Open Source Alternatives for Android

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Android is less and less open, so what are the alternatives?


By Glyn Moody:


"One open source project with a long pedigree – and an impressive user base – is CyanogenMod:

an aftermarket firmware for over forty cell phones and tablets based on the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android-based firmwares of vendors of these devices, including native theming support (also known as the "T-Mobile Theme Engine"), a codec for the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC), compressed cache (compcache), a large APN list, an OpenVPN client, a reboot menu, support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB tethering, toggles in the notification pull-down (such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and many more), as well as other enhancements.

CyanogenMod was also the first mobile OS to incorporate BFS as the task scheduler, a change that has been merged into experimental branches in the official Android source tree. CyanogenMod claims to increase performance and reliability over official firmware releases.

As of 17 July 2011, CyanogenMod has been installed on over half a million devices." (


"Another is Replicant: a distribution of Android that is 100% Free Software.

Most of Android is licensed freely under the Apache License 2.0. The Linux core is mostly Free Software under the GPLv2. However, there are numerous components of the default software stack on the devices that are proprietary software. Most notably, nearly any component that touches the hardware directly is proprietary software.

We are not experts in embedded devices; we are just enthusiastic hackers that are giving a try." (

Open Moko

"Another venerable project, quite separate from Android, is Openmoko: a project dedicated to delivering mobile phones with an open source software stack. Openmoko was earlier more directly associated with Openmoko Inc, but is nowadays a gathering of people with the shared goal of "Free The Phone". Distributors are currently selling updated versions of the Openmoko Inc's phone released in 2008, Neo FreeRunner, to advanced users, while the software stack for FreeRunner and future free phones is being developed by the community." (

Neo FreeRunner

"More about Neo FreeRunner:

a Linux-based touch screen smart phone ultimately aimed at general consumer use as well as Linux desktop users and software developers.

Linux users and software developers will appreciate the total freedom they have to use and design software for the FreeRunner.

General phone users will eventually appreciate the high spec and performance of the phone and the wide range of free software packages expected to emerge. These will allow users to make the maximum use of the hardware and tailor it to their particular needs. Since launch, the pace of software tweaks and improvements has increased as both the Openmoko team developers and the wider community work together." (


"Quite different from these community-driven efforts is the new and unpronounceable Tizen:

Tizen logo Tizen is an open source, standards-based software platform supported by leading mobile operators, device manufacturers, and silicon suppliers for multiple device categories, including smartphones, tablets, netbooks, in-vehicle infotainment devices, smart TVs, and more. Tizen will offer an innovative operating system, applications, and a user experience that consumers can take from device to device.

The Tizen project will reside within the Linux Foundation and will be governed by a Technical Steering Group. The Technical Steering Group is the primary decision-making body for the open source project, with a focus on platform development and delivery, along with the formation of working groups to support device verticals.

Tizen will provide a robust and flexible environment for application developers, based on HTML5 and Wholesale Applications Community (WAC). With HTML5's robust capabilities and cross platform flexibility, it is rapidly becoming the preferred development environment for mobile apps and services. The Tizen SDK and API will allow developers to use HTML5 and related web technologies to write applications that run across multiple device segments, including smartphone, tablet, smart TV, in-vehicle infotainment, and netbook.

The LiMo Foundation has a little more information about Tizen's origins:

Tizen combines the best open source technologies from LiMo and the Linux Foundation and adds a robust and flexible standards-based HTML5 and WAC web development environment within which device-independent applications can be produced efficiently for unconstrained cross-platform deployment." (

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