As many people know, the core parts that run Android is completely open source and is free to use by anyone. All OEMs shipping phones based off of Android do exactly this, including Amazon. But due to competition and profit motives, many parts of the OS that is shipped on devices are closed source. Since companies dedicate much time and resources to providing additional features and enhancements, it makes sense for them to keep those parts closed source.
However, closed source projects cannot be peer reviewed by users, so it is impossible to know whether or not the software is completely secure or trustworthy. Personally, I don’t mind leaving security in the hands of Google, but others understandably do not trust any companies with their personal information. But there are some people who want a completely open source mobile platform, and this is where Replicant comes into play. We covered the creation of Replicant back in 2013, saw it updated to Android 4.2 a few months later, and have been watching its development ever since.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) team had started working on the Marshmallow version of Replicant last year, and today they are giving us an update on its progress. In a blog post, we learned that thanks to three community members, Grim Kriegor, Jookia and dllud, Replicant now supports the Galaxy S2. They’re also working on adding support for the GTA04 (also known as the Openmoko), but right now only basic functionality can be expected.
For example, though WiFi on supported devices usually require proprietary firmware, there is a workaround that the Replicant developers have discovered. A number of WiFi dongles use the AR9271 chipset which has open source firmware available for it. Any dongle that uses this chipset can be used on the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy S3 with Replicant installed.
The rest of the blog post talks about enhancements that have been made to the graphics rendering, toolchain, security, and privacy of Replicant, but what’s most interesting is the note that future Replicant 6.0 versions will be based on LineageOS 13. Given that the FSF has declared a free phone operating system as one of their top priorities for 2017, we hope that we can see more development progress being made for Replicant. Maybe even some more modern devices will eventually be supported?