phones are equally social, repairable, and recycle-able. Only the open OS is different (but that is not a FP any more)

One platform, two devices for two different customer segments. The conservative segment buys the FP branded, FP UX phone with a social premium. The techy segment buys the non-branded, FP-platform phone (also ethical), but with an extra “fair = open OS” premium.

  • Comment
    An additional argument in favor of “off-the-shelf-no-fuzz” SW is that what today is an open source effort is tomorrow owned by big business (Google, Apple, Microsoft). The CyagenMod is an example. Heavily promoted in the FP fora as “truly open” it recently made a deal with Microsoft to do deep integration with Microsoft services. Don’t see much of a difference with having deep integration with Google services.
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You seem to forget the “I want a social smartphone, which I truly own (and which I can hence change or ‘customize’ the OS of, should I want to), but I do care about warranty” community. Of which there are a few members represented here on the forum, myself included.

I should have the right to tinker with my phone. I own it after all. That right comes with consequences though: if I break my phone (through tinkering or otherwise), I’m on my own. I accept that. But I’m not willing to accept that unrelated breakage won’t be covered. It would, quite simply, not be ‘fair’ to have to accept that (yes, I do feel quite strongly about this).

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I’m with you that you should be able to tinker with your phone. However, Fairphone cannot/should not encourage that for legal and branding reasons. If there are to many FP-labeled phones that are modified (resulting in different UX/UI and default services) the consumer becomes confused about what the FP is exactly. A phone should have the same user experience for each model.

That’s the background behind my suggestion. If you plan to tinker with the phone, take an unlabeled phone. Still an ethical/social phone, fully owned, but without the risk of confusing other customers that this FP (with identical appearance as the non-tinkered FP) behaves differently due to a different OS.

The legal implications can be easily dealt with the same way they are dealt with in (other) software: through explicit disclaimers. Put the “enable root” install in the updater app. Show the disclaimer and only continue when the user accepts it. Done.

As to the branding: I feel Fairphone would be better advised to develop its brand around fairness, not look & feel. Let’s be honest: Fairphone has little to no chance to out-develop the Samsungs, HTCs, Huawei’s, Sony’s etc of the world. They quite simply don’t have the resources to do so. Not even close.

But the fairness is what makes the Fairphone different. Fairness is their selling point. Fairness in the supply chain, yes, first and foremost. But imagine if that ‘fairness’ message was amplified by “and we’re also fair to you, our customers: it’s your phone, so we explicitely allow you to change it. You don’t have to, it’s a perfectly fine, functional phone out-of-the-box. But you can.”

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I am no lawyer, but I think that’s not true under EU customer rights. The opposite seems to be true: even if customer support is explicitly excluded in the TOS of a device if your rooted it, this will not hold in front of the law. And a quick google search brings up some interesting infos regarding Directive 1999/44/EC. Try the search string “Rooting and flashing your device does not void the warranty in EU”.

Neither in Finland nor Germany, nor the Netherlands a supplier is liable if you do something to a product and it destroys the product which is out of the ordinary use. I argue that supplying root access is not out of the ordinary. You have this on every desktop PC. Only since Apple (and others) started to mess with customer rights, it has become commonplace that you are not allowed to open a device, not to jailbreak it - else, they are going to deny you support. And it is denying us a right guaranteed by national law, based on said EU directive.

Of course, FP can not solve software problems you caused yourself. They can tell you - as they already do now - to ask the community. If this does not work out, you can reset the device - and FP also already tells you that.


No, I think not having Google Apps installed by default is a (very) big advantage. I think users shouldn’t have to go through hassle to free their phones, while I see no problem at all in having to go through the little hassle of installing Google Apps manually to confirm that you still want to give your private data away. It’s a good thing that the user is confronted with his decision with every update like telling him that he’s still not free and giving her/him several chances to change that.


To be honest, the only reason why I consider Fairphone 2 is the root access straight out of the box and getting rid of Google.

