Android has the lion’s share of the smartphone market partly because of the wide variety of devices available and the wide range of prices they carry. There may also be one other factor influencing those numbers: early obsolescence of devices. Android phones are guaranteed two to three years of software updates and that is if they’re lucky. If you have a five-year-old or older phone that’s still working, you can only hope there’s an Android ROM for that or, if you’re more adventurous, support from Linux-based postmarketOS.
There’s no shortage of attempts at creating alternative mobile operating systems, some of them are even closer to Linux than Android has ever been. Almost all of them, however, either eye making their own device for security and privacy reasons or support recent and more expensive phones. postmarketOS, on the other hand, wants to help reduce electronic waste and save people money by reviving their old phones but with a twist.
Instead of trying to force recent versions of Android to run on almost ancient devices, postmarketOS, or pmOS for short, took the opportunity to develop an almost completely free and open source Linux-based platform for those devices. In theory, that could help with the maintenance of the software for posterity since it’s pretty close to “regular” Linux, as long as there is someone willing to do the work of keeping that device updated.
The project is two years old now and boasts a list of 139 devices, including some that never ran Android natively, like the Nokia N900. Impressive as that number may be, not all of those work perfectly. Some just boot and stop there.
More than just supporting old phones, however, postmarketOS has also opened the door for free and open source software development on mobile devices. It has become the platform on which other projects have been built. And while it may not boast the same numbers as, say, LineageOS and other ROMS, it at least offers not only a completely new mobile experience but also a future-proof one.