Google’s Android is the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, partly because Google makes it available for free to phone makers. The company can afford to do that because Google makes most of its money from advertising — and the more people who are using apps and services including Chrome, Google Search, Google Maps, and YouTube, the more money Google makes.
But a growing number of people are concerned about the privacy implications of phones that track and monetize your data… and there are a growing number of alternative solutions.
Some companies, like Purism and Pine64 are selling phones designed to run GNU/Linux distributions rather than Android. Software development is happening at a rapid pace, and the Linux smartphone space has been pretty exciting to watch. But it’s also very much early days – current-gen Linux smartphones are best suited for enthusiasts and hackers/developers at this point.
Looking for something a little more polished that respects your privacy? Some folks might turn to Apple’s iPhones, which don’t rely as heavily on data collection. But Apple’s walled garden approach turns off some.
Now a new company called OSOM is working on new hardware and software that the company says will respect users’ privacy. Founded by a group of former Essential employees (but not Google co-founder Andy Rubin), OSOM hasn’t officially announced any products yet. But CNET interviewed OSOM founder Jason Keats about the company’s plans… which are still kind of vague at the moment. But it seems like a company worth keeping an eye on.
Here’s a roundup of recent tech news from around the web.
- Reinventing privacy: How one startup is building anew from a phone flop [CNET]
Former Essential employees have created a new company called OSOM and plan to launch its first privacy-focused device next year, with the goal of releasing 6+ affordable gadgets in the next few years, all with an emphasis on user control of their own data.
- Oppo to introduce a concept phone with rollable display [GSM Arena]
Oppo is set to unveil a smartphone with a rollable display tomorrow, possibly stealing a bit of thunder from LG, which is expected to launch its own phone with a roll-out, expandable display early next year.
- Quantum Mini is a $50 system-on-a-module dev kit [CNX Software]
Quantum Mini is a $50 development kit featuring a tiny system-on-a-module with an Allwinner H3 quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor and a expansion board with a TFT display, buttons, ports, and expansion pins.
- Librem 5 Screenshots [Purism]
Purism releases some screenshots showing the current state of the software for its Librem 5 Linux smartphone. The Evergreen/mass production batch is about to ship. Web browser, SMS, dialer, clock, file manager, email, weather, and terminal apps included.
- Hacker adds a working fingerprint sensor to the PinePhone [LinuxSmartphones]
The PinePhone isn’t just one of the most affordable smartphones designed to run free and open source software. It’s also modular. Most of the internal components are user replaceable including the battery, mainboard, speaker, and display. And there are 6 pogo pins that allow you to connect additional hardware. Several official swappable back covers are in the works, which will bring features like NFC, wireless charging, and a physical keyboard. One hacker made an unofficial fingerprint reader cover – although Pine64 is reaching out, suggesting it could become an official option at some point.