A peek at the Linux-based OpenMoko smartphone


Ryan Paul at Ars Technica takes a walk through the OpenMoko smartphone platform, a Linux-based system that is not obviated by Google's Android, he claims:

There are a lot of very significant differences between OpenMoko's software stacks and Google's upcoming Android platform. Android takes a more top-down approach and completely eschews native code. Android offers one standardized Java-based API and One True Way to integrate with its platform. Google's approach vastly simplifies development and neatly avoids fragmentation and portability problems, but it also imposes extreme constraints on flexibility, isolates Android-based phones from the existing Linux software ecosystem, and obscures a lot of the inherent strengths of a Linux-based platform. By comparison, OpenMoko's software enthusiastically embraces the power and diversity of Linux but does so at a high cost in performance, consistency, reliability, and ease of development.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who get excited by seeing a terminal prompt on their phone and those who find it as appealing as a car with a transparant hood. Neither is more right than the other, but I'm afraid I'm drifting into the latter camp these days.

First Look: OpenMoko's Linux-based open smartphone platform [ArsTechnica.com]

Join the Conversation


  1. I am as geeky as the next Linux nerd, but I have to say that the Linux-based mobile platform just isn’t there yet. I have been using a Nokia N800 for a while and though it can do a lot of things, it is slow and things don’t fit in well. For example, there’s a Pidgin port to the Maemo platform, but it’s just clunky to use on a device that size and it uses way too much RAM.

    I shouldn’t be dissing on OpenMoko without first-hand experience but the spit-and-polish required for a mobile platform is much more than a desktop platform. I can live with certain imperfections on my desktop computer running Linux, but I want my phone to Just Work. Here’s hoping that OpenMoko gets there.

  2. Frood:
    Have you tried the RTCOMM/Telepathy beta? It integrates Pidgin’s libpurple, and all its protocols, into the n800’s builtin chat software — much nicer and far less bloated.

  3. Personally, I’m so sick of dealer lock-ins and hardware restrictions that I’ll be picking up a Freerunner as soon as I have the cash on hand. I’m willing to deal with a little flakiness to own and use such a hacker friendly device.

  4. @Anonyman

    I agree. I want a phone that I can use any way I please. I’m holding off on the OpenMoko right now, though, as it hasn’t reached a development phase I’m comfortable with yet. Once they cover basic phone functionality (mostly done) and improve power efficiency I’ll be all for the OpenMoko. I need a phone that will call, text, and have a battery life of at least 24hrs. Currently the Neo FreeRunner only has 6hrs of battery life.

  5. Current battery life is a software issue. On the FSO stack that is in development by OpenMoko, someone recently got 21 hours of battery life on the FreeRunner’s predecessor, the Neo 1973: See http://lists.openmoko.org/pipermail/community/2008-July/020339.html

    So, your 24 hours of battery life is likely achievable on the existing FreeRunner. It’s just a matter of time for someone to get the power management software tweaked to perfection. Buy a FreeRunner and help them get there.

  6. I like the looks of the OpenMoko, and having a terminal prompt on my phone excites me more than it should… But smartphones are all just too freakin’ big for me. I haven’t seen one of these in person, but judging by the physical specs (which took me forever to find on their website…) it would just be much too thick for me to carry around comfortably. Still, I hope this goes somewhere.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *