Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Introducing Neo900 (neo900.org)
260 points by seba_dos1 on Oct 31, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments

I wonder whether this has an open-source* baseband/firmware, and open-source graphics drivers. If not, it's not better than, say, a Nexus 4, which you can unlock and put custom software on it (e.g. Ubuntu Phone, I'm sure you could port Meego/Maemo/whatever it's called nowadays). The Nexus of course has vastly superior hardware.

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.)

It uses an OEM modem module (non-free) and PowerVR graphics (non-free). At the moment there is just no really viable open-source baseband/graphics hardware available (though people are working on both).

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)

"It uses an OEM modem module (non-free)"

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 ?

It has a keyboard. That makes it infinitely more interesting to me than a Nexus 4. I bet a lot of (former) N900 users will agree. While I never used an N900, I've used phones with and without keyboards over the past few years, and I'm not settling for a touch-only device.

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.

Yes, but it's a 3 row keyboard. I upgraded from the G1 (5 row qwerty) to the G2 (4 row, numbers-on-the-qwerty-row) and it's next to useless.

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.

> decent, interesting 5-row qwerty phone

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.

Its annoying that QWERTY Androids seem exclusive to the US. I guess Europeans demand custom layouts, and because of that we get nothing :(

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 Droid 4 runs on any GSM network -- as long as it's not in the USA, those are backlisted somewhere very deep in the phone. I have ran mine in Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary. It's not even hard to root and adjust build.props then throw in a micro SIM and off you go.

Good point. I am on GSM in the US but also prefer an international phone.

I understand. While I mostly use my keyboard for emails and text, you want every character to be available. I've gone from a G1 to a touch only phone, to replace it later with an imported Droid 4 with roughly the same specs as the phone I already had, just because of the keyboard.

I would have agreed before Swype/FlexT9/etc existed. Now I find I can type faster on gesture-based keyboards than I ever could on the hardware keyboards anyway.

"I want to be able to access the audio stream programmatically, which is not possible on 99% of android phones."

The N900's OS uses PulseAudio.

Examples: 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).

glabifrons, you are hellbanned as of https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6246450 for no obvious reason.

Thanks... extremely confusing since it still has one point, it apparently wasn't downvoted and I don't see how I violated any of the guidelines.

How is it that you can see my postings? Is it your extremely high karma?

I have showdead turned on. For what it's worth, you no longer appear to be hellbanned.

It looks thick. I don't know why, but it makes me not at all interested. Also, what was so special about the N900 and is that relevant in the market today? I'm genuinely curious, I don't know much about the N900.

> Also, what was so special about the N900 and is that relevant in the market today?

N900 had:

- 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).

The N900 was amazing. I used it as my only computer on quite a few trips, effortlessly handling stuff like flight reservations and hotel bookings regardless of having to use desktop-oriented websites with Flash. And the keyboard was great for email on the go.

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.

The killer app for me was the built-in FM transmitter. Yes that's right, transmitter. I could change the user agent, then listen to rdio in my old car with no tape deck.

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.

I don't think the N900 was the embodiment of the dream of what Nokia could have been without Elop, the N9/N950 were.

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..

Edit: typos.

You have to realize the timeframe that N900 was released: 2009. Back then, it was way ahead of most other smartphones (including iPhone), and had multitasking to boot. The resolution was touted as "better than DVD". It had a commandline out of the box, and not some watered down, misplace all the system files version either. It was basically Debian on a phone, with smooth, beautiful graphics, a decent package management system, and tons of possibilities (Rovio ported Angry Birds to it!). Oh, and did I mention it also had Qt, including Python QT, with IDE options (including emacs) on the phone? Sure, the N9 was pretty, but it had no hardware keyboard, and the N950 doesn't count as you still can't easily get one (you had to be an active Maemo developer to get one).

I bought a N900 and it may have been ahead of the iPhone in tech specs but it was way behind in the feel of day-to-day usage. True multitasking could drain the N900's battery in an hour even if the phone was idle. Because the stylus was included many apps required it, so a lot of time was wasted unholstering the stylus. The resistive single-touch screen doesn't support gestures. Maemo didn't support portrait orientation for one-handed usage.

Hand up - still use one as my only phone. It definitely has its flaws, but the ones you mention have really never been an issue for me, either due to fixes, updates or workarounds.

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.

> 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.

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.

I personally do not blame Elop of anything. I was merely presenting the narrative from N900 cultist point of view, which to tend to blame either Elop directly (which is ridiculous) or the boared (as do you, which is more reasonable but still bit narrowminded).

Personally I blame every single layer inside Nokia, from the grassroots engineers to the board and CEO, and everything in between.

> Also, what was so special about the N900 and is that relevant in the market today?

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[0] 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.

[0] http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=49987

What's with the aversion to thickness?

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.

A device that big might make me want to put it on my belt. But, alas, I'm not Batman so I won't do that.

> It looks thick. I don't know why, but it makes me not at all interested.

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 looks thick.

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.

