What is KaiOS?

All you should know about the emerging OS for smart feature phones

KaiOS is an operating system for smartphones that thanks to its structure and lightness enhances simple feature phones making them smarter and with cutting-edge features and in step with the times.

In an increasingly connected world, KaiOS provides its devices with support for 4G and LTE and WiFi networks, making the web accessible to areas of the planet that are still disconnected, creating access opportunities to services also for populations of developing countries (such as India and Africa)!

The simplicity and great variability of its products make it a potential alternative to smartphones, exploiting digital detoxification as one of its main objectives.

KaiOS integrates a pre-installed app store, the KaiStore, where users from all over the world can upload their applications by subscribing to a regulation, monetizing through advertisements (KaiADs).

The origins: Firefox OS

KaiOS was born from the ashes of Firefox OS (of Mozilla), an open source operating system for smartphones, oriented to the privacy and freedom of choice of its users, and which involved a whole community of developers and aspirants. Practically a fairy tale, which lasted only three years (between 2013 and 2016) and which has seen the fiery fox succumb under the weight of stronger and more competitive mobile operating systems, such as Android and iOS.

In fact, the lack of commonly used applications such as WhatsApp have moved users towards the choice of much more advanced and cutting-edge terminals.

The idea of ​​a free operating system accessible to all was too far-sighted in a market where only large investments and multinationals make their way, to the detriment of small projects, as was Firefox OS, which at the time counted over 4000 applications on the Marketplace.

The historical compromise

KaiosTech began to distribute a fork of Firefox OS redesigning it to move on phones with a more classic form factor and that could not compete with the usual touch screen devices.

In the Q1 of 2017, the Alcatel Cingular Flip 2 was launched in the United States, a clamshell phone powered by version 1.0 of this fork, which was called KaiOS.

Later the software was installed on Jio Phone devices in India, achieving wider success. Within a year, KaiOS became the second most widespread operating system in India, thanks also to a massive advertising campaign by the operator Jio, who through a prepaid plan offered access to LTE networks at very low costs.

With the accession of HMD and the launch of the Nokia 8110 4G in 2018, KaiOS has begun to attract attention to itself even in European countries.

It is currently the third operating system for mobile devices in the world, and a large part of its success is also due to the millionaire investments of Google, interested in distributing its services (Maps, Gmail, Assistant, YouTube) even in countries where there was previously no access to internet networks due to the cost of smartphones.

KaiOS, unlike its predecessor, is destined to grow and have a long success, for the moment supported by all those compromises that would have been unthinkable for Mozilla and the open source community.

The open source heart

However its open source origins have retained its nature, the only changes are possible through the choices of the OEMs.

Free communities like ours are what's left of all those people who wanted a minimum of choice and freedom in their hands when they bought a device, and its for them that is born the BananaHackers community.

The Linux base, common to Android, in some cases allows the use of command line tools such as the shell, and many ADB commands commonly used on Google's green robot can also be used on KaiOS.

But unlike Android, KaiOS is not dependent on Google. You can access its services without registering, for now.

Structure and functioning

The structure of KaiOS is the same as Firefox OS, whose lightness is based on only three levels:

  1. Gonk, which is the lowest level, and which mainly contains the linux kernel;
  2. Gecko, which manages boot processes (b2g) and system-level permissions (such as installing applications);
  3. Gaia, the user interface, made up mostly of web content (webapp).

Yes, if I can summarize KaiOS is practically a single program, or more precisely a browser (Firefox 48), and the applications we see (starting from the home screen) are simply the tabs of the navigation. That's why the structure requires a minimum of only 256 MB of RAM.

Although this hypothesis has been risky, the Gecko engine is sufficiently powerful and autonomous to be able to perfectly and safely manage all the permits necessary to run the operating system.

Gecko, at the browser level, is still used by Palemoon, a fork of the first versions of Firefox, before they adopted the Quantum engine.

Firefox, today as then, has always been an example of security and privacy in the world of browsers (just think that Tor browser is its fork), and being Gecko a part of it, Kaios can be equally powerful with the future releases of this project that seemed to be abandoned.

Gecko's abandonment was initially a major blow for many of us who suddenly found a turnaround in Firefox in pursuing the success of the Chrome browser.

Virtually what good Mozilla wanted to abandon in the past has now been taken over by KaiosTech, which with its operating system has spread to millions of devices around the world, and which will continue to do so in the coming years.

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