It’s hard to develop a new smartphone operating system from scratch. But forking one is another story.

So when developer Gaël Duval wanted to create a smartphone operating system that emphasized privacy, he started with Android… and then stripped all the proprietary Google services he could.

The result is a platform he calls /e/ which is a fork of a fork (it’s based on LineageOS and uses microG as an alternative to Google Mobile Services). While a public beta of the /e/ operating system has been available since last year, at the time you had to install it on a phone yourself.

But this summer Duval began partnering with refurbished smartphone sellers to offer older Samsung handsets with /e/ pre-installed. They’re now available for purchase in Europe.

Prices range from 279€ for a Samsung Galaxy S7 to 479€ for a Samsung Galaxy S9+ and the phones are available in more than 30 countries including the UK and much of Europe.

According to a recent profile of the project by ZDNet, Duval expects to begin offering phones in Australia and New Zealand soon as well.

Long term, the folks behind /e/ hope to ship phones in other regions including the US, Canada, Brazil, Russia, and China, but the group is still looking for distributors.

There have been a number of projects over the years aimed at offering an alternative to the mobile ecosystems offered by Apple and Google. But Windows Phone is dead. Firefox OS is dead (although some code lives on). Ubuntu Touch is… not quite dead, but it has been abandoned by the original developers.

But recently we’ve seen a growing number of smaller projects. Pine64 and Purism are developing GNU/Linux smartphones designed to offer more freedom over the software that runs on your phone, along with more privacy (and a more limited selection of mobile apps) than Android. And the /e/ project seems to be the product of a similar ethos. It just happens to be based on Android.

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6 replies on “/e/ is selling Google-free Android phones (in Europe)”

  1. I picked up a ZTE Open Firefox phone on eBay. I like operating system, but there were very few updates and apps available. The phone itself is a good ‘phone’, but the slow CPU, minimal RAM, limited storage, small screen could only run a few apps. The Firefox browser worked just fine though. I like the Firefox OS graphical interface WAY better than the Windows Phone Start Screen and Metro Tiles. I think there may have been some legal action against Firefox, because Firefox OS originally would let you download Youtube music videos in MP3 format.

  2. Just of curiosity i bought a tablet by Datawind at discounted price its also kind of google play, google service, gmail..basically free of google stuff. cant say it a year or two ago but now i am kind of loving it.

    1. Yep, I just never followed up after Duval announced plans in May to sell these phones. When I saw the ZDNet article getting attention, I tried to figure out what was new in it, and realized I’d never published a post about the availability of these phones.

      1. To be fair, I heard about this ages ago but never knew much about it. If I have a Samsung S7-S8-S9-S10 I’m more likely to flash a Custom Rom, than to flash (or buy) an e-phone.

        I sort of wished there was a substantial fork of Android, even bigger than LineageOS and maybe backed by a competitor to the OHA (ie No Google “spyware” Services). I know both Nokia and Amazon did something like this, but it’s hardly mainstream or available.

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