Days ago, Ubuntu for Phones was announced to the masses. If for some reason you dodged the constant flow of articles and videos about it, you can start from the official launch keynote in which Mark Shuttleworth presents the product in order to start working with phone manufacturers.
A few days later, I discovered – via a post on Diaspora* – the FairPhone, an amazing project that aims at delivering a smartphone that is sustainably and ethically produced.
As I read on the project’s website’s FAQ, they are considering selling it with Firefox OS but state that it is more likely that it will end up with Android preinstalled, as they are looking for a rock-solid operating system. Here is what they say:
We think transparency and open source design/hard/software are key to create a fair phone. Our approach though is a growing model. We have to take these things step-by-step and that means we have to work pragmatically. We can’t say how open the first model will be, as we don’t have that much influence (yet) as a small player on the design and manufacturing, but it is in our roadmap to make it radically open.
Regarding the OS we were thinking about launching it with Firefox OS, but we also have to balance between stability and openness. As we are a new product, we don’t want to take too many risks on this. We want to offer a very stable product for our customers, so we might wait until Firefox has proven itself and probably use Android for the first model. We also want a system that supports Dual Sim (Android does; Firefox doesn’t), as this is in line with our vision (less phones, more value in second-life markets like Africa).
As I try to promote sustainable practices as well as OpenSource alternatives, I was very excited about those two stories, and I started imagining a FairPhone running Ubuntu for Phones. In order to know more about it, I decided to send them an email concerning the recent news that thrilled most of the Ubuntu community. Here is the response I got from Joe Mier, their Community Manager:
Thanks for your support!
That’s a good question about Ubuntu and what operating system we will use. It’s something we are still considering but let me tell you what we’re thinking about so far.
You’ve probably already read on our website how we are considering Firefox OS, but prefer Android because of its emphasis on stability and openness for our initial run of smartphones. Aside from that, we are planing to launch the phone with root access for the user, so they can decide for themselves which operating system they want to install (though, apart from the custom Android ROMs, they will probably have to write some code themselves to make it work with the hardware). Another option we are currently looking into is to launch the phone with Android, but fully prepare the FairPhone for Ubuntu. Ubuntu uses the same linux kernel as Android and can therefore be “easily” installed on any Android device.
Here’s a quick news item about some things to keep in mind about Ubuntu on mobile:
Thanks again for your questions! If you haven’t already, sign up for future news on the FairPhone: http://www.fairphone.com/register-for-the-fairphone/
All the best,
FairPhone Community Manager
It is good to hear that the Fair Phone will be designed with openness in mind, and that it will be very hackable in order to let the user choose their favourite OS.
They plan to start the production of the FairPhone in the third quarter of 2013, with a limited number of phones pre-sold before then. If you don’t want to miss out, make sure you subscribe to their newsletter on their website.