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German hackers try to revive a dead Nokia and make it the first ‘open’ phone

The Nokia smartphone name is dead, but it may live on as a German zombie. A team of German hackers want to revive the Nokia N900. They want to tear out its motherboard and give it a new, more powerful, and more open-source one instead. They’re calling it Neo900.

The Nokia N900 is a bit of a legend. It was one of Nokia’s open-platform smartphones released back in 2009, and ran Nokia’s self-made OS, Maemo, which it later abandoned. Joerg Reisenweber, a fan of the N900 and smartphone hacker, still thinks the device has some life left in it. Joerg is teaming up with the folks behind Open Source Phone Developer OpenMoko to help raise enough funds to design and prototype a new motherboard upgrade  for the N900 that offers a faster processor, more RAM, but with  all the goodness of the N900.

The new phone, the Neo900, would pretty much be just like a N900 on the outside, but on the inside it’d have a brand new GTA04 motherboard, 1GHZ processor, up to 1GB of  RAM, and up to 64GB of internal storage. This is done by taking the latest OpenMoko motherboard and designing it to integrate with the rest of the N900’s hardware. The original N900 had 256MB of RAM, a 600MHZ processor, and a shockingly large 32GB of storage. It sounds like a sort of crazy smartphone transplant, but it can really work.

The goal is to make a sort of future-proof and open-source device for anyone to hack or tinker around with easily and freely.

The great thing about OpenMoko is that it’s an open source standard that runs Linux. OpenMoko claims there are thousands of developers working with it to port their favorite OSes to the OpenMoko standard: FireFox OS, Maemo – even Android. By giving the N900 a new OpenMoko-based motherboard, it too will be compatible.

To add to all of this, Joerg wants to give the Neo900 a serious upgrade in potential by adding all sorts of adapters and sensors, such as a barometer, gyroscope, temperature sensor, infrared adapter, and even hot-swappable capabilities for the battery. The goal is to make a sort of future-proof and open-source device that can be used by anyone who needs even the most obscure features, as well as to offer the potential for others to build upon what the Neo900 can offer.

Right now, the goal of the Neo900 project is to raise  €25,000 or  about $34,000 to help fund initial prototyping and testing. Joerg promises anyone who donates will receive a rebate on whatever they donate to help cover the cost of getting a Neo900 of their own, whether they buy just the motherboard upgrade or a whole new device. We’re excited to see if the campaign succeeds and, if so, what potential this sort of open-ended, future-proof phone can do.

Any phone developers out there in the DT audience? Cool idea, or no?

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