I could really do with a replacement ’phone

Posted on by Chris Warburton

Mine has pretty much packed in, due to a couple of failures.

Firstly the battery capacity is now incredibly low, which is to be expected after around a year or more. I could get a replacement battery, like I did for my C35i, but that one made no difference (maybe a software fault assuming that the battery is the same).

Secondly the mechanical joystick at the top of the keypad is completely FUBAR. It makes attempting to use the phone a very infuriating experience. I knew this would happen eventually, since moving parts should always be avoided if at all possible, and even remarked as much when I noticed that Harriet’s old phone (the model brought out after mine) had replaced the joystick with a set of buttons, obviously for reliability purposes.

Also there are some general annoyances with the phone, like the bloody awful proprietary connectors on the bottom, meaning that I need an adaptor to use a set of standard headphones and/or microphone, and the power cable, when inserted, is perpetually riding the infinitesimal border between connected and not. Plus the software is full of annoyances, like my inability to remove things I do not use and the incredibly tiny storage space allocated to saving SMS messages which forces me to purge the phone of all saved messages about every three weeks, whilst the onboard storage has several megabytes free but are unused.

Thus I want a new phone, and I want a phone that runs Free Software by default. The tricky thing is deciding which one. The options, as far as I can tell, are the following:

Something from Motorola (eg. Razr V2). Advantages: Should be relatively cheap since they are mass-market phones. Disadvantages: Locked down and pretty much unchangable, kind of defeating the purposes of my decision for a hackable phone.

Something running Android: Advantages: Should be widely supported and have a wealth of applications and developers. No specific OS, since the whole thing runs on Java, which could make alternatives to the underlying Linux a possibility. Disadvantages: Nothing is currently available, as far as I can tell. Java-only might drive me crazy after a while.

Nokia Internet Tablet: Advantages: Large touch-screen and full keyboard. HUGE resolution. Wealth of developers and applications. Familiar technology (Python, QT, GTK, etc.) available. Disadvantages: As far as I can tell they can’t connect to GSM/EDGE/HSDPA/3G/etc. which makes them pretty useless as a phone.

OpenMoko: Advantages: Completely hackable. Familiar technologies. Large resolution. Touchscreen. Disadvantages: Not completely ready software wise (but can be upgraded as time goes on, calling works as far as I can tell). Possibly not as much developer and application support? Battery life might be an issue until the power management is implemented.

Something Symbian: Advantages: Phone-targetted, ie. built for the job. Should be lots of application and developer support. Disadvantages: Not all Free Software yet, Nokia plans on completing the liberation by around April I think.

MobLin, LinMob, etc.: Disadvantages: I can’t actually see anything I can buy.

So, from those options I think I’m going to go with an OpenMoko Freerunner. I will probably use part of my loan when it comes through, so looking at getting one next month if possible.

Any thoughts by anyone, at all, who might possibly be reading this, who I can probably count on one hand?