Openmoko fail

So over the summer, I ordered an openmoko device. I even switched to AT&T (my Sprint contract had run out) so that I could use the phone. All in all, it cost me $400 for the phone. I hate to say it, but I downright regret that decision. I was willing to have a phone that didn’t work superbly. I understood that the phone was a developer’s phone. I was looking forward to having fun hacking on the device. Unfortunately, none of that panned out, and I now have a $400 brick.

I ordered the first batch of openmoko phones. This first batch had a problem with the SD card controller clock interfering with the GPS circuitry, which allowed you to use only one at a time. I don’t use GPS very much, so this was only marginally disappointing, I could live with it. The second batch had one more capacitor that fixed this problem, but I was out of luck, as far as having this problem fixed. That was the first issue I saw with the phone. The second issue, which really put me off is the plethora of different operating system packages for the phone 6 months ago, and no direction as to which one was the frontrunner. I spent a good 2 weeks trying out the 5 or 6 different versions, and trying to figure out what one I should focus my development effort on. None of them worked great as a consumer phone, but thats not what I was expecting. Rather, there was the FSO, Debian, 2 versions ASU, and a few other default packages out there that you could use. The community didn’t give me direction as to which one was worth developing for. One version was being developed for, but would be discontinued at the release. One was a “framework” system that some people were pushing for more development. All in all, picking something useful to do from an OS view was very difficult, and starting hacking was a headache too. So really, I got discouraged. I didn’t know if work I did would be used, and basically put the phone in a drawer. I had no motivation to hack on it, and it wasnt usable as an everyday phone, so I just used my free AT&T phone while my openmoko freerunner sat in a drawer, while I waited for the community to settle a bit.

The astute among you might notice that I described the phone as a brick in the first paragraph. “Brick” is a specific term to me, meaning it won’t even boot. This is what my phone is. Unbeknownst to me when I put the device in the drawer, there’s a hardware bug that if the phone runs completely out of power, you can’t recharge it. So really, unless I find another partially charged battery, or set up an external voltage supply somehow, my phone really is a brick, it won’t even boot anymore. Very disappointing, and unacceptable in my book.

All in all, I’m gonna stand by my title, “openmoko fail”. The community might be great now, I don’t really know. But from the time I got the phone til now I’ve been pretty disappointed with such a potentially promising device. You can chalk this up to me not being motivated, but there were some pretty serious hardware bugs that stopped me dead in my tracks, and cost me $400. If you’re an openmoko developer or supporter, I wish you the best, but I’m gonna have to wait for an Android phone to come to AT&T.

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2 Responses to Openmoko fail

  1. j says:

    I agree with you. It’s pretty lousy hardware and the android software implementation doesn’t provide a usable phone. I will also avoid it and any other future openmoko products.

  2. Chris says:

    I let my freerunner’s battery drain completely before I knew it would be a problem. If you press the aux key and the power key to bring up the boot menu, then press Power Off, then plug the phone in to your USB port for a few hours, the battery should charge enough to turn on then you can plug it in to a wall. It works for me, so hopefully you have the same luck. But either way, you’re right: the freerunner just isn’t feasible as an everyday phone. Too unreliable.

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