OpenMoko Neo1973 - an open source Linux based iPhone killer in the making ?

July 10, 2007
OpenMoko is a GNU/Linux based open software development platform. What this means for the lay person is that using OpenMoko software development kit, phone manufacturers will be able to bring out mobile phones which have more or less the same features of the now widely known iPhone from Apple and much more - all this under an Open license powered by GNU. This also means that for the first time there is potential for you to be completely free from being tied up with one mobile carrier or even a single phone manufacturer (read Apple) for want of anything better.

Fig: Openmoko touch screen phone

Recently OpenMoko a project set up by "First International Computings" (FIC) released a developer version of a mobile device named Neo 1973 which is a completely open, Linux-based, GPS-equipped, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone and which has a touch screen equivalent to that in Apple iPhone but which additionally comes with a stylus. The Neo1973 is priced in the $300 to $450 range. Below I have included the rough specifications of both the Openmoko's Neo1973 and Apple's iPhone for comparison.

Openmoko Neo1973 cell phone specifications
  • 2.8" VGA TFT color display (640x480 resolution)
  • Touchscreen, usable with stylus or fingers
  • 266MHz Samsung System on a Chip (SOC) (ARM9 processor)
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 64 MB Flash memory
  • USB 1.1, switchable between Client and Host (un-powered)
  • Integrated AGPS
  • 2.5G GSM – quad band, voice, CSD, GPRS
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Micro SD slot
  • High Quality audio codec
  • 1200MA Lion cell battery which the openmoko team guarantees to provide a minimum of 4 hours of power when used continuously before a recharge. The battery can be easily replaced by the users.
Additional freebies thrown in with Neo1973 phone include...
  • 512 MB Sandisk SD card.
  • A good quality set of ear phones.
  • A USB connectivity cable.
  • Stylus
  • A very functional pouch to hold the phone and
  • A Lanyard to safely tether your phone.
Apple iPhone specifications are as follows :
  • Powered by ARM11 processor
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 4 or 8 GB flash memory
  • Screen resolution of 320x480
  • Bluetooth and WiFi enabled
  • Integrated 2 Megapixel camera and
  • an accelerometer
When compared to an iPhone, the Neo1973 from OpenMoko is a bit behind as it doesn't come with a camera, no accelerometer (Which is promised in the next version of the phone), no multi-touch, does not provide WiFi support and does not have gigabytes of storage space.

But in many respects, people buying this phone will have a decisive advantage that the phone runs on GNU/Linux which means that third parties can easily develop applications using openmoko software development platform and thus provide an enhanced end user experience.

Additionally Apple's iPhone has a number of drawbacks such as ...
  • The battery is soldered to the circuit. So it is not possible for the iPhone owners to replace the battery by themselves.
  • iPhone software development kit is proprietary to a fault so much that third parties will not be able to develop software to run on an iPhone.
  • There is no USB connectivity.
  • There is no GPS.
  • And you can't switch carriers.
Here is another interesting thing... you can charge the Neo1973 phone by merely connecting it to the USB port of your PC and you can browse the internet using the phone as a modem more specifically using its GPRS data connection. And it has GSM multiplexing capabilities provided via a custom patch to the Linux kernel (2.6.18) which means you can browse the net and at the same time receive a call too.


  • Kostas

    Looks good , we re just gonna have to wait and see.Btw it seems very unlikely that a 2.8 inch screen has a res of 640x480, you might wanna check again.Also i ve read that the final version for consumers (not developers) will be wi fi capable , you might wanna check that too :)

  • Pavel Zubkov

    The Neo1973 is priced in the $300 (Base) to $450 (Advanced) range.

  • Opus

    This and the Asus EEE look extremely impressive. It's a good year for geek gadgets.

  • Screen specs:

    2.8" 480x640 at 285 ppi, maybe multi-touch later

  • iPhone 'killer' isn't quite right. Customers choosing between open source phones only shows a healthy market and encourages more competition as new companies jump in.

    the consumer revolution is growing

  • Well I for one, have been watching the development from afar, of the Neo 1973/Openmoko.

    My problem is that for me to buy one (and I'd dearly love the opportunity) it would have to have 3G capability.

    Why? because of the unbelievably extortionate cost of normal GSM data charges.

    Mobile internet and email are my next focus for the ability of my next phone - if this could do it then I wouldn't hesitate to take the plunge - afterall it should connect natively to my linux system.

    But as apple have recently released a 3G iphone I'm thinking of getting one of those - because I can always retain stuff like phone book/number info/contact details/etc by emailing them from the phone to my system - yes there may be some file issues with that, but it should (theoretically) allow me to keep my main system contacts up to date!