20

I want a smartphone. At this point I don’t care about hardware specifications, features, design, price etc.

The only requirement is that the smartphone ships without proprietary software.
But I read somewhere that there’s currently no alternative to certain proprietary firmware/drivers, so if that’s the case, it would work for me if "only" the operating system and everything on top of it is FLOSS (while layers below the OS may be proprietary).

Required:

  • The pre-installed operating system as well as all pre-installed apps/modifications have to be FLOSS.

    • The smartphone has to ship like that. Buying a smartphone with pre-installed proprietary software, deleting it, and installing a FLOSS OS is not an option.

    • What matters is what’s pre-installed, not what could be installed by the user (so it’s fine if a pre-installed app store offers proprietary apps, as long as the user has the choice not to install them).

  • The license has to be approved by the FSF and/or the OSI.

  • It must be a sealed/unused product (so not offered by someone who buys smartphones with proprietary software, installs a FLOSS system and resells them).

Optional (for bonus points!):

  • Is a google nexus phone FLOSS? It comes with stock android. I don't recall how open source it is, though – SSumner Sep 9 '15 at 19:35
  • @SSumner: I’d assume (please correct me) that these come with various Google apps pre-installed, e.g., with the Play Store (which is proprietary). – unor Sep 9 '15 at 19:58
  • I would also recommend the Nexus devices, however they do come pre-installed with some software. Notably google play and google play services, along with the Google suite of apps (Maps, Gmail, etc). Are these proprietary apps acceptable? (Edit I see you replied to this just before my comment) – Gram Sep 9 '15 at 19:59
  • What about contacting with the small scale cellphone manufacturers in China? If it is a big project it is worth it. I don't think there are big cellphone manufacturers that sell phones without an OS. – Karel Capek Sep 9 '15 at 19:59
  • Ubuntu has a phone lineup which comes close to your requirements. Although labeled as Open Source, they don't follow the FSF definitions. – Tymric Sep 15 '15 at 10:28
5

As mentioned in the comments, some Android phones will come close, especially if you root/modify them afterwards. There is an alternative that has not been mentioned, from the Mozilla organization: Firefox OS.

I have only used one of these phones briefly (for a couple of hours) personally, but I know others have used them successfully and enjoyed the open nature of the phone in particular. There are a list of supported devices on the Mozilla site.

In terms of ethically manufactured and produced phones, I don't think you will have much luck with the current crop. I know of projects in the formation stage like FairPhone but I haven't seen anything in the wild yet. I suspect that the people behind such an effort in terms of manufacturing and sourcing will give similar thought to the software that runs on the device, but the intersection of the two desires (fully open, fully ethical) is likely to be quite niche (for now).

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  • 2
    FYI, Fairphone already released the first edition 2013/2014, and the second edition is supposed to be shipped this year. However, as far as I read, they didn’t care about using FLOSS, so both edition come with proprietary software (e.g., the Google apps). – unor Sep 21 '15 at 17:10
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    Re. Firefox OS: This is my hope, too. However, the problem is what the vendors/carriers do (just like with Android or Ubuntu Phone devices), as they might install proprietary apps/customizations, as far as I know. I currently own a Firefox OS device for development, and I think it shipped with proprietary apps. -- The devices from GeeksPhone sounded great, but, at least back then, they never managed to release the source code (which they were required to do, but oh well). – unor Sep 21 '15 at 17:16
1

If you are willing to wait - there is the Purism Librem 5 which uses a CPU with fully available documentation, and a GNU/Linux distribution by the manufacturer (Debian-based). Current ETA is Q3 2019.

The only snag you might hit (which is basically unavoidable AFAIK) is the modem firmware.

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