The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones were released in 2017 and they were pretty great phones with good performance and excellent cameras. But Google rolled out the last official update for the phones at the end of 2020, which means there’s no official Android 12 build for the Pixel 2 series and the phones no longer receives security updates.
But independent developers are keeping Google’s hardware alive even after Google has abandoned it. You can now run Android 12 on the Pixel 2 XL thanks to a custom ROM. And if you’d rather try something quite different, Pixel 2 support is coming to the Linux-based Ubuntu Touch operating system. But you should be aware that some features may not be working yet.
ProtonAOSP is a custom ROM for smartphones that’s based on Google’s Android Open Source Project code, but which includes a number of tweaks for performance, customization, privacy, security, and more.
The Android 12-based software officially supports Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 series phones, but developer Dollscythe has created an unofficial build for the Pixel 2 XL, with a promise that the Pixel 2 will soon be supported as well.
Note that this is a fork of the official ProtonAOSP software that features the same user interface and performance tweaks, but which adds support for Google’s older phones.
First released to the public on November 9th, 2021, the initial build of ProtonAOSP for the Pixel 2 XL does not support WiFi or disk encryption, and SELinux is set to permissive. And the developer notes that some folks may have trouble installing the operating system if they haven’t upgraded their system partition first.
But now that Google has stopped releasing new builds of Android for the Pixel 2 series, it’s good to see independent developers like Dollscythe picking up the slack.
Ubuntu developer Canonical created the Ubuntu Touch operating system almost a decade ago when the company was exploring the possibility of offering an open source, Linux-based alternative to iOS and Android. But after running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build an Ubuntu Edge smartphone… and failing to meet the fundraising goal, Canonical abandoned the project.
Since the software was open source though, a team of developers created a new group called UBPorts to continue development of this phone-friendly, Ubuntu-based operating system.
The next major release will be Ubuntu Touch OTA-20, which is due to ship on November 19th. And one of the new features coming to this build is support for installing Ubuntu Touch on Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 phones using the UBPorts Installer utility.
Developers have already been working to bring support for Pixel 2 hardware to Ubuntu Touch, and as of November 11, 2021, the Ubuntu Touch Devices page for the phones shows that many key features are working, including support for WiFi and cellular connectivity, touchscreen input, GPS, audio, and the fingerprint reader.
But Bluetooth, the microphone, and battery percentage reporting are only partially supported so far, mobile hotspot functionality isn’t yet supported, and NFC hasn’t been tested yet.
One thing for free and open source software purists to keep in mind is that this build of Ubuntu Touch relies on Halium software which allows Android 9 devices to be ported to run Ubuntu Touch software by using some Android hardware drivers.
Other GNU/Linux distributions such as postmarketOS use something closer to a mainline Linux kernel, but efforts to port postmarketOS to the Pixel 2 haven’t gotten very far yet.