/e/ & 2021: the year everything is going to change (2/2) — A product roadmap

Credit: unknown

In the first part of this article, we explained that /e/ has a primary focus on user’s data privacy, circular economy and energy, and that it is fully inline with the global trend seeking to reduce the negative impact of tech in general and helping creating a new paradigm to build a better world.

Do you want to know more about what we are going to do with the /e/OS user interface? Privacy? End-to-end encryption? Smart assistant? Nuke PIN code?

Now let’s cover what we plan to roll out this year…

Better application support

Users want to be able to run any mobile application on their phones, and that’s something we’re working on seriously. As we have already stated in the past, we’re supporting microG’s Founder and maintainer, Marvin Wißfeld. Marvin is continuously improving microG features and compatibility with Google Play Services to ensure as many applications will work, even if those Google Play Services aren’t installed in the OS.

SafetyNet test on a Pixel smartphone.

For several months, we’ve been facing an issues with “SafetyNet”. SafetyNet is a complex mechanism created by Google. It’s used by some applications to “ensure” that the phone where the application runs is “safe”. Of course this doesn’t have any security benefit, it’s just a way for Google to make it difficult for alternative Android ROMs to offer full support for Android apps. Today the SafetyNet check can fail in a number of cases, like if you root your phone. We’re working to ensure that it doesn’t fail on /e/OS.

More applications

/e/OS Apps Installer

Our users also request full access to all Android application, while not sending personal data to Google. Of course, we’d prefer if Google played the game of interoperability, we would prefer that they offer a way to connect legally to the Google Play Store with a public API. But unless the regulator forces them to do so, we have to find alternative ways.

We are working on several options to make this easier for users, hoping to roll out later this year.

Uninstalling default applications

This has been a long-requested feature from some users. And we agree that there is no reason why we wouldn’t let users uninstall default apps in /e/OS.

It’s not trivial to implement though, and that’s why it’s still not possible today. However, we know how we want to make it possible, so it’s now officially on the 2021 roadmap!

User experience and User interface

The /e/OS user experience has always been something very important for us, since we see it at one important components of our product, especially if we want /e/OS to become the “go-to” mobile OS for the largest audience..

So this year, you will see some big improvements with our launcher (Bliss Launcher). It’s going to be easier to move icons across views, we will allow full gestures and completely remove the buttons at the bottom of the screen, leaving more space for useful things.

/e/OS is also aiming to become “mobile first”. There will be no need any longer to go through the web to create an /e/ account, see how much cloud storage is available, etc.

Early mockups for /e/OS dark mode

We will introduce a dark mode for all default applications.

We will also clean up the top-bar removing useless notifications.

A better Camera

OpenCamera is the default camera application that ships with /e/OS. It’s a great piece of software, and most of us will find is good enough for daily use.

But in 2021, we can expect a little more from a Camera application. We’re going to make it better on different levels: improve and simplify its user interface, explore options to improve significantly quality of pictures and videos, and finally roll out multi-lens support.

A Zeiss multi-lens on a Nokia smartphone

Privacy and security

/e/OS is all about breaking free from Google while regaining full control over one’s personal data.

For one year we’ve been working on an application codename “Privacy central” . Its goal is to show what the hidden trackers in apps collect and give the option to block those trackers from collecting your data. It is going to be integrated into the system settings by default. We’re looking to make this app very intuitive to use, and there will be some extra cool features in it. Stay tuned!

Another topic we’ve started to work on is End to End Encryption (E2EE). We believe that E2EE is the only way to go in the long run to guarantee security and privacy. With data stored in the cloud, hosted by us, by a third-party or even self-hosted, there are always risks that a server can eventually be hacked and no one wants his data to leak on the net, even holiday pictures and videos.

That’s a huge and very complex implementation that usually goes against usability. The team at Nextcloud has started to work on it, and we’re listing all technical options available to make it possible while the best user experience.

We’re also considering a “nuke PIN” code that could be used in case of emergency to erase all data on the smartphone. Our users seem to think that this feature would be very useful.

Energy

We want to make /e/OS the most efficient OS in term of energy consumption (and in the end the mobile OS with the lowest carbon footprint).

We aim to be as frugal as possible and limit the amount of data received or sent over the net. We also aim to measure and inform users about their energy consumption within /e/OS, by the system itself and by the different applications. Towards an “energy score” into the /e/ Apps Center?

The battery charge manager in a Tesla car

Another little feature will be to explain users that they generally don’t want to charge their battery over 80% charge as it decreases battery life over time. We will make this easy for them to set this as default behavior in /e/OS.

Smart Assistant

Since the beginning of /e/, it’s been made clear that a smart assistant with more privacy would be in the roadmap. We can add it to the OS, and also make it available to build “intelligent speakers” at home. We have started to experiment last year with “Elivia”, and the project is moving ahead.

We also have made good progress in finding an offline ASR software (Automatic Speech Recognition or Speech to Text ) that we’re going to add to /e/OS this year. This will enable you to create and send a text message using your voice instead of your keboard.

Last but not the least…VoLTE

With the arrival of 5G, the telecom industry is phasing out older technologies (CDMA, GSM) to free up capacity for 4G and 5G. Voice calls will move overtime from legacy 2G and 3G networks to 4G LTE using voice over IP. Some mobile phone service providers have already transitioned to all voice calls over LTE. This means that we have to find a way for /e/OS to support VoLTE in most situations, on the largest possible number of smartphones.

And a new brand!

We will unveil a new brand in June this year, this is going to be explained in a specific post later this year…

Follow me on @gael_duval on Twitter, @gael@mastodon.social on Mastodon.

Software engineer, Entrepreneur (Mandrake-Linux 1998, Ulteo 2006, /e/ 2017), Open Source advocate. https://www.indidea.org/gael/blog/about-gael-duval/

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