iPhone alternative cheaper and more flexible

OpenMoko's Neo 1973 may sound geeky, but comes free of network contracts

Chances are, you're thoroughly sick of hearing about Apple's iPhone - particularly as it's available only in the US. But do gadget fans have a choice but to wait? Where are the alternatives capable of scratching that itch for a shiny confection of a phone that screams 'Look at me'?

One viable option comes not from one of the big networks or manufacturers, but from a grouping of open-source software enthusiasts who set out to develop a smartphone based on free software. The first product out the door is available now - the Neo 1973 .

Putting aside the oddly retro name selected by the OpenMoko group , the Neo looks impressive at first glance. The hardware, supplied by Taiwan's FIC , includes a 2.8-inch touchscreen, quad-band GSM and GPS. On the software side, the usual suite of productivity software and Blackberry-style push email are present and correct.

The beauty of a device like the Neo is that it's a one-off purchase. Afterwards it can be used on any GSM network - something surely preferable to a compulsory two-year contract. For the hands-on user, the ability to install any supported software adds an additional layer of flexibility that other smartphones simply don't offer.

Different flavours

The first iteration of the phone is essentially a developer platform and is available now for $300 (£150). Two consumer versions are due in October that will include Wi-Fi, and orientation sensor and more.

If you're interested in the Neo, be warned that the website appears to be suffering under the strain at the minute, so the OpenMoko group's Wikipedia entry is a useful alternative.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.