Free Software Foundation lists a Free Phone OS as a Top Priority for 2017

Free Software Foundation lists a Free Phone OS as a Top Priority for 2017

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At XDA-Developers, we value and encourage original development efforts of all kinds. While we won’t get into the debate over the merits of open source software versus closed source, we do recognize the desire for many users to run their devices on software they know is open for public scrutiny. When we discuss open source initiatives at XDA, it is usually in the context of asking companies complying with kernel licensing agreements (for the record, OnePlus did step up and finally release kernel sources a few days ago). We also applaud Sony’s commitment to supporting open source development on their devices.

However, much of the software that is crucial to the basic functionality of the device is proprietary (such as the cellular baseband), so even measures such as these won’t appease those of you seeking a truly open device. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a place to turn for those of you who wish to have a truly open mobile device. One derivative of Android named Replicant offers software that is entirely free and open source (FOSS), but the current lack of device support hampers any widespread usage. Although, the project is in the process of re-basing on Android Marshmallow, but it is unknown how long that would take.

Hopefully that will change with the recent announcement from the Free Software Foundation that they are putting the free phone operating system as one of their top priority for 2017. In its mission statement, the FSF mentions the crucial need for a truly free mobile phone operating system:

Smart phones are the most widely used form of personal computer today. Thus, the need for a fully free phone operating system is crucial to the proliferation of software freedom.

Specifically, the foundation mentions putting their efforts into supporting the Replicant project. Moving forward, hopefully this means we will see more contributions to the project and ultimately more modern devices supported. The biggest roadblocks will of course be somehow getting crucial, proprietary hardware components working on these devices. Software developers may find it difficult to support certain components given companies’ tendencies to restrict access to their proprietary technology.

If you would like to keep up to date or get involved with the project, you can access Replicant’s forum page here, contribute to its wiki here, submit any bugs you find here, or simply donate to support the cause.