The Unofficial Maemo FAQ

Published by AAM Staff at 17:29 UTC, August 27th 2009

What is Maemo?

Maemo is the software platform used by some of Nokia's mobile devices. It is based around the concepts of a mobile computer.

Or as Nokia describes it: "Maemo brings the power of computers to mobile devices. Designed with the internet at its core, Linux-based Maemo software takes us into a new era of mobile computing."

 

Is Maemo the same thing as Linux?

Maemo, also sometimes known as Maemo Linux, uses the Linux kernel at its core. Maemo is a type of Linux.


Is Maemo the same thing as Debian?

Maemo is based on the Debian Linux distro but has other 'stuff' added on top of that. If that means nothing to you don't worry, it's not important. :-)

 

Where can I get the official details of Maemo devices?

If you want raw numbers go to Forum Nokia's device section.

If you want a nice user-friendly consumer site go to maemo.nokia.com.

If you want a developer and community-oriented site go to maemo.org.


Do I have to be a computer expert to use a Maemo smartphone?

No. Maemo is controlled entirely through a simple graphical touchscreen interface, it's as easy to use as any mobile phone.

 

But I thought Linux was for nerds and people with computer degrees!

Linux used to be difficult in its early years, but it was invented way back in 1991 and it has become a lot easier to use since then.

If you know how to use a mobile phone, then you will definitely be able to use a Maemo smartphone.

 

Why doesn't Nokia use Android?

Nokia started development of Maemo in 2004, years before Android was even announced. Maemo has a different underlying design philsophy when compared to Android, which positions it more as a platform for powering mobile computing devices rather than mobile phones.

Moreover, Google is a competitor of Nokia, both in the service space and, now, in the open mobile platform space.

Also, Nokia has been the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer for as long as the smartphone has existed. This unique position allows them a great deal of freedom to develop their own platform.

 

I thought Nokia phones used Symbian?

Some use Symbian, some use Maemo, some use NokiaOS.

Maemo will be the operating system used on some of Nokia's most expensive and most advanced models. Symbian is used on a much greater range of devices from the high end to the mid tier, with a matching range of price points and functionality. Nokia also currently uses closed 'propietary' platforms, such as Series 40 (also known as NokiaOS).

 

So is Nokia abandoning Symbian for Maemo?

No.

Symbian remains Nokia's primary open mobile software platform. Nokia's will be putting Symbian on their cheaper phones (in place of Series 40), which tend to sell more, so Symbian sales will probably go up.

Maemo will be used in some high end models, especially those which fit in the space between mobile phone (smartphones) and mobile computers (laptops). With Maemo Nokia is looking to extend the range of its device portfolio, although, inevitably, there is some cross over.

Even using the defintion high-end is problematic, as high-end can be in the eye of the beholder.

 

Do I have to buy Maemo smartphones from phone network operators?

No.

All Maemo devices will also be available as standalone unlocked gadgets just like the old tablets were. You can buy network-locked Maemo phones if you want to, but you don't have to.

In fact all Nokia phones can be bought as unlocked unbranded SIM-free devices from electronics retailers such as Amazon, or you can order them directly from Nokia's own website (go to nokia.com and click on your country to see your local Nokia site).

This is a well-kept secret, but most mobile phones in general can be bought unbranded. The phone networks don't like to admit it, but there is absolutely no technical reason for buying a phone from a network operator. You can use any SIM card in the world on an unlocked phone.

Some advantages of unlocked phones:

  • You can switch SIM cards and networks whenever you want to.
  • You can use the same phone with foreign SIM cards when you're abroad.
  • Manufacturers tend to release firmware for unlocked phones first.
  • Unlocked phones are often cheaper overall, once you add up the monthly hardware fee for a contract phone.
  • Unlocked phones are easier to sell on sites like eBay, because anyone can use them on any network.

 

I thought Maemo devices didn't make calls?

The original 770, N800 and N810 internet tablets didn't have any kind of cellular radio, so they couldn't make or receive mobile phone calls.

However, the latest Maemo devices are all full phones able to handle calls and messages through mobile phone networks. Although it should be noted that Maemo currently lacks supports for video calls and MMS.

 

Aren't Maemo devices really huge? I don't want to carry a brick in my pocket!

Maemo devices range in size. The Maemo 5 N900 is similar in size to many recent smartphones (e.g. Nokia's N97). It has a much smaller physical size that the older Maemo devices (770, N800, N810).

 

What happened to the Internet Tablets? Where are the Nokia 770, N800 and N810?

The Nokia 770 was discontinued in 2007, The N800 was discontinued in 2008, and the N810 was discontinued in 2009.


Maemo is a rip-off of the iPhone isn't it?

No, Maemo has been around longer than the iPhone.

Nokia released the first Maemo device in 2005. Apple released the first iPhone in 2007.


Can I install other operating systems on Maemo smartphones?

Yes, but it is not easy to do and is only recommended for advanced users.

 

Where can I get more information about Maemo development? Where can I take part in the Maemo development community?

The official site for the Maemo development community is maemo.org, which has been the centre of Maemo activity since the beginning of the platform. Maemo.org is run by the Maemo community, with Nokia providing funding support (i.e. it is not an official Nokia site).

 

What happened to the Internet Tablet Talk forum?

The unofficial Maemo community site Internet Tablet Talk has recently been merged into maemo.org, and you can access it by going to maemo.org and clicking on "Talk" at the top of the page.

 

What is the relationship between Maemo and the Nokia 7710

The Nokia 7710 was based on the Symbian operating system and was Nokia's first touchscreen smartphone. It was released in 2004, but for various technical and corporate political reasons didn't get much publicity.

The first Maemo device was the Nokia 770 internet tablet. It was released in 2005 and used a graphical interface that resembled the interface on the Nokia 7710. They used different operating systems, but their "look and feel" was somewhat similar, as they were both based on the Hildon UI.

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