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The Free Phone

July 9th, 2007 by Nicholas Reville

The iPhone is pretty nice, but here’s the phone I’m really interested in: Neo 1973. It’s the first totally free-as-in-freedom open-source, hackable phone. Building in openness means that we can escape the mess of crappy phone software and proprietary systems. The cell-phone industry in the US is grossly distorted by contract lock-in, phones sold through service providers, and proprietary services– it’s why almost everyone hates their phone. A few months ago, I switched to Verizon to get better call reliability and ended up with a Motorola Razr with Verizon’s custom software installed onto it. It’s one of the worst pieces of software I’ve ever used– terrible interface, totally inconsistent navigation, extremely slow to perform basic functions (like viewing my list of contacts), and it’s constantly trying to promote their awful ‘VCast’ service.

An open phone means an end-run around this mess, by putting people in control. Just like the openness of the web, phone openness means that the best software, best services, and best interfaces will get passed from person to person. More competition, more freedom, and a better user experience.

Right now it looks like Neo is targeted to developers. I’ll probably wait a while before getting one (assuming it can work with Verizon, which I haven’t even looked into).

7 Responses to “The Free Phone”

  1. Brad Pitcher says:

    Yes! It will be an amazing phone, mine will be in the mail soon. :) Unfortunately I don’t believe you can use it with Verizon since their network doesn’t work with SIM cards.

  2. Abraxias says:

    I heard about OpenMoko last year. I included it in a poll/thread I started, “would you be interested in a mobile Ubuntu?”

    if you’d like to know more, click on my name to go direct to the link of that thread.

  3. greg says:

    It looks like a great phone but only one thing im worries about, typing. The screen is only 2.5″ inches which doesnt mean much space for finger typing. All screenshots I’ve seen are portrait and the keyboard can only be used with a stylus then. Hopefully they have landscape mode to type with the buttons spaced out as much as possible for faster texting. And yeah the phone isnt CDMA, so youll be stuck with version.

  4. Janko says:

    Sounds like a good reason to switch to a GSM network …

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  6. Pakk99 says:

    This DOES look pretty cool, but I’m still not sold. How will an open source phone make for better software? So far, I’ve only come across a very small handful of truly usable open source applications, and even those applications are underpowered next to their commercial cousins. In my experience, the quality of most open source software isn’t worth the hassle it takes to make it work properly. Now granted, there is a LOT of crappy commercial software out there that isn’t worth the hassle either. But I have yet to find truly competent FOSS replacements for apps like iTunes, Final Cut Studio, Aperture, and Adobe Creative Suite. So, why would I assume that an open source phone, then, would offer a truly-competent replacement for the phone I already have in my pocket?

  7. Pakk99, the applications you use on OpenMoko don’t have to be open source themselves. The point is that it’s an open platform on top of which software can be developed and deployed by anyone. The Amsterdam presentation ( http://www.openmoko.com/files/OpenMoko_Amsterdam.pdf ) may help to explain.

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