Yeah, it was a brick. I remember that my old semi-smartphone (well, I guess symbians would be classified as featurephones these days) would fit entirely underneath the screen when slid open

edit: I guess this answers the question quite nicely: http://i.imgur.com/CNxmvfB.jpg

Both me and my brother had one when it came out and I can honestly say it's the shittiest phone I've had.

But this is a matter of ideology.

Care to develop why it was shitty?

I never owned one, but I did have a couple of friends that let me use theirs. The touchscreen was a bit dodgy and the battery life was suspect - but IMO those are minor complaints compared to the main, insurmountable problem: the UI was extremely slow.

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.

Taking calls with the N900 was especially hilarious. The phone was ringing but it sometimes took many seconds for the phone app to appear on the screen. When you took the ringing phone from the pocket and pressed the green receiver icon to accept the call, it just before your finger hit the screen managed to rotate the screen and of course the red receiver decline icon was there in the other screen orientation. That's some ingenious design easter egg and symptomatic of how unfinished this stuff was.

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.

The N900 wasn't all that great as a phone. The OS was buggy and you had to go through hoops to do basic things like send MMS pictures. It wasn't the best phone, but it was an amazing pocket computer at the time. You could load a variety of operating systems and tinker around with it and it had a hardware keyboard.

Well it was not without its faults; the software was generally just buggy and laggy, battery life was quite poor, device was bulky and heavy, the resistive screen was bit iffy at times, there weren't that huge library of notable apps, etc.

And this is coming from someone with fond memories of N900.

Well you already got your answers before I had a chance to, but in short it was a terrible phone and a big step for FOSS and portable hacking devices.

Aren't most Android phone pretty open in practice? If you're able to rebuild your kernel then what's stopping your from tinkering with the hardware or installing whatever OS you want?

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...

This isn't for you; there, I've said it, and I'll add this: the market is large enough to accommodate things like this. Some of us like to tinker, all the way down to the bits in our hardware. Some of us like having a hardware keyboard, like having emacs in the palm of our hand, with all the power that implies. And we don't really care about high resolution capacitive displays.

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.

Way to be patronizing.

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.

Your €500-700 gets you a replacement motherboard for your existing N900. Thinking about it, it’s not a bad solution: most people this is aimed at will already have a N900 they remember fondly. Pity you’ll still be locked to a resistive touch screen though.

The resistive screen on the N900 is excellent. Better than some capacitives I've used.

I on the other hand hated that screen. My N900 was a great device but every time I had to scroll I cursed the screen.

Are you sure it was the screen? The early Maemo 5 builds were pretty bad at scrolling without freezing, then popping forward quickly. The later updates and CSSU are smooth as silk.

Oh, it didn't freeze. It just did emit click events when I put down the finger to scroll further. :)

The N900 was the most frustrating touchscreen I've ever used in a consumer device. I stopped using it solely for that reason.

Second this; judging from all the hate resistives get, I'm starting to think that most people have never used a good one.

The Open Pandora 1Ghz has the same hardware, and is already very much open as well, and has a better keyboard and a lot of software already available. It can run Android and Slackware, Bodhi linux, Debian and so on, in a pocket size format. The only difference with the Neo900 is that it's not a phone.

The only difference with the Neo900 is that it's not a phone.

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).

http://www.openpandora.org if anyone else wants a link :) Note that this page tends to make it look more like a emulator machine than anything else, but it's really a full mini-Linux computer, that runs Firefox, LibreOffice and all the famous software you can expect from such kind of environment.

I still really want a device like this, but married with a Psion. Clamshell, good keyboard, but with the modern trimmings of a high quality, accurate touchscreen and persistent 3G access. The Psion's were amazing, and I think a modern version would make a really, really interesting device.

So this is close, but it needs a movable screen and a more Psion-like keyboard. Maybe I could hack together though.

I would like something like that too. I think there's a (probably small) market for a device that is about the size of a psion series 5 but perhaps with a more full size keyboard.

Yeah that Psion 5 Series was almost perfect. I do think there would be at least some market for it, but it's not likely to be a huge one anymore which is a shame.

Interesting, I was hoping for a N9 port of Sailfish OS, which is a way more powerful phone than this, but maybe I should consider this, since it seems like an N9 port won't be official:


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

@edit 2: IIRC, that's just the launcher and Sailfish SDK, but it's a start.

For someone who is still using the N900 as his main phone this is a great development. Altough the Jolla phone promises an equally open stack it sadly lacks the harware keyboard.

I did some development on the N810 several years ago and I thought it was great. One of the coolest things was being able to write PyGTK code and run it seamless both on my desktop and the device.

If I could get a product at the end of it this would be fantastic and my ideal device. I'm glad it's much more achievable than Canonical's approach.

I still have my N900 in a drawer, and I have zero interest to use it as a phone/pocket computer anymore. I really would like if it was possible to install Debian on it, and use it as a small headless network server. I remember this used to be possible to do in a very convoluted way, and only install to SD card.

What is the best option for doing this today, is there an up to date guide somewhere?

I stopped reading at "3.5" TFT, 800x480, resistive"


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.


My current phone is 4.7", capacitive, with 1280x720. My next phone will likely be 5" or more, with 1920x1080. The perceived improvement in readability etc. in going up my current phone was fantastic - I've pretty much stopped using my tablets because I can now comfortably do so much more on my phone.

