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Fairphone ‘Exploring’ Switch to Ubuntu Touch

Supporting Android longterm is proving a headache — could an alternative OS be the cure?

Image: Fairphone

Image: Fairphone

Ethical smartphone makers Fairphone are ‘exploring the possibility’ of switching to Ubuntu Touch. 

The company says a “major concern” of existing Fairphone is having a long-lasting phone whose software isn’t left in the dust.

This need was laid stark by the Stagefright Android vulnerability uncovered earlier this year. Dubbed the ‘heart bleed of mobile’, the flaw affected thousands of Android handsets, most of which no longer receive software support from their manufacturers.

The Fairphone 1 was among the handsets affected. A phone with a gaping security hole is not a great way to promote the idea of device longevity.

For Fairphone fixing the vulnerability was a priority – but one that was far from easy to achieve. A tangle of licensing, vendor and partner restrictions required them to jump through hoops to get the requisite access needed to fix Stagefright and roll the bandaid out in an update.

That arduous process has left the company keen to truly make good on its promise of improving device lifespans, both in the medium and long-term.

It intends to keep support going for the Android based Fairphone 1, ‘dependent on cooperation from license holders and our own resources’.

But looking ahead at ways it can keep its phones stable and secure? Well, that may not involve sticking with Android at all:

“We are exploring is the possibility of replacing the Android software by alternative operating systems (Ubuntu/Firefox/Jolla) in an effort to prolong the life of the device (as that software is more cost-effective to maintain).”

Don’t get too excited if you own a Fairphone. as the company cautions that plans are “still in the exploratory phases”. They must be hoping that in starting a discussion publicly they are able to demonstrate that when they say they plan to support their phones for the long-term they really do mean it.

More than 60,000 Fairphone 1’s have been sold worldwide to date, with pre-orders of the Fairphone 2 now clocking past the 11,000 mark.

Fairphone opting to switch to Ubuntu would not only help bump up Ubuntu Phone’s user base significantly but  help make it a compelling play to anyone looking for a truly dependable long-term support smartphone. 

H/t Alan Pope