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It is certainly a phone

I've been using Motorola A1200 for a month and can say that I like it very much.


I'd like to express my deep respect to Motorola designers working on the exterior design (the transparent flip is not only cool but highly practical), and Motorola programmers that have built linux phone that is actually usable.

Ever thought of checking the time but had to open the phone to see one, just take A1200, click any button and you will see the time. Got new SMS? read it without opening the flip. Well, you can even reply to it with some stock phrases like “Merry Christmas” or “I love you” or “I arrived safely” :). You can even use camera. After you plug in your “round plug” headphones you can use Voice Recognition. Too bad that you have to press a button on the phone to start controlling it remotely (time to write headphones button daemon?). The transparent flip is simply great.

Unfortunately it looks like every new phone is more and more protected from user. I remember Mitsubushi Trium Mars that had an awesome network monitor back in 2000. Nokia 6021 had nothing extra and Motorola A1200 had locked the software choice to J2ME applications only which is a shame provided how J2ME applications stand out in terms of GUI and possibilities to interact with other components.

And even with J2ME apps the sky is not clear. e.g. Google Mail screenshot shows how useful this application is. With “valid.username” it says “You provided (valid.username)” though, hmm…

MidpSSH works fine, Talkonaut (pretty strange name) and its derivative, Gizmo5 work great. But they can not be started via Contacts menu say if I have a contact with xmpp account.

User interface flickers a lot while scrolling. Something that is not happening in 3D games like bundled Andretti Racing 3D, and it is really annoying, especially compared to Windows Mobile-driven communicator where scrolling happens smoothly even in thumbnail mode (list mode helps a bit).


Opera browser is working fine. It does its job great but this phone lacks landscape mode support, so you can not rotate the text in most applications. You can do this in built in Picsel Viewer to read documents or install Opera Mini. The major drawback is that you can not select text on the page if you activate “Grab and scroll” function which makes your phone look like iPhone with finger scrolling…

The reception is very good. I had no problems receiving or making calls. Instead my provider, “life:)” was having difficulties keeping the calls or finding free slot to put a call.

The camera is 2 Megapixel “EZX Camera” as v4l capabilities request says. It does its job well in sunlight but tends to make pictures blurry indoors, It has got no flash. It is usable but keep your single-purpose camera with you to make great photos. The video is not only low-framerate (i guess 10) but it is non-uniform. Looks like hardware framedrop is happening here and the quality is pretty low (memory bandwidth bottleneck?). Still the camera is accessible via V4L so I’m going to make it work as webcam, if time permits :(

But before you can do actual GNU/Linux things on this phone, you will need to refash it with firmware that allows installation of unsigned packages. Respect to and folks for reverse-engineering and building unlocked firmware.

Motorola has no plans releasing EZX SDK to the community that will certainly bring raise of interest from people dealing with OpenMoko and Opie, this will also allow multimedia/connectivity/PIM/whatever applications that will surely compete with other Motorola phones. Something that Motorola does not want. So these features are being investigated by the community by trial and error path. The unofficial SDK is available, it is not complete, not 100% working, but this is a great work. OpenEZX project is providing us with user-friendly way to install various common *nix utilities (heh, yesterday I used scp to transfer a file to a web server because the target computer nearby could not use bluetooth :) ). And I would happily dump the bundled Real Helix Player because it does not want to play my ogg files, it does bad job displaying the movies (heh, I could not make it show any decent video – used mplayer instead). I would rather make those “You have active forwardings enabled” messages not blocking the UI during the call (learned to use hardware button instead of “End”)… but we need the interface to the computer hardware and that is hidden. For now.

So in the end we have a linux computer running inside your pocket, not yet fully customizable but a great present to a computer geek. The more geeks we have with a1200 the more features will be reverse-engineered :)

So this will conclude this lengthy post and I would like to remind you that “It is certainly a phone” (as told by Moss from IT Crowd).