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.

What an exaggeration. I have a device with the same resolution 800*480 as well as a Galaxy S3 with much higher pixel per inch resolution, and honestly I don't see much difference and both are very comfortable to use. That's marketing effect at work.

Especially with such a small display. 800x480 at 3.5" screen is 266 PPI, the parents 720p at 4.7" is 312 PPI, only 17% more.

It's not just the PPI, it's also the display size that makes a major difference in readability - being able to comfortably use bigger and crisper text and still have a decent amount of content on screen.

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.

Well, I do notice. I have a 800*480 ZTE Open too, and when I got it, it was a shock to see just how horrible it was to read stuff on a screen like that again.

Resistive touch screens is why smart phones never really took off in the main stream before the iPhone (which for some reason introduced capacitive touch screens on smart phones).

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.

> Basically it is a terrible technology for small devices and barely usable without a pen.

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...

Because it is using a blurry and resistive (barely responsive to finger touch) monitor, making the experience of using the device way worse than the modern High PPI monitors used in other mobile devices on the market today.

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.

That is simply not true in my experience. The N900 screen is neither blurry nor barely responsive to finger touch. But the hardware is / was not the most interesting point about the N900 anyway.

I had an N770 with a resistive screen. It was responsive to fingers, but the buttons had to be big, and there was a glare from the digitizer.

I don't have any experience with Nokia devices other than the N900 so I can not comment on the N770. But I remember reviews from the time the N900 was released were the touchscreen was not really praised but commented on as much better than other resistive screens. Also there are 4 years between the N770 and the N900. There is definitly no glare on my N900 screen - to the contrary, it is readable even under direct sunlight (without any backlight) because it is transreflective.

Because we are all spoiled with high resolution, capacitive touch displays.

Wonder if hybrid touchscreens are possible without sacrificing display quality too much. Capacitive for multitouch finger-based input, resistive for non-multitouch pixel-accurate stylus input.

So nice:-D I don't mind the (perceived) thickness and a hot swap battery is just awesome:)

Now all it needs is a OTA TV tuner :-p

I used to be a rabid fan of the n900 but after nokia died, when the n900 broke I switched away.

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.

Almost comflicted .. still going to wait for Jolla Sailfish .. I never owned an N900 (though I did covet one).

Neo? http://www.gizchina.com/2013/09/02/neo-n003-review/

Is this the same company, or just a coincidence?

Most likely just a coincidence. "Neo" is quite common nomenclature. OpenMoko has been using Neo name for quite a while, Neo1973 was released in 2007.

I was the one who came up with the "Neo900" name and I can say that the inspiration was from Neo1973 and Neo Freerunner names. As OpenPhoenux, Neo900's umbrella project, has Openmoko roots, and given that "neo" means "new", it seemed pretty natural to name the "new N900" as "Neo900".

The basic idea is great, but the touchdisplay is shitty. I have a n900. Unfortunately Nokia abanded meamo.

It will be very tough to create a market and develop hardware. Hardware development is simply so expensive.

I really can't adjust to keyboards that have the keys in each row perfectly aligned. I know it's not used the same as a full sized keyboard, but it still always drives me mad.

I like the phone, curious though, were there no new phones they could have taken the photo of? That one looks so scuffed, as though it has been in someones pocket for months.

The hardware and software being open source, will other companies be able to take the design and produce their own (closed or open) products based on this product?

I never developed for the Android. Is Android a good platform for tinkering/hacking? Maybe its already too mature? No low-hanging fruits?

Any indication of how much one of these might cost?

"According to current estimations, the cost of motherboard should be somewhere between 500 and 700 EUR. Complete device will cost 100-150 EUR more, depending on prices and availability of N900 spare parts. Those prices are just early estimations and are subject to change" - http://neo900.org/faq#cost

If MAEMO consortium is run by Nokia and Nokia is owned my MS. What are the chances to get a decent product out of this?

Maemo is run by community, Nokia abbandoned it completely some time ago.

reading these comments is quite amusing, something important to note:

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

This looks like an attempt to preserve, rather than innovate.

Even if this does actually get legs, what's next?

How would one provide a nice, consistent UI in an FOSS project such as this?

They are providing motherboard replacements for existing n900s too.

The hardware sounds crazy slow for a modern phone. 800 mhz arm a8.

hi NEO.... whats about ur BATTERY timing ;) i want +minimum+ whole day with doing lots o work on it

A lot of the negative comments I see in this discussion are about the slow to respond UI, battery life, and the lack of a "retina display" level of pixel density.

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.

nokia announced the n920 before they release the n900. Who does that?

No, they didn't. I don't think Nokia ever announced a "N920".

Maybe he/she is confusing with Lumia 920 with N-series phones? AFAIK there has never been a N920. There was the N9 but that was it...


A company that's standing on a burning platform.

No Bitcoin donations?

Hot-swappable battery. Hot damn.

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."

Likely relevant for people who are thinking about investing/buying: The (resistive) touchscreen of the N900 is not capable of multitouch.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact