If I buy such a tinkerphone as this, I want to be able to play with it at all levels. For example: Imagine the mobile connection doesn't work, but it still displays the GSM network's name? So it still transmits some data.... I want to be able to see where it hangs. E.g. do my packets reach the other station? Do I get garbled responses, or no responses at all? ... I want to be able to access the audio stream programmatically, which is not possible on 99% of android phones. And so on.
Mobile technology is such a black box, due to closed firmware. I wonder what amazing things will be possible if people can hack their phones' radios.
(* With focus on "I can compile and modify everything myself", don't care too much about license politics.)
However, building working, commercially available phone platforms is an important step towards completely open mobile phones.
Compared to an unlocked Nexus 4, Neo900 has a few crucial advantages:
* most drivers are in the mainline Linux kernel, making it easy to upgrade the kernel.
* the hardware will be completely documented, allowing me to add or modify sensors for research projects
* there are two supported non-Android OSes with working kernels, existing communities and developers.
* it has a physical keyboard
(of course, there are a lot of obvious disadvantages, too)
Well that's too bad, because as captainmuon hints at, above, that is the only thing that matters. The. Only. Thing.
A free/open baseband processor changes everything and makes possible a world of control and new features that most phone users have no inkling of.
At the very, very least they could choose a baseband processor that already has some cracks in it and then perhaps blow it wide open once there is wide adoption of these neo900 devices ... sort of establish this baseband as a "new calypso" ... but there is no mention of that.
Hey neo900 folks - can you post somewhere obscure (if you're trying not to spook your bb-proc suppliers) like osmocom dev list and give us some hints as to what you hope to do here ?
There's also more and more of the base Android apps that are abandoned in favour of closed-source, Google branded apps. So there's that as well.
As a phone, I need to use the number line a lot. As a computer /terminal, I need to use letters, numbers & symbols a lot. 3 and 4 row keyboards are bad for both of these use cases.
If someone makes a decent, interesting 5-row qwerty phone, I will buy it tomorrow.
If you're in the US and are on a CDMA network, there's the DROID 4/Photon Q for Verizon and Sprint, respectively.
Outside of that I'm not aware of any recent phones with a keyboard, unfortunately.
Here is GSMArenas list of QWERTY androids released in 2012-2013
edit: interesting that almost all those devices are based on the same MSM8960 SoC
The N900's OS uses PulseAudio.
I can redirect audio output to the FM transmitter and instantly have the FM radio in any pre-bluetooth car become a giant speakerphone.
I have tiny applications for recording calls (intercepting the audio stream between the GSM radio and the amp), and other applications for recording from the mic directly (for verbal note-taking).
How is it that you can see my postings? Is it your extremely high karma?
- HW keyboard
- Pixel-accurate touchscreen (with stylus)
- Desktop-ish hacker/FOSS friendly Linux OS
Essentially N900 was the embodiment of the dreams of what Nokia could have been if it weren't for EVIL Elop and MS ruining everything, and that is why the device has small cult following.
There has been occasional HW keyboard equipped Android devices since, but they have usually been of limited availability, and while Meego lives on as Mer (and the rest of the family) it afaik is not really usable as daily driver (yet). And Mer has been adapted to fairly limited number of devices, none which afaik have HW keyboards (besides N9x0).
Of course, progress has passed the device quite a while ago. I still see the occasional hacker using the phone, as that was the last phone many could consider having. A phone you bought and would actually own: http://flors.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/software-freedom-lover...
Disclaimer: I was part of the team that built the "Maemo Downloads" app store for FOSS applications for Nokia.
Plus the overclocking, the bash prompt, it goes on and on. It was a fantastic phone that none of my phones since have lived up to.
Both were beautifully designed phones, with a unique and powerful operating system: swipe-based interaction, social feed screen, multitask, beautiful applications, good development environment (Qt).. This was the direction Nokia should have gone toward..
