Android alt-wars: OnePlus looses Cyanogen-slaying OxygenOS firmware

Biz ships homegrown rival to skirt India ban

Smartphone startup OnePlus has released the first version of OxygenOS, its homebrewed alt-Android smartphone operating system.

"By creating our own operating system, we can quickly respond to user feedback and make it easier for you to continue playing a fundamental role in the future of OnePlus," CEO Carl Pei said in a Monday blog post.

OnePlus, a subsidiary of Chinese electronics maker Oppo, announced it had begun work on OxygenOS in February following a dispute with Cyanogen, its original firmware partner.

Unbeknownst to OnePlus, Cyanogen had granted Indian smartphone maker Micromax an exclusive license to market devices based on its firmwares in India. That development led to a temporary ban on import and sale of OnePlus devices in the subcontinent, which was eventually lifted once OnePlus said it would roll its own OS.

Like Cyanogen's product, OxygenOS is based on Google's Android Open Source Project (AOSP) – specifically, Android 5.0.2 "Lollipop. It adds a number of OnePlus-specific modifications, including unique touchscreen gestures and UI customization features that aren't available with stock Android.

"We want to be careful that we aren't adding features simply for the sake of differentiation," Pei said. "We've implemented some important features thus far, but they are subtle and meaningful. That's our philosophy behind OxygenOS: keep it light and essential."

OnePlus made version 1.0 of the OS available on Friday, and while it won't be offered as an over-the-air update, savvy OnePlus One owners can download it and flash it to their mobes manually. The firm cautions, however, that doing so will wipe all data on the device.

The OxygenOS release doesn't mean OnePlus will stop working with Cyanogen, however. Pei said the firm's partnership with Cyanogen has been "very positive overall" and that Cyanogen has committed to support the OnePlus One for at least two years. CyanogenMod 12, the first Lollipop-based version, is also currently being certified on the OnePlus One.

When OnePlus will ship its first handsets with OxygenOS preinstalled is also unclear. The forthcoming OnePlus 2, which is expected to arrive in mid-2015, is thought to be the first OxygenOS-native phone. But from the sound of it, OnePlus is in no real rush to begin shipping OnePlus One handsets with OxygenOS instead of CyanogenMod.

"The only country that might receive OxygenOS out of the box due to legal issues is India," the company said in a FAQ. ®

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