Google’s Android operating system may be open source software, but some of the most popular Android apps including YouTube, Google Maps, and the Chrome web browser are not. Neither is Google Play Services, which is a framework that many apps from Google and other developers tap into.
So while any device maker can load up a phone or tablet with Android, some apps may not work on those devices if they don’t have Google Play Services installed.
But developer MaR-V-iN wants to change that with a free and open source framework that allows apps that normally require Play Services to run on devices that don’t have it.
The framework is called microG GmsCore, and it’s still under development. But if you’re not scared of testing potentially buggy software, you can give it a try by downloading the latest version from the xda-developers forum.
Note that this is still very much a work in progress. Certain Play Services features including support for authentication, location, and cloud messaging are working. Other features including support for Maps are partially working, while work is just beginning on support for Google Cast, Plus, and Wearable support.
In order to use microG GmsCore, you’ll need a custom ROM based on Android 4.4 or later and which does not have gApps installed with support for signature faking (instructions are included in the xda-developers post).
If you’re in a position to install a ROM like this, odds are that you’ve got a device that would support Google Play Services if you wanted it. So at this point, the reason to support and help test the project is probably because you want to help support an FLOSS alternative to Play Services, not necessarily because you’re hoping to make it easier to install Chrome or the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire tablet which doesn’t natively support those things.
This is some of the most exciting news I’ve heard recently. I’m not of the the tin foil hat wearing variant of people who support this, but it’s great to have options and especially the promise of a future where you can have AOSP without having to sacrifice many of Google’s and Android’s core apps and services.
Microsoft is supposedly working on this as well. Rumors are that they want to allow Android apps to be installed on Windows machines, and to allow that they have to strip the apps’ dependence on Google Services (perhaps replacing them with Microsoft Services).
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