BharOS an Indigenously-Built Operating System for Smartphones in India

The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT) has recently developed BharOS which is set to
benefit 100 crore (one billion) smartphone users across the country by offering them a more
secure and private mobile operating system. While Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS continue to
dominate the mobile operating system sector, which is the core interface of a smartphone, the
new indigenously developed software could potentially challenge the former.

What is BharOS?

The Indian government-funded project, BharOS is an AOSP (Android Open Source Project) based
operating system. Unlike Android, it does not have default Google apps or services, which implies
that users will not be forced to opt for applications that they are unfamiliar with or do not trust.
Developed by the IIT-Madras incubated non-profit JandK Operations Private Limited (JandKops)
the free and open-source operating system (OS) will be used in government and public systems.
This was in line with the project’s aim to reduce the reliance on foreign OS in smartphones and
contribute significantly to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

Is it different from Android?

In terms of technicalities, it is quite similar to the Android OS but without any Google services
which let users decide which apps they wish to install on their device. In fact, it is based on AOSP
therefore despite being known as an indigenous operating system it essentially has one key
difference which is its No Default Apps (NDA) feature. The institute claims that it will give users
more control, freedom, and flexibility to choose apps that cater to their needs.

Additionally, the developers have said that it is better than both Android and iOS in terms of
features and security as well as could offer better battery life for the device, reported the Indian
Express. Similar to Android, the BharOS also offers “Native Over The Air” (NOTA) updates which
means software updates will automatically get downloaded and installed on the device.

Privacy and security features

As mentioned earlier, privacy and security were among the main focus behind creating BharOS, in
addition to NDA, the mobile operating system also gives its users access to trusted apps from
company-specific Private App Store Services (PASS). In a statement, the developers said,

“A PASS provides access to a curated list of apps that have been thoroughly vetted and have met certain
security and privacy standards of organisations. This means users can be confident that the apps
they are installing are safe to use and have been checked for any potential security vulnerabilities
or privacy concerns.”

Can you install BharOS on your device?

Reports suggest that BharOS will be available on a range of devices including laptops, phones, as
well as desktops, however, it is still being developed and its release date has not been announced
yet. Furthermore, unlike Windows OS, a single build of BharOS cannot be installed on all Android
phones, therefore, even after the wider roll-out might not be available for all devices. So far, it is
reportedly said to be compatible with Google Pixel smartphones but there is no official
confirmation by the developers.

BharOS: What we know so far about the current version

Notably, the current version of BharOS comes with third-party apps like DuckDuckGo and Signal
as default browsers and messaging apps. Additionally, since there are no pre-installed apps and
users can sideload any app of their choice which could potentially compromise the device’s
security and make it vulnerable to hacking, noted a report by the Indian Express.

There is also no clarity on how a user can replace their current operating system with BharOS or if
the developers will join hands with the OEM to launch the smartphone which supports the
indigenously built mobile operating system. However, reports suggest that the developers are
expected to collaborate with some smartphone manufacturers to launch cell phones with BharOS.

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