What is BharOS, the new mobile operating system made in India that wants to take on Android?

Developed by IIT Madras-incubated startup called JandKops, BharOS or BharatOS is a safer and more privacy-oriented, AOSP-based mobile operating system that plans to take on Android and iOS in India

Worried about multinational tech firms using the data of Indian citizens, and how there are no viable alternatives for the masses when it comes to Google, the government of India wanted to develop an indigenous mobile operating system that could go toe-to-toe with Google’s Android OS, and have the added bonus of prioritising privacy and being safe.

To that effect, IIT-Madras recently announced, that one of the startups from its incubators, has developed a new home-grown operating system called BharOS or Bharat OS. BharOS promises to be a more secure and private mobile operating system and is meant for India’s 100 crore smartphone users, who have no option besides Android and iOS, operating systems that are owned and managed by American companies.

What is BharOS? How was it made?Bharat OS or BharOS is supposed to be India’s answer to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Because all smartphones either run on Android or on iOS, there has always been a pervasive uneasiness about how these companies collect, store and use the data that is generated by Indian smartphone users. BharOS tries to address these issues.

BharOS is an Android Open Source Project and was developed by JandK Operations Private Limited (JandKops), a non-profit organisation incubated at IIT Madras.

How is BharOS different from Android?Technically, BharOS is very similar to Android because they share the same basics. Because BharOS uses AOSP or Android Open Source Project, the functionalities and the methodologies both OS use are essentially the same. What sets BharOS apart from Android, is that it is free from Google Services and Apps. Google has used its preinstalled apps and services to collect data, sometimes without explicitly asking a user. Similarly, other apps from Google’s PlayStore share data with third-party services.

BharOS does not come with any such preinstalled services or apps, and hence, is deemed to be more secure.

How to instal BharOS? As of now, there is no detail as to how users can get their hands on BharOS. Removing an operating system and installing a fresh one on mobile handsets is a seriously risky business, something that even the most seasoned tech enthusiasts think twice before attempting.

So in all likelihood, BharOS will be limited to new and upcoming devices, and perhaps not be launched officially for older devices. Moreover, BharOS is currently only for those organizations that have stringent privacy and security requirements and “whose users handle sensitive information that requires confidential communications on restricted apps on mobiles.” The OS isn’t likely to be released to the masses anytime soon.

It is expected that OS developers will collaborate with OEM- Original equipment manufacturers, to launch the smartphone supported by BharOS in future.

When will BharOS release?The developers of BharOS have not provided any information on its release date or supported smartphones. However, it is speculated that the developers will collaborate with smartphone manufacturers to launch smartphones running on BharOS in the near future.

How will apps work on BharOS?BharOS won’t have the multitude of default apps that Android does. Instead, it will let users choose what apps they want to use for their own devices. Furthermore, it will have its own app store which will allow users to download and install apps, eliminating the need for the Google App Store.

There is also a possibility that it will allow users to sideload apps in a much easier manner than Android allows. There is also a possibility that barring a few essential apps, BharOS will favour indigenously developed apps or apps that have been designed with a particular focus on India and Indian users.

Which is better BharOS or Android?It isn’t that simple actually. BharOS sure has its benefits especially when we speak of security and privacy. However, Android has a few legacy advantages that will be hard for people to give up. Android actually supports a wide range of devices and hardware, ranging from a basic smartphone worth Rs 6000-7000 or even lower to a complex, and expensive, a foldable smartphone that costs north of Rs 1,00,000. We don’t know what sort of devices will BharOS support.

Another advantage is that Android has a very wide user base so bugs and issues are quickly reported and resolved. Very rarely do we get to see bugs in the Android OS – most bugs crop up when OEMs try to lay their own UI on top of Android. We also don’t know how frequently will BharOS receive updates, security or generational.

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