India launches BharOS, a “state-of-the-art” alternative to Android

Android is the dominant smartphone platform in India, with 97% of the smartphone market, but local authorities are proposing a new alternative to Google’s offering. BharOS is an Indian-made mobile operating system that will be compatible with already-released smartphones, and promises to offer no pre-installed bloatware, collect no personal data and provide security updates to users simultaneously, without the need for device manufacturer intervention.

New operating system promises fast updates and no bloatware

Basically, BharOS is based on Android, so compatibility with existing apps won’t be a problem in most situations. Indian authorities want users to choose their own app store, without offering a mandatory store for the platform. It should also be possible to install the operating system independently on smartphones launched in India, but this will be complicated, at least at first, as Android devices are mainly shipped with a locked bootloader for security reasons.

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BharOS is being developed by ITT, the Indian Institute of Technology, and should not allow malware to run. How it will make this possible is however unclear. It is likely to include a solution similar to a pre-installed, process-level antivirus that constantly checks installed applications.

This announcement comes shortly after authorities in India weakened Google’s power in the region. The US company, which develops Android, can no longer force phone makers selling devices in India to include its apps. So manufacturers will be able to choose whether or not to offer Chrome, YouTube, Gmail or YouTube Music out of the box. Usually, all of these are found in a dedicated folder on any phone with Google Mobile Services. Now, developers will be able to choose not to offer them at all, or choose which apps Google installs.

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This would also accelerate the possibility of adoption of locally developed services and apps that offer similar functionality to Google’s. Users would be able to switch to these apps if the Google ones are no longer pre-installed on phones, encouraging the developer community in India.

At the moment, BharOS has only been announced, it will be a while before it’s available to users, and it will probably be even longer before we see phones shipping with this software out of the box.

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