Google’s Android operating system may be open source, but most of the phones and other devices that ship with Android also include a bunch of closed source apps and services including the Google Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps.
Mandrake Linux founder Gaël Duval wasn’t satisfied with that, so he decided to create a new fork of Android called eelo that uses only free and open source software.
Eelo still a work in progress, and at this point it’s basically just a fork of LineageOS (the project from the former CyanogenMod team) with a custom app launcher and app suite. But Duval has written several articles laying out the vision for the project, as well as the progress to date.
The plan is to replace Google services with open alternatives. For example, OpenStreetMaps will be used instead of Google Maps. Instead of Google Drive, the operating system will probably support services like NextCloud or OwnCloud that let you set up your own personal cloud file server. And instead of the Google Play Store, eelo uses F-Droid and APKPure.
This wouldn’t be the first attempt to build an Android-without-Google operating system. Once upon a time that’s what Cyanogen Inc hoped to do… although that was never an entirely open source project. Meanwhile, Replicant goes even further in removing all proprietary code from Android… but development of the operating system is pretty laborious and slow. Replicant 6.0 was released earlier this year… about two years after Google released the Android 6.0 software it’s based on.
Anyway, it’s not really clear at this point what you’d get with eelo that you can’t already get by installing LineageOS without the Play Store. But if you’re interested in supporting and/or following the project, there’s a Kickstarter campaign.