Frequently Asked Questions
please add at the top and we will try to answer
Q: what is different to other platforms? Why not work on some commercial Android device?
A: The difference is that we build the device from the ground up and know all components. To make the hardware and software transparent. This allows to provide kernel and GUI developers the support they need to understand and operate the device 100%. Without hidden functions. "Anti-Vendor-ports" always ran into the problem of non-documented function blocks. So only 95% worked after a usually long time of reverse engineering and after the device was sold out. We try to keep the hardware to be available as long as there is demand, i.e. working on drivers, improving Linux, adding hardware extensions is not a waste of time such as it is with a dying out platform.
Q: Could it be possible in the future to "open source" even more components of the GTA04 board?
A: depends on what "open source" means for components. If it means the chip layouts the answer is clearly a no since there are no open chip designs of significant complexity. If it means more documentation (data sheets) it is already almost complete where it is needed for open source kernel and software development. The only missing part is the WLAN firmware.
Q: Is the processor fast enough for encrypted telephony?
A: It has not been proven yet, but it should be no problem. The call latency will probably increase.
Q: Is it practicable to use VOIP via UMTS? Because I think GSM has better roaming support.
A: UMTS data calls also do roaming and this is transparent to VOIP. So I assume you won't notice major differences (except in a specific situation).
Q: Is it possible to use Android 4.x on this hardware?
Q: Can the GTA04-phone even run Open WebOS (former HP operating system for smartphones)?
A: generally it should be possible since the Palm Pre has almost the same CPU hardware (TI OMAP3). But everything depends on the publication and completeness of the sources of WebOS. We have no real information about the status. But we would be happy if someone tries to port it.
Q: Will there be an "out-of-the-box" ready to use GTA04-phone for sale?
A: Probably yes. We are working on preinstalling a tested softare image.
Q: Which non-free firmware is required to operate the GTA04?
A: required is none, unless you want to use WLAN, or 3D-Graphics acceleration. WLAN uses a Marvell chip and the open libertas driver. The firmware is available in Debian non-free repository. There is also a project to write an open version: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Thinfirm_1.5 The 3D Graphics accelerator of the DM3730 is a SGX530. We don't know a free firmware. But X11 is already very fast compared to the GTA02 (thanks to the Cortex-A8 with NEON). So 3D is only needed for 3D games but not for smooth smartphone operation.
Q: Is the GTA04 GSM-chip supported by the OsmocomBB-project? Or asked differently: Is the GSM firmware also open-source?
Q: why is it so expensive? There are so many cheap Android phones.
A: we currently producing in very low quantities. This means that the one-time cost (e.g. setting up machines, transport, certifications) are very high per unit. Also we buy chips in low quantities and produce in Germany since off-shoring is economical only for very high number of units. Since we can't (and don't want to) subsidize anything, we have to have the high price. Please also note that we aim for "Freedom" and not for "Free Beer" for the users.
The only way to reduce it is to produce larger batches. Producing 1k units reduces the price of components by 20-40% and makes one-time cost almost neglectable.
Single unit prices:
- OPTION GTM601W: http://www.novamedia.de/order/gtm-601-de.html
- TI DM3730CBP: http://octopart.com/partsearch#search/requestData&q=dm3730cbp
- Wi2Wi W2CBW003: http://octopart.com/partsearch#search/requestData&q=W2CBW003c
Just these three (3) chips already sum up to approx. 165 EUR w/o tax in single quantities. This does not yet include a memory chip, no PCB and no peripherals and not the many (really cheap) glue components.
And this does not include production, warranty, transportation, WEEE, etc. Finally it does not include some % to support further development. If you sum this all up, you can see why it is so expensive.
Production is done in Germany by a small company and their wages are of course higher than in Asia. And, as long as we produce small batches (100 or 200 units), it needs a lot of time to set up and tear down the production machines instead of having them run continuously and just supervise them. This drives up the cost per unit.
Q: Are most of the ICs you use also "open hardware", for example the UMTS chip or the ARM processor?
A: The silicon structures or internal schematics are unknown (closed). The interface and a few bits of the inner working is known because all datasheets are available with three exceptions: documentation for the UMTS modem, the WiFi module and the GPS module are only available under NDA.
Q: Could it be possible in the near future to also implement an LTE-chip?
A: Not with the same hardware. The UMTS module is not upgradable since it needs a different RF system.