2013-11-14

Co.Labs

An Open Source Phone That’s Completely Unlocked, Hardware Too

It’s not the sleekest gadget you’ve ever beheld, but this Nokia doppelganger is so modular you can even replace the motherboard yourself.



Smartphones only become obsolete because the manufacturers design them to. Motorola’s tenuous partnership with Phonebloks and its own Project Ara are nice concessions, but too little, too late for users who want true modifiable open-source smartphones. Their answer has come: the Neo900, an open-source phone built out of the tried-and-true sliding Nokia N900.

What is it? A phone whose guts you can mess around with and upgrade to your specifications. What isn’t it? The most powerful smartphone on the market, which the creators admit--but they’re willing to bet that their laundry list of features will convince you to switch, even if it means trading in iOS for something with a physical keyboard.

The Neo900 builds off the OpenPhoenux project for open-source phones (who are so committed to avoiding “big data” that their only social media broadcast is through a mailing list). Like the other OpenPhoenux phones, the Neo900 just replaces the PCB guts of an old phone (Nokia N900) with a laundry list of current tech. When that gets outdated, just buy new boards. Simple.

Along with the expected sensor suite (RFID, accelerometer, and both GPS and the Russian GLONASS), the Neo900 has an LTE modem--a forward-thinking decision that puts the Neo900’s connection on par with only two other chipmakers equipping their modems with LTE: Intel and Qualcomm. Best of all, the Neo900 supports all operating systems available for the established GTA04 motherboard--which has no locks in bootloader or its kernel.

Currently, the Neo900 is still in the crowdfunding stage, but it already raised €35,100. From there, each threshold of orders for a ship-complete-to-your-door Neo900 reduces cost per unit: The Neo900 motherboard is expected to cost €500-€700. Open-source aficionados kvetching about Apple’s/Google’s chains, now’s the chance to put your money where your mouth is.






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