Android has become the de-facto operating system for smartphones, IoT devices, cars, TVs, and other electronic devices. The open-source project is being deployed almost everywhere because of the vast app support, lightweight profile, compatibility with a variety of hardware, huge developer support, etc. Apple’s iOS is putting up a good fight, but it’s nowhere close to Android’s dominance. In such a scenario, there is almost no competition and we are on the verge of an Android monopoly in the market. Such a situation is not good for innovation and competition. So to find out potential alternatives to Android, we have compiled this article with the best Android alternative. We have compared privacy, security, features set, and a lot more in this article. On that note, let’s go ahead and find out the top 12 Android alternatives.
Best Android Alternatives (Updated 2022)
Here, we have listed the 12 best Android alternatives along with an explainer on why we need an Android alternative. You can expand the table below and move to any section you want.
Why We Need Android Alternative?
With around 72% market share, Android has become a monopoly in the mobile operating system market. There is not much choice for consumers, except to choose an Android device or go for the pricier iPhone. In such a scenario, we need more alternatives to accelerate innovation, bring more choices to consumers, add better privacy standards, and more. For the past many years, Android’s security has been lackluster. After Android 8, Google got serious about hardening the security of Android and closing the loopholes. In fact, in earlier Android days, there was no concept of runtime permission.
Currently, Android is on a course-correction phase where it’s bringing much-needed security features and privacy controls. Apple is forcing Google to bring privacy insights of apps, restricting apps from accessing clipboards, permission reminders, and so on. These are essential privacy features that are available on other mobile platforms for many years. Even today, we don’t have a user-facing network permission toggle on Android. Third-party apps can regularly scan all your installed apps, access your clipboard, and so on.
While Android is fixing some of these issues, most users are not getting the updates due to fragmentation. Google tried to resolve the fragmentation problem with Project Treble, but the truth is that, except for some manufacturers, not many are offering longer security and feature updates. To combat this situation and to put consumers on the safer side, we need an Android alternative that respects your privacy, does not trade user data for cheaper hardware, and comes with stronger security.
Best Android Alternative Mobile Operating Systems
With a 27.5% market share, iOS is slowly becoming the mainstream alternative to Android. Gone are the days when Android was feature-packed and iOS was for average users. iOS now comes with advanced features such as Shortcuts for automation, SharePlay to co-watch movies and shows with your friends and family, live text translation, and more. Siri is also getting quite better and the ecosystem support from various Apple devices is unparalleled in the Android world.
Not to mention, iOS is much more respectful of your privacy in comparison to Android. Recently, Apple added privacy report to the App Store where it displays all the user data the app is trying to collect. It also lets you request apps to disable tracking which is a great privacy feature to have. iOS is also simpler to use, although Google is working on Android to make it more accessible to a varied group of users. To sum up, if you want peace of mind with top-notch privacy and security, along with a legion of handy iOS features, Apple’s iOS positions itself as a suitable alternative to Android.
Pros Cons Beautiful UI, Smooth operation, easier to use Not open-source Much longer updates Devices are costly Great quality of apps Limited customization
If security and privacy are your main reasons behind your search for an Android alternative, GrapheneOS fits the bill perfectly. It’s a security-hardened operating system, built with top-notch privacy protection in mind. GrapheneOS, earlier known as CopperheadOS, is also developed on Android, but the main developer, Daniel Micay has worked extensively to make GrapheneOS a completely secure mobile operating system. Even Edward Snowden endorsed GrapheneOS and said that “If I were configuring a smartphone today, I’d use Daniel Micay’s GrapheneOS as the base operating system“.
Currently, it only supports Pixel devices including the latest Pixel 6 series. GrapheneOS has deployed major technologies to restrict a number of vulnerabilities and exploits. The app sandbox feature makes it harder for malware to attack your smartphone. There are additional permissions as well including network permission, sensors permission, USB access, camera access, and more.
Other than that, GrapheneOS ships with a hardened variant of Chromium called Vanadium for browsing the web, there is a security-focused PDF viewer, a secure camera app, Seedvault for encrypted backup, and a lot more. Not to mention, it does not ship with Google Play Services or microG, making it a completely deGoogled Android fork. All in all, if you are looking for a secure alternative to Android, GrapheneOS would be my top recommendation.
Pros Cons Top-notch security and privacy protection Limited device support Based on Android First-party apps available
For feature phones, KaiOS is a great alternative to Android. We know that Android has become quite heavy at this point. So to bring a lightweight mobile operating system to the masses, KaiOS serves the purpose really well without missing out on major features. It’s a Linux-based OS, forked from the discontinued Firefox OS, and can run on devices with just 256MB of RAM.
