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I have an Openmoko Neo FreeRunner: it has GPS, accelerometers, WiFi G, high resolution 640x480px touch screen, Micro SD card slot, good quality speakers/headphone jack, and good battery life; it works with any GSM carrier; it can run just about any operating system compiled for its ARM CPU; you can run and compile programs on it in any language supported by GCC or an ARM-compiled interpreter; it can connect to the internet via GPRS, WiFi, or USB with a PC, to update it's software, install software packages, accept/initiate SSH sessions; it allows software to run that uses any windowing toolkit, including Gtk, Qt, and E.

It costs $399 direct from Openmoko and is available through multiple worldwide resellers ( http://openmoko.com/distributors.html ).

Any questions?

I'm not a fan of Openmoko, but you make a good point. There ARE options for people who want them. The cell phone market is more open now than it ever has been in the past.

I have one: Do you actually like using the phone?

Good question: Yes and no.

Because the software stack is a community effort, there are still a few niggling issues:

- problems with suspend (just like Linux on "real" computers) killing the sound driver (mostly fixed) or not waking back up (rare)

- there's no software yet for the device to wake itself at a specified time, so alarms are not possible when using suspend

- WiFi and GPRS is not yet straightforward when using the UI, but work perfectly fine when you can get things set up from a terminal/shell script

However, it's not all bad:

- The diversity of applications is already growing fast, and there are multiple choices for phone software, from Qtopia apps to Gtk or the latest FSO apps.

- GPS works great, and the mapping tools are really nifty and useful, especially TangoGPS: http://www.tangogps.org/

- Once you set up the "good" touch keyboards, using an Xterm is really nice for on-the-go ssh access to servers and such

- There's a great app available that will run in the background and auto-rotate the screen based on accelerometer data, which works great for terminals to get a wider screen: http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Rotate

How do you find the battery life to be on the unit? I used to keep up with the mailing list, prior to the device actually being released, and I recall that being an issue that there were some concerns about.

I'm glad to hear that there have been improvements though!

Do you use the phone as your "daily driver" yet?

I usually get about a day and a half of battery life, with the Neo suspended whenever I'm not using it, and usually with GPS/WiFi turned off until I need it. There are however people who think the Neo could potentially go for even longer, but it's already comparable to what the original iPhones seem to be getting anyways.

I don't yet use it as my only phone; because of the suspend issues, I have to have a more reliable method of being reached, so I still carry my Razr with me, and have my calls forwarded whenever my Neo decides not to come out of suspend, but the Neo is still my primary phone otherwise.

Isn't that the one that was a giant trainwreck as far as, you know, actually using it?


From the video, it looks like the FreeRunner is a long way from a usable open phone. And not all the issues are with the horrible software it ships with. The hardware looks like it sucks, too.

Have you tried an iPhone? They're awesome.

edit: Other reviews I've found of the FreeRunner are absolutely frightening as well. It looks more like a $400 toy to hack on than a phone one might actually use.

Actually, with the current ASU software stack (not shown in the video you linked or its followup video) is quite usable as an everyday phone. Granted it's not yet perfect, but neither is Linux or Windows, and both of them have had far larger user bases and companies backing them.

For the most part, the hardware is not "horrible", but by the fact that Openmoko is a tiny company, they don't have the purchasing power that Apple has to get newer hardware components at an inexpensive price point, hence the older ARM CPU and TI Calypso GSM chipsets. It's still plenty peppy enough and has enough RAM that I can run numerous applications at the same time without degrading performance of the entire system.

Certainly it's not as polished as the iPhone, but for people who actually care about their freedoms, it's fantastic. Even if for the simple reasons that I can flash my Neo at will, and that I have no limitations from the manufacturer as to what I can do with my phone, or how it can be used, it's the best smartphone/PDA I have ever purchased or used.

I find it interesting that you're the most vocal supporter of the Openmoko on this site, and you still don't use it as your only phone. Hopefully they will work out the kinks eventually, but it is not an option for most of us yet, not even those of us who care about software freedom.

If you NEED to have a backup phone, then it is still just an expensive toy.

Correct. But that doesn't mean that it's any less important in the mobile ecosystem. It's the only truly free phone in every sense of the word. You're free to do anything with the phone, at any time, without the permission of phone manufacturers, or app store reviewers, or fucking NDAs.

The biggest problem with Openmoko is that nobody knows about them, and nobody realizes why they matter. Everybody sees the horrors going on between Apple, the App Store, and developers' applications being rejected for competing with Apple, and then they complain about it, but that's just the way it is.

Yet that's not how it should be, and if everyone could find out about Openmoko, and actually realize and know why their freedoms truly matter, and that Openmoko makes the most freedoms-loving phone on the planet, then I wouldn't have anything more to talk about.

But we all know that even Openmoko's unexpectedly high sales amounts for the FreeRunner is still only a drop in the ocean compared to even only the iPhone, and even less compared to the entire smartphone industry. And that's why it matters to me and others to get the word out, to let people know that there really is another option that doesn't squelch your freedoms, and that if freedom truly matters to you, then you do have a choice.

Freedom is Your Choice. I choose Freedom.

As for the crappy "purchasing power" argument for the SoC : let me point out that the Zune of all things has a better processor. If you look at hacker friendly devices, a game console called called "Wiz" from a small firm will be selling at $180 and has roughly a similar processor. Also "OpenPandora" console from a small firm has a OMAP3 and will sell for $330. Now you want me to believe that a $400 phone cannot spend $10 more on the SoC? When running generic apps is what it was built for??

An OMAP3 sells for somewhere around $50 in quantity (I think).

The Zune is backed by Microsoft, and was built on orders of magnitude more than the Neos; the Wiz doesn't include GPS, accelerometers, 640x480 res touchscreen, or GSM chipset.

From my understanding, Openmoko was very limited in choices for SoC, because they needed to stick with open chipset, low power, ARM systems; the crucial point is open chipset systems, which most manufacturers won't give you for anything cutting edge. When your primary goal is freedom, and you insist on getting parts with open specs and chipsets, you eliminate a lot of your potential choices.

Yeah, when are we (I've got one too, still working on getting the Mokomakefile system working on Solaris) going to get a decent software stack for the thing? Leaving it suspended overnight shouldn't kill the battery.

Things have really picked up pace lately. There are currently two good software stacks available: the more stable and dependable ASU 2008.9 release [1], and the more experimental, and slower Python/Dbus-based, FSO framework initiative [2] that builds a new set of phone software on top of ASU.

[1] - http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Om2008.9_Update

[2] - http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/FSO

Any questions?

yes. okay you have sold me on the hardware. can i get one, then contact a wireless vendor and get a service plan? or will they tell me that i have to use a authorized device? astoundingly i have never owned a cell phone

You can use any GSM provider you want. AT&T and T-Mobile work fine on it. You can also use a prepaid plan if you want.

I already have a standard cell plan with T-Mobile for my Razr, but when I got my Neo, I was able to walk into the local T-Mobile store and just pick up a prepaid SIM card plan for $15. You just tell them (or AT&T) that you already have a phone, and you just want the service plan, and they'll give it to you. T-Mobile offers both monthly contract-free and prepaid plans without the need to purchase a phone, so you should be perfectly fine.

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