Indeed, it looks as though the next generation of candy-bar phones will also include Google. Nokia’s latest 4G feature-phone, the Nokia 8110 “banana phone”, runs the KaiOS operating system, in which Google has invested $22 million. The Alcatel Go Flip 2, JioPhone and Orange Sanza are alternative KaiOS phones available in North America, India and Africa respectively. (Kai is named from the Chinese word for open, not the undead protagonist in the Lexx science fiction series.)

KaiOS includes WhatsApp – its main selling point – plus a web browser, Facebook, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Assistant. It’s claimed to be the second most popular operating system in India and could manage that in Africa. Some KaiOS phones cost less than $20.

KaiOS started as a fork of B2G (Boot to Gecko), which was an open source continuation of Firefox OS, which Mozilla stopped developing at the end of 2015. Gonk, the operating system underneath Gecko (which is Firefox’s web-rendering engine) is a small Linux kernel derived from Google’s AOSP, the Android Open Source Project.

In other words, the OS most likely to become a global alternative to Apple’s iOS and Google Android isn’t – and isn’t likely to be – 100% free from Google software. Even if it is not KaiOS, any future OS might use parts of AOSP because it is easier than developing everything from scratch. It could also pre-package access to some Google properties, even if they are just web apps, because most people want to use them.

Can’t decide whether this is ironic or depressing. Perhaps both.

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