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Open source phone goes mass-market

Jun 25, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Openmoko has begun shipping its Linux-based, open source Neo Freerunner phone to five newly announced distributors, in Germany, France, and India, says the company. The Neo Freerunner features an open hardware design, and a Linux-based operating system that users are free to modify.

(Click for larger view of Neo Freerunner prototype)

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Previously, OpenMoko phones have been available only in limited quantities, mostly to open source mobile phone software developers. Today's announcement signals the first release of OpenMoko's technology aimed at the mass market.

The OpenMoko project originally hoped to ship a mass market version last October, according to project leader Sean Moss-Pultz in an interview about a year ago. However, finishing the product has proven proven more difficult than originally thought, in part due to hardware problems.

Power, USB, and external GPS ports (l-r)
(Click to enlarge)

The Neo Freerunner (GTA02) is an updated version of Openmoko's earlier Neo 1973. As with the Neo 1973, which shipped last Fall, the Freerunner is billed as a completely open, hackable hardware platform, meaning that users are free to install and run new operating system firmware, for example in order to add native Linux software applications of their own choosing.

When it announced the Neo Freerunner in January, Openmoko also reported that it had completed its spin-out from Taiwanese consumer electronics giant FIC (First International Computer of Taiwan), which is manufacturing the phone. Compared to the similar-looking Neo 1973, the Freerunner adds WiFi, 3D accelerometers, improved graphics, and a faster 500MHz Samsung S3C2442 system-on-chip (SoC) processor. Other features include:

  • Processor — Samsung S3C2442 500MHz
  • RAM — 128MB
  • Flash — 256MB
  • Display — 4.3-inch diagonal 640 x 480 VGA Color TFT LCD
  • Graphics — SMedia 3362-based 3D graphics acceleration
  • Accelerometers — 2 x 3D accelerometers
  • Audio — “high-quality” audio codec
  • USB — 1 x version 1.1
  • Cellular — 2.5G tri-band GPRS/GSM (900MHz or 850MHz)
  • WiFi — 802.11b/g WiFi
  • Bluetooth — version 2.0
  • GPS — AGPS (assisted global positioning system) receiver

On the software side, the Neo FreeRunner uses the open source mobile phone software stack maintained by the OpenMoko project, along with the open source Jalimo JVM (Java virtual machine), which is maintained by German software development company Tarent GmbH.

As with the 1973 model, OpenMoko has published CAD files for the Freerunner. That “open source hardware” approach resulted in the design being adapted for use in Dash Navigation's Dash Express in-car navigation device. OpenMoko phones have proven to be popular development platforms for projects such as the Debian-based We-phone.

Stated Steve Mosher, Openmoko VP of marketing, “We have moved beyond the early adopter stage and are now ready to release the next generation Neo Freerunner to markets where we are seeing early traction.” Mosher added that the distributors could provide “software and exterior customization” for the phone.


The Openmoko Neo Freerunner will have a suggested retail price of $400. In addition to being offered by the new European and Indian distributors, it will continue to be sold direct, online. The company will announce more details at LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco, on August 5-7, it said. Openmoko will be located at booth 1234 in the Moscone Center North Hall.

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