This section documents my experiments with cellular phone technology. I have more detailed guides and documentation on specific phones as well:

Table of contents:

  1. phone
  2. Potential phones
    1. Gemini & other PDAs
    2. Purism Librem 5
    3. Samsung Galaxy S3
    4. Google Nexus S
    5. Fairphone
    6. Elephone
    7. Other no-names
    8. Motorola
  3. Not yet shipping phones
    1. Phoneblocks
    2. Puzzlephone
  4. Current phone
  5. Previous phones
    1. HTC One S
    2. HTC Dream
    3. Nokia n900
    4. Partial inventory
  6. Features
    1. FM support
    2. External keyboard
    3. Liberated baseband
    4. Roaming and frequency support
  7. Provider packages
    1. Data-only
  8. References

Potential phones

Gemini & other PDAs

See laptop.

Purism Librem 5

In development.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung Galaxy S III - an interesting device:

No FM transmitter, no external keyboard.

The S4 is similar, but one generation newer so better battery and faster LTE support (100mbps!), but at a slightly higher cost (140$ used vs 50-100$).

Google Nexus S

Nexus S - from 2010! Now at Nexus 6, a Phablet now made by Google itself as part of the Google Nexus family.

No external keyboard, no FM transmitter?

Fairphone

The Fairphone is a really interesting project:

First, it's already shipping, although out of stocks now (feb 2015). Second, it really tries to avoid major human rights issues in the production, something that's way too often overlook.

Downside: it doesn't have an FM transmitter and the baseband isn't open.

Elephone

Very interesting phones: they are actively porting Cyanogenmod to their stack which is interesting, and they are dirt cheap (e.g. the G1 is 60$USD.

All the Elephone have, unless otherwise noted:

G1

The G1 is an interesting model, if only because of the price (50-60$ USD). It has no 4G support, but supports the 3G band we need for Rogers/Telus/Bell (850MHz) but not Videotron (1700MHz).

It is also not supported by Cyanogenmod at this stage, and runs Android 4.4.

Price:

The limited RAM could be a problem. This device is basically comparable to the Nokia N900, without the FM transmitter, less builtin storage and with Android.

G2

The G2 is also interesting, because it supports Cyanogenmod and 4G, through base 7 (2600MHz: Bell, Rogers, Vidéotron).

3G support is however problematic, because it only supports European 3G frequencies, which means we are stuck with 2G's GPRS and EDGE connexions if there is no LTE support (which is basically spotty, at best, in Canada right now).

Price:

Other than the 3G support, looks like a great device.

Trunk

The Trunk is really an awesome phone. At 120$, it's very cheap for a 2GB LTE cell phone.

It seems to support both 3G and 4G networks in Canada and in fact all over the world. It unclear, unfortunately, whether or not Cyanogenmod is supported on this phone. The form factor is also problematic: this is a huge phone!! Pretty much in the Phablet category...

This also seems to lack a critical component... a compass! To be confirmed.

P4000

The P series are also interesting, especially the P4000 because of the extremely long battery life:

Unfortunately, it's also huge and has no local 3G support (!). But the battery life is amazing.

Price:

P6000

The P6000 (5"), P7000 (5.5"!) and P8000 (5.5"!) have similar issues, mostly because of their sheer size... half a feet long?? But at least they all have 3G support. Here are the P6000 specs:

Prices:

Other no-names

There are tons of other generic phones out there. A friend got this cubot phone which will be a good test for the 3G and 4G support.

Motorola

Motorola is an interesting company. They made the first ever cell phone and are the first company to provide iFixit with OEM parts, so I should definitely give them a chance. LOS has good coverage of their devices.

Not yet shipping phones

Phoneblocks

Phonebloks is the idea of a modular phone that could be easily fixable and field-upgradable. It was turned into a discussion forum around 2013 by Motorola and Google in favor of their Project Ara scheduled for release in January 2015.

Here's a pretty homepage while we wait for something to actually happen.

Puzzlephone

Puzzlephone (page deleted!) is a similar idea, with hopes of shipping somewhere in 2015.

Similarly, there's a pretty homepage while we wait for something to happen also.

Current phone

I don't really have a phone anymore.

Previous phones

HTC One S

See htc-one-s for config details. Specs:

HTC Dream

The HTC Dream was the first commercial Android phone. It still works, although it is a little old and buggy here.

Android / Cyanogenmod support

One of the issues with the device is that it doesn't (or can't!) run more recent Android releases, which basically means no software support. It runs Android 2.2 / CM 6.1!

podcasting

One of the thing that's missing is podcasting, various ideas:

Nokia n900

The Nokia N900 was a great machine, but those machines are now so dead: no more software support from Nokia... and the hardware is somewhat slow. There's Neo900, a plan to rebuild a new phone based on the same case, but that's not yet shipping.

I have two n900 machines, both have their SIM card socket broken now, either desoldered or some other broken thing. Wikipedia says this can be fixed by resoldering, and there are two references online:

Partial inventory

Features

FM support

FM support in newer smartphones in spotty at best. According to pdadb.net, only 35 phones (out of 4111) have FM support. Amongst those, only 4 run android.

External keyboard

Less rare in newer phones, real keyboards are still hard to find. Out of the 4111 android phones in the padb.net inventory, only 229 have actual keyboards, and often those are only regular phone keyboards, not actual QWERTY keyboards.

Liberated baseband

The "Baseband processor" in a phone is a second processor in the phone that handles phone calls. Very often, and in fact in almost all cases, this is proprietary hardware and software that is hidden from the main processor, as a black box. So even if you manage to install free software (like cyanogenmod) on an Android device, you are still stuck with this problematic backdoor.

Note that there is also software in the SIM card, which makes it three different operating systems running at once in your phone.

Some people are trying to fix this:

.. but it's not in a phone yet. Ideally, a phone would just be another general purpose computer, radio included, so that you'd have a simple SDR that you would program GSM, FM, AM, CB, or whatever protocol acronym you would fancy on top of that, all in software.

Roaming and frequency support

What a nightmare... since 3G came up, there's all sorts of very different frequencies for different providers and for different countries. This map has a good explanation of the world-wide coverage bands...

See also the canada coverage map to figure out exactly what protocols and what frequencies a provider uses.

All numbers are in MHz unless otherwise noted.

2G

3G

It gets complicated here. But in general:

See the source table for this.

4G

Also known as LTE, E-UTRA, this is where it gets pretty messy.

See also the source for the above and the explicit deployment chart. Basically, we need one (or many?) of those:

See also this post on koodoo.

Provider packages

Data-only

See also this interesting article about the subject, and ensuing long discussion.

Fido

ipad plans:

Rogers

Confusing plans!

5$/mo:

10$/GB over.

$10/month:

10$/GB over.

$60/month:

$5/GB if usage is greater than 100GB

Telus

mobile internet

Flex:

S'ajuste automatiquement à votre utilisation de données mensuelle.

Flex + Voix

fixe:

Utilisation excédentaire + 5¢ / Mo (50$/Go)

References

Created . Edited .