back to article WileyFox disentangles itself from Cyanogen

WileyFox is rowing its users away from the wreckage of the Cyanogen disaster, with some help from Ricardo Cerqueira, Cyanogen Inc’s former director of engineering. Britain’s only mass market phone maker is engaged in a mortal battle with HMD’s Nokia brand at the low end of the market. Today, the former released an update to …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    Stock android

    Just give me "Stock/vanilla/whatever name you want to give it" android, I don't want anyone's "product differentiators" (which are normally unwanted, waste storage space & uninstallable without rooting).

    Plus with stock", that way the vendor should actually be able to provide patches in a timely manner as no custom junk to get in the way, so less excuse.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Stock android

      I disagree.

      If there was a version of Android that was cut loose from Google's clutches then that'd be fantastic. But whether that can happen or will happen is a different story.

      For the record, I have a WileyFox Spark X for the last few months and it's been a fantastic phone. The Truecaller app that interegrates with the call system has been fantastic. It's stupidly handy, especially when "A N Other PPI/Ambulance Chaser" rings up about an accident you had but won't tell you what it is due to data protection. Which doesn't help me, as I have a lot of accidents and had amnesia from the last one, so they need to be more specific.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: Stock android

        I agree with wolfetone. At the moment stock Android on the likes of the Nexus is the lightest, most frequently updated version of Android there is (at least that's how it appears to me). However, it's still got loads of Google-branded rubbish I don't use and would rather not have at all. If there was a bare-bones Android, which preferably was ludicrously easy to root, I'd be all over it.

        1. DrXym Silver badge

          Re: Stock android

          "If there was a bare-bones Android, which preferably was ludicrously easy to root, I'd be all over it."

          Lineage OS almost does what you want. It's derived from CyanogenMod and so it's not a stock image but it's generally modified in small ways and ways that enhance things like privacy. e.g. Privacy Guard lets you stop apps accessing GPS (for example) even if they need that permission to install.

          It also doesn't include any Google apps (gapps) so if you don't want them you don't have them. If you do want (some of) them you can install a gapps package over the firmware.

          1. Andy Mc

            Re: Stock android

            All of which is fine, but Wileyfox haven't released the necessary binaries for anything except the Storm and Swift, so there are no Lineage OS images for all of the other phones. Perhaps if you spend your life building and tweaking ROM images for phones this isn't a problem, but for those of us who have more important things to do with our lives this means Lineage OS isn't currently an option for most.

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Stock android

            And more importantly lineage gives you daily builds so you aren't left with a phone with a 5year old security hole because the maker doesn't update

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Stock android

              Lineage might call them "nightlys", but actually they're coming out weekly.

              Mind you, that's still approximately infinity times more often than most manufacturer builds get updated.

          3. asdf Silver badge

            Re: Stock android

            >Lineage OS almost does what you want.

            And requires a clean flash from Cyanogenmod which is why Kirt McMaster is everything that's wrong with Silicon Valley personified.

        2. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: Stock android

          @Richaed 81 In an ideal world I too would like a lightweight android where you can uninstall unwanted junk (ideally without jumping through rooting hoops), but that's not going to happen (ASOP is fairly hobbled as a starting point, if you do run ASOP, swathes of apps do not run without various Google services as devs expect them and code for the Google services with no fallback), hence my preference for stock as least bad option

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Stock android

          If there was a bare-bones Android, which preferably was ludicrously easy to root, I'd be all over it.

          Now we know that that will never happen, right? Google loves all the phoning home and slurping everything you do.

      2. downtrip

        Re: Stock android

        I just installed CopperheadOS on my Nexus P (https://copperhead.co/android/) which calls itself "A hardened open-source operating system based on Android" and is totally Google free. OK, it isn't a Wiley Fox, but such distros are obviously possible. The 'play store' it uses is F-Droid. So far all is good. The most noticeable change is the dramatic improvement in battery life. And of course the warm feeling of no gapps ;)

      3. Planty Bronze badge
        FAIL

        Re: Stock android

        "If there was a version of Android that was cut loose from Google's clutches then that'd be fantastic. "

        ??? Are you for real???

        https://source.android.com

        Go grab it, do what you want with it, within the terms of the a

        Apache2 licence ... That's about as cut loose as anything can be. Plebs

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Stock android

      As of yet I have not been offered an update on Storm.

      But if I am I probably won't accept it. Where's Privacy Guard? It's cold outside the Cyanogen house, wondering the blasted windswept hills of Android where highwaymen roam free with impunity and rob travellers of their data. And do I want another highwayman (Yandex) suddenly appearing on it? Probably not.

      Lineage has builds for Wileyfox phones, at the cost of having to wipe everything and restoring from backup. I may do that when they've got a stable build and I've got a weekend (should this really be necessary for a modern phone?).

