Fairphone - a free Android device?

Carsten Agger agger at modspil.dk
Sat Aug 2 06:58:58 UTC 2014

Thanks to Tobias and Torsten for clarifying.

I just went to write this on their forum:


I'm a free software activist and just received my second batch Fairphone.

Basically, I believe the "fair" solution as regards to software is that
we should always have the right to run, study, modify and redistribute
any software we use - which is rather a prerequisite for "owning" it, so
having 100% free software is very much in the Fairphone's spirit.

At first I thought this was already the case, as the legal information
in "About this phone" only includes "Open Source Licenses".

However, the phone seems to include proprietary firmware (maybe
inevitable at this point) and some of the apps seem not to be free
software. How do I find out exactly which apps are covered by the "open
source licenses" and which are not? I'd like to delete all the latter
and only keep the former. And then I very much hope that future versions
of the Fairphone will build on 100% free software. The "End-User License
for Fairphone OS"
(https://fairphone.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201359553) is not just
not free or "Open Source", it's actually quite unacceptable for anyone
with an interest in free software.

The best case scenario would be that each app is open source, its source
code is easily available, there is no proprietary firmware because all
hardware has open specifcations, and the EULA on the URL above should
state that you, the user, is always allowed to use, study, change and
redistribute the software as you want.

This should be the out-of-the-box experience of an actually "Fair"
device. If people want to install proprietary packages as e.g. the
Google apps on top of this, they'll of course be free to do so.

And in order not to sound too negative, I'll add that the Fairphone is a
step forward compared to other Android devices. It comes rooted, and
you're not required to have a Google account to use it. That's really
worth a lot! As I want the project to succeed, I'd also like it to give
complete software freedom out of the box, as that's actually the only
fair way to deal in software. Fairphone should not settle for anything less.


In the EULA mentioned above, they write several times that the
restrictions on what you can do with the software are "not interesting"
for most users.

This indicates to me that the main problem here is the usual, that of
education. They don't seem to understand the issue at all, especially
not why freedom is important. Maybe they belong to the "Ubuntu
generation", who've been presented and in some cases grown up with some
really slick and well-working free software packages and thus come to an
admiration of all things "open source" - but because the slick software
didn't come with an explanation of the principles behind free software,
they see no problem in accepting even slicker proprietary software. Like
some "smart" Open Source developers insisting on only using non-copyleft
licenses.  (Hmmm, the last remarks are also about another frustration
I'm having, currently: The thing that giving people free software is
useful if you also don't get them to grasp why it's important that it's
free. Adoption without education is useless, it would seem, and that's
frustrating, in part because adoption is so much easier to achieve).

On 08/01/2014 03:30 PM, Tobias Platen wrote:
> On 01.08.2014 12:12, Torsten Grote wrote:
>> On Thursday 31 July 2014 17:56:32 Carsten Agger wrote:
>>> Which apps are under a proprietary license? The "About" section
>>> in the settings doesn't list any proprietary licenses at all.
>>> Only "Open source" licenses, mainly Apache and GPL.
>> Proprietary software usually does not require a license to be
>> shipped with it to end-users and only sometimes you have an EULA.
>> When looking for proprietary software in our phone, looking for
>> licenses will not get you very far. You have to look at the
>> software itself.
>> Most of the apps that my script removes [1] are non-free. Still, in
>> order to have a working device, some non-free apps and other
>> modifications to the Android user land are required.
>> The sources for the Linux kernel are also incomplete [2] in
>> possible violation of its GPLv2 license. This is one of the things
>> that prevents us to build better and newer versions of Android for
>> the Fairphone ourselves.
>> Kind Regards, Torsten
>> [1]
>> https://github.com/grote/fairphone-barebone/blob/master/freephone.sh
> [2] http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2636257
>> _______________________________________________ Discussion mailing
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> The fairphone launcher seems to be free software[1], but all third
> party programms are be nonfree, as long the corresponding source code
> is not released. I did not try to build those programs from source.
> [1] https://github.com/Kwamecorp/Fairphone
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