Fairphone partners with /e/ to ship the Fairphone 3 with a Google-free OS
Electronic waste is a major issue caused in part by the unwillingness of consumer electronics companies to support their devices for more than just a few years. Many Android smartphone makers only provide software support for 3 years, and only a handful of companies make smartphones that are easy to repair. That’s why 3 people came together in early 2013 to found Fairphone, a company that designs smartphones with their environmental and social impacts in mind. Their smartphones are generally easily repairable and have an abundance of parts available on demand. The company has released three smartphones so far: the Fairphone 1, Fairphone 2, and Fairphone 3. The Fairphone 3 launched in mid-2019 with Android 9 Pie and Google Mobile Services on board, but the company also promotes open-source development for those who want to move away from the Google ecosystem. Now, you can buy the Fairphone 3 with a Google-free OS pre-installed.
Fairphone has partnered with /e/, a company that develops an AOSP-based custom ROM for users who want to run Android without Google’s apps and services on board. /e/ supports a range of mostly older Android smartphones on the market as their work is largely based on LineageOS, the most popular, community-led AOSP-based custom ROM. While LineageOS is already fairly Google-free by nature, /e/ makes a handful of additional tweaks such as disabling the default Google DNS, using a different captive portal URL, and most importantly, including microG support so users can still enjoy some applications that rely on APIs (namely location) from Google Play Services. /e/ also bundles many alternative applications to Google apps, some of which are based on LineageOS’ open source offerings or other open-source projects. The point of /e/ is not to provide a fully FOSS experience, but rather to provide a usable, Google-free Android experience.
To that end, the company sells devices with /e/ pre-installed so users won’t have to mess with ADB and fastboot commands to get a Google-free experience. Their latest offering is the Fairphone 3, which normally retails for €450.00 but costs €479.90 if you buy it with /e/ pre-installed, with the same 2 year warranty and 14 day return policy that Fairphone offers. Existing owners of the FP3 can manually flash /e/ for free, but buying the device with /e/ pre-installed will simply be easier for the average user. /e/ will handle software updates for the device if you buy this version of the device.
The one thing we have to wait to see is whether /e/ can keep the device updated with newer Android OS releases. The LineageOS maintainer for the Fairphone 2, for example, has ported LineageOS 17.1 based on Android 10 to the device even though Fairphone themselves had to end support with Android 7.1 Nougat. Because Fairphone uses Snapdragon processors in their devices, it’s difficult for them to upgrade their phones after Qualcomm ends BSP support. Third-party Android OSes like LineageOS are able to maintain device support for years past the intended EOL thanks to the hard work of talented developers, and we hope the same will be true for the Fairphone 3 under the helm of /e/.