Cyanogen Inc produces a custom version of Android for smartphones including the OnePlus One and Micromax Yu line of devices.

Right now that means users get some special features and more control over settings than they’d get if they were running a phone running the stock version of Android that runs on phones like the Google Nexus 5 or Nexus 6. But it’s still largely tied to Google’s apps and services.

In the next few years, though, Cyanogen wants to significantly reduce its reliance on Google.


Speaking at an event run by The Information, Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster said the company wants to take control of Android away from Google.

Cyanogen plans to make a custom version of Android that gives developers more support for integrating their apps and services directly into the operating system.

While Google currently provides tools that let developers create all sorts of third-party apps, there are some ways that Google’s own apps are first-class citizens while other apps are not. For instance, Google Now and Google Search are tightly integrated into Android so they can interact with other apps and the core operating system. Phone makers, wireless carriers, or app developers that want that kind of access have to fork Android to get it… which is an approach that Amazon has taken with its Fire tablets and Fire Phone.

Forking Android in that way, though, violates Google’s policies and it means that device makers cannot use Google Mobile Services including the Google Play Store and apps such as Gmail, YouTube, and Maps.

So as part of its plan to open up Android to give device makers and app developers more control, Cyanogen plans to launch its own app store.

That approach has had mixed results for other developers. Amazon’s Fire tablet line of devices sell pretty well, but the Fire Phone has been something of a flop. Still, the Amazon Appstore is probably the second-largest marketplace for Android apps… at least in the US.

Barnes & Noble tried selling Android-based tablets with its own user interface and app store for a few years, but eventually started loading Google Play on those devices before discontinuing them and just selling Samsung tablets with the B&N NOOK name on them instead.

In China, on the other hand, many phones and tablets sell without access to the Google Play Store. In that country, third-party app stores are the norm, and users don’t generally expect access to Google Mobile Services.

In other words, Cyanogen’s plans to wrest control over Android away from Google may be ambitious for a startup formed by makers of community-based custom ROMs that are based on source code from Google. But it’s not necessarily impossible. While it’s hard to imagine Cyanogen software becoming the norm on phones sold in the US anytime soon, there are certainly regions where the software could do well… and the company’s business plan could endear it to hardware and software makers that are upset with how much control Google exerts over the operating system that runs on the majority of smartphones sold in the world.

Samsung, for example, is investing heavily in the Tizen operating system as an alternative to Android so that the company has a platform it has more control over. But the first Tizen smartphone launched in India this month, and early reports suggest it hasn’t been all that well received, at least partly because there aren’t that many apps designed for the platform. A forked version of Android like the one Cyanogen appears to be working on would be able to run most Android apps… assuming the company can convince developers to submit their existing apps to its new app store.

via Android Authority

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20 replies on “Cyanogen wants to make Google-free version of Android”

  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not sure what the big deal is as Cyanogenmod has always been Google-free. Gapps requires a separate flash, and you can run Cyanogenmod now without installing Gapps and it will work perfectly fine.

    1. Wrong, the Gapps were part of the early CyanogenMod Roms until it got popular enough that Google sent them a cease and desist, because while Android in itself is free, there is a license fee if you want to use Gapps. The only reason the Community ROM has a seperate flash for the Gapps is because it would be ludicrous to have to pay for each and every copy of Gapps distributed with a product you give away for free, and the seperate flash is only there to free them from that technicality, but up untill a few years ago CyanogenMod was about bringing “Nexus” feeling to each any every device.

  2. They should collab w/ Replicant 1st and if they think that it won’t worth their while, then what they’re set out to do won’t be either.

  3. I remember when Cyanogen(Mod) was all about BRINGING the true Google Experiance to the masses plagued with Manufacturer Skins aswell as getting Updates earlier and in many cases long after manufacturer support was dropped officially.

    Cyanogen being about Android MINUS Google is about as useful as Windows without the ability to run Win32 Software – i.e. WinRT – the System even Microsoft dropped like a Stone.

    1. That’s a typical straw man argument. You don’t need the proprietary Google apps to run Android apps. Sure, some of them depend on Google Play services, but that’s not the same thing.

      1. I am talking about Cyanogen, not Android as a whole, and layed out my reasons why i feel this is a betrayal of the core identity of the Rom.

        I decided to go with Android because of the google integration, i don’t deny that it WORKS without it, but i don’t see any advantages of using it without them over competitors platforms.

        Losing the core advantage/distinguishing factor from the competetition (in androids case Google integration) in fact is the same as Windows without Win32 support.

        1. as someone who owns multiple devices running without google-framework and apps:
          i don’t get your point. yes, the variety on play-store is nice to have and if you use google services like gmail, then having those apps is a plus too.
          but other than that android without google is still pretty usable and i wouldn’t call that the “core advantage” over other systems.
          I’d rather say a google-less android is currently still the only way of getting a pretty free/open smartphone (and no, ubuntu touch, firefox-os and similar are not really what i’d call usable)

  4. I don’t think it’s so bad that they want to provide an alternative, more open version of Android that can be installed commercially. However, I don’t think it’s good for anyone to take away the development of AOSP. As long as Google keeps the Open-Sourced project, there should be no problem.

  5. Well, I don’t think it should be such a big deal. If they allow sideloading then you can just load the Amazon App Store and that will provide a good variety of apps.

    1. True but as a forked Android test case so to speak, not even Amazon are doing it right. They just got some parts of the equation right and not as international as Android ergo not that complete anti Android Android… if it’s really the case Amazon of all players should have been racking up Xiaomi’s numbers.

  6. For me, the whole point of “smart” in smartphone is Google Now (or Cortana or Siri). Other than that, a dumb phone with a browser is sufficient for me. Why would I (or most people) want the latest and greatest hardware with dumbed down software? Cyanogen made sense ages ago when it offered more than Android. Unless they can come up with their own version of Google Now, I’ll pass.

    1. “For me, the whole point of “smart” in smartphone is Google Now (or Cortana or Siri).”

      The only thing “Dumb” in smartphones is stuff like Google Now. I don’t want those spies watching everywhere I go and listening to everything I do. I turn that evil stuff OFF the vast majority of the time, and only use it rarely when there isn’t a safer way. And who’s to know if turning that crap off really turns it off anyway? Learn some respect for your privacy!

      1. If you want to go the privacy route, you probably don’t want a smartphone at all, you want a series of burner phones. If you use a phone at all, your carrier knows where you are and what you’re doing. If any of your apps have Internet access, the publisher is pulling information about you. Not to mention the multiple governments that are keeping an eye on vast swaths of people, you and/or I possibly included.

        For me, I’ll give Google the data to make my smartphone more responsive to my needs. What you do is up to you.

  7. Isn’t this the same Cyanogen Inc that has been signing conflicting deals covering sale of phones in India, and from emails over that subject appearing to be very unpleasant people? Yeah I don’t want to see them take over Android, likewise Samsung, Microsoft… Though there may be problems with the way Android is managed those companies are far worse managers.

    1. google is way worse than cyanogen or samsung given its monopoly status, microsoft is just as bad as google and crapple.

  8. Wasn’t there a rumor that Microsoft wanted to buy/work with them? I was wondering if they were going to partner with Microsoft and have Microsoft services on there

    1. They might partner with Nokia. Nokia’s HERE mapping service is the biggest competitor to Google Maps. It’s one of the mobile assets Nokia kept when it sold its mobile division to Microsoft. HERE is used on Amazon’s devices, Windows Phone, Sailfish OS and FirefoxOS. Nokia recently made it available for Android too. It could be a drop in replacement for Google Maps.

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