The linux-based open-source mobile operating system Android is not only the most popular mobile operating system in the world, it’s also on the way to become a proprietary operating system. How is that?
While the core operating system is still released as part of the Android Open Source Project, the majority of core apps is not. It even got worse: More and more libraries and APIs are only available on phones that run various Google apps pre-installed, effectively locking third-party apps to the Google ecosystem. For these reasons Android is called a “look but don’t touch” kind of open.
By now, several popular open-source applications like the secure messenger Signal already require some of Google’s proprietary libraries to be installed. Increasing demand in the free software community in addition to severe problems in Google’s proprietary software discovered by the Android modding community led to the development of a free software clone of Google’s proprietary core libraries and applications – the microG Project was born.
Although most microG components are far from complete, users are amazed by the results. Free software users got extended application support, privacy-caring users can reduce or monitor data that is sent to Google and especially older phones can expect quiet some battery life improvements. microG is not only used on real devices, but also replaced Google tools in some test emulators and is even used in virtual mobile infrastructure.