At the end of 2017, the /e/ project was unveiled in a series of articles entitled “Leaving Apple & Google: my (/e/) Odyssey” (Part1, Part2, Part3), with a clear promise: making a fully unGoogled and ready-to-use mobile operating system and online services, yet compatible with Android applications…
Eighteen months later, most of what was described in that early vision has been built. We have produced an unGoogled mobile OS (currently supported on 80 different smartphone models) and /e/ associated online services — email address, online storage, calendar & notes — are up and running. All accessed through a single personal /e/ identity and password (read a comprehensive description here).
Recently, we have introduced the /e/ app repository providing access to 60,000 free Android apps that can be installed directly from the /e/OS.
Still more recently, we have introduced smartphones for purchase with /e/OS preloaded: a selection of refurbished premium grade hardware options (Galaxy S7, S9…) are now available, initially in the European market. The first customers have just received their smartphones over the last 10 days. It seems we have invented a new concept here, with demand exceeding our expectations.
/e/OS smartphones, what’s in the box!
We are proud to anchor /e/ on positive values such as user data privacy, education, energy saving and sustainable development.
What we are building today is not perfect yet, but we believe that it’s the beginning of a truly significant alternative to the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market. And we are getting a strong support for this from our fast-growing community of users.
One specific goal in the /e/ proposal is to offer the opportunity to completely break free from Google, while still being able to run most existing Android applications.
This not only represents a technical challenge for us, it goes also against Google’s strategy. Therefore, we want to make it clear to all users that keeping your data away from Google sometimes means some compromises, and in this case, being limited to a smaller set of apps directly available from the OS. We are not yet capable of delivering any Android application directly to users.
What can be done if an app is not available from the /e/ app repository?
Here is what some users do:
- they use Yalp Store or Aurora Store to find missing apps (which are obviously not supported by Google). Within Aurora Store, for instance, a user can connect to Google Play either in anonymous mode, or using a real Google account and thus can get access to all free applications. It also seem to be possible to purchase some applications there using a real Google account
- they use web applications as alternatives! A lot of bank apps for instance have good web access with the option to create a shortcut from the web browser on your home screen.
VLC app in the /e/OS application installer, and the Aurora Store alternative running on /e/OS
The goal of /e/ ultimately is to get totally free from the Google and the Android applications ecosystem. It’s not totally possible yet, and will take time, perhaps several years. Progressive Web Apps are maturing fast as a new option for developing low-cost efficient mobile applications, and we want to catch this opportunity and be one of the first actors to embrace it.
We welcome all /e/ users to tell us about mobile alternative that are already available as web applications.
More to come soon on this subject!
As you know, /e/OS is not yet in v1. There is still much to do before we reach our own expectations for a v1 state. We now need to improve consistency across the user interface, both in the OS itself and in the online services. We want to offer more privacy-oriented features, and want to innovate to improve the choice of available apps. Remember: this is an odyssey!
These things are on our roadmap for the next 12 months, along with increasing the number of supported devices, and making refurbished /e/ smartphones available in many more countries around the world.
Users demand something new and better. We’re in an emerging market — fast growing and very dynamic. We believe that what we are doing is starting to answer real needs, and we are committed to delivering more value and privacy over time.
Thanks so much to all our supporters.
Now let’s write the next 12 month story!
— Gaël Duval, /e/ Founder