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Stock android

        @Dan 55Lineage has builds for Wileyfox phones, at the cost of having to wipe everything and restoring from backup.

        There are, or were at least, transitional builds designed to allow the migration from CM device (it's about the keys used to signed the images, I think). But otherwise running from a backup (Titanium Backup) isn't too much of a chore (I did this several times till the GApps bug was fixed in early February).

        Since then I've found LOS to be very robust and the eco-system around it more professional than for CM. Let's hope some more manufacturers get involved in a constructive way: mainly providing drivers and maintaining builds.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stock android

        I've got (had) a Storm too, with a hardware issue that I've been trying to get WileyFox to respond to. To quote from their support page: "We’re committed to provide customer services that’s as good as our phones. Feel free to get in touch – we’d love to hear from you." My guess is if you have a Storm you won't get a reply. Nothing at all on their site refers to the Storm any more, despite it being registered with them and my having all the order details to quote to them in their on-line forms.

        So I'm looking elsewhere for a replacement, and will be recommending the same to anyone that asks.

    3. Planty Bronze badge
      Stop

      Re: Stock android

      "Phone makers found that even with a forked Android based on the “open” AOSP code base, it was hard to get a functional phone without Google’s proprietary software"

      Sorry that it utter nonsense. Phone makers don't want to spend the time or money making their own, it's easier to use Googles. That is the reality. Android is fully functional and free out the box, but the freeloading stops there. If you want to offer shiny stuff, you sign up with Google, or write your own.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Stock android

        Anything that doesn't have Play Store isn't shiny. A manufacturer can't just have Play Store, it must all the gapps and follow Google's conditions.

        A manufacturer can set up its own app store but good luck attracting developers.

        1. Planty Bronze badge

          Re: Stock android

          But how is it Google's problem that others have not been prepared to pour billions into setting up the app ecosystem and free offerings that Google have done?

          Google docs, Gmail, photos, YouTube and loads more. It's not cheap or easy to set that sort of thing up and offer it for free. There is no point pouring money into that unless there is even the remotest chance of it working, there are really only a handful of companies that might be able to do it, but again, why is this Google's problem? They had the foresight to fund this, to develop an opensource OS (off Linux of course), but with significant outlay...

          This article stinks of the sound grapes of Microsoft desperation. But rather that cold ring the Microsoft tears in a bottle, perhaps it's time for Microsoft to swallow it's pride, build their own Microsoft android handset running services and a Microsoft android store??? It's really the only option they have....

  2. fnusnu

    Bought Spark+ in Jan, now stuck in a non-charging reset loop.

    Best avoided...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mother had the same issue, it's a bug.

      hard power off, connect original charging cable (usb is slightly deeper than usual). Make sure the charger has a decent current output.

      fire up, update.

      1. fnusnu

        Still no dice, just vibrates, shows picture of battery charging (but doesn't), vibrates again, then shows picture of battery with a lightning bolt on it. No red charging LED at any time :(

        5v 1.0A charger the biggest I have.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Pick up a pi charger off the net they are usually a good 2 amp at the least and no more than a tenner.

          1. DonkeyOaty

            If my battery gets below 5%, only a 2A or more charger will bring it back to life. Terrible design.

    2. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

      don't know what the down votes are for, it's an annoying bug. next phone's a Nokia for, hoping quality still there.

  3. Yugguy

    Killing ZEN

    Does anyone know how, without rooting the phone?

    I despise it.

    Or know the name of the com. app it is?

    I loved my Swift 2 with cyanogen, was forced to put fucking Nougat on and now everything that made it good has gone.

    Fucks sake.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TrueCaller not a new feature

    TrueCaller isn't a new feature to the WileyFox phones. It's always been included since the first Swift model. This is more a case of adding back in features to a new OS build that wouldn't have included it normally.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: TrueCaller not a new feature

      Is another company slurping my contacts and call history a selling point? I disabled it. If someone calls me selling stuff I say I'm not interested, hang up, then add them onto the blacklist.

  5. I Like Heckling

    What about us Storm owners?

    I spoke with Wilefox customer support about a problem with the OS that has left my torch non functional... the flash itself works fine, but the torch function has been removed entirely and I was told (and I have it in writing) that the Storm would be getting an update.

    That was last year... and still no mention if the Storm will be getting the Nougat upgrade or not.

    I loved the concept of the phone, all of the extra security and privacy measures are essential in my opinion and I already have truecall and it works very well indeed. In fact they just updated it so that you can now use it for SMS filtering too... although I've not tested that part as it means changing SMS to use truecall app rather than my current one.

    If the Storm doesn't get this upgrade soon, it will be the last Wileyfox product I buy... Far too many makers hang customers out to dry in this manner.

