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Background:

I'm was originally interested in knowing what it would take to sell a phone under my own brand that runs an Android fork (open source Android without Google, essentially modified, open-source operating system).

From here I discovered a Google-run consortium called Open Handset Alliance which includes members such as Motorola, HTC, and others, essentially restricting members from building competing products while allowing licensing for default applications (like Gmail, Google Maps).

OHA members are contractually forbidden from producing devices that are based on competing forks of Android.

Does this mean I cannot manufature my own phone under my own brand while sourcing parts from anyone under the OHA?

I stumbled upon an example:

I do not think this is so because a company Fairphone is now selling a phone with an Android-forked (competitor OS), even though it's CPU is sourced by an OHA member (specifically Qualcom). I've also learned other companies are selling "refurbished" phones in a similar way.

Which begs the question:

Could I legally buy new iPhone12s (or other new flagship phones), modify it (by maybe just painting it or diamond studding it) and resell them as my own brand (assuming the end product did not have "Apple branding" and was not advertised as such)?

If I were to load an entirely new operating system on that hardware, would that also be legal?

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Apple has the copyright on the iOS software, so they have the right to control on which phone you can install it. But you want to replace iOS with an entirely new operating system. That's up to the copyright holder of that operating system to decide. If they give you a license that allows it, then it's allowed.

There will be some small amount of software on the iPhone that is responsible for allowing Apple's customers to install new versions of iOS, and at the same time to prevent some hacker to install a hacked version on your phone that might do all kinds of harmful things. That's an entirely sensible thing to do, but it might get into your way if you try to install a different OS. And since this protection is supposed to make it impossible to install a hacked iOS, it might make it impossible to install your third-party OS, and most likely Apple is under no obligation at all to help you.

Buying an iPhone, painting it, gold-plating it, or adding diamond studs, is done and seems to be entirely legal (crimes against good taste are not crimes in the sense of this site). You won't be able to change the software so the phone will always "know" there is an iPhone behind the gold plating.

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  • I was really just wondering about the legality of selling a modified "open android" on existing devices without fabricating my own chips, cameras, hardware, etc. I would totally buy a "de-googled android" on a new iPhone 12 I would if i knew where to buy it. haha – asdfasdfasdf Apr 16 at 1:48

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