Are OpenMoko and Neo1973 the Anti-iPhone?

Originally published: 07/2007 by J Wynia

First, let me re-state for the 100th time that I'm a technology pragmatist. I love technology, but do my best to make my purchase decisions based on my actual needs rather than pure technolust. That's most of why I don't run Mac laptops and won't buy an iPhone: they just don't match my needs (practical and financial). I do have a 4th generation iPod nano and, when comparing that to a 1st generation iPod, I wonder what 2 years of iPhone releases (at which point the buyers from last week will finally be free of their contract to sign on for another 2 years) will do.

Third, I really like running Linux and open systems. The fact that my firewall is running Smoothwall lets me tinker with it and provides much more power than other devices for the same money. Linux completely resurrected my 3 year old laptop and made it usable again after I had thought Windows had sucked the marrow from its bones.

So, when I first heard about OpenMoko, a platform for an open mobile phone, I was excited. And, today, when they announced that developers can buy the first phone based on the platform (at, I added it to my tech wish list.

I'm not going to claim that it's as sleek or even as fully featured as the iPhone. However, it is an *unlocked* GSM phone, running open source software, with full specifications of the software and hardware available, and with a nice set of features.

Even before I saw an iPhone, I knew I wouldn't buy one because it was tied to Cingular/AT&T. I've used Sprint, AT&T, TMobile and Cingular each in turn and currently use TMobile because it's the only one that actually works all of the places I regularly need a phone. Period.

Beyond that, 2 year contracts with $300 cancellation penalties in exchange for a $200 phone are criminal as far as I'm concerned. I've been buying unlocked GSM phones whenever I can and it's WAY better. When a phone dies around here (and they all seem to at some point), you just pull out the SIM and throw it in one of the old ones. The same is true if/when we travel outside the US. We can just buy a prepaid SIM and use the unlocked phones.

Now, I probably won't buy one of the developer ones, in large part because it isn't clear whether these have fully-functioning GPS and WiFi and because I want to make sure that those who will be doing the most development for this device get one before the supply runs out. However, I'm certainly more willing to drop $450 on one.

All of the sites are suffering under the strain of popularity at the moment, so I recommend bookmarking them for later. Definitely a project worth watching. Especially since they plan another 3 devices in the next year or so.


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© 2003- 2015 J Wynia. Very Few Rights Reserved. This article is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. Quoted content or content included from others is not subject to that license and defaults to normal copyright.