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Openmoko's FreeRunner lives on in Golden Delicious

The FreeRunner open-source smartphone has been reborn, with Openmoko's abandoned project being given new life by German company Golden Delicious in the form of a new and more powerful motherboard.

Openmoko's concept was a a bold one: rather than just creating handsets based on an open source software stack like Android or LiMo, the company created a pair of open hardware handset designs, namely the Neo 1973 in 2007 and the Neo FreeRunner in 2008.

Where possible, the devices were fully open - aside from certain aspects of the telecommunications hardware, which were black-box commercial parts - but hardly world-changing: originally launched with a Samsung 266MHz ARM-based system-on-chip processor, later upgrades to a 400MHz part did little to encourage adoption, and in 2009 the company announced it would no longer be creating smartphone devices.

Left with smartphones that, while open, were becoming increasingly outdated, a number of German Openmoko fans have banded together to design and develop a more powerful motherboard as a drop-in replacement for existing handsets.

Dubbed the GTA04, the board uses an OMAP3-based processor running at a healthier 800MHz, and packs the HSPA 3G radio technologies the original Neo and FreeRunner both lacked. In addition, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB 2.0 On-The-Go connectivity are included, along with support for SDHC card storage of up to 32GB.

The board also wins in the add-on stakes: an optional FM transceiver module can be included, along with a barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gryoscope, standard-fit GPS, a camera connector and a pair of expansion connectors.

While the original engineering samples were made available way back in January, it's only now that the company is releasing finished hardware for purchase. Due to ship later this month, the hardware will come at a cost: the motherboard alone will set prospective upgraders back €666.66, while those wanting a complete handset will be expected to shell out an impressive €749.

While the company's efforts are laudable, it's questionable just how many open hardware fans will dig deep enough to raise the asking price.

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