I somehow get 1.5-2 days use out of the thing, per charge, despite frequent multitasking (browser, SMS, notes, ssh etc.) and typically running it with a slight overclocking to 805mhz. A script switches on airplane mode while I'm asleep, so that probably helps.
Others have mentioned the screen, but I'm really comfortable reading on it. The Opera browser makes the peck and hunt game on desktop versions of sites obsolete. All the fuss about resistive/capacitive differences is beyond me. It's really quite easy to move (things) about on the screen, and I'm not into splitting hairs.
Some have mentioned the Psion series in this thread. I have to agree, the 5MX was a brilliant design for a mobile device. If that keyboard was coupled with modern, open HW in a similar phone it would be game over. For me at least.
I have been considering buying a folding bluetooth keyboard to type up notes and posts on the phone, but I think that's pushing it - my main 'creation' work still happens on the PC, for better or worse.
I don't do a lot on it that you can't do on any other phone, but it does give me a warm feeling that it's at least open and not phoning home at the end of the day to update Sauron.
Ok, I'll buy everything in that statement except for "Evil" Elop. Elop is not the cause. He is a symptom, partly of Microsoft's colonial attitude towards companies like Nokia (which is somewhat evil), and the complete ineptness of the Nokia board who a) approved Elop as CEO and b) got Nokia in such bad financial situation that they were forced to do (a) in order to accept Microsoft's cash infusion (which is pure ineptness and desperation).
Yes, Nokia's rank and file got shafted. But their leadership likely pulled nice bonuses for selling off their comrades and company.
Blame leadership when they sell you out.
Personally I blame every single layer inside Nokia, from the grassroots engineers to the board and CEO, and everything in between.
The idea of it was great but the phone itself was pretty frustrating.
The idea is that it was a little bitty linux tablet, with something of an open source community behind it, that could also make phone calls. I explained some of my thoughts in this arstechnica thread from 4 years ago.
But the reality once I got the phone was it was just slow and frustrating to use. Aspects of it were great (it multitasked the best of all the phones of its day), but over time it's glitchyness (hanging up on calls instead of answering them, because the buttons jumped around), and the lack of multi touch brought me down.
I still have my N900 in a box somewhere. If anyone in the Boston area wants it, ping me (email address on my profile here) and I'd be happy to give it to you.
It allows for bigger batteries, hardware keyboards, additional connectors & storage, etc.
I can't speak for everyone: but the pockets in my wardrobe had no problem accommodating feature-phones from pre-2007.
What my pants and shirt pockets can't accommodate are 4.5"+ 1080p displays, regardless of how thin they are.
I will gladly buy a bulkier phone if they make good use of the extra space.
There is no argument for feelings but is there really any practical advantage to thinness, past a certain obvious point when it allows something to fit in one's pocket? It isn't blue, soft or delicious either. :-)
It does. It looks like it's the phone equivalent of a bathtub. With the cover closed, it appears it will be a brick. I think that box protrusion around the headset jack input on the side is thicker than some of the more recent smartphones.
You would really have to like OpenMoko to carry around a giant smartphone with no apps and no support with probably an old browser. I also imagine the antenna will be poor and the battery life awful and the UI stuttering.
edit: I guess this answers the question quite nicely: http://i.imgur.com/CNxmvfB.jpg
But this is a matter of ideology.
Like, tap-the-screne-wait-multiple-seconds slow. Even before the revelation of swipe gesture and smooth 60fps animations on iPhone, it was slow by the standards of its own era. I remember trying to use the phone to type out a quick text and being infuriated. Response time between keypress and UI update was atrocious, and even closing a window took well over a second, if not multiple seconds.
It may have been FOSS-friendly, but it wasn't really a good software stack otherwise.
Also the Busybox default shell was next to useless. The charging microusb port also always broke. How many cents did they save per phone by using a substandard part? The keyboard was very good though.
N9 was so much better than N900. The graphics and the fonts looked so clean, and the swipe UI was just pure genius. You could see it had some serious thought put into it. Android UI is a mess compared to that. It's very slow to switch between apps and tasks in Android. If only N9 had not been so excruciatingly slow. It didn't help that multitasking was so easy.
