New wiki page - Problems of typical "closed" phones
openmoko at mazikeen.demon.co.uk
Mon Feb 4 10:17:39 CET 2008
On Sunday 03 February 2008, JW wrote:
> Hi Openmoko community
> I created a new page to list the problems of typical "closed" phones with
> the intention of informing potential Openmoko phone buyers.
> Please add your examples to the 4 I included as a starting point.
> Feedback welcome! :-)
The 3 examples currently there are all operator issues, and may apply equally
to 'open' and 'closed' handsets.
* Being locked to 1 operator is because the operator provides a customised
firmware version on the handsets they subsidise. Changing this is possible
for a shop or a technical user, but depending on jurisdiction and contract
may not be legal. There is nothing to stop the operators doing the same with
an 'open' handset since the restriction is legal rather than technical.
* Crippled phone features are very much like the locking example above. A
firmware update to the manufacturer's default firmware will get all the
features working again, but may not be legal. Again the legal restriction
could be applied to an 'open' handset.
* Data plan restrictions prevent the use of certain types of application, and
are controlled by the operator's network. Typically in the UK there are 2
levels of 'unrestricted' data plan. The cheaper one allows web browsing from
the phone handset and not much else. The more expensive one allows more or
less open access. Again the restrictions are operator-imposed and will apply
equally to the 'open' handset.
Here are some examples where 'open' and 'closed' are really different.
* Manufacturer introduces hadset with seriously buggy firmware, and
discontinues support before the bugs are fixed. See
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/28/sony_ericsson_firmware_snub/ for a
smartphone example. An older example is the Nokia 5210 where most firmware
versions had a noncompliant IrDA software implementation for phonebook
* Manufacturer introduces a new handset model that is essentially the same
hardware with a firmware update, but firmware to enable this on the old model
* Manufacturer doesn't allow running of 3rd party apps. It may be possible
with a hack, but the next firmware update may brick the expensive handset.
* Manufacturer doesn't implement hardware functionality in firmware. See
recent threats of class action suit against HTC: http://htcclassaction.org/
* Phone behaves in a way you consider braindead - wouldn't it be so much
easier if it just did X?
With a 'closed' phone you are at the mercy of the manufacturer for fixes and
updates. With an open phone a sufficiently technical user can fix it
themself. The average user is probably at the mercy of the community, but the
community is generally more responsive to requests than handset
manufacturers, and can be induced to fix things with offers of money, beer,
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