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

After 6 days, this topic has gone through a fair amount of discussion. I would like do know what Fairphone thinks about this and i am therefore flagging @anon90052001 (as Community Manager) and @keesj (Software Developer) at Fairphone.

Primarily just to get this noticed, so they can potentially address that in future blog post or something. I would also like to know if the decision to ship the FP1 without Google Apps was made out of necessity (@anon12454812 mentioned lincensing in the Beta testers forum) or “conceptually”.

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I read the post where @anon12454812 explained that the FP1(U) couldn’t be shipped with GApps because of licensing. I think it would make FP liable to Google, if they would licence GApps.

Sorry, just no.
It’s the wrong path, Fairphone CAN and SHOULD be independent of Google.
There are alternative to all of their apps and YES Fairphone should suggest and preinstall some of those.
Unless Fairphone clearly states that the “fair” is just on the “mechanical” side, I expect software to be fair toward its user, and to not only allow but to promote a quality Free environment.
But freedom is freedom, I would put a 100% Google ROM available in the installer, with no additional steps needed (if possible at all given the licensing difficulties from Google)

Quoting from “Our road map to a fairer phone”:

To create the Fairphone and contribute to a fairer economy based on
social and environmental values, we’re opening up supply chains,
changing production processes and improving worker welfare.


In trading and the treatment of workers, i think it is possible to find a common definition of Fairness. But how do you define the Fairness of a Operation System or App or Service Provider? I do not think Google’s Apps are “unfair”. There might be many reasons to avoid if you like and I switched away from Google Mail for example to years ago. But unfair? On what grounds? Simply because it is not Open Source or Free Software?

I am a big supporter of Open Source and Free Software. But you cannot simply mix these things up and declare “all software shall be unfair, expect when it’s free a in freedom”. This is pure ideological fight that cannot be won. With all the same right could I say the Fairphone is “unfair” because it does not fulfil buyers expectation, nowhere does is say manual installation of GApps is required and that this process is error prone. Let’s stop trying to redefine what “Fair” means.

It’s not the mechanical side, it’s making the whole production chain more fairer, transparent and sustainable. If said that so often i cannot believe this very important part of what Fairphones gets underestimated so much. It’s simply not comparable in it’s importance to Google Apps or not or even root or not.

Edit: @danielsjohan said it better above :slight_smile:
Edit: Accidently included a quote twice.

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disclaimer I have not read the full thread.

For FP1 the gapps installer is something that just happened (some might call it a happy coincidence) . Secondly how root was implemented in FP1, specially the early releases was sub optimal(giving root access to anybody).

For FP2 we will provide different flavours of Fairphone OS(and certainly one without gapps). As of today I have not seen a signed contract to ship gapps so I can not even say anything about shipping with google apps.

As to the root and rootable discussion. The default shipping method for FP2 will be using a unlocked bootloader (e.g. users will be able to flash images and kernel, fastboot enabled) and the default image on the phone will use the current Android security model for protection (e.g. we will not “add” root in the shipped and supported installations). For the alternative image (without gapps) we will be able to be more flexible and listen to what the community wants.

What we do not know yet is if this model will work for all the parties. We don’t know yet if we will also need ship FP2 devices with a locked bootloader.


I agree!

  1. The first aim is the environmental impact and working conditions (I think that’s a plain “fact”)
  2. Most users prefer a “common” OS (and I would like to use Bancontact but can’t because my phone is rooted by default, for example, so also this is a “forced” choice).
  3. If you can root and remove Google influence afterwards, every kind of user is served. Let the open-source computer wizards make cyanmod (or something like that) or Ubuntu and I will probably give it a try!

Is dual boot an option for a phone? That would be perfect!

You “controversial” proposal is a good one, in my opinion Ben ;-).


Do I read this correctly that only the default image will be supported and if you use the alternative image - maybe with added root - you will loose support?

Thanks for your answer!

Sounds resonable to me. The installation of root is pretty easy with an unlocked bootloader, as all root-packages for Android (like SuperSU) supply and easy zip file for installation via recovery. Fairphone could provide a Guide on it’s support pages together with an explanation what the benefits and risks are.

Please also note that an unlocked bootloader is the only requirement for installation of custom OSs, root is not required to install.

Paul, we at this stage don’t know exactly what the images will look like but indeed but you should not complain about software or updates not working because you installed xposed or similar, Our helpdesk will simply not be able to help out and you will need to seek help on the forum or elsewhere. That said current testing happens as much a possible on stock Android components.


I agree that you aren’t responsible for things users do with root. And I agree that your Helpdesk cannot support every change tools like Xposed do to the OS.

But without support for rooted phones on issues not related to the changes by Xposed, etc. I certainly won’t buy the phone myself nor suggest it to anyone. It is really disturbing to me that you’ve decided or even consider dropping support for an open OS…

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I am not sure if I understand you correctly. Dropping root doesn’t mean that they drop support for an open OS, does it? Or, put another way: An unrooted Android is not more closed than a rooted one, in my opinion.

PS.: Thanks @keesj for the little outlook on the FP2! :slight_smile:

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I am very happy that Fairphone came and hopefully will continue to come without Google apps / playsotre etc. preinstalled.
If something / software etc. is already preinstalled it is nearly always next to impossible to get rid of it completely. So getting people to deinstall google is not the same as not having it in the first place.
I would not have bought a Fairphone (FP1!) if it had been with google preinstalled and I would not recommend it to other people if it had google preinstalled.