I guess such incoherent products are a sign of a malfunctioning organization.
And this is coming from someone with fond memories of N900.
The only closed bits remaining are the firmware blobs for certain IPs but is it really limiting? How many time did you think "man, I wish I could write a custom firmware for my GSM chip!".
Not saying that it's not interesting "for the principle" to have completely open phones but to be brutally honest I'm not ready to use a low resolution resistive display for the sake of it being open source...
Maybe it's not your ideal "everyday" phone; good for you for realizing that. I'll leave you to your locked down android (or (shudder) iPhone) on two year contract; I'd kindly request you treat us tinkerers/hackers in kind and leave us to our toys.
I like to tinker as much as anybody else but this phone doesn't get me very excited.
Not long ago there was almost no way to get custom code running on your phone. Now it's getting easier and easier.
Not to mention the various ARM boards you could fit with a GSM module and use to make a custom open phone of your liking and tinker away.
So basically either I want a good everyday phone and I won't go with that or I want to play with phone hardware and there are already a lot of ways I could do that without waiting for this project to deliver.
And that, right there, can make all the difference. Some of us don't want to carry a separate phone and pocket computer. Believe it or not, there are still some places in the world that aren't blanketed with WiFi.
Kudos for posting another awesome open alternative, however (even though it could have used a link; but Google turns it up right quick).
So this is close, but it needs a movable screen and a more Psion-like keyboard. Maybe I could hack together though.
edit: or maybe it will? www.jollausers.com/2013/10/sdk-update-jolla-won-an-award/
edit2: ok even more confused now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr_yQwTUv3s&feature=youtu.be
What is the best option for doing this today, is there an up to date guide somewhere?
I still use my N900 most weeks coz it's the only video recording device I've ever owned that does anything like a half decent job of recording in the noise levels of my band's practice studio.
And the most annoying thing about it is the tiny touch screen.
Doubt I'd buy a phone without more pixels than that, and multi-touch these days.
Using a phone that small with a resolution that horrible would be like being forced to wear glasses with mud smeared all over them. And have to pay extra for the privilege.
I didn't believe it'd matter much either, until I got my higher res phone a year ago. Now I can't stand a smaller, lower res screen. I recently got a 800x480 ZTE Open as well, and it reconfirmed just how much difference it makes - the latter is just awful to read on.
Basically it is a terrible technology for small devices and barely usable without a pen. The only advantage is with a pen it is actually way more accurate than a capacitive screen allowing for for example handwriting recognition.
On my orange m500 (which was a rebranded htc) I could write text messages so fast, I think faster than I do on touch screen keyboards now. But yeah, wouldn't trade a cap screen for a resistive screen for the world.
That's only true of old and crappy resistive screens. The N900's resistive screen works great without a stylus, but the stylus is there if I need ultra-precision, which of course you can't get with a capacitive screen.
The N900's screen doesn't support multi touch, although even multi touch resistive screens are technically possible: http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/19/stantums-mind-blowing-mul...
The use of the term "TFT Display" is also a sign that they're not using any of the more modern types of panels like IPS. If they did they would have said so.
Now all it needs is a OTA TV tuner :-p
Samsung's android-based relay 4g is fantastic hardware, much better than the n900 all around. The keyboard is 5 rows and has a very nice feel. It would be much better to port a fully open source distribution to this than to try to refresh the n900.
Is this the same company, or just a coincidence?
It will be very tough to create a market and develop hardware. Hardware development is simply so expensive.
this device is in all probability not targeted at you, infact on there website they state that they are only expecting to make ~200 devices
this _is_ _unquestionably_ a small niche marked device aimed directly at the people who want the rare, unusual specs this device has
i am one of them
Even if this does actually get legs, what's next?
