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Cellphones Operating Systems Linux

Why Linux Is Good For Low-End Smartphones 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the i've-never-needed-more dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Nokia's announcement that it was developing a Linux distro for low-end smartphones, shortly after abandoning the Linux-based Meego OS for Windows Phone 7, was a little puzzling. But it actually makes good business sense in the smartphone world. While WP7 aims for the high end, there's a market for cheaper and less complex phones that still beat boring old feature phones, especially in emerging economies. And, unlike Symbian and the heavily tweaked Meego, Linux can be quickly and cheaply brought to market as a low-end smartphone OS."
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Why Linux Is Good For Low-End Smartphones

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  • Here's hoping (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:49AM (#37590822)

    I would love to see a very small version of Linux on a smartphone. Think kernel less than 1MB (less than 500kB ideally), and a very lightweight graphical library. This could easily be made to boot in under 5 seconds and run on put-put hardware. I've done it myself with a system with pretty old Arm v5 at 300MHz, with 32MB RAM and 64MBytes of ROM it's capable or running a lot of goods - certainly any simple smartphone task.

    I wish them luck!

    • by Microlith (54737)

      What you have described is a feature phone, which these days tend to run Nucleus and not Linux.

      • Re:Here's hoping (Score:4, Informative)

        by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday October 03, 2011 @01:09PM (#37591550)

        What you have described is a feature phone, which these days tend to run Nucleus and not Linux.

        I don't think he's quite described the end product so thoroughly as to be able to make that distinction between "smart phone" and "feature phone". Or at least I wouldn't feel like I could make that call without a little more information.

    • by NevarMore (248971)

      Who cares about boot time. Its a phone, when is it ever off?

      • by teg (97890)

        Who cares about boot time. Its a phone, when is it ever off?

        On airplanes. Some,also do this rather than silent mode when they don't want to be disturbed.

      • by Teun (17872)

        Who cares about boot time. Its a phone, when is it ever off?

        I only switch it on when I'm fairly sure to expect an important call while on the road.
        That's at best a few hours per month.
        And it better be important.

        • by shmlco (594907)

          If you switch it on because you're expecting an important phone call later that day, it really doesn't matter if it boots in 10s or 2s, now does it?

      • Wait until something like Google Goggles tries to intercept a phone's photo and send it back to Google, cause the camera to crash. Then you'll appreciate a faster boot time. I realize my experience is nobody else's but my own. But for me, although reboots are rare, I find myself having to reboot the Android phone more often than I reboot Windows.
        • by jDeepbeep (913892)

          I find myself having to reboot the Android phone more often than I reboot Windows.

          Really? Which device and firmware do you have? I'm curious.

          • by gorzek (647352)

            I don't know what the GP has, but I have a Samsung Intercept with Sprint, carrier-provided Froyo (Cyanogenmod is not exactly ported to it), and it has extremely erratic behavior. Most of the time it works fine, then some days it's completely off its nut and freezes up for no apparent reason, to the point that I have to yank the battery. I very rarely have to reboot my Windows systems (one with XP, one with 7) and certainly have to reboot my phone a lot more often.

          • An updated, unrooted EVO 3D (Android 2.3.4, HTC Sense 3.0).
        • by Nadaka (224565)

          The only time I have to reboot my android phone is when the battery runs dead, and that is unfortunately often, but no fault of android.

      • by mangu (126918)

        Who cares about boot time. Its a phone, when is it ever off?

        Yes, because anyone who does anything different from the way you do it is stupid, right?

        I often turn my phone off. Longer battery life, fewer interruptions. However, when I need to make a call, I'd rather have my phone on as quickly as possible.

        A quick boot is a great feature for people who use their phones as a tool, not for people whose life runs around their phones. And, believe me, despite what you see on the streets these days, there are people whose lives haven't been totally dominated by their phones

        • Who cares about boot time. Its a phone, when is it ever off?

          Yes, because anyone who does anything different from the way you do it is stupid, right?

          I often turn my phone off. Longer battery life, fewer interruptions. However, when I need to make a call, I'd rather have my phone on as quickly as possible.

          A quick boot is a great feature for people who use their phones as a tool, not for people whose life runs around their phones. And, believe me, despite what you see on the streets these days, there are people whose lives haven't been totally dominated by their phones.