Of course there are some apps that are unfortunately only provided via googleplaystore, but if you search a little there are nearly always alternatives to be found.
so since my local trains-buses-app is only on the gogleplaystore I use Liberario, there so far I fould every town I needed.
If I can’t get an app in other situations I simply visit the mobile website version. Or I just do without it (i.e. I don’t use whatsapp, but for other reasons / data privacy)
My digital life does not depend on a certain apps, sofar I’ve had no reason to complain.

And I agree with everyone who already said this: to me Fairphone and Google don’t mix. I think we can possibly all agree that google’s main aim is to collect personal data and that their websites and apps are not uncontroversial (i.e. their influenced search results etc.).
That would be enough reason to not force it on Fairphone Buyers.
Leave it as a free choice.
Since apparently it is only a very small and easy step to activate all the google stuff on the fairphone there is NO reason to go the other way around and ask the (possible) minority to remove google stuff later.
Here in Germany I get lots of positive reactions of people to the Fairphone, and very often they also praise the not-preinstalled-google (USP :wink: ).

Sometimes good things just come out of chance (think of Newton and the apple) - so maybe the first fairphone was googlefree because they were not allowed to preinstall it. But that was really good, so let’s continue with that.


Hello HackAR,

I might not have expressed myself correctly: We will actively support the open source community and allow you to install alternative operating systems as well as allow you to “root” your phone by means of recovery for example. What we will not provide is a help desk or telephone support. Can you please explain what you mean by “But without support for rooted phones on issues not related to the changes by Xposed” can you perhaps give an example? What do you mean by rooted phone, given the phone will come unlocked why do you need to “root” it?

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That is very relative. And i am not only talking about this “small step” but also issues related to this, like Fairphone having to support users for which that is irritating, providing a custom solution to install Google Apps, supporting reinstalling after each update…

I get a lot of positive reactions for my FP as well but they have never been related to Google. So that’s subjective as well.

Yes, that is fine and everything. But sometimes there is no alternative, for example to use mobile tickes with Deutsche Bahn you have to use the mobile app.

But I understand, if you do not wan’t Google Apps, removing it/replacing the OS with an alternative version, is a burden, so thanks for contributing.

But given that kessj already confirmed there will be a version of FP OS without Google Apps (see above), i do not see a big issue here. Today with the FP1 we, the users who want Gapps, have to install Google Apps if we want them manually, and repeat that including the installation wizard, entering user credentials, setting language, etc. after each update. In the FP2 it might be the other way around: If you do not want GApps, thanks to the unlocked Bootloader, install the Google-free alternative before first use. Seems like good deal to me and since i expect the majority will want Google Apps, especially first time / general users, i think it is actually better this way.

I think want @HackAR meant here is “rooted” in the sense of having a “su” binary eg. superuser access installed.

[quote=“keesj, post:46, topic:5582”]
I might not have expressed myself correctly
[/quote]I guess you need to be precise on what extend you’re dropping the support.
A version of OS with root access is made available by you, but not supported:

  1. No updates for the OS, ever?
  2. You’ll update the OS, but only on at-your-own-risk? If it doesn’t run correctly, you won’t fix?
  3. You’ll update the OS and fully support it, but won’t help if an App with root access doesn’t work or messes up with the OS.
    It’s obvious (to me at least) that you can’t offer much support on 3rd party Apps, so anything beyond 3. cannot be expected.

[quote=“keesj, post:38, topic:5582”]
we will not “add” root in the shipped and supported installations
[/quote]That means that the installations with root access are not supported? This would be point 1. or 2. on my list. And this is not acceptable for me.

[quote=“Stefan, post:44, topic:5582”]
An unrooted Android is not more closed than a rooted one, in my opinion.
[/quote]So you’re saying that an OS that allows you to change the OS settings and files is not more open that the one that does not? :confused:

Please define “support” here. what do you expect from “support”?

HackAR, this is not about being open or not, it is about being secure. We will not disallow people from fiddling with their devices and even do as much as we can to make this possible but if you call customer support that your devices is not working we will ask you to test this on the official unmodified build(s).

The FP2 device will be open source friendly because we the phone is unlocked and we will release as much as possible as open source software. We have an good track record for publishing our own code and have done what was possible to release as much as possible of the FP1 code. For FP2 we aim much higher. The intent is to allow for community contributed code and translations in the build. If you feel that not providing customer support for modified builds (e.g own modifications on the /system partition) FP2 is probably not for you.


So you’re saying that an OS that allows you to change the OS settings and files is not more open that the one that does not?[/quote]

I was referring to openness as in “Open Source”.

Of course the more you can fiddle the more open, as in “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it”, a phone is.

Edit: I removed a part because @Stefan was faster.

This is actually common sense and done this way by other manufactures as well. With Sony for example, while they provide first class developer support for their top-smartphones, you actually have to agree that you lose your warranty when you unlock your device (required for AOSP/custom os installation). And this is similar with ASUS and other manufacturers.

With a custom os or system level access, with apps like Xposed etc, it might very well be that your problems is caused by your own or that apps modifications. How is support actually expected to detect that, or even further fix it?

Requiring to reinstall an offical image first seems very reasonable.

This actually a very important question.

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