Battle Test: Trolltech Qtopia Greenphone

Earlier this year, Trolltech announced it’d be releasing a cell phone to the public that would assist developers writing software for its Qtopia platform. Dubbed the “Greenphone,” this phone is more like a PDA that can make calls on the side.

Equipped with Qtopia Phone Edition and running a Linux kernel at the base of everything, this is a powerful phone really marketed for developers. It can be used with any GSM provider and its quad-band capabilities mean you’re covered in a plenty of areas.

Looking at the phone right out of the box, you’ll notice the insanely cool slime-green paint job it has. So when you pull this phone out at a party, people are going to know it’s unique. On the back there’s a 1.3MP camera with adjustable focus. The camera performs decently, but you have to adjust it to your surroundings. Plus, with no flash, dark shots are—well—out of the picture.

The sides of the phone are laden with some buttons for volume control, camera activation and application switching. On the bottom of the phone, in the corner, you’ll find a retractable stylus for use with the Greenphone’s touchscreen. The touchscreen controls are very accurate and work well but the overall response time of the phone is a bit laggy, so many will probably opt to avoid stylus most of the time.

The OS that the phone runs is called Qtopia. Those who owned a Sharp Zaurus will become familiar with it fast. It has a decent UI and sort of looks like a Sony-Ericsson phone would. Navigating it is easy whether you use the touch screen or keypad, but the time it takes to go between menus is longer than I’d like. Sometimes there’s a five second gap between sending a text message and reverting back to the main menu. Those who are quick and want fast response times from a phone should stay away from the Greenphone.

I should also point out right about now that Trolltech has made the Greenphone as a tool to assist developers with their Qtopia platform. Every time you turn the phone on, a warning screen comes up that states that the phone will be used “as-is” and isn’t designed for everyday use. Those of you who are a bit disappointed now, don’t fret—it works fine and is most definitely suitable for everyday use, just make sure you first know quite a bit about Linux and programming.

Making a call on the Greenphone is very easy to do, but, while you can hear other people clearly, they hear you with an echo. Every single person I talked to while using the Greenphone would yell at me “I can hear myself echoing” and eventually, I switched back to a Samsung model. This is a major problem because after awhile no one wants to really talk to you due to the echo. Oh well. We can’t say Trolltech didn’t warn us.

The phone comes with all the basic handy applications you’d expect and a few games. Part of the awesomeness of this phone though is how you can load applications onto the phone with .ipk files. Luckily, people have been developing great software for the Zaurus for a while now and everything from chat clients to MP3 players are available for Qtopia. Due to Trolltech’s software limitations though, you’ll need Linux or Windows to load them on the phone. Why there isn’t an OS X version of an application loader is beyond me. But again, this phone is intended for developers, so I guess I should shut the hell up right about now and get back to finding a work around.

Inside the phone, you’ll find popular technologies and big power. The phone sports some of the following features:

  • Touch-screen and keypad UI
  • QVGA® LCD color screen
  • Marvell® PXA270 312 MHz application processor
  • 64MB RAM & 128MB Flash
  • Mini-SD™ card slot
  • Broadcom® BCM2121 GSM/GPRS baseband processor
  • Bluetooth® equipped
  • Mini-USB port
  • You can activate certain services on the phone as needed too. For instance, if you want to use the mini-SD slot for storage, you can tell the phone to do so while you have it hooked up via USB. It should also be mentioned the phone has a weird key-lock button on the top that gets frequently pressed by accident due to its location. No biggie, but kind of unnecessary.

    Battery life on this phone is downright terrible. I can’t tell which is worse: T-Mobile’s Sidekick 3 or the Qtopia Greenphone. You’ll be lucky to get five hours of actual use (not counting talk time) on the phone. Basically, you’ll have to charge the thing every night when you go to bed.

    Trolltech acknowledges some known issues with the Greenphone as well. The phone has Bluetooth but the current Linux kernel it uses doesn’t support it, only WAV file playback is available, so you can’t watch videos or play MP3s, and the volume buttons only work for headset volume. Lame issues, but surely they’ll be worked out in future releases of Qtopia.

    Getting a sweet development platform doesn’t come cheap either. The device itself costs $695 and you need an SDK license with it. Those range anywhere from $0 for existing SDK Professional licensees to $195 for the SDK Light license. With shipping, you can expect to drop close to $1000 on a Qtopia Greenphone and this is exactly why Trolltech keeps drilling it into our head that the phone is designed for developers and programmers.

    Overall, the Greenphone is a sweet device, but the average cell phone user shouldn’t purchase it. You’ll want to know a decent amount about Linux, programming, architecture, etc. so that you can take full advantage of what the Greenphone has to offer. The feature list is rich and plentiful, but some things aren’t being taken advantage of fully right now and it will be awhile before any awesome software comes out for this phone. It’s nice, fun to play with, cool to show off for a bit, but in the end, it’s still a $1000 development platform and not really a phone.

    You can check out more on Trolltech’s Greenphone at