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Single-core Linux phone hits the market

Feb 23, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

Grundig Mobile has launched a Linux phone based on a single-core, single-chip architecture, long considered to be the “holy grail” of modern handset technology. The U900 runs Linux and an RTOS (real-time operating system) on an NXP ARM9-based SoC (system-on-chip), using VirtualLogix platform virtualization… technology.

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Grundig U900
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Grundig Mobile demonstrated the U900 at the 3GSM mobile technology tradeshow earlier this month in Barcelona. The device was one of two single-core Linux phones demonstrated at the show — the other being Comneon's MP-Elite. Additionally, Motorola has confirmed its forthcoming MotoRIZR Z6 to be based on a single-chip architecture, and a MontaVista Linux OS.

In a nutshell, single-core phones tend to reduce design complexity and bill-of-materials cost by using a single processor for both time-critical baseband and non-time-critical application tasks. Single-chip designs are the norm in low-cost handsets, but squeezing “open” OSes such as Linux, Symbian, or Windows Mobile into such architectures — and thus lowering smartphone costs — has proven a challenge. No single-chip Symbian or Windows Mobile phones are believed to exist today, and while Linux appears to now have three single-chip phone designs, none are actually shipping quite yet, it appears.

The Grundig Mobile U900

The U900 has a compact clamshell design with integral antenna, a sleek form factor belying its powerful touted multimedia capabilities. It has a “dual mode” cellular radio supporting both UMTS+EDGE and quad-band GSM/GPRS frequencies. It also integrates a 2-megapixel CMOS camera supporting video telephony, video record and play, and video streaming with progressive download. It has a built-in MP3 player, and a microSD card slot for user file storage. It also has an FM Radio, and can be used a modem via USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Additional specs, as listed by Grundig Mobile, include:

  • 3.6 x 2.0 x 0.5 inches (92 x 50 x 14 mm)
  • 94 grams
  • 2-inch QVGA (240×320) TFT display with 262K colors
  • External 96×64 OLED display supporting 65K colors
  • 1000mAh Lithium-ion battery
  • Claimed talk time up to 2.5 hours
  • Claimed standby time up to 220 hours
  • 2MP CMOS camera
  • Zoom, LED flash, multishot
  • VGA video camera
  • Stereo audio player supports MP3, AAC
  • Browser supporting WAP 2.0, xHTML
  • SMS and MMS clients
  • Image viewer for JPEG, GIF, Animated GIF, BMP, WBMP
  • Melody formats AMR-NB, Midi
  • Ringtones 64 polyphonic with ADPCM
  • Internal user memory 100 Mbytes
  • Supports micro SD cards up to 1GB
  • MIDP 2.0 Java game environment
  • Animated wallpaper
  • Picture CLI
  • Date/time in idle screen
  • Calculator
  • Voice recorder
  • Alarm clock
  • Handsfree speaker
  • Options: stereo headset, car charger, USB cable, bluetooth headset

The U900 is based on the NXP 7210 hardware reference design available from NXP, a recent spin-off from Dutch consumer electronics giant Philips. VirtualLogix's VLX-MH (mobile handset) virtualization product runs on top of the design. The phone's Linux-based operating system was integrated by Purple Labs, a phone design house in the South of France.

Purple Labs is owned primarily by Vitelcom, a phone manufacturer in Spain that has rights to use the Grundig brand for mobile phones in Europe. Purple Labs previously designed the Linux-based Grundig G500i, a quad-band GSM/EDGE phone with iMode support that has been available for about a year through Buoygues (pronounced “Bweeg”), a small French mobile carrier with about eight million subscribers.

Benefits of Linux

According to Michel Windal, marketing director at NXP Semiconductors, “Linux is gaining ground in the mobile handset space due to the benefits it brings to manufacturers and operators and eventually also to the end consumers. Linux motivates developers to generate and share new vibrant media applications such as games, advanced music players and intuitive TV-on-mobile, offering greater benefits to the end-user and allowing for differentiation for both manufacturers and operators.”

Dennis O'Donovan, managing director of Purple Labs, added, “Linux lends itself well to modular design. Today's end-users demand feature-rich, compact and cost competitive handsets, but will not compromise on core features such as low-power consumption and high performance.”


U900 at 3GSM
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Grundig Mobile did not respond to availability inquiries by publication time. However, it demonstrated a working U900 phone at the 3GSM World Congress earlier this month, according to VirtualLogix's Mark Milligan. “NXP was showing [our] VLX [virtualization product] on their 7210 reference design, and they said, 'Go over and see the Grundig Mobile booth.' We were real excited about that, to see it in real life,” said Milligan.

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