Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Perfect Phone

There's been a lot of hype lately about the iPhone. It looks snazzy. It has Wifi, EDGE, Bluetooth, and all the other bells and whistles a high-end phone is expected to have these days. But it's not the phone for me. Before the iPhone were several Nokia offerings that are almost up to my standards. The Treo and the Blackberry look like the same story: almost what I want but not quite.

What I want in a phone are these features:

  • Wifi -- preferably with a chipset that allows me to run kismet. Better yet would be one that allows me to run Lorcon and/or livetap.
  • Large amounts of flash storage. I'd prefer this to be internal but I don't care what the medium is. I'll buy extra storage media without complaining too much. With as cheap as USB flash devices are getting these days, it should be a gigabyte at minimum.
  • charge over usb
  • a camera would be cool but not strictly necessary. I used to think that I would prefer a phone with no camera because some places won't allow cameras. I've recently come to realize that most places that don't allow cameras also don't allow phones.
  • Bluetooth for the sole purpose of connecting to a laptop and using the phone as a bridge.
  • a browser that handles javascript and flash decently. I know this isn't as big a problem as it used to be, but the five-lines-of-text-at-a-time that my old Samsung presented as "Internet" just doesn't cut it.
  • a big enough screen to display many lines of text.
  • Unix-like operating system. This is necessary to be able to have a useful shell.
  • a good way to input text. This is necessary to be able to interact with that shell.
  • Bash or the equivalent. I can do everything on the commandline faster and more efficiently.
  • an ssh client. What's the point of being connected 24/7 if i can't be connected to the machines that do my bidding? This also gets me to irc and other various programs that have become tethered to my brain over the last several years.
  • nmap -- this also means I need raw packets.
  • a ruby interpreter.
  • other third party applications (some of which will undoubtedly be written by me).

And I want it all without having to go through the pain and discomfort of JailBreak and other forms of warranty-voiding DMCA-violating kludges.

Basically, I want my Thinkpad in a 4.5 x 2.5 x 0.5 inch, 5 ounce package that can make calls.

The FIC Neo1973 looks very promising on the software front. The entire phone is open; it's based on Linux and everything from the circuit boards to the kernel to the frontend is user modifiable. That has strong appeal. Unfortunately, it has no Wifi which makes it nearly useless to me. The second generation, which does have wifi, is advertised as being available early 2008 but since it was advertised as being available on October 1 earlier this year, I'm not holding my breath.

The iPhone has nice hardware and a nice interface. But for it to be useful requires breaking laws. I boycott products that have that property in the hopes that manufacturers will start making things open enough to be useful for more than their own highly-defined and highly-limited idea of useful.

The Nokia N800 looks like everything I want -- Linux-based; wifi; third party development is encouraged; hell, Immunity built a pentesting tool out of them -- but it's not a phone. Maybe I'll just get one of these and keep my crappy free-with-service-agreement 6103. I would be much more interested in the Nokia E90 if it ran Linux. I just can't justify a thousand dollars for a phone without being sure beforehand that I'll like it.