With a manufacturing partner and a patchwork of replacement apps, can it really make this happen?
About 50 million devices worldwide run CyanogenMod (including the OnePlus One), an aftermarket version of Android, but the OS still relies on Google services. Cyanogen’s dependence on Google will begin to erode soon, however, as the company plans to release a device without the tech giant’s touch on it.
Cyanogen just raised an additional US$80 million to continue nipping away at Google’s control over the Android ecosystem - however, Microsoft wasn’t part of the funding round, contrary to a previous report - which values the company at nearly US$1 billion. And its next big project is a co-branded CyanogenMod phone without Google apps and services attached.
The partner in question is Blu, a company that has enjoyed popularity in Latin America and is making inroads in the United States by selling cheap, unlocked Android devices directly to consumers. Blu intends to release the first Cyanogen phone later this year that will shed the familiar Google stamp. Of course, that means dropping essential elements like Maps, Now, and Chrome - and perhaps most pressingly, the Play Store.
But Blu CEO Samuel Ohev-Zion claims that the companies will be able to get around any issues using replacements like the Amazon Appstore, Opera, Nokia Here, Bing, and the upcoming Android version of Microsoft’s Cortana. “When these other apps are deeply integrated into the phone, most of the time they perform better than the Google apps,” he claims.
Most of Blu’s offerings are rebranded international phones with low-end specs, so it remains to be seen just how powerful of a device the Cyanogen phone is - and whether Google might try to exude some pressure on Blu to abandon the plan and keep making traditional Android phones.
However it turns out, Cyanogen’s CEO can’t stop making bold claims about its future. “We’re putting a bullet through Google’s head,” says Kirt McMaster in the large Forbes company profile that generated this news. Ambitious, indeed - now let’s see the phone that’ll help make it happen.