What is AOSP? This is how Android works without Google

“AOSP” is what many refer to when they talk about “pure Android”. But what is it really?

When we say Android is a free and open operating system, we mean that the source code for the operating system is public, and anyone can access, download, and modify it to create their own versions. of the system. This whole set of publicly available code is what we call AOSP, or Android Open Source Project.

But the truth is that AOSP is something very different from the version of Android that you can find on your mobile, regardless of the brand. Not even Google phones, accustomed since their inception to equipping a version of the system close to “stock Android”, do not include a pure version of AOSP, but rather opt for a heavily modified version of the operating system, with a large number of additions that are not present in the Android source code.

Today we are going to tell you everything you need to know about AOSP. What is it, what is it really for and why is it not common to see devices that include this version of the operating system without any other additions.

Even Google Pixels doesn’t include a completely “pure” version of Android.

AOSP (Android Open Source Project), what is it really?

AOSP is the basis of Android. It is the open source operating system that Google makes available to anyone who wants to access it, through its own repository where all the information and source code needed to create custom variants of the operating system is stored. -called forks-.

Being a public and open project, anyone can collaborate by submitting suggestions, bug reports or source code contributions. Of course, all suggestions should be reviewed by Google engineers before fixes are added to the source code.

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that with the release of each new version of Android, Google publishes the changes in the AOSP repository on the same day of the release of the update. So when Google makes the rollout of Android 13 official, all of its news will also be present in the AOSP repository, available for developers and manufacturers to work with.

When we get the code from AOSP, we have in front of us a mobile platform that includes the essential components of the operating system, including libraries, user interface, basic applications — browser, camera application , launcher, music player, calendar … .– and, in short, everything needed to act as the “base” of an Android version, to which several add-ons still have to be added.

And it is that, despite the fact that AOSP is designed with the intention of offering compatibility with almost all types of hardware, manufacturers of mobile devices and processors still have to develop their own “drivers” which are then added to AOSP to include component support. such as a camera or a processor.

Mate40 Pro, screen on

Huawei has used AOSP as the basis of its operating system for several years, although it does not have access to Google mobile services.

Although perhaps the most significant absence in AOSP is that of Google Mobile Services or GMS.

While AOSP is free and open source, the “suite” of Google apps and services is proprietary and available only under license from Google, granted to manufacturers whose devices meet the requirements set out in the Android Compatibility Definition Document –or CDD, for its acronym in English–.

This is the reason why Huawei devices, despite being Android-based, do not have access to Google apps. Due to restrictions imposed by the US government since 2019, Huawei cannot work with US companies such as Google, so despite having access to the AOSP code, it does not have the possibility to obtain the necessary license for the utilize. operating system, which leaves Huawei with the daunting task of having to develop its own suite of services that fill all the gaps present in the version of AOSP without GMS.

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The absence of Google Mobile Services is critical because, in its attempt to make Android an increasingly “modular” and easily updatable operating system, Google tends to resort to its services when integration of new functions into the operating system, instead of integrating directly into AOSP –thus, in addition, it has the possibility of using the Google Play platform to send updates more quickly–.

In addition, other essential system elements such as notification management, geolocation services or backup copies also use the services integrated with Google services.

Why are there no phones with “pure” versions of AOSP?

By now it should be clear why it doesn’t make much sense to use a “pure” version of Android on devices: the limitations of the platform are too obvious to provide a satisfying user experience, and very few people would want to do that. buy a mobile without Google services, with extremely basic applications and without most of the functions present in the versions of Android with GMS.

However, it is possible to find smartphones whose software does not differ too much from what one would find in a clean version of AOSP.

Apart from Google, brands like Sony or Motorola use software based on AOSP with very few aesthetic additions. Unlike other customization layers, those of these two brands follow the lines of the Android source code, and are limited to including only the necessary additions. Even some of its apps are based on those of AOSP, like the launcher.

What is AOSP?  This is how Android works without Google

The Essential Phone had an AOSP-based version of Android, with very few interface changes.

Other brands that have used systems based on AOSP and with few additions are the now defunct Essential with the PH-1, whose software was, without a doubt, one of the main attractions of the device. Others, like Nothing, claim to be as close to the “AOSP experience” as possible in terms of interface and functionality. However, all have an obligation to work on existing code if they want to provide a full user experience with Android.

Related Topics: Android

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