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Gallery: 10 best open source mobiles

To serve a very demanding consumer audience and to attract all-important developers, smartphone makers are increasingly opting for an open source operating system. Here's how times are changing.
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1 of 11 Andy Smith/ZDNet
Smartphones have come a long way in the last few years. Not so long ago, a smartphone all too often meant a cumbersome PDA-style brick running an equally cumbersome operating system, or else a Qwerty-sporting BlackBerry tucked discretely inside a businessperson's briefcase.

How times have changed.

?Nowadays smartphones are more likely to resemble shiny touchscreen toys and their OS has never been so important.

To serve a very demanding consumer audience and to attract all-important developers, smartphone makers are increasingly opting for an open source operating system. More than 60 per cent of the smartphone market now uses an open source OS, according to analyst house Juniper Research, which has noted a significant shift from proprietary to open source.

Google, for example, cooked up its Android mobile OS platform to be open from the start.?

However, Android wasn't the first mobile Linux effort by any means: work on open source mobiles by the LiMo Foundation, as well as the Openmoko project was already underway by the time the Google OS was announced.

Symbian is also in on the open source act, after its Symbian Ltd incarnation evolved into the open source Symbian Foundation and started the process of setting the Symbian OS free.

With Juniper Research predicting smartphones shipped with an open source OS will increase from 106 million this year to 223 million by 2014, the wind is well and truly in open source's sails.

In the meantime, you might be wondering what handsets are out there already - and to give you a flavor of open source mobiles Natasha Lomas of silicon.com has rounded up some of the best devices to date over the next 10 pages...

Credit: HTC

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It pays to look back before looking forward and Trolltech's Greenphone - which debuted in 2006 - was an important step in the open source mobile movement as it claimed to be the first fully reprogrammable Linux phone.

Despite being a handset that was only offered to developers and with only around 1,000 devices made before it was discontinued, Trolltech's dream of a flourishing Linux ecosystem has surely been successful - albeit not necessarily in the way it originally envisaged.

Three years on from the advent of Greenphone and mobile Linux is in rude health, thanks in large part to Google's Android OS.

Trolltech is now known as Qt Development Frameworks and concentrates its efforts on its Qt graphical toolkit software.

Credit: David Meyer/ZDNet UK

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Taiwanese mobile maker HTC used to be all but married to Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS but the arrival of Google Android has seen a seismic shift with the company planting a foot squarely in the open source camp.

The Hero is its latest Android offering - a slick touchscreen handset running Android but also skinned with HTC's own UI, called Sense - showing how the platform is changing.

Credit: HTC

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The second Android device made by HTC was called the Magic - similar to the Hero in that it's also a touchscreen offering but this device has only a vanilla version of the Android OS without HTC's Sense UI on top.

Credit: HTC

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The first smartphone to be released running Google's Android OS was the G1 - made by HTC and exclusive to T-Mobile.

Like the HTC Magic, the device comes with the Android UI. It differs from the Hero and Magic by having a slide-to-reveal physical Qwerty keyboard as well as a touchscreen.

Credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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Another mobile maker to join the Android crew is Samsung - pictured here is its Galaxy i7500 with the now familiar vanilla Android homescreen.

Credit: Samsung

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Symbian has traditionally been Nokia's OS of choice but with an open source version still in the pipeline, the Mighty Finn has yet to make a big impact in the open source smartphone world.

However it does have a finger in another open source pie with a Linux-based OS called Maemo, which it's used on its line of internet tablets. The latest of which - the N900 (pictured above) - comes with wi-fi and cellular connectivity, making it a smartphone in all but name.

Credit: Nokia

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Much less visible outside Japan are smartphones running the LiMo Foundation's Linux-based open source OS but there's no shortage of such devices, especially from operator NTT DoCoMo. The Foundation says there are now more than 40 LiMo handset models out in the wild.??Pictured here is a waterproof gadget from the NTT DoCoMo Style series which promises easy enjoyment of mobile TV in the bath...

Credit: NTT DoCoMo

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Mobile maker Motorola is involved in two open source movements - it has several devices running the LiMo platform but pictured here is its first Android device, known as the Dext in the UK.

Beyond Android, the device is interesting as it has a customizable homescreen allowing the device to automatically sync with a user's social networking services and other feeds - a service called Motoblur. There's also cloud back-up so any data kept on the phone is also stored remotely.

Credit: Motorola

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Samsung also has its own open source offering: this device, the H1, is based on the LiMo platform. The handset comes with Vodafone's 360 service (pictured here) preloaded - a similar offering to Motoblur, with social updates fed automatically to the device and data backed up on the fly.

Credit: Vodafone

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Another open source handset of note is the Neo Freerunner from Openmoko, a smartphone for users with more than the average requirements for customizing their device. The hardware is so open it's even possible to run Google's Android on it.

Credit: Openmoko

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