Google Android is based on an open source Linux kernel, and Google regularly releases the source code for the core operating system. But most phones and tablets that ship with Android include proprietary code, often including camera drivers, radios, and more.
While plenty of smartphone and tablet users are cool with that, a team of developers has been working on a fully free and open version of Android called Replicant. It doesn’t include any non-free code.
Recently the Replicant team released the first builds of version 4.0, based on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
While Google is already up to Android 4.2, it’s pretty impressive that the Replicant team has been able to shadow the official Android team as well as it has… and the jump from Android 2.3 to Android 4.0 is a pretty big one, involving big changes to the user interface.
The Replicant team has also improved hardware support for supported devices by improving telephony performance and adding camera support to the Samsung Galaxy S.
Replicant 4.0 is available for download for a handful of phones including the HTC Dream and Magic, Google Nexus One, Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II.
This isn’t the kind of operating system you run if you’re only looking for bleeding edge performance or the newest features. But if you believe that software should be accessible to anyone that wants to examine or modify the code, Replicant is an interesting alternative to Android.