Does Openmoko bring freedom to our mobile phones?

June 16, 2008 – 12:07 am by Adnan Hodzic

One of the regulars here on FoolControl (BrencelJ), asked me about my opinion on OpenMoko, that is did it change and what is it after going in depth with details on the whole project, especially after being on Dors/Cluc 2008 in Zagreb, and after listening to Herald Welte lecture, and after talking to him.

This may pull few other topics along with this same very question. One of the founder of whole open source movement (Richard Stallman) disproves owning a mobile phone and I’ll quote: “as he believes the tracking of cell phones creates harmful privacy issues.”

We own our phones, we have them in our possession, but how much do we really own them? Herald used very similiar sentance, if not the same one on the DORS/CLUC conference.

And now some of you may really ask yourself where is this guy really going with this post?

Every single of us has a phone, now it’s really a question how much that phone is really ours. Currently I’m owner of Sony Ericsson W960, but do I have full control over my phone? No I don’t and I’m fully aware of that. Pretty much at any point of some time period, Sony Ericsson itself can access my phone without me even knowing it, and no it’s not paranoia or anything, it’s just raw reality.

If they don’t have access to my phone that way (even though I doubt it) … updates … and there you go, and it’s just ridiculous to name all the ways they can access my phone. Same goes for any other brand, Nokia, Samsung even Motorola (which are mostly based on is linux), heh and yea the brand that beats them all IMO is definitely iPhone Smile

So this is basically where Openmoko/Neo1973 (GTA01) jumped in. Ok, this was/is a phone that’s completely based on Linux, (as I figured it it was based on Debian, so now it’s some variation of the same or something like that) you have the full control over it, you can install your software when you want to, you can remove your software when you want to, you pick your own software. Free software, open source software, you upgrade when you want, pretty much you do whatever you want. Did someone say freedom?

Except being free and all, what’s the point of it all. To be honest I think phones hardware characteristics are really poor, especially compared to todays standards of the category it wants to compete in (smartphones). Please take a look both features of gta01/gta02 yourself:

Type Smartphone
Connectivity GSM
Bluetooth 2.0
GPRS
AGPS
WiFi (in final version)
USB 1.1 slave and host
2.5-mm audio jack
Retail availability 9 July 2007 for developers, TBA for mass market release
Media microSD, SDHC capable
Wolfson WM8753 Codec
Operating system Openmoko Linux, Qtopia (both Linux-based)
Input touchscreen
buttons
Power 1200-mAh battery[1]
CPU Samsung s3c2410 SoC @ 266 MHz (development),
Samsung 2442 SoC @ 400 MHz (final version)
Memory 128 MB SDRAM
64 MB NAND flash
256 MB NAND flash in final version
Display 2.8 in. VGA (480×640) TFT, 282 pixels/in.
Dimensions 120.7 × 62 × 18.5 (mm)

In my opinion nothing that will really get you butterflies inside of your belly, and by this I definitely mean on gta02. I didn’t have a chance to play with gta01, but it seems … really poor.

So besides playing on your linux phone all day long, tweaking, hacking this and that, I really can’t find any purpose of this phone. Yes, it brings freedom to our mobile phones, but maybe we have stepped so far into darkness, that we don’t even care about freedom anymore.

My phone kicks it’s ass really, except it’s highly oriented to Windows platform, and maybe that Sony Ericsson has full control over it, but it has double of what freedom phone has. Too bad that this whole thing will just fall in Google Android‘s shadow. Not to mention iPhone and it’s developers, but we’re talking about freedom here, so iPhone is out of this discussion Smile

And in the end, let’s say we got ourselves a gta01 or even gta02 it doesn’t really matter, we don’t have a top notch, or even medium notch smartphone, but hey we have got rid of those pesky corporations, that only want our money and all. And yea that’s all fine, but there’s just one nasty little thing.

What about providers? Either our GPRS operator, or internet provider, doesn’t matter really. Maybe we inadvertently turned into slaves, lost all our freedom along the way. And now it’s just that we don’t even know what freedom really is, or how it should look like, or what are we even looking for.

  • BrencelJ

    Cool now I know another thing more and yea I know it lacks in bether hardwer but it is a nice start in the freedom in a mobile phone. Maybe someone will start a free mobile network and people will put antennas in home and you will have free network for your mobile so all that can change in the future.

    About this phone I was addicted to it until they moved there release date so much I kind a list all the elan for them I still like the idea and all but don’t know if I want the phone any more. But nice I dont know how android’s are going or how good it will be but it will be good just because it is Google so yea OpenMoko is fucked because of that.