The Android community’s largest aftermarket distribution, LineageOS, is now running Android 11. The new release is called “LineageOS 18.1”, and builds for over 60 smartphones that hit official servers for brands such as OnePlus, Google, Xiaomi, Sony, Motorola, LG and even some old Samsung devices.
Of course, New Lineage OS 1
Google releases the Android source code as “AOSP”, but Google’s repo is a big bunch of code that is not device ready. LineageOS takes AOSP code and whips it up in a form that can be sent, patches missing components with its own code, and adds some of its own apps instead of Google’s proprietary apps (though you can also flash Google apps on top of Lineage) and bake more customization and mod-friendly features in the operating system. All Lineage does is free and open source.
Most importantly, Lineage has an army of volunteer device maintainers who port Lineage to each specific device, merging hardware support and troubleshooting compatibility issues so that individual model owners can actually use the operating system. This year, the whole process took seven months. (And to all the profit-making producers out there who were just hit the update punch by a team of volunteers with only public access to the source code, shame on you!)
The line’s biggest barrier to adoption (and one reason you may not be able to install it on your device) is the industry’s affiliation with locked bootloaders. Many phone manufacturers and carriers do not want customers to be able to control the device they own, so they lock the boot loader, which blocks the installation of aftermarket operating systems, root access, full NAND flash backup and the ability to revive the phone in recovery mode if something goes wrong during an update. If you can get a device with an unlocked bootloader (either officially or through a security exploit) and official LineageOS support, you will be set for years. Today, 6- to 7-year-old devices such as OnePlus One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are updated to Android 11.
To try out Lineage, the release blog post contains links to device-specific instructions for all supported devices. The project is also, as always, to call out for more device maintainers, documentation writers and translators.