So long, Cyanogen! OnePlus says its future belongs to OxygenOS

Chinese firm assembles team to build its own alt-Android

Upstart quasi-Android smartphone maker OnePlus says it has hired an assortment of "Android rockstars" for its OxygenOS team, who will be in charge of developing the homegrown firmware that will soon ship as standard on its phones.

"Our team has some of the most talented industrial designers and mechanical engineers in the world, but developing a ROM requires an entirely new skill set," OnePlus' Carl Pei blogged on Thursday. "We needed to find people not only with great technical ability but also unique perspectives and insights on how to improve our users' software experience."

Readers may well ask why OnePlus needs to develop its own ROM at all. Its desire to avoid licensing Google's official Android builds is understandable, but it already had a perfectly serviceable alternative in the form of CyanogenMod, the firmware that came preinstalled on its early models.

In his blog post, Pei said that developing its own software will allow OnePlus to offer better localization, faster updates, more seamless integration between hardware, software, and the cloud, and will allow it to respond more quickly to user feedback. But that's not the whole story.

What really happened is that OnePlus and Cyanogen had a falling out late last year after clashing in an Indian court over whether OnePlus had the right to ship devices based on CyanogenMod firmware in India. OnePlus thought it did, but Indian mobe-maker Micromax insisted it had signed an exclusive agreement with Cyanogen for the region – and the court sided with the local firm.

Unwilling to put up with such shenanigans, OnePlus – a wholly owned spinoff of Chinese electronics maker Oppo – told the court that rather than abandon its Indian ambitions, it would regroup and be back with phones that weren't based on CyanogenMod.

Android fragmentation continues

Enter OxygenOS, OnePlus' homegrown alternative to both Android and CyanogenMod. Like CyanogenMod, OxygenOS will be based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but will include extensive customizations not normally found on phones that ship with Android builds sourced from Google.

"Our system will be based on Lollipop, and will be built to be stable, fast, and lightweight," Pei blogged in a missive to OnePlus' Indian customers in November. "True to our original promise of putting user experience first, it will be bloatware-free and only carry the features important to our users."

To build its OS, OnePlus has hired a number of experienced Android developers, including several members of the team that developed Paranoid Android, another custom AOSP-based ROM firmware.

Apparently, they are already well on their way. In a Q&A session on Reddit on Thursday, Pei said the first community build of OxygenOS was released on January 1, and OnePlus mobile product boss Helen Li said she expects the first stable release to arrive next month.

One interesting tidbit, though: Although OxygenOS will be based on the AOSP, when asked whether it would be open source software, Pei responded with a flat "no."

It's not uncommon for AOSP-derived systems to ship with some proprietary components. Google's own software and services that come bundled with most mainstream Android devices are proprietary. But whether OnePlus is keeping its software closed because of proprietary hardware drivers or because it plans to develop additional proprietary software on top of the OS is not clear at present.

As for when customers will be able to download an image of OxygenOS and flash their own devices, that's also a little vague.

"Because this is our first major software release, we have to ensure that everything is solid and stable before making it available for download," Pei said. "We wouldn't ask you to settle for anything less, and we appreciate your patience." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • These Rapoo webcams won't blow your mind, but they also won't break the bank

    And they're almost certainly better than a laptop jowel-cam

    Review It has been a long 20 months since Lockdown 1.0, and despite the best efforts of Google and Zoom et al to filter out the worst effects of built-in laptop webcams, a replacement might be in order for the long haul ahead.

    With this in mind, El Reg's intrepid reviews desk looked at a pair of inexpensive Rapoo webcams in search for an alternative to the horror of our Dell XPS nose-cam.

    Rapoo sent us its higher-end XW2K, a 2K 30fps device and, at the other end of the scale, the 720p XW170. Neither will break the bank, coming in at around £40 and £25 respectively from online retailers, but do include some handy features, such as autofocus and a noise cancelling microphone.

    Continue reading
  • It's one thing to have the world in your hands – what are you going to do with it?

    Google won the patent battle against ART+COM, but we were left with little more than a toy

    Column I used to think technology could change the world. Google's vision is different: it just wants you to sort of play with the world. That's fun, but it's not as powerful as it could be.

    Despite the fact that it often gives me a stomach-churning sense of motion sickness, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately fully immersed in Google Earth VR. Pop down inside a major city centre – Sydney, San Francisco or London – and the intense data-gathering work performed by Google's global fleet of scanning vehicles shows up in eye-popping detail.

    Buildings are rendered photorealistically, using the mathematics of photogrammetry to extrude three-dimensional solids from multiple two-dimensional images. Trees resolve across successive passes from childlike lollipops into complex textured forms. Yet what should feel absolutely real seems exactly the opposite – leaving me cold, as though I've stumbled onto a global-scale miniature train set, built by someone with too much time on their hands. What good is it, really?

    Continue reading
  • Why Cloud First should not have to mean Cloud Everywhere

    HPE urges 'consciously hybrid' strategy for UK public sector

    Sponsored In 2013, the UK government heralded Cloud First, a ground-breaking strategy to drive cloud adoption across the public sector. Eight years on, and much of UK public sector IT still runs on-premises - and all too often - on obsolete technologies.

    Today the government‘s message boils down to “cloud first, if you can” - perhaps in recognition that modernising complex legacy systems is hard. But in the private sector today, enterprises are typically mixing and matching cloud and on-premises infrastructure, according to the best business fit for their needs.

    The UK government should also adopt a “consciously hybrid” approach, according to HPE, The global technology company is calling for the entire IT industry to step up so that the public sector can modernise where needed and keep up with innovation: “We’re calling for a collective IT industry response to the problem,” says Russell MacDonald, HPE strategic advisor to the public sector.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021