KaiOS packs its own KaiStore where you can find over 500 apps which include WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google app, UC Browser, lightweight games, and more. There are hundreds of models available around the globe and the starting price of these phones is just $10 which is amazing. In India, JioPhone is quite popular which costs around $20-25 and runs KaiOS. To sum up, KaiOS is a perfect alternative to Android in regions where affordability is preferred over a long list of features.
Pros Cons Lightweight OS, a forked version of Firefox OS Not for the main Android smartphone market Supports Web-based apps Continually updated
4. Sailfish OS
Sailfish OS has been one of the oldest alternatives to Android, competing and developing a mobile operating system since 2013. It is currently in its 4th generation and is being actively developed by a Finnish company Jolla Ltd. Sailfish OS has been built on top of Linux along with many other open-source projects. While it’s not built on Android, Sailfish OS can run Android apps using its dedicated App Support solution. And that’s one of the selling points of Sailfish OS.
In Sailfish OS, user data is fully encrypted by its sandboxing solution called Firejail. All the connectivity and traffic runs behind a firewall with support for VPN. In terms of security, Sailfish OS is quite good and the company is making an investment to make it even more secure. Apart from all that, Sailfish OS has a distinct visual style and the gesture-based apps are fun to use. You can try Sailfish OS on Sony Xperia phones and Gemini PDA.
Pros Cons The visual style is quite good, gesture navigation A bit buggy Can run Android apps via a layer Not as performant as Android Built-in VPN and sandboxing
5. Plasma Mobile / postmarketOS
Unlike many other Android forks, Plasma Mobile is an Android alternative that runs on top of a Linux distribution. It has been developed using the multi-platform toolkit Qt and KDE framework that powers so many Linux distros out there. To make the skin look fluid and mobile, it uses a Plasma Shell that feels polished out of the box. Note that, it does not run Android apps, instead uses the Kirigami UI framework to create apps for Plasma Mobile. Using Plasma Mobile, many Linux distros for phones have been released, but the most popular one is postmarketOS.
It already comes with a lot of alternative apps, built on Kirigami such as Calculator, Angelfish Web browser, AudioTube (a YouTube music client), Calindori (Calendar), Elisa (Music Play), Index (File Manager), and more. In essence, Plasma Mobile is one of the true alternatives to Android that is built on a completely different framework and has a different package manager. Currently, it supports PinePhone, Purism Librem 5, and community-supported devices like OnePlus 6, PocoPhone, etc. So if you are looking to try something new, go ahead and install Plasma Mobile on your smartphone.
|Linux-based OS||No Android apps|
|Developed Mobile shell using new frameworks|
|First-party apps available|
6. Ubuntu Touch
Ubuntu Touch is another Linux-based alternative to Android that is focused on bringing trust and privacy to smartphones. As the project is open-source, it has a huge community of developers and users who want to test, experiment, and contribute to the project. Ubuntu Touch feels and looks very identical to the Ubuntu desktop OS, however, it has been heavily optimized for touchscreen operations.
The UBports community also claims that none of your data leaves your device unless you explicitly allow it which is a good thing from the privacy point of view. Currently, Ubuntu Touch supports PinePhone, PineTab, Fairphone, Volla, Nexus 5, and OnePlus One. There are also 81 devices that are community supported so in terms of device support, Ubuntu Touch excels. Not to mention, you get all the necessary apps including the Camera app, Music, Gallery, Terminal, Clock, Dialer, etc. I would say if you want to try an open-source OS similar to Android, do give a look at Ubuntu Touch.
Pros Cons Open-source operating system, based on Linux Cannot match the third-party app support of Android Comes with all the basic apps Can function as a desktop
Mobian, as the name suggests, is a Debian-based operating system for mobile devices. Currently, it does not support a whole list of devices, but Mobian can run on PinePhone, Poco F1, OnePlus 6, and some more devices. Unlike Android, it runs Linux apps and the UI is surprisingly good. It comes with all the basic apps including a Calculator, Camera, Call, Settings, and more. There is also Terminal support, in case you want to dive deep into the system.
Needless to say, it does not support Android apps and the app support is limited. However, Mobian sets out to bring an alternative mobile OS to Android which is quite nice. Mobian uses Phosh, a mobile shell built by Purism, and deploys well-known frameworks like Gnome and GTK. All in all, I would say, Mobian is a potential alternative to Android and you can definitely give it a try.