The slow UI problem was licked some time ago by the Thumb2 project (porting a huge portion of the OS & apps to the more compact Thumb2 architecture), which freed up an amazing amount of RAM. The slow UI problem, you see, was cause by swapping (to flash). I switched to the Thumb2 CSSU some time ago and it's nothing short of astonishing. The difference is much bigger than when I overclocked my 600MHz N900 to 1050MHz (that didn't do much for the UI, but it did eat the battery faster and make it run hot). As a nice side benefit, the lack of flash-burning (swapping) resulted in ~3x battery life.
The pixel density of the device is actually too high for me (my eyes are too old). My N800 (and 770) display had the same resolution at 4.3" instead of 3.5", and I can still read small fonts on it fine. The N900, on the other hand, is barely usable as a computer anymore (remember, Debian based OS - real xterms). I'd like to someone over 40 try and read an xterm on a 5" 1080p display without bifocals.
The Neo900 project handily solves the 1st problem in hardware... one of the biggest problems this device had wasn't the CPU, it was the 256MB of RAM (it needed ~320MB to run efficiently - my rough guess based on the difference the Thumb project made).
Unfortunately, the screen density issue is (obviously) not addressed by a motherboard replacement... and the price is sadly too high for me to afford.
As to the "why?" questions about the device:
Most open phone OS I've seen on any commercial phone (I'm not talking about a limited hacker-marketed Neo1973 here). I can get root on the device without breaking any laws or EULA anywhere... as it's not restricted from the owner. I can modify how the device works easily (many functions are event-triggered via D-Bus, which opens amazing possibilities). A minor, but very useful example is the remapping of the camera button (when the lens cover is closed) to bring up the application menu for quicker multitasking). It goes on and on.
The most open phone device I've seen (same disclaimer as above) with the ability to run numerous OSes, multi-booting between them: Fremantle (stock OS), Mer, MeeGo, Tizen, Debian, Ubuntu, Android, possibly more (yes, I know #2, #3, & #4 are related, just as Debian and Ubuntu are).
FM Receiver (yeah, I know)
FM Transmitter... turn any car radio instantly into a speakerphone, or play any music on your built-in 32GB of storage (or 64GB of microsdxc) through your stereo, amp up your games, etc.
TV-out... play games on your TV.
IR transmitter... a really versatile universal remote. ;^)
Did I mention 32GB of built in storage and a microSD slot that can use sdxc cards as well as sdhc? Remember, this is a device released in 2009!
USB-OTG... use wired ethernet(!), optical drives, joysticks, USB-sticks, etc. (anything over ~100ma requires a powered hub as the device won't supply more)
Resistive touchscreen with a stylus. Yes, I consider this a plus as I find it absurd to try and click on a small cluster of pixels with a finger that covers tens of thousands of them. My finger is fine for dialing, but outside of that, I want accuracy. I'd much rather type with a stylus on my old N800 (pre-N900) than with my fingers on my HP TouchPad (~10" capacitive touchscreen).
Camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics and a sliding cover. While the stock software could only record 480p video, a modified library can be installed that allows 720p video recording (uses a mild DSP overclock, IIRC). The fact that this sort of modification is possible without the assistance of the manufacturer is a testament to this device's versatility.
Video calling (more on that below)
Deep integration of communications via plugins (highly expandable). Want to IM someone? No need to dig for the right app for their choice of IM providers, just IM them - all protocols are handled by the same UI (even IRC!). Take a picture, share it via whatever sharing service you wish (using the same camera UI), from Facebook to Twitter to many, many others (I never used this feature, but always thought the way it was integrated was impressive and elegant). Want to call someone? It doesn't matter if you're calling using VoIP, Yahoo-IM-voice, POTS, Google Talk, Skype, etc... you used the same phone UI to call them. Deep integration, done extremely well.
OK keyboard (not nearly as nice as the ol' SideKick II, but I've found nothing that compares to that keyboard).
For its day, it was pretty powerful. The closest device Apple produced was the iPhone 3GS (same CPU, very close to the same 3D GPU).
Edit: Clarification of calling integration.
A portable computer that can be on an extended length of time with practical wire-free ability would be swift. No "where is the closest USB port/wall socket."