Open mobile OS eelo by Mandrake Linux creator on Kickstarter

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 22, 2017
Google Android

The creator of Mandrake Linux runs a campaign for the open, free mobile operating system eelo on the crowd funding site Kickstarter right now.

Designed to break the dominance of Apple's and Google's walled systems, eelo is based on LineageOS but takes it a step further than that.

At its core, eelo is more than just an operating system as plans are underway to establish free, open and secure web services next to it. Services like email, cloud storage and online office tools are mentioned explicitly on the Kickstarter project page.

Basically, what Gaël Duval tries to accomplish here is to create a product that you can use without having to rely on Google or Apple at all.  You can still use services by Google for instance, but the deep integration of Google code that is not open but proprietary is removed.

He wants to "reconquer his privacy, and make sure that his data remains his data".

The eelo project will release attractive "privacy-enabled" smartphone ROMs and smartphones for the average user, with associated web-services.

Google designed Android in a way that it is difficult to remove certain Google modules from the device without impacting functionality by a lot.

There is Google Play, Google Services, and other Google modules that are required for a lot of things. Good news is that eelo found alternatives for some already, and has plans to use replacements for others.

F-Droid and APKPure are two great options for instance to get apps on the device without using Google Play, but booth serve a different purpose (APKPure official free apps, F-Droid open source apps). The creation of a single application store that offers the best of both worlds would make things a lot easier for users. This has been added to the project's roadmap.

Google Services is another major part of Android that Google uses to provide a variety of services for the system and apps. There is an alternative for that as well however called MicroG, and it may be integrated into eelo as well.

The three-year roadmap highlights some interesting tidbits that are not mentioned on the Kickstarted campaign. The team plans to release eelo OS for PC in year 2 for intance, and release its own smartphone in year 3.

The eelo project will be non-profit, but eelo considers selling some smartphones of its own or offering premium services to finance the project. Since it is a community project, it encourages developers and anyone else to contribute.

The Kickstarter project asks for €25,000 (about $29,600). As is the case on Kickstarter, you can pledge any amount. Rewards start at $4 and you do get some bonuses in the higher pledge levels such as more online storage or an email account.

The current pledge is at €5,265 at the time of writing and after one day. That's a good start for the project as there are still 29 days to go.

Tip: check out Gaël's Leaving Apple and Google: my “eelo odyssey” - Part1: the mobile OS and Part 2: Web Services for additional information.

Closing Words

An open alternative to Google's and Apple's dominance of the smartphone market is much needed, and eelo could become a project that achieves that. It is likely that eelo will remain a nice project that attracts users who value privacy; I could be wrong here, but I can only see it get more traction if the devs manage to find a way to make the installation of the eelo ROM on devices as simple of an action as installing a new app on the device.


Open mobile OS eelo by Mandrake Linux creator on Kickstarter
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Open mobile OS eelo by Mandrake Linux creator on Kickstarter
The creator of Mandrake Linux runs a campaign for the open, free mobile operating system eelo on the crowd funding site Kickstarter right now.
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  1. thatguy said on December 27, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    i think this will fail HARD

    besides the prices are way to high for the phone
    with kcikstarter is that you give the phone atleast a little cheaper, they are asking almost 6x the price of the price that they are comapring to a similiar product of specs

  2. John said on December 24, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Their funding goal is only a very small fraction of what would realistically be required to make what they want to achieve happen.

    Another issue is that they look like they are going to be ripping major modules from Android out and hacking replacements together to replace not only the stated functionality of systems apps, but the unstated stuff they are tied into that are what we’d normally think of as operating system properties. Why is this an issue? Simply put, they don’t have the resources or even the stated intention of a full Android fork that will develop independently from here on out.

    Soooo, when Android 9.0 comes out and designs some things in a way that “breaks” the “fixes”, this project will be left in a situation where it has to almost go back to the drawing board with a lot of it’s backbone work if it wants to keep Android even semi up to date. Then it’ll have to do it again the next year, and the next year, and the next year…

    Think of how long manufacturers like Samsung take, with almost unlimited resources, to make small adaptions to the version of Android Google puts out each September to make it fit with it’s version of Android, and get it ready and tested to work with the phones it upgrades. Here we’re talking about a very small company having to make much bigger changes each year. I would say at best you’re going to end up with something that is behind and breaks functionality with each release. It’ll be buggy.

    Not to be a downer. Maybe I’ll be wrong and it’ll work well. I just wouldn’t count on it, that’s all. What they are trying to do is going to be an uphill battle to not only create, but to maintain long-term.

  3. Jason said on December 22, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I think the Librem 5 is the more promising bet. The Purism company just raised $2.2 million to develop it, and they already have a proven track record as a hardware OEM.

    Not that I’m complaining about alternatives, though! The more products of this type are developed, the higher the chances that one of them will actually make its way into my pocket.

    1. opsec said on December 23, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      “Not that I’m complaining about alternatives, though! The more products of this type are developed, the higher the chances that one of them will actually make its way into my pocket.”

  4. crambie said on December 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

    People have tried before and failed, including MS, and 25k won’t go far. So can’t see it getting anywhere but you never know. Also a bit strange they want to get it going on the PC before phones.

    I tried to install Ubuntu touch the other week, I forget who have have taken it over, with their GUI but it got stuck at the same place on 3 machines, 2 macs, 1 windows. So yes ease of installation does need to be a priority. I gave up and installed dark rom without the google pack.

    Personally I’d have said pick a ROM and work with them to make installation as easy as it can be.

  5. jupe said on December 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

    hmmmm, bold plan, wish them all the best but will be amazed if it does better than Windows Mobile

    1. javi said on August 9, 2018 at 11:31 am

      Without the marketing might of google it is very difficult to succeed. Even though you have alternative store like apkpure, apkmonk etc which offer free android apps these don’t offer full functionality- the stores don’t offer paid apps and aren’t tightly integrated with Android Operating System. Android phone manufacturers still stand a chance to challenge google’s dominance.

  6. AnorKnee Merce said on December 22, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Didn’t Ubuntu Touch and Firefox OS already failed at this attempt.? There’s also the ongoing Sailfish OS.

    Google gives out Android to the consumers for free in return for revenue from the sales of mobile ads, marketing data and apps which require the tracking of users’ private but anonymized data. This is a fair trade for most consumers. Similarly for the free Chrome browser, Google Search, Maps, Gmail, Youtube, etc.

    I think Ubuntu, Firefox and other Linux-based software should follow Google’s business model, in order to succeed.

    What I hate most about the mobile OS platform is that users cannot normally reinstall the OS = forced to buy new mobile devices after a virus infection or hardware fault = Planned Obsolescence.

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