[Tinkerphones] Strategies for sustainable phones

Duncan Guthrie dguthrie at posteo.net
Mon Sep 23 17:50:46 CEST 2019


I actually have a KaiOS-powered phone (one of the new Nokia handsets). It’s quite nifty, but it’s still proprietary. It’s pretty usable as a basic phone though. It also includes the Google assistant (boo!) and a some other Google programs. 

It doesn’t look like there is much danger of it becoming much more demanding anytime soon, although the KaiOS phones do have quite impressive specifications for what they’re doing (I recall seeing one with 1GB of memory and 8GB of storage). They still run Firefox OS and at the heart are presumably based on the Android core of that. It’s not OSS though so I don’t know how they port a phone to KaiOS, however.

The slightly sad thing about it is that it derives directly from Firefox OS; they’re basically targeting the low-end feature phone market that Mozilla made a half-hearted attempt at targeting (albeit with very slow smartphones running the full Firefox OS).

As far as I can tell, with regards to the software and development environment, you get an outdated Firefox core (I am not sure if this is a good idea to let loose on the world), and can write little web applications for it without much trouble.

Curiously, Sailfish 3 seems to be targeting these sorts of devices too but I haven’t seen any hardware running it, so perhaps it doesn’t exist yet except at their HQ. The UI for that is still proprietary though. I almost wish for a Nokia[HMD]-produced handset running it, which would be ironic given the history of Linux on Nokia’s devices, and the reasons for which Sailfish came about.

I think that getting one of the feature phone UIs working on one of the KaiOS handsets would be a very nice proof of concept. 

Did I mention GNU/Linux, and OSS more generally, on mobile devices is a mess? :(


> On 23 Sep 2019, at 16:25, H. Nikolaus Schaller <hns at goldelico.com> wrote:
>> Am 23.09.2019 um 17:03 schrieb Benson Muite <benson_muite at emailplus.org>:
>> On 9/23/19 5:28 PM, Paul Boddie wrote:
>>> On Saturday 21. September 2019 15.48.50 H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
>>>>> Am 19.09.2019 um 18:18 schrieb Paul Boddie <paul at boddie.org.uk>:
>>>>> I dislike the tone of technology reviews, especially when they talk of
>>>>> "last year's" technology. They start to sound like fashion industry
>>>>> gossip ("last season's collection") with largely the same implied level
>>>>> of regard for the planet, workers' rights, and so on, unless carefully
>>>>> worded and qualified.
>>>> Well, if there is no technological breakthrough progress any more (displays,
>>>> cameras, processors, RAM sizes etc. do not show significant improvement any
>>>> more), the only way vendors can tell they have something new and get
>>>> customers to replace devices is by changing the clothing every year - this
>>>> is called "fashion". And making them less durable. Seems to be a
>>>> fundamental law of economics...
>>> But very bad for the planet. As it is, however, people can always be persuaded
>>> to upgrade by just making the software more demanding, so as I noted, we have
>>> the same kind of upgrade culture as the one Microsoft and Intel cultivated.
>>> I have tried to get in touch with a researcher I very vaguely know who has
>>> done work on sustainable phones, inquiring about considerations of software
>>> longevity which were generally absent in the research being done, but I
>>> haven't had any response yet. It seems to be a blind spot: people care about
>>> how the physical product is made, claiming a long lifespan, but then the
>>> software makes the device obsolete.
>>> [...]
>> Any thoughts on KaiOS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KaiOS)?
> Interesting. It seems to have similar goals as our QtMoko or my QuantumSTEP, but
> we never got investments by Google or a telco operator :)
> Key drivers of this project (and I think the same is for Sailfish) are telco
> operators who try to stay independent of Google and Android and offer customers
> an alternative.
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