    Compare this to the nVidia Shield I purchased 12 months ago... Came with Android 5... and has now had 4 system/OS updates over the last 12 months. 5.1, 6 and just a couple of months ago they pushed nougat OTA to users... NOW THAT'S HOW YOU SUPPORT CUSTOMERS.

    Every other manufacturer should take note and follow nVidias example. It's convinced me to replace my crappy little android TV box with a Shield TV one next month.

  6. Chronos Silver badge
    Flame

    This is the same Wileyfox who allegedly did this?

    An story, along with the problems with the back and recents backlight LEDs dying, the compass being bloody useless and updates non-existent.

    Truecaller is a wonderful idea. Give a central repository all of your contacts' details without their permission. Nice.

    Storm owner, building my own Lineage variant now which is the only way I could coax the thing into behaving (and get Nougat).

  7. Paul Woodhouse

    Picked a good time to replace my ageing Galaxy Nexus...

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: What about us Storm owners?

      nVidia do control their own chipset, unlike others which are left to the mercy of Qualcomm and MediaTek who decide they're not going to produce updated drivers for older chipsets.

      1. Chronos Silver badge

        Re: What about us Storm owners?

        Lineage 14.1 (Nougat 7.1.1) exists for the Storm (kipper) so it's not a chipset vendor issue. It's more like Wileyfox want to forget they ever made the Storm as it wasn't even half-arsed. Can something be a third-arsed?

        @I Like Heckling: Don't hold your breath. They've been promising an "update" to fix the compass and LED flickering issues (as if the former isn't bad placement of a power rail near the magnetometer and the latter not enough copper to sink the heat from the LEDs) since the Storm released, until they stuck their fat fingers in their ears and shouted "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" every time a question was asked about the Storm. They seem to be more interested in posting twee comments on Twitter.

    2. Richard 84

      Re: What about us Storm owners?

      Update schedule according to their Instgram account - Swift phones in April, Storm in May, Spark in June.

  8. Yugguy

    I stuck Nova Launcher on and disabled Foxhole, that seems to have done the trick.

  9. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Wiley Fox but for how long?

    With Google reported to be sinking close to $0.85B into LG to bolsted its OLED display capacity, I fear for the likes of WileyFox when the Google behmoth starts producing millions of phones per quarter.

    They could very well drive all the lesser makers to the wall which will be a shame.

    But Google does not do Evil now does it?

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Wiley Fox but for how long?

      Google is going down the root of phones with curved edges, which is why it wants OLEDS. This makes it hard to fit screen protectors and encourages edge damage, thus encouraging churn. It's like when car makers stopped doing plain black bumpers and went onto coloured ones to keep the repair workshops happy and busy.

      I suspect there will continue to be a big market for phones with flat screens, especially in the mid range (though I am awaiting the Nokia 8 with interest, to see what their approach will be to updates, apps and security.)

    2. Planty Bronze badge

      Re: Wiley Fox but for how long?

      Again, what is wrong with this? Google allow anyone to use Android and do whatever they want with it. It's not Google's job OEMs are doing a shit job. Perhaps Google should give them free money or something? Or perhaps you might like to bring them some free money, as after all, you seem to believe they are a charity....

  10. Grunchy

    I never had any luck with Cyanogen

    I was able to do all the stuff and get it installed and operating, but it always flaked out.

    I 'updated' my Ouya to Cyanogen, but it's duffed. I can still access the install menu and all that, but Cyanogen totally doesn't work.

    I've updated to Lineage as well, no luck.

    It's Duffed!

  11. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Microsoft Android Cyanogen©

    Wasn't Cyanogen supposed to be part of Microsoft's strategy to take total control of the Android platform.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft Android Cyanogen©

      Don't know about MS Cyanogen, but Cyanogen is a case study in what is fundamentally wrong with the current state-of-the-art with open source projects!

      The Cyanogen project, we can now safely conclude, was doomed from the outset by the open source licence and the lack of protection for 'ideas'. These enabling a better-funded competitor to both continue developing its own branch and to take whatever it wanted from forks without any comeback.

      The worrying thing looking forward now isn't so much Android, but the Linux desktop/server distribution itself. There is nothing preventing MS from taking Linux/Wine etc. and using it's deep pockets to create a new Windows distribution; it doesn't matter about it being open source, MS's brand and investment, will enable it to both outpace any fork and get consumers/enterprises to pay for its distribution.

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft Android Cyanogen©

      Reilly's Second Law: Everything Microsoft touches to do with phones turns to mud.

  12. DonkeyOaty

    Still miss sold phone though

    I sadly bought a whileyfox. I live in a 3/4G area. Therefore, their "this only applies to Three sim cards" limit on the dual sim functionality is rubbish. The entire reason I bought this phone (to not have to carry two round) turned out to be a load of rubbish and I'm now stuck with a lemon.

