Once upon a time, before Nokia joined forces with Microsoft, the company produced a line of high-end smartphones designed to run the open source Maemo Linux operating system. Those days are long gone, but some folks are keeping the dream alive — and hoping to raise funds to build an unofficial successor to the last Maemo phone, the Nokia N900.

If all goes according to plan, the upcoming Neo900 will have the look and feel (and some of the same hardware) as that discontinued phone, but a faster processor, more RAM, and the ability to run a wide range of software including Maemo, Android, or possibly other software such as Ubuntu or Firefox OS.

neo900

The goal is to deliver an entirely open platform, using no proprietary binary blobs, which should make it relatively easy (for folks who know what they’re doing) to port new operating systems to run on the device. But it’s pretty clearly designed as a successor to the N900, with a similar case design and similar (but somewhat more up-to-date) hardware.

By today’s standards, some of the specs of the Neo900 look a bit dated — but that’s because they’re designed to work with an operating system designed for a 4-year old phone. So while the 3.5 inch, 800 x 480 pixel resistive touchscreen display might not exactly be state of the art, it’s not that bad if you plan to use a stylus and not just your fingers to touch the screen.

Other specs have been updated significantly. While the Nokia N900 had 256MB of RAM, or instance, the Neo900 is designed to have 512MB to 1GB of memory.

It’ll use an ARM Cortex-A8 processor like the N900, but the team plans to use a TI DM3730 processor instead of a 600 MHz TI OMAP 3430 CPU. And in addition to HSPA, there may also now be options for CDMA and 4G LTE connectivity.

If you’re looking for a powerful new Android phone with a great screen, this isn’t it. But the Neo900 has the potential to appeal to folks who value open hardware and software over bleeding-edge specs or a fancy app store.

The project is still in the relatively early phases, but it’s based on an existing product called the OpenPheonux GTA04. The next step will be to run a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds to start building the device.

Right now it looks like it’ll take about 200 backers willing to pre-order Neo900 devices for about 700 Euros (over $950 US) in order to make the transition from idea to real product.

via /r/android

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6 replies on “Neo900 keeps the Nokia N900 dream alive with promise of open hardware”

  1. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve read on this site, have been on TMO and learnt of it, how I wish we can join in and do this together…

  2. I wanted to say “Shut up and take my money!”, but these specs are already a bit dated and the price a bit too much, I fear by the time this makes it, it will be just as dated as the original… which I still have and occasionally use as a portable linux box.
    It would be interesting to see a compatible aftermarket main-board that I could swap in the original device. Maybe some Chinese are up for the task, I hear Allwinner gets pretty good linux support as well, so an A31 CPU, 2GB RAM board could breath new life to my N900.

  3. 3.5″ TFT, 800×480, resistive, What are they doing with resistive screens :/

    1. upgrading a 4 year old phone, simply put. Admittedly one that came out at roughly the same time as the iphone 3GS so I’m also a little surprised. From the hacker space I remember these screens being used with just about anything as they use an incredibly friendly interface that doesn’t need dedicated hardware (iirc it’s an SPI variant, so even a £5 microcontroller can drive it)

    2. It’s probably due to their focus on using open source drivers coupled with the limited resources a small community based effort has. Suppliers often give discounts to larger companies and/or very large orders.

      Even with these limited specs, they need 700 Euros for each phone to just get started. I’m even assuming there isn’t much, if any, profit in there. Even if there was, I’m sure it’ll be used well for furthering the project.

  4. I’ve been looking for a UMPC that can run any one of the major Linux distros (touch UI or not) but this seems a bit too slow and the screen is too small for such a task. Of course, I’d need a mouse unless there’s software to dedicate a portion of the screen as a touchpad.

    Well, hoping for Bay Trail or ARM UMPCs with a keyboard and mouse to show up. I’m rooting for Ubuntu Touch to succeed as well (I still want a keyboard and mouse though).

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