I came across an interesting blog post by Mr. Gus Van Horn which linked to my November 2021 review of the /e/ OS (aka Murena) mobile operating system. As I explained in my review, /e/ OS is a fork of LineageOS, which in turn is a fork of Android (I discussed whether /e/ OS qualifies as an “Android alternative” in a separate post). Mr. Van Horn came across our review after it appeared on Hacker News.
Mr. Van Horn stated that my review “had a promising-enough title,” but he was ultimately underwhelmed by /e/ OS as a concept. Specifically, he felt that Murena’s focus on removing Google telemetry was misplaced, at least by comparison to more pressing matters:
I’m more interested in having better control over what my phone does than worried about whatever snooping Google might do, so switching to /e/ would make little sense for me. It might for you, and it is good to know that there are Android forks out there that people are able to use without much difficulty.
Interesting take. Murena’s focus is definitely on delivering a user-friendly stock-Android-esque experience sans the Google telemetry. I am not sure what precisely Mr. Van Horn is looking for in terms of “control,” but Murena does not offer much in that regard that Android with root would not. I will note that it is possible to root a Murena phone and obtain some degree of control in that way (while I have not rooted my phone, I did root my LineageOS tablet). The ability to root Murena devices distinguishes them from other Android forks that do not allow root, such as the security-focused GrapheneOS and some variants of DivestOS. (For whatever it is worth, I would probably opt for GrapheneOS or CalyxOS if I had a Google Pixel, although I am most-interested in an affordable phone that has a FOSS OS and a physical keyboard.)
Those who are looking for a less Android-like experience may be interested in UBports’ Ubuntu Touch, which I installed on a Nexus 7 tablet. While the number of devices that Ubuntu Touch works on is small (even when compared to LineageOS and Murena OS), it provides a different experience than Android, has interesting desktop mode functionality, and allows for installing some desktop Linux apps (albeit, mileage may vary depending on the device). Users have root privileges out of the box (I was able to edit my hosts file, for example) and some of the better-supported devices are implementing wrappers for Android apps. One of Ubuntu Touch’s major limitations is that its app selection is small, and its default browser, while smooth, is still missing some important functionality.