    I really hate this phone - just because I feel like the advertising lied to me.

  13. Gimme Badge

    Zen ? Do not want !

    So having updated my swift2 this morning I find that I now have some half-arsed ad-infested RSS feed app installed that I cant configure, switch off or get rid of. Atleast when Skype & Bing appeared in an update a while ago I could just delete them - but that doest appear to be be the case with Zen. Given that the only reason I bought the phone was for the promised lack of such fuckwittery I am no longer a reasonably satisfied customer.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zen needs to go

    Or this phone does. What on earth were they thinking?

  15. John 150

    Zen(ith)

    Come on El Reg...where is the critical analysis of Zen and Wileyfox cozying up together? There was no real deep-dive in this article or your previosu one about Yandex (https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/17/yandex_launcher/).

    The ex-CEO of Wileyfox (Nick Muir) said in 2015:

    “Our target customer values choice, security and reassurance. These savvy individuals do not want their data made available beyond their control. They want to be able to change the appearance of their screen, beyond just the wallpaper and lock-screen. They want efficient, personalised shortcuts and gestures”

    What changed?

  16. Jason Hindle Bronze badge

    I hope they update the Storm

    Had to do no end of hacking (engineering menus) just to get it to connect to a couple of data networks, in Africa, last year. These were situations where the Nexus and iPhone just worked. Reading around the issue, it looks Cyanogen related.

  17. Dominic Shields

    Wileyfox Swift 1 on 7

    Just for fun, I followed the instructions on an Android site I presumably cannot link to here to upgrade my Swift to Nougat, the only thing that was a bit tricky was the wrong code for unlocking the bootloader was quoted but I found the correct one. After that installing TWRP then flashing the Nougat install and Google Apps was dead simple. I resisted the urge to give myself root access as you then cannot use online banking apps. Best of all it is pretty nippy.

  18. Am I Paranoid Enough?

    Wileyfox Zen & TruCaller

    I made coment on Wileyfox Zen feedback and got a response from Yandex.Apparently they might include a way to disable it in a future update but as yet you have no option. Wileyfox say they will include a way to disable it in the next update to be installed in the next few weeks, however, in view of Yandex response I wouldn't hold your breath.

    All services (seems to be related to 'Trebuchet') for this are hidden and no permissions are available to prevent it data slurping. The only solution found was to restrict all background data and net access via a non-root firewall app such as Mobiwol. Some basic investigations reveals that data does flow to Yandex out of the box and that you can not opt out. The lack of optout implies you automatically consent to its activities (is this this modern version of 'Shrinkwrap Licensing?) contrary to the provisions in law which requires prior knowledge or optout provision.

    As for Trucaller, there are numerous issues such as what they say they won't do yet in their EULA & Privacy statement clearly contradict themselves. Out of the box it is next to useless without signing up. For example, you can not access SMS if you don't agree. This is being replaced.

    We run dozens of these devices for vulnerable people for whom release of sensitive PII is a serious issue.

    Apart from the Storm trialled last year ( (in repair for 42 weeks out of 52) we have had, until now, no issue with the Swift series. Consequently it is hope that they get back on track as until we can establish the same control as before, we will not be buying any further units.

  19. Joeshmo

    Update cancelled

    I have the swift and contacted them about the update. Looks like so many problems they've stopped the rollout till they fix them.

  20. spe

    Functionality removed in 7.1.1 update

    I have a Swift 2 Plus. The update itself as painless, however I am still uncovering changes in the user experience.

    This update quietly removed the sdcard ExFat support. Which is a pain when I was using it with a 128Gb ExFat card stuffed with movies and audio. It takes a long time to copy it all off, re-format to Fat32, copy it all back again. Minus all the files that are over 2G in size of course.

    A little warning about what was going to be removed would have been nice.

    On the plus side it has the 1st April Android Security Update in place, and the UI seems a little smoother and quicker.

    WileyFox were between a rock and a hard place. This is a sensible reaction. However they should have included more detail in the information that they gave to their customers.

    1. BongoJoe Silver badge

      Re: Functionality removed in 7.1.1 update

      "User Experience"?

      When the slimeVocabulary comes into everyday speech it's time to worry.

  21. Handy Andy
    FAIL

    Don't do it

    I carelessly let the 7.1.1 update install on my Swift (what was I thinking??)

    Now I can barely use it for all the modal dialogs warning of limited service, do I want to initiate a network search?

    no I fookin don't, just like the last time it interrupted me 20 seconds ago to ask.

    Dunno if its Wileyfox or Nougat, but the devs, well testers (if there were any!) clearly lived in a great coverage area, away from roaming borders so they could leave network on automatic mode. The phone is now not really usable in manual network mode.

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