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3G Linux phone comes in at under $100

European ingenuity flung at emerging markets
Sat Feb 02 2008, 13:14

PURPLE LABS HAS joined forces with Philips semiconductor spin-off, NXP, to build a cheap Linux-based 3G handset capable of doing anything you want.

Vaguely reminiscent of a Jimi Hendrix song title, Purple Magic is the name of this new sub-$100 3G Linux phone that’s being developed by the two companies.

It is powered by NXP’s Nexperia 7210 chipset (ARM9E @ 208MHz), sports 64MB of RAM and 128MB of Flash (96MB available) and a clamshell design, very similar to the late BenQ-Siemens ones. The focus of the kit is on the software platform, a Linux distribution developed by Purple Labs.

The phone’s 3G features are on par with what 3G is currently offering, ie: video telephony, some degree of online navigation, video+music streaming/playback and hardware-boosted Java. Although Linux as a mobile platform isn’t new, it’s the target BoM they’re reaching at that makes this an attractive proposition.

As you would expect at this price, this 3G phone is targeted at emerging markets, and the development of 3G services over those particular networks. They would sell like hotcakes in Europe, though.

We understand the current reference design is being expanded to include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0(+EDR), USB OTG, MMC/SD/TransFlash memory cards and 3D graphics (possibly for a souped-up UI), but that might take the bill of materials a bit above the $100 target. That also suggests there are longer-term plans for non-emerging markets. µ


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