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Finally, a phone made for the Community!

I have a confession to make. I hate most of the Android phones on the market today. Each one of them bears some critical flaw that really just sits on my brain and forces me to think about what I would be doing differently if I were running the show. In the Android market of today, my ideal phone is a pipe dream – it will just never happen right now. Too many things would need to change in order for that phone to exist. What am I talking about? I’m talking about a phone that is sold with Root enabled, offers a bootloader that encourages me to install roms, rather than makes it a puzzle. The phone would have a slide out keyboard that did not suck for when I was mad at Swype, and a front facing camera so when I have a 15 day convention stretch I don’t have to run back to my laptop to see my family. I want tethering and VOIP enabled out of the box, and I want a trackball (not an optical thingy, not a touch thingy, a TRACKBALL), and I want to be able to use it on whatever network I want. That’s more than just a tall order, that’s borderline impossible. Just borderline, though. This weekend I met up with Tim Riker, the CTO of Saygus. Tim was walking around with a phone I had never seen before, and when I asked him about it, he told me a story about his company, and their new vPhone, otherwise known as the closest anyone has come to my dream phone.

Tim’s phone is not pretty. It’s not light, it’s not got a ridiculously spectacular screen, and it does not have mind blowing processor and gpu specs. Honestly, if you look at those things first when looking for an Android phone anymore, you are doing it wrong. It’s become clear to me that the specs of a phone mean absolutely nothing. They mean nothing because a carrier can disable features, add useless layers of security, and install unremovable garbageware without incident. Now, the typical counter-argument I am used to is “well we will just root it and fix it.” and that sounds great. So I bought this phone, and now two months later I have root. Two or more months after that I have an unlocked bootloader, and now I can start seeing roms. By the time I am truly enjoying this phone, six months and 10 new phones have gone by, and I have likely already sold that phone and bought another, only to continue the process. It’s the truth for many of us. So when I saw this vPhone, I was really unimpressed. It’s a thick plastic slab, and very little is appealing about it at first glance. Fortunately I ask questions, and Tim was more than willing to answer.

The vPhone will be sold Rooted. It will support flashing your rom of choice from the moment you turn it on, without any issues or work. The phone has one of the most comfortable, solid keyboards I have ever used (despite being four row) and is noticeably lighter than the Droid, despite being a little larger. The USB port on the device is the first to natively support host mode, meaning that with a small adapter you can plug in a thumb drive, a keyboard, a mouse, etc. and it just plain works. Part of their deployment strategy is to make sure that developers like Cyanogen already have the phone, so that roms are readily available.

This is a phone for the Community. It’s not a phone for the general public, although they can still use it should they buy it. It’s not trying to win any beauty contests, and it’s sure got my attention, and it’s a trackball away from being my dream phone. What are your thoughts?

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  1. Nausicaa I couldn’t disagree with you more – on several points. While yes, it is true that our incredibly brilliant guys at XDA and anywhere else are capable of breaking into these devices, imagine what they would be able to contribute if they weren’t spending so much time breaking in? No one will develop for it? Cyanogen has already played with one, and will own one as soon as they hit production, so CM6 and higher will function on the device – and we all know that if Cyanogen devs for it, people will follow suit. Additionally, the device is already slated for Verizon – so your carrier argument is invalid.
    That being said, the device needs work – plain and simple, and I also love HTC phones to death, but have no desire to see everyone bound to one hardware manufacturer, especially when they continue to think up new and inventive ways to slow down the break-ins. Open your mind to the possibilities instead of closing it off to the narrow path you have chosen, man. Android is way bigger than you or me.

  2. I don’t want to sound like a jerk but someone had to say it.
    This is a terrible phone. The concept is there, but it is not going to sell well at all.
    Bad specs? A phone that no carrier will carry? Do you not see the problem already?

    Who will develop for this phone? The community you talk about doesn’t want Android, they want OpenMoko or Meego. I am not doing anything wrong by waiting to buy a phone that was released a short while ago, which will be instantly rooted, a custom rom installed, and I can have instant access to a great community with awesome software and hardware instead of being an early adapter who will undoubtedly suffer the same problems as an early adapter of this nasty looking phone that I doubt any carrier wanted to carry. Any early adapter will have the same problems, if you can’t wait a few months for a good custom rom ‘you are doing it wrong.’ If you want tethering and VOIP out of the box, get a used handset from a nerd, you will probably get something better than what you’re buying from Tim.

    What does this phone bring? Nothing. I can buy something that looks just as ugly and probably has slightly better specs for almost nothing on eBay, with tethering and VOIP thrown into the mix.

    HTC devices are for the best for the community. This is nothing more than an uglier, crappier ‘droid with a better keyboard, which will (probably) cost more. But, if anyone is intent on getting it, you have my blessings, as long as you enjoy what you bought.

  3. It is still important to have a decent CPU, RAM and certainly the touchscreen interface. I would by this phone in a heart beat if can at least run at 1GHz, has 512Mb RAM, supports swap partitions and a 32Gb sd card. It is impressive that it supports host usb, so a big +1 there. Remember, Android is a multitasking OS, so decent hardware specs are important. Ugly to me is fine.

  4. Thats a nice concept. But I’m not willing to sacrifice a nice screen, GPU & fast CPU and all simply for authorized rooting. There will be stock Android phones, maybe not with root & friendly bootloader from Go, but, they’ll be there regardless. They cannot stop determined people from rooting & custom rom’ing the things. Especially since the governments given the go-ahead. But if they get some capital and can start building designs like the big boys, fantastic. (I would get one if it was CHEAP though)

  5. Love the concept! This is the direction we need to go, but I can see some carriers (VZW) not wanting to host such a phone on their network.

  6. yeah, i got to play with this thing at the BBQ as well and the keyboard is amazing for how it looks at first glance, its so deceptively awesome and the only thing that kept me from making an offer for it was the lack of hardware 3D acceleration… but i can see that coming in gen 2 of the V phone. there is nothing fancy or gimmicky about it, the phone is straight up a phone that is waiting for what ever version of android you want to slap on it… as for IVloose’s question a phone like this would be one of the few phones in america that runs like those on the other side of the pond where you buy the phone and then get your service from what ever carrier you like, which is why i think its not made to fancy so that the sticker shock of the phone wouldn’t be too much more than the subsidized prices americans are used to seeing…

  7. I’ve been waiting for this phone to be released since CES. Saygus has my attention and @TimRiker and Chad Sayers @saygus are what the Android Community needs right now. I have a really good feeling about the Vphone!

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