          I prefer to just put my phone into airplane mode. It drains maybe a percent or 2 over a day and still leaves me interrupt free.

        • I often turn my phone off. Longer battery life, fewer interruptions. However, when I need to make a call, I'd rather have my phone on as quickly as possible.

          But, nobody turns their phone off - it takes too long to boot. Oh, wait.

          A quick boot is a great feature for people who use their phones as a tool for making only outbound calls, not for people who receive inbound calls on their phone

          TFTFY

          And, believe me, despite what you see on the streets these days, there are people whose lives haven't been totally

  • Really? I think that SE Xperia and some HTCs are not low-ends. And Android is some Linux flavor.
    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      I think they're talking about custom Linux distros for low-end phones for those who have gone with solutions other than Android at the high end of the market segment.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      And why would linux being ideal for a low end phone also preclude it from being good on a high-end phone?

  • In basic terms I don't see how anyone could object to this, it seems great. Obviously low end phones will have to move towards basic smart phone capabilities just as they once had to start including address books and text messaging, and linux is a good solution. The only worry is that Nokia, being a phone manufacturer, won't be making this cross-compatible so an opportunity for the android-of-the-low-end-phone is lost. It's still better than Meego!
    • Or worse, they won't make it open, so it doesn't matter that it is running Linux.
    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      Obviously low end phones will have to move towards basic smart phone capabilities just as they once had to start including address books and text messaging

      I don't remember a time when a low end phone did not have text messaging? When exactly was this?

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        Some time in the early 90s. AMPS phones were not known to have SMS. My first OKI didn't, but it was a bag phone, and used the same battery as my VCR.

  • Yes, what do you think android is? Chopped liver?
    • by Microlith (54737)

      It's Google's liver, actually.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Obviously this announcement is nothing more than a M$ driven marketing strategy. Nokia is obviously whining to M$ that the WP7 strategy, even with M$ footing the bill, is costing Nokia too much marketing appeal.

      "Linux OS for low-end smartphones" see get it, Linux is only fit for cheap phones 2nd grade phones and cheap 2nd grade customers, can't you just see the coked up M$ marketdroid cracking up over that genius marketing strategy, woo hoo, windows phone 7 is for first grade phones and first grade custo

  • by Anonymous Coward

    pardon, but all the experience i've had with windows on smartphones ... it couldn't have been further away from high end than these.

    My first phone with a linux kernel however (samsung gt-i9100..) - THAT is how high end feels!

  • by Servaas (1050156) <[captivayay] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Monday October 03, 2011 @12:00PM (#37590938)

    And, unlike Symbian and the heavily tweaked Meego, Linux can be quickly and cheaply brought to market as a low-end smartphone OS.

    Err... so 2 OS's that are already developed, marketed and beta tested are more expensive then 1 new one?

    • by hitmark (640295)

      The Nokia release of Meego is more a version of their earlier Maemo with some changes to be Meego-"compatible" (not that this is any different from Intel basically rebranding their netbook Moblin to Meego and tossing some Qt libs in there for good measure).

      I suspect that unless someone at Nokia have gone axe crazy, this "new" one will be based on that again but have a interface and feature set more suitable for low end phones.

    • by KugelKurt (908765)

      Err... so 2 OS's that are already developed, marketed and beta tested are more expensive then 1 new one?

      Yeah, the article author seems to be a clueless retard. On one hand he claims that Nokia developed a whole new platform with MeeGo and OTOH he claims that Nokia can simply take Linux and easily make it Meltemi without much cost.
      He totally misses the fact that MeeGo is already done (see N9) and that many players -- mostly Intel -- also contributed to it. That means the development workload was shared. With Meltemi Nokia has to develop everything besides the kernel by itself: Way more costly.
      The first "conspi

  • 1. Microsoft somehow still gets paid. >:/

  • How did this get a FP post? Does the iiotic poster and, apparently, the 'editor', doesn't realize that Meego, Moblin, Android, et al. are all cut from the same cloth?

    I would not be surprised if these low-end phones ran some version of something like a stripped Opie or something based on minimalised QT libraries/UI. With 200Mhz for a low-end smartphone would be enough to make this work, and potentially much more featureful than existing crap phones. We were running more, back in the day, on 200Mhz/32Mb RAM/3

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Meego, Moblin, Android, et al. are all cut from the same cloth

      MeeGo/Moblin, yes. Android, no.

