Fairphone 2 OS

Fairphone is a social enterprise company which aims to develop smartphones that are designed and produced with minimal harm to people and the planet. This project was taking the stock Android operating system (OS) and changing it to create what we believed was a more relevant experience for Fairphone users (and anyone who wishes to install it).

Peace of mind
When attempting to create the optimal phone experience, peace was a priority requirement. In Fairphone 1, a tool called Peace of Mind kickstarted this experiment. It was created at a time when notifications were getting out of hand. By the time we were designing Fairphone 2, Android had incorporated some of this thinking into its core experience, so we decided instead to ‘measure peace’ and display it in the lock screen. The thinking being, when we surface awareness of the relationship between user and phone we put the responsibility of future behaviour more clearly on the user.
Privacy and awareness (transparency)
Our responsibility to Fairphone users was to make sure we empower them with the ability to quickly understand the impact over their privacy – by the various apps they use. Incidentally, as we were preparing this line of work, Google announced that in M (their next version of Android) they were doing something similar. When you first launch an app on the OS, we ran an algorithm to check what the app’s Privacy Impact might be and display it to the user. The user can then decide in a more informed way whether to proceed or not. We also allowed the user to turn off notifications for that app the first time the app is opened. Across most mobile operating systems, the ability to turn off notifications is often shrouded in system settings.
Quick access
In Fairphone 2, we introduced the edge swipe: widgets that span the full height without a dock at the bottom but most importantly, the ability to quickly access your most important apps from anywhere. Ultimately, the edge swipe saves battery, time and frustration. The current Android contacts and app launcher experience was sub optimal. We created a simple algorithm that covers approximately 80% of use cases where My Contacts contains the person you are most likely to call next. We then applied the same logic for apps. This means a lot less searches and less browsing of the cluttered app launcher. We then took it a step further and in the app launcher, if you don’t use an app for some time that app will decay into the idle apps. We did so because the app launcher is usually crowded with apps we’ve installed, used once and forgot about.