Did you know that about 45 percent of American smartphones run iOS? That’s a problem if you’re a fan of the open-source software movement.
The iOS operating system utilizes a closed-source style of development. This means that they can do whatever they want to the code, and you have no idea what that will do to your device. Until it happens.
There are alternatives out there. We’re not just talking about stock Android, either. You can install a huge range of open-source operating systems on your smartphone.
We’re here to take a look at the very best iOS and Android alternatives for your smartphones. Want to start repping the open-source movement from your phone? Then read on!
CentOS runs well on Android devices. This fully-fledged Linux distribution also gives you far greater functionality than other Android alternatives.
A version of RHEL, you should be cautious when looking at CentOS vs RHEL. Although similar, CentOS is better suited to smartphone use.
Installing CentOS on a smartphone isn’t for the faint-hearted. Once it’s installed, you’ll have one of the most powerful smartphones around. It will be a full PC in the palm of your hand.
You’ll want a modern smartphone to install Linux on. It isn’t a standard phone OS, so you’ll want a solid amount of RAM and a fast CPU.
If you’d rather use one of Apple’s competitors that is widely supported, take a look at Tizen. Supported by the Linux Foundation, Tizen is an open-source mobile operating system.
Unlike centOS or other desktop Linux distros, this should run well on almost any phone released in the last few years. Tizen is based on HTML5 and offers users a pleasant and advanced user experience.
If you’d like to run a Linux-style operating system on a low-end smartphone, you can’t do better than Tizen. While there have been security issues in the past, constant development has helped to reduce the number of these in recent years.
3. Plasma Mobile
Are you a user of Kubuntu, or any other KDE Plasma-based Linux OS? Then you owe it to yourself to check out Plasma Mobile.
Like Tizen, this Linux OS turns smartphones into more than just Android alternatives. It makes them fully-fledged devices aimed at hackers and other coding nerds.
This OS includes the MauiKit UI framework, Nota as a text editor, Kirigami, along with new APIs, and a bunch of other apps.
If you can do it on a desktop Linux PC, you can probably do it on Plasma Mobile. If you’ve been put off Tizen by the security issues, try this instead.
Of all the Android alternatives on the market, Replicant will give you the most Android-like user experience. That’s because, well, it is Android. It’s just an open-source version that is made up of free software.
Replicant only works on a limited number of devices at present. If you’re a coder, you are encouraged to contribute to the project and help it roll out to a wider audience.
If you’re looking for the most Android-like experience, without having to use proprietary software, Replicant is the OS for you.
5. Librem 5
If you don’t want to bother installing an OS yourself, look to the Librem 5. This is a phone that comes preinstalled with PureOS, which can be run on PCs, phones, and tablets.
If you’re not a fan of PureOS, the Librem also supports other operating systems. These include Ubuntu, Fedora, and Arch.
It’s not an essential purchase, by any means, but this is one of the better-supported projects out there.
The phone’s specs are as follows:
- Quad-core 1.5 GHz CPU.
- 3GB RAM.
- 32GB storage.
- SD card compatible up to 2TB.
It also includes some neat privacy features, such as a killswitch for the camera and microphone.
Did you ever use CyanogenMod? This was an OS that was based on Android and was used by 50 million people. While it’s since been discontinued, it survives in fork form with LineageOS.
This open-source OS is, like Replicant, based on Android. It runs on a huge range of devices native, making it one of the most user-friendly Android alternatives.
The source code for this project is available on Github. If you’re not averse to sourcing open-source apps, LineageOS is a good operating system for your phone.
postmarketOS or pmOS is designed with the hacker in mind. Currently in alpha, this OS focuses on making your phone last as long as it possibly can. Unlike on Android or Apple, you will never stop receiving updates for this operating system.
pmOS can be run on more than 50 different devices, including the venerable Nokia N900.
In addition to receiving regular updates, pmOS is also focused on privilege separation. This means that it should have rock-solid security.
We’d recommend waiting on pmOS at present, but it’s a very promising project. If you’ve got a second phone that you’re happy to use to help development, then install pmOS and give it a gander.
8. Ubuntu Touch
Back in the day, Canonical developed Ubuntu for smartphones, but this project has since fallen by the wayside. However, Ubuntu touch’s development continues through UBports.
If you’re a seasoned Ubuntu veteran, this is a natural choice. It is being updated constantly and offers an excellent user experience.
Don’t be put off by the reports that Ubuntu Touch is for developers only. It used to be far more arcane than it is now, and has only got better.
What to Look for in Android Alternatives
We’ve barely scratched the surface of Android alternatives for open-source smartphones. When you’re looking at the available options, you need to consider the following:
- Is it truly open-source, or does it install proprietary apps?
- Does it have privilege separation and other security features?
- Does it respect user privacy?
If it has all of the above, go ahead and install it! Ready to learn even more about technology? Take a look at the tech and software sections of our blog!