It's time for the Open Source Smartphone

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I’m trying to wait for a Windows Phone 8 device, but my carrier, Sprint, isn’t making it easy. I know, I hear it already, calls to ditch Sprint and run away from their decrepit, slow network. Trust me, I’ve been tempted to a hundred times over – but that Unlimited data holds me back. People ask, realistically, how much data do you use? I’ve had months as low as 300MB, and some over 4GB. But I still don’t have a 4G Phone with my current HTC Arrive WP7 phone, and we’re talking about today. The question is: how much data am I going to use in two, four, and six years? As if we don’t do enough online already, even more things are going to go through your data connection in the future. I’m going to stay where the Unlimited is as long as possible.

But that means I’m still with Sprint. My phone selection is terrible. They get some of the big names, like the Galaxy S3, and this week announced that they will be getting Windows Phone 8 devices. But they didn’t mention a date. Which means, to me, probably some time in August. Mid-to-late summer. Just a guess. But When I take a look at what else is out there, and what else is coming? I’m having a hard time plotting myself into the Windows Phone ecosystem.

If Ubuntu launched their Ubuntu for Phones tomorrow, I would buy the device it was on. If there was an unlocked, CDMA device, even if I had to pay full price, $500, my order would be in, instantly. Now, we know from experience they’ll do GSM first, so AT&T will get their crack at it, and Sprint / Verizon customers will wait in line. But imagine if they could sell the OS. Treat the phone like the computer. It is a blank slate, and the software you install on it is up to you.

There are groups of hackers who do things like make Android run on old Windows Mobile devices, or change the version of Windows Mobile on a device… but what if it wasn’t just for the hardcore of the hardcore? Jailbreaking iOS is fairly mainstream, and several Android phones can be rooted easily. The Smartphone market took off because Apple escalated it to new heights. And then we quickly fell in to that compartmentalized set of ecosystems that Apple segregates us all in to. Your Mac wasn’t supposed to run Windows. It can, now, because Apple realized where the better hardware was. And OSX became a geek’s dream, because underneath it all, it’s Linux. Apple co-opted, improved upon, then locked it down, just as they did with their computers.

I think it’s time for a free (as in speech, not as in beer) phone. On that phone can be installed Android, Ubuntu, and any other platform that sees fit to at least release a build. The software doesn’t have to be open source, like Windows and OSX aren’t, but the platform should mature for enthusiasts. Take it apart, upgrade the RAM, swap out the CPU… it’s time to liberate the device we’re all so dependent upon.

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