It’s one of the most popular topics on the webOS Nation forums. Threads get started quite regularly about how to get a brand new, modern webOS handset. We all crave that next leap forward in hardware that signals the revival of our beloved OS. In this series of articles we’ll take a realistic look at what the options might possibly be.
Part I: DIY (Do It Yourself)
Try a search on the web for “build your own smartphone from scratch.” The results are pretty dismal. The number one return for me (via Google) was the Moto X order page. Not quite what we’re looking for is it? All the same inside (except storage options) and different, candy-shell-like color options for the outside. Oh, you can add your name to the back. Or a slogan: “Live Free or Die” comes to mind. But careful with that. They screen out trademarks so “webOS4Ever” won’t be allowed.
Another option that comes up is zzzphone. This seems more promising on the surface. A Chinese OEM that allows you to select custom components from an array of choices, design your specs and order a custom built phone that ships to you. Their website is dead. The domain up for sale. Indications are they took a lot of people’s money, delivered to some (with faulty radio stacks that don’t work in the country of use) and then disappeared.
There is one kit that can be purchased and it gets good reviews. It is even designed and produced by an Engineer from MIT. http://web.media.mit.edu/~mellis/cellphone/
However, this $150 – $200 USD project builds a dumb phone with voice and SMS (text) capability only. And there are reasons for this: cost of components when ordering just one or two units, knowledge of electrical engineering needed for proper assembly, lack of clean room availability and most limiting of all – patents and licensing.
Hope may be on the horizon, but it’s not here yet. Recently the Phonebloks project was announced. https://phonebloks.com/ It garnered the attention of Motorola which was already working on a similar project, Project Ara. http://makewithmoto.com/projectara The basic concept is that every major part of the phone be built as modules that can be swapped out, upgraded, traded, discarded, recycled… A true, designed by user, concept phone that might make it to market, but when? I wouldn’t bet on anything earlier than 2015.
If you’ve got visions of going your own way to produce a new webOS powered phone the choices are very few and not quite there yet. Clearly, creating a new phone from scratch is not really within reach of the average user at this point…