Problems of typical "closed" phones

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  |O2 || Orbit || Windows Mobile 6 || O2
 
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  |Handset includes GPS but I bought the cheaper tarif and this does not come with gps software. GPS capability has been locked by the operator and i cannot use it even with free applications like Google Maps for mobile which can use cell tower interpolation or GPS to provide location info
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  |Handset includes GPS but I bought the cheaper tariff and this does not come with gps software. GPS capability has been locked by the operator and i cannot use it even with free applications like Google Maps for mobile which can use cell tower interpolation or GPS to provide location info
 
  |O2 orbit = HTC Touch (i think)
 
  |O2 orbit = HTC Touch (i think)
 
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Revision as of 21:16, 6 February 2008

The majority of cell phone owners purchase their phones from a wireless carrier. These carrier provided phones are often modified in such a way that carriers can exercise maximum control over certain built-in features. As a result, carrier provided phones may have some killer features completely removed or in the best case scenario, disabled till the user pays a fee to the carrier. This is known as "crippling" a phone.

Fortunately, phone buyers have other options. Crippled phones can be avoided by purchasing a factory unlocked phone such as the Openmoko phone. Factory unlocked phones are purchased directly from the manufacturers (or retailers) with no modifications or restrictions.

This page contains examples of "crippled" features on carrier provided phones listed by members of the Openmoko community.


Manufacturer Model Operating System Operator Locked feature Comments
Many Many Many GSM Phones Handset will only operate with SIM registered to a particular operator GSM carriers often provide unlocking codes, but may charge a small fee.

CDMA phones (US only) generally require a lot more effort since the hardware often has to be hacked.

Many Many Non-smart phones Many A user cannot develop an application for the phone even if he has the time and skills, or the applications the user can develop are limited in features available to them, speed and visual appearance (e.g. J2ME) End users of smart phones can and do develop their own programs.
Many Many Many Many Installable applications that are not “blessed” (signed) by the handset manufacturer are limited in features available to them or trigger annoying security warnings even though you totally trust them Smart phone users can develop their own programs.
Many Many Non-smart phones Many New models of the handset may have the same hardware but improved software. However, existing users cannot upgrade their firmware. RIM, Palm, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, etc (but not Windows Mobile) provide firmware updates for end users.
Nokia N80 Symbian Operator independant problem Manufacturer sold its model claiming VoIP, but the software wasn't present on the phone to actually use it for, say SIP calls. The following release of the phone (N80ie) included the feature in the software, while the hardware was identical to the former release (N80). The original N80 had a built in VOIP client. However, SIP was not enabled until the N80ie. Nokia provided a firmware to upgrade the original N80 to N80ie.
Many Many Many Many Synchronization, update or other features involving the use of a desktop computer require a certain operating system on the computer, usually MS Windows
Many Many Many Many Music and video can only be added to the media player “library” using certain “blessed” methods, such as downloading them from a preferred online store, or using a certain desktop media library software (e.g. iTunes)
Many Many Many Many An arbitrary audio file cannot be installed as a ringtone. Some operators even charge a fee to install the music you already bought as a ringtone
O2 Orbit Windows Mobile 6 O2 Handset includes GPS but I bought the cheaper tariff and this does not come with gps software. GPS capability has been locked by the operator and i cannot use it even with free applications like Google Maps for mobile which can use cell tower interpolation or GPS to provide location info O2 orbit = HTC Touch (i think)
Many Many Many Many Operators do not allow an Internet Messaging application to be installed that could use GPRS (for those with cheap data plans) or WiFi to communicate with others. This is presumably because they are scared of losing SMS revenue.
Many Many Many Many Operators do not allow VoIP applications to be installed because it's a competition to their primary business
Many Many Many Many Your locked feature here Your comments here
Personal tools

The majority of cell phone owners purchase their phones from a wireless carrier. These carrier provided phones are often modified in such a way that carriers can exercise maximum control over certain built-in features. As a result, carrier provided phones may have some killer features completely removed or in the best case scenario, disabled till the user pays a fee to the carrier. This is known as "crippling" a phone.

Fortunately, phone buyers have other options. Crippled phones can be avoided by purchasing a factory unlocked phone such as the Openmoko phone. Factory unlocked phones are purchased directly from the manufacturers (or retailers) with no modifications or restrictions.

This page contains examples of "crippled" features on carrier provided phones listed by members of the Openmoko community.


Manufacturer Model Operating System Operator Locked feature Comments
Many Many Many GSM Phones Handset will only operate with SIM registered to a particular operator GSM carriers often provide unlocking codes, but may charge a small fee.

CDMA phones (US only) generally require a lot more effort since the hardware often has to be hacked.

Many Many Non-smart phones Many A user cannot develop an application for the phone even if he has the time and skills, or the applications the user can develop are limited in features available to them, speed and visual appearance (e.g. J2ME) End users of smart phones can and do develop their own programs.
Many Many Many Many Installable applications that are not “blessed” (signed) by the handset manufacturer are limited in features available to them or trigger annoying security warnings even though you totally trust them Smart phone users can develop their own programs.
Many Many Non-smart phones Many New models of the handset may have the same hardware but improved software. However, existing users cannot upgrade their firmware. RIM, Palm, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, etc (but not Windows Mobile) provide firmware updates for end users.
Nokia N80 Symbian Operator independant problem Manufacturer sold its model claiming VoIP, but the software wasn't present on the phone to actually use it for, say SIP calls. The following release of the phone (N80ie) included the feature in the software, while the hardware was identical to the former release (N80). The original N80 had a built in VOIP client. However, SIP was not enabled until the N80ie. Nokia provided a firmware to upgrade the original N80 to N80ie.
Many Many Many Many Synchronization, update or other features involving the use of a desktop computer require a certain operating system on the computer, usually MS Windows
Many Many Many Many Music and video can only be added to the media player “library” using certain “blessed” methods, such as downloading them from a preferred online store, or using a certain desktop media library software (e.g. iTunes)
Many Many Many Many An arbitrary audio file cannot be installed as a ringtone. Some operators even charge a fee to install the music you already bought as a ringtone
O2 Orbit Windows Mobile 6 O2 Handset includes GPS but I bought the cheaper tarif and this does not come with gps software. GPS capability has been locked by the operator and i cannot use it even with free applications like Google Maps for mobile which can use cell tower interpolation or GPS to provide location info O2 orbit = HTC Touch (i think)
Many Many Many Many Operators do not allow an Internet Messaging application to be installed that could use GPRS (for those with cheap data plans) or WiFi to communicate with others. This is presumably because they are scared of losing SMS revenue.
Many Many Many Many Operators do not allow VoIP applications to be installed because it's a competition to their primary business
Many Many Many Many Your locked feature here Your comments here