Pros Cons Mobile derivative from Debian Limited app support Popular device support Built on Phosh, Gnome, and GTK
8. Tizen OS
If you are looking for an alternative to Android for larger screens such as TVs then Tizen OS is a better choice. Developed by Samsung, Tizen OS was aimed to run on all Samsung devices, be it smartphones, wearables, IoT devices, TVs, etc. However, fast forward now, and we are noticing Samsung is embracing Android for all its products except for the TV segment. Samsung has stopped developing phones with Tizen OS and recently, on Galaxy Watch 4, it moved to Wear OS from Tizen OS.
Having said all of that, for smart TVs, Samsung continues to use its Tizen OS as the project has gotten popular and lots of third-party apps have been launched including Netflix, Prime Video, etc. We have detailed a dedicated comparison between Android TV and Tizen OS so go through our article to learn more about the differences. To make it clear, as far as smart TVs are concerned, Tizen OS rules the roost and is more performant than Android TV, even on low-end hardware.
Pros Cons Great HTML5 support Third-party app support is limited Better performance than Android TV Best for the TV ecosystem
CalyxOS is another privacy-focused alternative to Android which is completely deGoogled and puts a major focus on hardening security and privacy. It has been built by the Calyx Institute which is a New York-based nonprofit organization to make digital security more accessible to the masses. CalyxOS currently supports a handful of Pixel and OnePlus devices and Xiaomi Mi A2, but support for more devices will be added soon.
It ships with Signal for encrypted messaging; Tor browser to access the web without any tracking; a free and trusted VPN from the Calyx Institute; the open-source Aurora Store, a Play Store alternative, and more. There are no Google services included in CalyxOS but if you want, you can sideload microG to get some of the Google services without sacrificing your anonymity. To sum up, if privacy is what you are looking for on your smartphone, CalyxOS is a great alternative to other Android forks.
Pros Cons Privacy-centric OS, Based on Android Limited device support Many security features include VPN, Tor, etc. No Google Services
If your Android smartphone has hit end-of-life and no longer receives OTA updates from the manufacturer, LineageOS will come to your rescue. It’s a custom Android ROM, not much different from the standard Android that you are running on your device, however, you get to taste the latest Android version, even when the manufacturer is no longer supporting your device.
On top of that, LineageOS comes clean without Google services. You can, however, sideload the GApps package and get Play Store and other services running. It supports more than 200 devices and continuously brings the latest updates to outdated hardware. Even many custom ROMs fork LineageOS to add more functionality and features due to its rock-solid base. LineageOS has even brought the latest Android 12 update to more than 41 devices which is amazing. Simply put, LineageOS, despite being an Android fork, is a go-to alternative because of long-life support, better performance, and no Google bloatware.
|Based on Android AOSP, Supports Android 12||None as such|
|Supports a long list of devices|
|Stable and Usable|
11. /e/ OS
After GrapheneOS and CalyxOS, if you want another alternative to Android that is highly secure and private then you can try /e/ OS. It’s also based on Android (LineageOS), but the operating system has been completely deGoogled and there are alternative apps in place of popular Google apps. You can install apps from its own store and it even displays privacy and energy ratings, similar to iOS’ AppStore.
/e/ OS is completely open-source and has been developed by the non-profit /e/ Foundation which is based in France. Currently, it supports more than 240 smartphone models which include popular Samsung phones and some Fairphone models. You can also buy smartphones preloaded with /e/ OS from its website. Overall, /e/ OS is a great solution for users who are looking to buy a privacy-focused smartphone but without Google lurking from behind.
Pros Cons deGoogle Android fork, based on LineageOS /e/ preloaded smartphones are a bit expensive Vast device support Privacy rating in app store
After the US ban, Huawei had no recourse but to develop its own operating system for smartphones and other devices. The company developed HarmonyOS which is basically a fork of vanilla AOSP so essentially it runs Android under the hood. That said, Huawei has developed its own app packaging container called APP. You can also sideload APKs on HarmonyOS which is awesome.
It also comes with its own AppGallery where you can find thousands of popular Android apps. The company has also developed its own compiler called ARK in place of Android’s ART (Android Runtime). And the new EROFS file system is said to be better than EXT4 and F2FS. While HarmonyOS is deep inside an Android OS, chances are that Huawei will come up with an alternative to Android in upcoming years. The company is due to release HarmonyOS 3.0 in September with new APIs and SDK.
Pros Cons Supports APK sideloading The core is still Android, uses the AOSP base Suitable OS for Huawei ecosystem Developed its own APP package manager
What Do You Think of These Android Alternative Operating Systems?
So these are the Android alternatives that you can try on your smartphone right now. A majority of them allow you to flash the OS on your existing smartphone, while some have partnered with hardware manufacturers to launch standalone devices with preloaded OS. Anyway, that is all from us. But what do you think about these Android alternatives? Which one of them is going to become more mainstream in the coming days? Let us know in the comments section below.