Although the Apple iPhone may be a hit amongst consumers, the device’s (thusfar) closed application environment and dependency on AT&T’s network have left many folks wanting more. Where’s the open, carrier-independent phone that many people predict will truly revolutionize the mobile industry?
We’re not ones for making grand predictions, but the OpenMoko Neo 1973 is certainly a step in that direction. Available now as developer previews—meaning, if you buy it, you’d better intend to code for it—the Neo 1973 aims to be a truly open GSM phone: it runs Linux, is completely based on free software, and—unlike the iPhone—is designed to provide complete access to developers. It’s even designed with hardware hackers in mind, leaving potentially useful signals available at easily solder-able points so everyone can have fun.
At the hardware level, the Neo 1973 features a 2.8-inch TFT color touchscreen display with an very nice 640 by 480 resolution, integrated A-GPS, USB 1.1 connectivity, 128 MB of RAM, 64 MB of flash storage, Bluetooth 2.0, GPRS-capable quad-band GSM phone capability, all build on the well-documented ARM-based Samsung S32410 SOC processor. Developers will appreciate an integrated debug port with access to JTAG and a serial console, and folks looking to handle photos and media with their apps will appreciate the microSD expansion—and that the phone ships with a 512 MB storage card.
Under the hood, OpenMoko touts the Neo 1973 as Mobile FOSS—Free and Open Source Software—with the exception of firmware in the peripheral GPS chips, although the interfaces are openly specified. The Neo 1973 runs the Linux kernel, the GNU C library, the GTK+ toolkit, and X; the system also ships with the OpenMoko Gui framework and collection of smartphone applications.
The developer kits for the Neo 1973 start at $300 for the Neo Base, with a $450 Neo Advanced, which includes a very snazzy block ops style case, a couple batteries, tools, a debug board, stylus, lanyard, headset, and more. OpenMoko plans to bring the platform to consumers soon—we wouldn’t be surprised to see it offered in Europe first, since the U.S. mobile carrier technological and regulatory environment isn’t very friendly to unlocked phones—but ya never know.