      Android is an entirely unique and incompatible user space. That it shares a kernel with the other two is moot.

      We were running more, back in the day, on 200Mhz/32Mb RAM/32Mb ROM PDAs, after all...

      No you weren't. You thought you were, but instead you were heavily constrained by the storage and hardware capabilities of those devices. Everything done then is possible now, but now we have more options in terms of tasks a

  • Why not just keep updating/upgrading S40?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by randomlogin (448414)

      Why not just keep updating/upgrading S40?

      Short answer - because Nokia senior management have now completely lost the plot. Symbian is still a much better option at the low end because underneath all the shiny stuff is an RTOS designed specifically to run on resource constrained devices. Proper real time capabilities were baked into the current Symbian kernel specifically so that a single processor could be used for both the protocol stack and the applications. As someone pointed out earlier, other vendors pay good money to use proprietary RTOS

      • S40 is not symbian based (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_Series_40#Operating_system [wikipedia.org] ). So either way, using Linux or Symbian, the OS needs to be adapted to the S40 hardware. Also, e.g. with RT-Linux it should be also possible to run the protocol stack on the same CPU.

    • S40 is not Symbian. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_Series_40#Operating_system [wikipedia.org] for information.

  • Perhaps I missed something, but Linux is just a kernel (and according to some people a huge chuck of GNU software). This still makes no sense, they will still have to create so much more software than just using something like Android. They could trim down android to the point where it is able to run on smaller less functional phones. This decision does not makes sense to me.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Using Android places a dependency on Google. I'm pretty sure that Nokia doesn't want that (many vendors don't, but it's the only game in town.)

  • Cause its free and anyone can use it would be my first guess.
  • They should call their new OS Maemo.
  • I think Nokia is tangled up in one of these critters. They will forever be developing a Linux for phones which will be abandoned just as or before it is fully rolled out. Rinse and repeat . . . forever . . .

    See ya on this story again in two years, folks.

  • Smart for Nokia, perhaps. Everyone else just seems to be using Android. I wonder if Microsoft has Nokia's hands tied?
    • by hitmark (640295)

      Dunno. There is a company that has already demoed Dalvik (the Android Java VM) running on Maemo/Meego.

      Not that i am sure Android could handle the utilitarian screen of a dialpad equipped featurephone (most of the apps would likely not scale down that far).

    • I wonder if Microsoft has Nokia's hands tied?

      They do if Nokia has no other options ... negotiating 101.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Monday October 03, 2011 @12:24PM (#37591172)

    I wouldn't count on MS not being interested in the low end smartphone range. Just because they're only barely crawling into the market now doesn't mean they aren't aiming for a huge section of it. That's why they partnered with Nokia, who did everything from the low end $20 phone to the $20k phone with dual sim and special call centre, and everything in between. But it will take time for that to emerge as viable (or, more likely, not) from MS. Nokia at this point cannot afford to wait around.

    • One, the timing suggests that MS can't be bothered to work this scenario. This isn't something that was (allegedly) in play before anyone even thought MS deal was happening, it happened after the MS deal was solidly in place.

      I just don't see this as an appealing play for MS. We are talking about an environment that is explicitly anti-app and anti-cost. Given no per-device margins to be had by a software vendor and no promise of a rich application development and publishing ecosystem to reap revenue from,

      • by dbcad7 (771464)
        Feature phones still do have applications.. they just are not for heavy data users and browsing the web., With a feature phone, you get bored, and maybe download tetris or video poker or something...
        • by Compaqt (1758360)

          How's that? Data usage depends on your data plan, not your phone type. Even Nokia's S40 phones have Youtube, Facebook, etc., applications.

          As for browsing the web, you can do that with S40, too. The latest models even have touch ability.

  • Android is better (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brainzach (2032950) on Monday October 03, 2011 @12:32PM (#37591248)

    If a phone manufacturer wants to make a low end smart phone, Android is the way to go. It comes with a huge app ecosystem, more polished and cheaper to implement than any new Linux solution. I don't see how anything Nokia produces can compete with a $150 Android phone.

    Nokia is probably only considering Linux after they realized that WP7 does not scale down to low end smart phones. They are covering up poor strategic decisions.

    • by mirix (1649853)

      Nokia already has a 'Linux solution' with a 'huge app ecosystem'. They call it Maemo.

