Smartphone that ships without pre-installed proprietary software?



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).


  • 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!):


Posted 2015-09-09T19:09:49.393

Reputation: 490

In the meanwhile, it's a good practice to only install new apps if they are FLOSS. Google Play is horrible to search in and has no licensing information, probably in order to diseducate users; but is very easy to use and you don't have to worry what you're installing.

Nemo 2015-10-09T06:06:29.563

The Tehnoetic S2 comes close (Replicant is installed; only the modem firmware is proprietray); however, these are refurbished devices :/

unor 2015-11-27T20:28:46.943

Ubuntu has a phone lineup which comes close to your requirements. Although labeled as Open Source, they don't follow the FSF definitions.Tymric 2015-09-15T10:28:02.560

I think a somehow google-freed Android could be done, but it wouldn't be all-preinstalled. You had to root it, and then kill all of the google things on it. Many of the drivers of the embedded hw would be still binaryonly.peterh 2015-09-17T22:07:01.317

Is a google nexus phone FLOSS? It comes with stock android. I don't recall how open source it is, thoughSSumner 2015-09-09T19:35:40.597

@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 2015-09-09T19:58:29.293

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 2015-09-09T19:59:14.133

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 2015-09-09T19:59:28.537



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).

Adam Comerford

Posted 2015-09-09T19:09:49.393

Reputation: 1 144

2FYI, 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 2015-09-21T17:10:42.250


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 2015-09-21T17:16:23.163