If I need to fiddle with it, I can also get a cheaper phone with better extras and install Cyanogenmod. Yes, Fairphone also offers “green” components which is a plus. But if I only get another Google phone for an expensive price, I personally would not consider it. (sorry but I’m done with pre-installed apps)

SUGGESTION: instead of sticking to Google and throwing stones at developers and open-source fans: provide two versions of the phone! Is it so hard to install the version the customer wants? If there are people who like Google, give them Google but do not force the rest to use Google, too. The store could just offer a “Google Fairphone” and an “open-source Fairphone”. Let customers choose what they want!

Fairphone offers an alternative and that is not just “green” components. It’s the whole idea: openness. To force people to pre-installed apps and no root access (did you know that some apps like a decent anti-virus would require root?) would break with that tradition - and it’s stupid to forbid apps like anti-viruses from the start*. Breaking that tradition won’t make friends with everyone…

So, no, I do not like that idea and I also do not like the idea of the “unlock alternative”. If you do not want open-source developers, I will leave and get Cyanogenmod. Sorry, I’m done with people who force me to do it their way. And to read such a blog-post on the Fairphone forum just makes me sad. I really thought you guys were open-minded…

*everyone who argues that there are non-root anti-viruses in the app-stores, go and google! They cannot remove any sophisticated malicious app without root. They can only maybe detect it.

FP does offer this. But it’s not their main goal. Their main goal is to increase Fairness in mining and production, and proving such a phone can be competitive and a commercial success.
The green issue (like repairability) and openess (like the root access and the possibility not to install GApps) are nice extras. But not the core business of FP.

So, personally I really don’t understand why you are sad, just because a FP-user started a forum topic to discuss this issue. I don’t understand why you talk about people who “force me to do it their way”, about a “broken tradition” (FP has only produced one phone…).
Seeing the efforts FP makes, they certainly want open-source developers. They even try to get them on board and make sure the FP2 is compatible with other OS. Do you know many commercially available phones where this is done?

Personally, I don’t care about this issue. And I don’t know very much about it. For me, the “default” option being a FP with Android and GApps is perfect. I receive the phone and everything works. That’s what I want. And personally, I am convinced there are many, many more consumers just like me. Consumers FP needs to convince buying their product. Consumers who, maybe, are not willing to take an other hurdle before they can use their phone. Consumers who want to buy a fair phone, not an open phone.

Of course, there would be a public for an OpenPhone. It’s just not FairPhones goal to make this phone. So don’t be angry if they don’t do this…

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[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
I really don’t understand why you are sad, just because a FP-user started a forum topic to discuss this issue
[/quote]That would be because “this issue” exists and because we think it is an issue.

[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
They even try to get them on board and make sure the FP2 is compatible with other OS.

[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
Personally, I don’t care about this issue.
[/quote]That’s really sad. There are always people who say: “I know this is bad for me, but I don’t care”.

[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
And I don’t know very much about it.
[/quote]That’s even worse. Combined with previous statement, you’re telling us that you’re gonna stick with Google Apps Store, no matter what. And you don’t want to know what can or does happen.

[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
I am convinced there are many, many more consumers just like me
[/quote]And we agree with you. And there are literally thousands or phones out that are perfect for you.

[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
Consumers who, maybe, are not willing to take an other hurdle before they can use their phone.
[/quote]Yes. It’s a real hurdle to ask consumers, who install 100 Apps on the phone, to install the App Store themselves.

[quote=“danielsjohan, post:151, topic:5582”]
Of course, there would be a public for an OpenPhone. It’s just not FairPhones goal to make this phone.
[/quote]And that would be another reason for threads like this. Openness was FP motto, once.

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Totally agree. Fast updates to the latest stock Android is as much as part of the device’s lifecycle as any hardware sustainability. Spending time and money fiddling around with software features is a waste of resources. As you say, Motorola is a great model to follow here.

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Wow, that’s a lot of quoting :slight_smile:

Please, don’t judge me if I don’t share your priorities. For me, personaly, worker welfare, a solution for conflict minerals and environmentally sustainable products are the main priorities. And it happens FP shares at least two of these priorities. Lucky for me, and that’s the reason I bought a FP1. Apparently you’re not happy with the approach of FP. So, the solution is simple: don’t buy it.

Indeed. But they are not fair. So the FAIRPhone is even more perfect for me :smile:

One part of my post, you didn’t answer to. However, this was, for me, the main argument: