In 2018, Gaël Duval created an operating system not based on Google services. 4 years later, the OS comes out of its beta version to offer a V1 which emphasizes privacy and control of personal data.
/e/OS, what is it?
/e/OS is a French alternative operating system created by Gaël Duval. Its first version dates from 2018, so it is very recent. This system open-source is based on Android, but does not integrate Google Mobile Services – the famous GMS that Huawei has been lacking for 3 years now. The ambition of /e/ is to offer an OS that respects privacy, that is to say that does not embed any tracker, unlike Android or iOS. /e/OS is developed by a non-profit organization, and not by a company comparable to GAFAM, and therefore does not seek profit with the collection of your personal data.
There are several ways to access /e/OS on a smartphone. It is possible to acquire a Murena mobile – the range of smartphones equipped with this operating system by default. There are a handful of them and the /e/ Foundation is a partner of manufacturers such as Samsung or Fairphone. However, if you are equipped with another terminal, you can install the OS by hand, using an installer – but few models are compatible – or by simply downloading the package. In the spring of 2022, the operating system is based on Android 11 and finally signs its release from beta, which marks the advent of /e/OS V1.
On the main lines
The operating system /e/ is “deGoogled”. It therefore does not integrate GMS, and even if it is based on Android, Google does not intervene in the telephone. As a result, /e/OS offers its own applications as an alternative to those of Mountain View. Among them, an application store, a navigation app or even a browser which, by default, obviously does not offer Google. For geolocation services, /e/ goes through Mozilla. As the foundation’s manifesto says: “Keeping your data private doesn’t mean giving up your digital”. Indeed, if /e/OS adopts its own store, the latter still allows you to download your favorite applications. A good part of what can be found on the Play Store is available, even if it will sometimes be necessary to search hard to find an application. For example “Facebook” does not appear in the list when we type the name in the search bar; by typing “Meta”, the social network application appears, but not in the first results and, above all, after Messenger (Meta’s messenger). It will therefore be cunning, but it must be recognized that /e/OS provides access to a good number of applications and remains rather complete, even without Google.
What /e/OS v1 offers
- As a good protector of privacy, the operating system allows you to track all the data collected by third parties, which can be seen in particular in its alternative portal, called App Lounge. The store assigns each application a privacy rating out of 10, which is calculated automatically from the permissions and trackers detected within the title. Below this note, a description under the title “Confidentiality analyses” allows you to consult the permissions required by the app as well as the various trackers hidden there.
If Murena’s desire is to offer almost the same Android experience without all its inconveniences, the result is not exactly the same. In fact, the location that goes through Mozilla is a little more capricious than that which uses GMS. Same thing for the App Lounge which hosts a good part of the Play Store applications, but whose (for some) compatibility is a bit risky. Small things when taken separately, but which, when added together, can quickly become overwhelming.
The photo application is still slow to run. What we found during our test of the OS on a Redmi Note 8T unfortunately still applies today. The trigger takes time to react, as does the button to change optics. Also, what is visible on the screen appears blurry and of very low quality. Which is fortunately not the case when looking at the photo once it is captured.
If you are a regular user of /e/OS, and would like to contribute to this article, provide tips, clarifications or corrections, do not hesitate to contact us in the comments.