US operator AT&T is apparently eyeing a smartphone powered by the Cyanogen platform, with Chinese device maker ZTE also involved in the effort, according to The Information.
Cyanogen is a version of Android which offers alternative applications and services to those included in the Google version of the platform, reducing the US internet giant’s influence at the highest levels of the platform.
It was suggested that the project could enable the operator to place its content services – emboldened by its acquisition of DirecTV last year – at the heart of the platform.
But it was also suggested that the project suffered something of a setback following ZTE’s run-in with the US Department of Commerce, related to trade sanctions for Iran – although restrictions have now been eased.
Cyanogen has some high-profile backers, last year raising $80 million from companies including Qualcomm, Telefonica Ventures, Twitter and Foxconn. It also partnered with Microsoft, a company with a wide set of products and services which round out a Google-free proposition.
Regardless of the success of a device, AT&T’s support for an alternative version of Android would be symbolic, as Google looks to maintain its control over the OS. Its practices with regard to app bundling are the subject of probes on both sides of the Atlantic, with the company suffering in Russia in particular.
In the past, Google is believed to have played tough in its efforts to banjax alternative versions of Android, although whether it would be willing to take such a risk in the current climate, against such high-profile adversaries, is far from clear.