OpenPhoneux / GTA04 Still Going As Niche Phone
The GTA04 is still being worked on and sought after by a small community of open-source enthusiasts and Linux developers as the next-generation OpenMoko platform. Unfortunately, the project has yet to really take off with success. As part of this there is the OpenPhoneux as "the future 'independent mobile handheld' project aiming at complete devices." Tomorrow also marks the four-year anniversary of the Neo FreeRunner launch.
While OpenMoko pre-dates Google's Android, it's never really taken off with much success. The project hasn't been up to much in recent years with their recent project from last year having been the launch of their own social networking web-site, which was also a flop. Tomorrow, 4 July, marks the four year anniversary that the OpenMoko Neo FreeRunner went on sale. In May they also started the process of giving out USB IDs and MAC addresses since they came to the realization they'll never end up using all of their allocated IDs.
While there isn't much to show for OpenMoko these days, the GTA04 still has a small but dedicated following. The GTA04 from Golden Delicious Computers is a new motherboard that fits into an existing GTA02 (Neo FreeRunner) or GTA01 (Neo 1973) chassis, but isn't a complete project. It's basically a do-it-yourself upgrade for those swearing by their OpenMoko device.
The GTA04 began shipping at the beginning of 2012, but not in large quantities and there have been production problems. As said on the mailing list, "About 30% of the boards have been produced but had failures. About 1/3 of those had been without problems or have been fixed now. These units have already been shipped last week (based on a first order first served sequence). The other boards are in rework. The production company now thinks they have managed how to raise production yield. But due to illness and school holidays in Bavaria, they have not yet continued to work."
Sadly, the specs on the GTA04 hardly remain competitive with any device from a tier-one smart-phone vendor. The GTA04 motherboard has a 800MHz Texas Instruments OMAP3 ARM Cortex-A8 (similar to the BeagleBoard), integrated PowerVR SGX graphics, 512MB of RAM, 512MB of flash memory, and a micro-SD slot. There's HSPA UMTS connectivity, GPS, navigation sensors, Bluetooth, and WiFi/WLAN support. About the only real benefit that this board has over other smart-phones is that it's manufactured in Bavaria -- for those who love wonderful Bavarian beer, lovely ladies in dirndls, great food, and Oktoberfest. (That's the only reason I would even consider buying a GTA04 would be due to supporting Bavaria, there isn't really anything great about the GTA04 in 2012.) The price on the GTA04 is 666.66 €, or about $840 USD, for hardware that's slower than a $100 iPhone.
The GTA04 is open in that it can run Debian Linux, SHR, QtMoko, or other open-source distributions. There's also nothing locked down within the boot-loader or kernel. However, it's using PowerVR graphics that are only powered by closed-source Linux drivers. The GSM firmware is also reported closed-source. PowerVR hardware on Linux remains an awful mess.
For those interested from last month there is a status update on GTA04 / OpenPhoneux. The GTA04 mailing list remains fairly active from its small group of users. Additional information on this open-source Bavarian phone can be found at Goldelico.com.
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