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OpenMoko Neo1973 Developer Preview

 Neo1973 Available now
10th July 2007

The Neo1973 is an open source Linux-based handset from OpenMoko, and it is designed to be an easily configurable and expandable device, in sharp contrast to many other phones.

Manufactured by FIC, the unusual name of the Neo1973 reflects the year that mobile phones were first introduced, and the handset has a little bit of "retro-futuristic" styling to boot.

This particular device is the Developer's Edition - as far as we can tell it is almost exactly the same size as the Apple iPhone, and it's broadly competitive with the iPhone on technical specifications too.

Apart from the unusual rounded design, one immediately noticeable feature with the Neo1973 is the large 2.8" display. This is a 640 x 480 pixel panel giving an impressive display resolution of 283 dpi.. almost the quality of an inkjet printer and certainly comparable with the excellent display on the Nokia N800. The screen is designed to be usable with either a stylus or a fingertip. It should be noticed that there are almost no other controls on the Neo1973 apart from a power button. There's no camera on the Neo1973, but that's not really what this phone is about.

The Developer Edition of the Neo1973 (called GTA01) is strictly a GSM/GPRS-only device, lacking 3G or WiFi support. The full retail edition of the neo1973, due in October will add WiFi but no high-speed cellular data support such as UMTS, EDGE or HSDPA. This is a pity as we thing that high-speed data access is a must for any useful smartphone.

Unusually the neo1973 features AGPS (Assisted GPS), in addition to more "normal" features such as microSD memory, Bluetooth 2.0 and multimedia playback. The USB connection on the neo1973 is only USB 1.1, so transfer speeds are somewhat limited. A 512MB microSD card is included in the standard sales package, so files can also be transferred by a card reader. The SD slot is SDIO capable, so peripherals can be added to it. Internal memory is 128MB RAM plus 64MB flash.

 OpenMoko Neo 1973 Enough of the technical specs - what makes the Neo1973 different from most other devices is the extent of "open" design. The Neo1973 runs a variant of Linux made up of open source elements, much like the Nokia N800 and 770. This means that the Neo1973 can be added to and tweaked according to user's needs. The Neo1973 takes things a little further though, and the hardware has been designed so that skilled users can add devices and modify it, or start up a Linux console on an attached device. Indeed, the "Neo Advanced" package comes with a toolkit for getting into the phone including soldering points for hardcore hardware hackers.

This openness is in marked contrast to the Apple iPhone where applications are strictly controlled, and even changing the battery is an expensive return-to-base business. The open source approach marks the Neo1973 as being much closer to the Maemo-based N800 and 770 devices than the iPhone, even though the iPhone runs a fundamentally similar operating system.

It should be remembered that this is the Developer Edition of the Neo1973. When the consumer edition (GTA02) comes out (hopefully in October), the hardware will support WiFi plus 3G graphics acceleration (although without any buttons, the Neo1973 will be of limited appeal to gamers).

The Neo1973 Base Developer Preview is available for a discounted price of $300, the Advanced (with a toolkit) is $450. When the consumer edition goes on sale later this year it is slated to be $450 for the Base and $600 for the Advanced edition. The Neo1973 can be ordered here in Orange or Black colour variants.

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OpenMoko Neo1973 Developer Preview at a glance

Available:

Q3 2007

Network:

GSM

Data:

GPRS

Screen:

480x640 pixels

Camera:

No

Size:

PDA-style device
116mm x 60mm approx (4.6" x 2.4")

Bluetooth:

Yes

Memory card:

microSD

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

Yes

Battery life:

Not specified

 

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