Replicant is an Android distribution that is certified by the FSF that supports some Smartphones and Tablets.
Historically Replicant has united different struggles / concerns within the same project:
It enabled to use hardware way longer, limiting damage on planet and workers.
Compatible hardware could be found second hand in various ways (shops, free, etc). This made it accessible by a wide variety of people.
Many of the supported hardware were made and sold in big numbers so they have a wide ecosystem around them like replacement batteries, repair knowledge, second hand shops.
While all the supported hardware contains nonfree software (bootloader, sometimes another operating system loaded on the same CPU alongside Android/Replicant, details will be explained in the talk), Replicant itself is fully free, which appeals to people caring about free software.
It avoided backdoors and chose to support only specific phones to limit the privacy damage (this was done by isolating the modem, more will be explained in the talk).
While Replicant always had to take difficult strategic decisions that affected the above, with effects on both the amount of work required to support devices and the amount of work required to move to new Android versions, things also changed a lot in the last years.
Modern off the shelf smartphones hardware made it impossible to address the same concerns than before: Replicant depends on hardware design features like modem isolation to provide some privacy guarantees (details will be in the talk). Supporting devices with batteries that cannot be replaced also lead to lot of complications for users (batteries that last less on second hand devices, limited lifespan, etc) that in turn put impossible constraints on contributors (supporting new devices as soon as they are released).
Other issues like the disappearance of 3G networks, or the status of some Android related project also affect Replicant in big ways.
On another hand Replicant also ended up with way more resources than before: it has enough money (about 200 000$) to fund development work during few years and also managed to get funding from NLnet to work on specific tasks.
All that brings huge changes in the project and makes strategic decisions harder than before.
The talk will start with information on why having 100% free software Android distribution(s) is still relevant today when GNU/Linux smartphones are becoming a reality again. It will also explain all the background needed to understand the rest of the talk (how smartphones work, what is a modem, what is TrustZone, how Android is different from GNU/Linux from the hardware support and contributor perspective, etc).
A lot of the focus of this presentation will be about the project strategic decisions: Given the difficult context Replicant operates in, what difficulties it faced, how it solved them. But also current and longer term issues we have. In this talk we are also looking for feedback on our new strategy and/or ideas to address some of the longer time concerns we have, some of which other projects also faced.