      Best part is it's open, unlike android.

    • So basically you're saying a low end phone is best running Java...?

      The high end tablets don't really feel 100% smooth when running Android apps (think scrolling etc), I can't see how low end phones can run Android without crapping out.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      If a phone manufacturer wants to make a low end smart phone, Android is the way to go.

      I take it you don't own an Android phone? Or if you do it's got a fancy 900MHz processor large internal flash and fancy video chipset?
      Android runs like an absolute dog on low end hardware. There are high end smartphones which when combined with Android lack the snappyness and finesse that should be part of a phone. I have seen a low end Android phone that happened to be multitasking at the time and took so long to open up the phone application that the call was missed.

      No Android is way too heavy for a low-e

      • I have the original Droid which can be painfully slow when multitasking. Putting a custom ROM that was optimized for my phone however has improved the performance to an acceptable level, so it can be done if you forgo the bloatware.

        We are talking about low end phones too. The phones aren't going to appeal to geeks or power users at all. They are more like netbooks, slow, but can do most basic task of a full powered PC.

        >If someone wants a smooth experience, they will buy a mid to high range smart phone

        • We are talking about low end phones too. The phones aren't going to appeal to geeks or power users at all.

          To me, the smartphones are using their appeal and I'm seriously considering to get a netbook and a feature phone (so use as modem besides). The reason is that all smartphones try to get me to put my social network information (phone book) and a lot of my personal data on some manufacturers server or in a cloud or whatever.

  • by satuon (1822492)
    It would be great if they used Qt for embedded Linux for the GUI. It's a great development environment.
    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      OMG! What's this Qt you're talking about and why do you think Nokia has already heard about it?

  • If you think back to the introduction of Netbooks, the first models were all running Linux.

    Microsoft soon said, 'we can't be letting you do that'.
    They introduced a slimline XP plus putting limits on the CPU, RAM etc that could go into a Netbook and qualify for the almost free XP licenses.

    Fast forward to 2011.
    Nokia is in deep do-do. I is losing market share hand over fist. The shareholders have seen their investment plummet. They want to get out with something before the share price hits zero.
    Nokia has this

    • Microsoft soon said, 'we can't be letting you do that'.
      They introduced a slimline XP plus putting limits on the CPU, RAM etc that could go into a Netbook and qualify for the almost free XP licenses.

      How exactly did Microsoft say that they could not "be letting you do that", and to whom did they say it? Or did they effectively do this just by releasing XP cheaply. I can see your point there: how can Linux compete when their opposition virtual give away their OS?

      Fast forward to 2011.

      Actually, let's not. I think that you are making far too much out of this announcement. It is normal for Nokia to be using multiple phone operating systems at the same time. They usually have a wide variety of phones on offer from the high end sm

  • "...there's a market for cheaper and less complex phones that still beat boring old feature phones, especially in emerging economies. And, unlike Symbian and the heavily tweaked Meego, Linux can be quickly and cheaply brought to market as a low-end smartphone OS."

    2 points:

    1. Other little-known fact seems to be that linux is good for the high-end as well (as demonstrated by various android devices and the N9)

    2. How is linux unlike meego? Given that two telephony devices have already been brought to market w

  • And this is how Microsoft will finally get that Linux patent portfolio they were talking about all these years
  • In theory, though, Nokia should have free reign to use Linux in their devices now that they are completely in bed with Microsoft. It would be unseemly for Microsoft to sue the company they bought... errr... partnered with to build the best possible Windows phones for patent infringement by making inexpensive Linux based smart phones.

    Yeah, we know already that theory is pretty useless. Microsoft would do what they want and twist some serious arms for Nokia to not do Linux of any sort on any devices... "inf

  • For a momment there I had the crazy impression that there were already linux smartphone OSes you could buy and that the summary was wrong.

    Android and Meego are Linux by any pertinent definition. Customizing a Linux kernel for $any_task is not itself an impressive feat -- a couple of hackers can shoe horn a kernel into a refridgeration compressor microcontroller in a weekend, while drunk. Coming up with a useful and spiffy looking software stack on top of it that runs on low end hardware is the real feat
  • I wouldn't be surprised if there's an announcement next year that the high-end phones will be running Linux as well. Microsoft hasn't exactly been a good choice in embedded operating systems.

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