Rockbox on a Mobile Phone?

Sony Ericsson w580i has no RockboxMany of the hackers involved in the Rockbox project of course have had the dream to hack our phones as well one day to make them start behaving and working more in the way we want them to. Many times people have brought up the possibilities of (and the inherent problems with) porting Rockbox to a mobile phone. Mobile phones being even more locked down protected devices than your ordinary average mp3 player. These days mobile phones get more room for additional data (music and videos etc) and more music and media player abilities so many times Rockbox on the phone would make sense.

With the introduction of Linux-based phones, the chances have greatly improved. A Rockbox “simulator” can already be built for Linux, and that’s basically all Rockbox app-layer code that does everything Rockbox does but on a native Linux/cygwin instead of on a target device. It’s just about only SDL and a POSIX system needed.

While the Rockbox simulator so far in its 5.5 year’s life has had its primary use as just a simulator for Rockbox developers, it should be fairly easy and straight-forward to adapt it to a life as a stand-alone application. I figure the current work with get UI code adapted for use with touch screens also might help.

Here’s some platforms that might be suitable:

Motorola EZX

Motorola E680iMotorola has a series of phones usually referred to as the EZX phone platform (the Motorola E680, E680i, E680g, 780, A1200, ROKR E6, and ROKR E2 phones) that run Linux on an XScale PXA27x (ARM core) and have a working SDL port. A guy from Indonesia known as ‘blackhawk’ has ported Rockbox to it, but the details are scarce and the patches are infrequent and out-of-date. (Yes that’s a license violation.) I also just hate it when people store info about anything in nothing but a (weird and ad-packed) forum… Update: blackhawk just showed up in the Rockbox forum!


Google’s huge effort is an operating system that is Linux-based (on ARM as well), so there’s basically just a fine SDL for it that’s missing before Rockbox can run on it. My suspicion is that Android is so java-focused and targeted so that SDL won’t be a primary goal for any phone that’ll run Android, and most probably it won’t be as easy to install and mess around with native code anyway.

OpenMokoNeo 1973

OpenMoko is another Linux-based operating system and environment for mobile phones, primarily for the Neo1973. SDL support is still only mentioned on their wish list.

Nokia N8x0

Nokia N810While the N800 series isn’t exactly a phone (although you can do IP-telephony over wifi with it), it is an “internet tablet” from Nokia that runs Linux and I would suspect that if it just becomes successful enough there will eventually be a phone based on that platform. And anyway, Rockbox for the N800 series might make sense even while it isn’t a phone… SDL is ported for this target (maemo).


Of course, all these are just possibilities that remain theoretical until there’s actually interested and willing volunteers that step forward and make it happen…