October 1, 2007

1195 words 6 mins read

Why everyone should stop hacking/complaining about the iPhone

Apparently nearly everyone who owns an iPhone that “hacked” it, is a bitchy little cry baby. You thought my little “rant” about American Express was bad? At least I had a sound argument — Security. What about you people who’ve bricked your iPhone? Nada. You don’t got jack. You voided the warranty the second you loaded up that unlocking app. You know it, I know, Apple knows it. Apple WARNED YOU ahead of time. But you went ahead and upgraded anyways… And now your iPhone is an iBrick. Lets take a quick look at this. YOU bought the phone knowing it was locked. YOU voided the warranty knowing that it might brick your phone. YOU upgraded the firmware even after Apply was kind enough to warn you.

My rant about people complaining aside, lets take a real look at the topic at hand:

Why everyone should stop hacking/complaining about the iPhone? Here is the one word answer: OpenMoko If you don’t know what OpenMoko is, here is the short version: OpenMoko is a project “to create a general-purpose Linux distribution for mobile phones.” [WP]. It goes hand in hand with the Neo1973 which is a fully open Smartphone. What does this mean to the layperson? A phone that anyone can use, tweak, adjust, modify or change. It is a phone that will work on any GSM network to boot.

Why is the OpenMoko better than the iPhone? First, lets look at a few of the common complaints about the iPhone. 1- It has no 3rd party applications. 2- It has no GPS. 3- It is locked to AT&T. 4- It is too expensive. How does the OpenMoko fix this? 1- It is open and ready for anyone to write 3rd party apps, port or modify existing applications. 2- It has GPS built in. 3- It is unlocked and able to work on ANY GSM network. 4- It isn’t. OpenMoko will start at $450 for the consumer version when in launches.

Is the OpenMoko better than the iPhone in every way? Nope. If anyone tries to tell you that the OpenMoko is better than all existing phone, its a lie. The OpenMoko has its down falls too. 1- Its expensive (as previously noted). 2- It doesn’t have Apple’s years of experience in designing UI. 3- It doesn’t have a camera! (Though, for corporate environments where camera phones are banned — this is a good thing)

Why does any of this matter to the hackers? Think about it for just a second. Think about the hours and hours these hackers have wasted trying to reverse engineer firmware, security, hardware, etc on the iPhone. Now think about this. They don’t have to do any of that. A hacker can sit down and write code. They’ve already got an SDK, they’ve already got all of the specs and they have full and open access to the phone. If the hacking community spent 50% of the time they spent “breaking out” of the iPhone, writing for the OpenMoko — it will be FANTASTIC.

Does the OpenMoko do anything for companies? Why, yes it does. It lets you modify the software, and do what ever you want. You can write your own custom firmware for your OpenMoko unit. You can have “branded” company phones, that do exactly what you want and are setup exactly how you want. More importantly — the iPhone doesn’t (and probably never will) have Exchange integration. As much as I love Linux, I hate to admit it — but Exchange is extremely popular. With the OpenMoko either you can wait for someone else to write the software, you can write it yourself, or… you can pay someone to write it. Once its written, its done. You don’t have to worry about it going away in a firmware update. Oh — and if you don’t use Exchange, (you use something else that is “unique”) no problem — its all the same to write the software.

Is the OpenMoko going to change the Smartphone market? I sure as hell hope so. If people stop buying iPhone’s, Treo’s, Blackberries and start buying OpenMoko’s, the big phone companies will listen up. They will be forced to change the way they do business. They will be forced to start allowing easy access for 3rd party applications. And if we are lucky, they may even be forced to leave the phones unlocked. By supporting the OpenMoko, you will be supporting an engine of change. Maybe the OpenMoko wont suit your needs perfectly, or your mothers. But once market for cell phones begin to change, we, the consumers, win.

Is Linux on a phone better than what we have now? The answer to this question is Yes. The iPhone is based on OSX, and as such is basically a Unix-clone. Linux is also a Unix clone. So in that respect the iPhone and the OpenMoko are like brothers. Also, if you take a quick look at other new phones coming out, for example the Motorola RAZR2, many also runs on Linux. It seems even the “big” companies realize that Linux is superior for phones.

Where can I get more info on the OpenMoko? Well in the off chance you can’t operate Google. Try OpenMoko.Org. I suggest going to the Wiki, as that contains basically EVERYTHING you would ever need to know about the software and hardware. Beware though, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Where can I buy one? Unless you are a developer, you can’t buy one yet. The first version that is currently available isn’t designed for end users. The “commercial” version is supposed to be available at the end of October, but I’ve heard rumors that it could be delayed. I’d expect to see the commercial version available by year end, at the latest. That being said, if you are a developer with the wish to buy one, or would like some more corporate information, stop by OpenMoko.Com

(Note: I have no relation to OpenMoko what so ever. I am just an eager fan that would like to see them do well. I did get some hands on time with the developer version at LinuxWorld 2007. IT WAS SO FREAKING SWEET. The concept alone is worth supporting. Oh, and Yes. I will be buying one of these as SOON as they come out. I would have bought a developer version — but honestly I don’t have the money.)

Update 2007-10-01 @ 0048 I forgot one important bit for comparison against the iPhone. Comparison between Apple iPhone and the “Open Source iPhone” Neo1973 (GTA02) running OpenMoko Linux

Update 2007-10-01 @ 0114 Once again my blog duplicated entries. This time it was 3 copies of this article. Also, because I was a moron — I deleted the first few comments. Sorry… I’m not sure whats going on — but once I figure it out — I’ll be sure to beat it into submission. Also — if you have some working knowledge of the OpenMoko (aka you are a developer or what not) and want to correct me on something — please post a comment — I will update the entry if need be.